Sunday 7th May (3rd Sunday of Easter), 2000

According to Fr D., there is a common Italian saying (he gave it to me in Italian for my benefit yesterday afternoon):“Between the saying and the doing is a wide and deep sea”. Well, it has been said. I want to become a Roman Catholic. These are exactly the words that I said to Fr D. as we began to talk yesterday. But between these words and the doing...

Cathy and Madeline went to St Paul’s 9am service, and I went alone to St Peter’s Catholic Church where Fr D. is the parish priest. It was a mistake, I discovered later, not to tell Cathy why I was going alone without them--because she herself deduced what was going on, and was offended that I had not said anything to her. Yet, I could not bring myself to say the words to myself, or to Cathy until I had said them to Fr D..

Fr D. preached on the power of the Word and of the presence of Christ in the word, and of hearing the words “Do not be afraid” in the midst of our confusion and fear. It was a very comforting and confronting address for me. I did not commune, although I would have liked to. Let that wait until I have been received into the Catholic church.

Afterwards, Fr D. had forgotten (!!!) that he had three baptisms at noon, so I sat in his kitchen reading the paper for an hour. When he eventually came over, I didn’t mince about, but I dropped the bombshell right on him: “I want to become a Roman Catholic”.

He said that he was surprised, but not altogether taken off guard. Something I had said to him in the past regarding women’s ordination had set him thinking “I wonder...”, but he had answered himself in the negative. He said he was very honoured that I had chosen to tell him of my decision.

Overall, he counselled prudence together with faith, and cautioned me to “hasten slowly”. He was very aware of the number of difficulties I would face. We talked about some of these.

1) He said, “and now I guess you are going to drop another bombshell on me and tell me that you want to become a Catholic priest”. I said that my hopes really don’t extend that far, although I know that it has happened in the past (eg. with John Fleming--but apparently a friendship with Leonard Faulkner, the Adelaide Archbishop, had something to do with that ). I stressed that although I could go back to being just a lay person, and perhaps take up being a librarian again, that I would really desire some work in and for the church. Two points, he said: 1) there isn’t much money in the church, and 2) the Catholic church does recognise that there is some ministry formation in clergy who convert.

2) I inquired about the diaconate, which I knew was open to married men. Would you believe that Melbourne is about the only diocese in Australia that has not developed a separate order of permanent deacons? So that seems to be off the cards.

3) In any case, any ministry position in the Catholic church (and indeed even any membership in it) would be complicated by the fact that I am a remarried divorcee. So Fr D. then raised the possibility of getting my first marriage annulled--something he said could be possible on the grounds of marrying immaturely and of there being no desire (on my first wife’s part) for children. If my first marriage was annulled, this would open the possibility of my second marriage being blessed. (Although it has just occurred to me that Cathy also is a divorcee--would her marriage to Ian also have to be annulled???). Big problem here, I am afraid, which I need to follow through more closely.

Fr D. helped me to see that my next step is to talk my decision through with my spiritual director. He himself said that he would raise my case “anonymously” with the Vicar-General .

When I got home, Cathy, Maddy and I took Misha for a walk. Cathy raised the question of why I visited Fr D. just as I was wondering “How do I tell her”. I can’t say that she was entirely understanding. She wanted to know what specific doctrines in the Lutheran Church I did not agree with. I found it difficult to say that it was not any doctrine in particular. Rather it is that I am a Catholic, and I protest against nothing in the Catholic church, so why am I a Lutheran and not a Catholic?

One thing that Cathy had misunderstood is that if I became a Catholic, I would be a lay person and not a priest. She thought that I would automatically become a Catholic priest. So I think she is a little more aware now of the magnitude of this step--that I would not just be giving up the Lutheran church, but also the ministry.

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