November 28, 2004


An Arriviste (David Warren, November 2004, Crisis)

This is, strange to say, the first time I have appeared in print as a Catholic writing to fellow Catholics, though I have lived half a century and have been writing for a living since I was 16. I was only received into the Catholic Church last New Year’s Eve. Someday, should I live, I would like to write a memoir titled The Half Life: Fifty Years of Sin and Error, explaining how I came to be received after making my best efforts to avoid it.

I’m an ex-Anglican, and was a kind of “evangelical atheist” before that, but one who was raised in the bosom of a loving, lapsed-Protestant family. I am also a “born again,” for I had to discard my adolescent atheism after meeting Christ on the Hungerford footbridge over the Thames in London at 22.

There was a reason why I didn’t become a Catholic then, even though the idea appealed to me, and my new religious sensibility was more sacramental and “catholic” than “protestant” in flavor. A copy of the then-celebrated Dutch Catechism fell into my hands, and I made the mistake of reading it under the impression that it was an official expression of the Catholic Church.

I became an Anglican, in due course, because I thought the Catholic Church was dead and because, as an autodidact steeped in English literature, I felt very comfortable in the church of Lancelot Andrewes, Richard Hooker, the Oxford Movement, and T. S. Eliot. I was an unmistakably “high” Anglican. It felt like Catholicism to me.

A long and terribly unequal wrestling match began with John Henry Newman, but in my younger days he only frightened me—he couldn’t touch me. I could see that I would never win an argument with him and so used that Dutch Catechism and other documents of Catholic postmodernity as roadblocks to slow his advance. This, incidentally, is classical Anglicanism: wasting a great deal of time finding or creating obstacles on a road that can only lead to Rome.

It is a pilgrimage of grace, as one learns when one finally arrives.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 28, 2004 6:59 AM

Yeah, that long, long road from Anglican to Catholic. Of course, it's probably a shorter trip from Jew to Catholic than it is from some of the newer sects.

Posted by: David Cohen at November 28, 2004 9:25 AM


Interesting though that you can easily imagine most any Protestant returning to Catholicism, but not a protestant Jew returning to Orthodoxy.

Posted by: oj at November 28, 2004 10:21 AM


There is a significant trend of Jews becoming more religious than their parents in America, for reasons I have discussed in other posts, so I have a little trouble understanding what a 'protestant Jew' is by your definition. Also, the hierarchical nature of Catholicism is antithetical to Jewish religious culture which is congregation-based for the most part. Weird sects like the Hasidim are the exception rather than the rule.

Given our historical emphasis on personal improvement and our relation with the Lord without the need of an intercessor, and the role of rabbi as teacher, not as being the necessary agent of our connection with the divine, it is fsr easier for Jews to select Calvinist or Baptist groups rather than Catholics, Episcopalians or Lutherans. Unitarianism has its appeal, and even my parents went through their Unitarian phase in my youth, but were scared away by the leftism. IMHO, Jews who decide to become Episcopalians today do so not out of religious fervor but out of a desire to assimilate, to throw their birthright away, so they can get into the country club.

Posted by: Bart at November 28, 2004 10:32 AM

David: Catholics are just a subset of Judaism, they would be more properly called "Catholic Jews."

Posted by: JimGooding at November 28, 2004 11:13 AM

Catholics are just a subset of...

I suspect that anyone who believes this knows very little about Judaism.

And Catholicism.

Certainly, there is a relationship; but the umbilical cord was cut a good seventeen hundred years ago.

Judaism and Catholicism have certain things in common, as befits that relationship. And there can always be mutual respect (at least one would like to hope so). And even, at times, admiration.

But the two religions are utterly immiscible.

Posted by: Barry Meislin at November 28, 2004 4:10 PM

Surely a good Jewish boy knows the umbilical cord is never truly cut?

Posted by: oj at November 28, 2004 4:22 PM

Judaism is the life-giving root system of Christianity and Christianity is the flowering fulfillment of Judaism. The two are not immiscible, they are one.

Well stated comments about the hierarchical nature of Catholicism being antithetical to Jewish religious culture. In a way I guess, Calvin and Luther came to the same conclusion, as they were attempting to reform Christianity according its founders (Peter, Paul, etc.) understanding of Jesus' teachings (Jesus was a Jewish rabbi in addition to being the Son of God).

Posted by: Dave W. at November 28, 2004 10:57 PM

Then you're, alas, bound to be gravely disappointed in Judaism and in Jews, or at least most of them.

Which would seem to be the fate of all the spin-offs (or should that be evolutionary improvements or perfections?).

(Though to be sure, Jews oft disappoint one another)

Certainly, the inquisitors knew what to do about it. As well as Luther and the followers of Mohammed.

So disapointing, those Jews. So disappointing....

Posted by: Barry Meislin at November 29, 2004 1:10 AM

The conversos converted.

Posted by: oj at November 29, 2004 8:49 AM

Before being expropriated, expelled, or burned.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at November 29, 2004 5:30 PM

Only a few.

Posted by: oj at November 29, 2004 5:55 PM

Only if by a few you mean not quite all.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at November 30, 2004 8:44 PM