First, thank you to Geoffrey for a fine series of posts this week in which, in his inimitable fashion, he manages to be simultaneously kind and critical – but mostly the former, as the latter is designed to cast light rather than generate heat. Let me try to deal, as best I can, with the points they raise.
He is, of course, correct about those of us who are converts; none of us took the decision lightly, and that probably has a great deal to do with our reaction to what look like attempts to treat important matters which are settled as though they are still open for discussion. My own reaction is, I am conscious, not quite the same as some others here, as I am happy, as I have always been, to wait upon events and to see what happens, not liking to assume that even the best-laid plots will work until there is evidence that they have; planning is not the same as getting the result you want. Geoffrey makes a good point about the reality of the new church not necessarily being the same as the imagining, a point Newman himself made, and one which I have written on here and here. As one who believes that my Catholic heritage was not obliterated by the Reformation, I feel under no great obligation to adopt any culture but my own. I am not greatly surprised by very much in the Catholic Church – including the fact that it exercises itself over the same issues which gave me so much grief when I was an Anglican; those issues are common in Western society and there is no escaping them. Those who want to find conspiracies will find them, and there never was a meeting of bishops where there were not factions; so I am content to wait and see before giving vent to my thoughts.
I agree with what Geoffrey has to say about the journey of a Christian. One really can only travel with the Grace one has been given. For most of my life, despite a great attraction to the Roman Catholic Church, I could not cross the Tiber – then I could. What changed? All, I think, is Grace, and what was once not there for me was there, so I offer no criticism of those who stand where once I stood. Christian history is, as Geoffrey implies, complex, and we have often discussed it here. For me, as a Westerner, the issue boils down to being in communion with the See from whom Christianity came to these islands and stayed here; the Pope is the patriarch of the West, and the inheritor of Peter’s commission. If one does not believe that one would not join the Roman Catholic Church, and with good conscience; if one does, then in good conscience one has no choice but to join it. I cast no aspersions on the consciences of others, and hope they reciprocate.
Geoffrey is also right about the trial for those of us of a conservative caste of mind who have converted. It would be idle and untrue to claim that my own conservative inclinations played no part in my journey to the Roman Catholic Church, but it would be equally the case to suppose that they are the major reason. Newman was right about change, and by change he did not mean that an acorm can change into a elm tree – but it becomes what it was meant to be – as we do. We are made in the image of God, and that is our destiny. Each of us can only reach it with the Grace we are giev; the why and the wherefores of this are not for us to know in this mortal life.