Conversions to Roman Catholicism

As I have been reading more about Roman Catholic theology, I have been noticing something about recent conversions to Roman Catholicism (and I want to be careful about this statement, so that I am not making an over-generalization). What I have noticed is that converts to Roman Catholicism from Protestant denominations tend to be much more “old-school” Catholics. They don’t tend to talk much about ecumenical endeavors, and they nearly always emphasize continuity of Vatican II with what came before, as opposed to discontinuity. In other words, they don’t believe that much changed at Vatican II.

Those who have been Catholics their whole lives tend to be much more on the discontinuity side of Vatican II. They tend to say that a lot more changed. There is a good psychological reason for this contrast. Those who have grown up in Roman Catholicism are much more tempted to the “familiarity breeds contempt” for the old-school pre-Vatican II theology and practice. They like the changes. They embrace ecumenism and do not feel that they are threatened by it. Converts (especially those who went to seminary, like many of the CtC crowd) feel very differently about Roman Catholicism. I’ve seen it even in the book recommendations that Bryan Cross gave me. The systematic theology book he recommended to me (Ludwig Ott) was pre-Vatican II, very scholastic in tone, old-school Catholic. To put it mildly, this is not where most Roman Catholics are today. The 2 volume set on systematic theology by Schüssler Fiorenza and Galvin is much more what modern post-Vatican II systematic theology looks like.

Similarly with views on Vatican II. Guys like Bryan Cross will tend to emphasize the continuity aspects of Vatican II almost to the exclusion of any idea of change. Many other analyses of Vatican II will say just the opposite, emphasizing the key words aggiornamento (“renewal”), and ressourcemont (a word like “fountain” that was used to emphasize an abandonment of scholastic methods and a return to a more pastoral tone, and was a keyword of the Nouvelle Theologie). If there was a huge change at Vatican II, and if there is such a huge emphasis now on ecumenical endeavors, then it renders their conversions a bit more suspect. If, after all, Martin Luther is not such a bad guy (as many Roman Catholics today will say), and if they will even use Luther’s hymns in the Missal (I once saw “A Mighty Fortress” in a RC Missal, even though Luther wrote the hymn against Roman Catholicism), then why is a huge, flashy conversion to Rome really all that necessary? I definitely see the CtC crowd trying very hard to justify their conversions. As a result, they are in a place most other Catholics are not.

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