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Come over here and say that

Austen Ivereigh’s smear against several Catholic commentators is problematic on many counts, not least that he misuses the descriptive “convert”.

Austen Ivereigh, author of "The Great Reformer, Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope," speaks at the Brooklyn, N.Y., Diocese's celebration of World Communications Day May 13, 2015 (CNS photo/Ed Wilkinson, The Tablet)

Austen Ivereigh, in one of the most embarrassing essays Crux has ever run, recently smeared seven talented Catholic commentators as suffering from ‘convert neurosis’. Not once in passing, but repeatedly, Ivereigh uses ‘neurosis’ and ‘neurotic’ in regard to some seven writers, Ross Douthat, Daniel Hitchens, Carl Olson, Edward Pentin, Rusty Reno, Matthew Schmitz, and John-Henry Westen. Ivereigh even offers a primer on what “neurosis” means, suggesting a war-scarred woman’s throwing herself to the ground when later stopped by a policeman as, one supposes, an example of how ‘convert neurotics’, supposedly being persons given to extreme reactions to un-realities in the Church, might behave.

While an expert in psychology can tell us whether any of these men are, in fact, “neurotic”, and an expert in morals can tell us whether Ivereigh’s employing and Crux’s circulating of such labels against brothers in the Lord meets any standard of decency in Christian discourse, Ivereigh’s constant referral to these Catholics as “converts”draws my attention.

Ivereigh’s description of several figures (Douthat and Reno as former Episcopalians, Olson as a former Protestant fundamentalist, and Hitchens and Pentin as former Anglicans) plus what I gather about Westen (a once fallen-away Catholic who went through an atheistic period) and Schmitz (who talks respectfully about his days as a Protestant), suggests that not one of them, not one, would, under American catechetical criteria, qualify as “converts” at all—let alone as neurotic ones.

According to the (US) National Statutes for the Catechumenate (November, 1986) no. 2 (my emphasis), “the term ‘convert’ should be reserved strictly for those converted from unbelief to Christian belief and never used of those baptized Christians who are received into the full communion of the Catholic Church.” Number 3 reiterates that this “holds true even … [for] baptized Catholic Christians … whose Christian initiation has not been completed by confirmation and Eucharist” (Westen) and [for] “baptized Christians who have been members of another Church or ecclesial community and seek to be received into the full Communion of the Catholic Church” (the other six authors).

Now perhaps the circles Ivereigh runs in ‘over there’ do not bother with this important distinction among persons entering into full communion, and I grant that some Catholics ‘over here’ might still show ecclesial insensitivity by referring to separated Christians coming into full communion as “converts”, i.e., as if they had not been baptized. But, as most of the men Ivereigh chastises are Americans, and as the American bishops are trying to get American Catholics to think more accurately about these things, I thought Ivereigh’s outdated and inaccurate use of the word “convert”—to say nothing of his abuse of the tragedy that is “neurosis”—worth noting.

(This post originally appeared on the “In the Light of the Law” blog and appears here courtesy of Dr. Peters.)

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About Edward N. Peters 120 Articles
Edward N. Peters, JD, JCD has doctoral degrees in canon and common law. Since 2005 he has held the Edmund Cardinal Szoka Chair at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. His personal blog on canon law issues in the news may be accessed at the "In the Light of the Law" site.


  1. Well, this may be some technical usage of the term, but when the technical usage varies so much from the common usage, it seems out of step, not the common usage. Almost everyone refers to them as converts. This in fact is the first time I have heard of any objection to the use of the term in this way. What DO you call someone who converts from being a Protestant to a Catholic?

    • You call such person a baptized Christian who enters into full communion with the Catholic Church, and thereafter you call them Catholic.

    • They have every right to take issue with being charged with being “neurotic” and Crux OTOH can voice their complaints some of these men are imprudently harsh with the Pope and are sailing too close to the edge.

      But the “convert” complaint is nonsense. I remember back in the day hearing Catholic Answers and Envoy and other ministries like that refer to “Protestant converts” and or Ministers who converted.

      Scott Hahn once said to a Priest “But I want to convert”.

      Don’t major in the minors guys.

    • I was going to say the same as samton909. The article says the baptized are not converts but does not say what the correct term is.

  2. The Catechism refers to conversion as similar to contrition, confidence in God’s grace, turning from evil, conversion to proclaim the Gospel. I agree with Samton909 that its common usage is not derogatory. Ivereigh attacks Ross Douthat, Carl Olson, Edward Pentin et Al because of their orthodox faith. Specifically because all named contemptuously as coverts are critical of the Pontiff. If not directly by implication of his policy. Most converts to the Catholic faith made a serious decision based on strong conviction. Austen Ivereigh a close associate to Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor was privy to the scheme to elect Jorge Bergoglio. Has defended the effort and demeaned the Pontiff’s critics. It just happens that those named are among Catholic editors of Catholic websites, and commentators that have wide international influence within the Church. They are measured in their comments but nonetheless pointed. Many in the Church are aware that the present pontificate is an affliction to the faith of many, and some of these so-called converts, who are really outstanding Catholic witnesses to Christ are aware of the danger posed to those who follow the Pontiff’s apparent [I say quite evident] unofficial policy. Where this fits within the scheme of things is difficult to ascertain. Catholicism is in the throes of Apostasy 30% regular attendance at Mass most of these elderly women. Retribution for lack of faith and practice? Perhaps. None of us can read the mind of God. It is clear however that these ‘converts’ along with certain Laity, Cardinals Burke, Brandmuelller, Caffara, Mueller and many others are hope for a reversal of the divisiveness and false views afflicting the Church.

  3. Crux and Pope Francis and Francis’ “Mafia Cardinals” like Cdl. Cupich all promote the “theology” of Cardinal Kasper.

    Kasper has worked for 40 years to spread DISBELIEF in the Gospels, denying the miracles and passion prophecies of Jesus, in his book “Jesus the Christ,” pp. 90-91 (1st Ed. 1976, re-issued 2011). Among his denials he cites the calming of the sea, the feeding of the 5000, the Transfiguration, the raising of the daughter of Jairus, the raising of the son of the widow of Nain, and the raising of Lazurus.

    Kasper also denies, in his work “God in History (1967), the eternal, unchanging perfection of God as taught in the OT, the NT (St. James1:17) and the great Council of Nicea: “The Zgod who sits enthroned over the world and history as s changeless being is an offense to man.”

    Kasper’s theology books are now and have been used in “Catholic” colleges and seminaries all over the world for over 40 years, to destroy the faith of our young people and our priests.

    There is no doubt that Crux and Pope Francis and his team, like Cdl. Cupich, share Kasper’s denials.

    Since the Gospels and Nicea are bedrocks of Catholic faith, it is clear from the evidence in public for the world to see that Pope Francis and his team are promoting DISBELIEF in Catholic faith. They promote skepticism about Jesus and they promote instead their political views by trying to “sacralize” them from the pulpit.

    They are unworthy of anything but prayers for their conversion, and mere respect for the offices that they abuse. May St.John Paul II intercede to bring a happy end to their destructive purposes.

    Meanwhile – happy feast of the “non-Transfiguration” to Team Francis and its “theologian.”

  4. I find myself in the rare position of disagreeing with my friend Ed Peters.

    I don’t think that “convert” implies (or implied since, say, Reformation times) that the person is unbaptized. “Coming into full communion” is a modern construction. I can’t think of any use of the phrase prior to the Council. Certainly “convert” was used–for at least four centuries–of those moving from one Christian allegiance to another. There is nothing derogatory in the term, which traditionally was used both for the baptized and the unbaptized, since both sorts “converted” from error to the fullness of truth.

    I for one plan to continue to use “convert” in the sense most widely understood, and I see no reason to, uh, convert to the usage of a 1986 American bishops’ document.

    (By the way, what Austen Ivereigh said was abominable.)

  5. It is a pity that these Catholics Christians that have come from other denominations are categorized as neurotic. I admire them for their love of Our Lord and His Gospel. Such zeal and fervor are to be admired. This critic appears a bit neurotic himself, unknowingly of course, as he appears to suffer from the neurosis of divisiveness. A classic case of the defense mechanism known as projection. In the end, God will know our hearts. We fool ourselves in knowing ourselves time and time again.

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