Thursday, July 5, 2007

McBrien on Converts

Father Richard McBrien's column is published by several diocesan newspapers, but thankfully not the one I work for. I've read a good deal of his work on ecclesiology, and his intelligence makes it difficult to point to one single thing that's heretical; but there is always something a little fishy in his analysis, especially when it comes to the place of the Catholic Church and other Christian communities.

Now, in a response to one of Father McBrien's latest columns on Catholic converts, Msgr. Barr of Rockford, Ill., has summed up perfectly on his blog my disquietude regarding Father McBrien's ecclesiology:

Thanks to Amy Welborn of Open Book for pointing me to Fr. McBrien's latest article on converts to Catholicism. Check McBrien on Converts. What a thing to come back to after vacation! Of course, McBrien believes that Vatican II rejected "the one, true Church" teaching--which it did not--and therefore all these new Catholic converts of the famous variety, like Robert Novak, Sen. Brownback, Larry Kudlow, etc. are converting to a Church and Faith that no longer exist. He blames "conservative church folk" for pushing an antiquated view of Catholicism on these poor, unsuspecting--and apparently, non-reflective--non-Catholics. As usual, he prefers the opposite way of "doing Church": he's happy as a clam to see Catholics sink into a soup of mediocrity such as afflicts many main line Protestant communities.
Too bad he doesn't look instead at why a book of famous converts converted by liberal churchmen would be a thin volume indeed. Or, more seriously, why anyone would choose to be Catholic if it's simply the same as being a member of another denomination or as sure of a path to salvation as, say, the Unitarians.
Not long ago, (see April 21 post below), he was willing to embrace Pelagius and take Pope Benedict's clarification about Limbo as a reason for the non-efficacy of Baptism. Here, he's just being so 19th century Anglican, donning the professorial air, leaning back to take a cynical view of faith and society, comfortable with his own academic profession, all the while oblivious to the need of the Church for a mind like his that would be charged with zeal of St. Paul and the Passion of St. Peter to preach the Gospel like the world's salvation really depended on it. It does, you know, Fr. McBrien--the world really needs a Savior and there is only one: Jesus Christ preached by the Catholic Church he founded.

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