Monday 26th June 2000 - In which I have a conversation with Jaroslav Pelikan!

Mum and Dad came to stay for a few days on the weekend. I had not intended to tell them of my “decision” since I hadn’t made one, but I think that now I can say more definitely that I will not be “swimming the Tiber” straight away, and so I thought I would share my concerns with them.

They were not surprised either, although their interrogation was similar to that which I received from the pastor’s wives. They acknowledged the problem of authority in the church, but they were judging the Catholic Church by some of its worst proponents: catholic lay people they knew. They especially cited the case of my sister-in-law’s mother, who prays to St Anthony every time she loses something! But there was no great anxiety about it.

G. rang yesterday, and was glad to know that I was not going over straight away either, but that I was going to try to be “noble” but not “selfish”. That was a good and reassuring talk.

Cathy and I had tea at P.’s home last night, and talked further. P. is not yet at the stage, he said, that he can call himself a Roman Catholic (as I say I am a Roman Catholic by conviction, if not by profession—although I am still a Lutheran in my theology [I am not sure what I meant by that – David, 09-08-06]). Yet he is wondering how long he can continue to hold this position, because he is quite clear about where the logic of his arguments is leading.

I finished reading Pelikan’s “Riddle of Roman Catholicism”, and especially appreciated the last chapters on the “Way of Conversion”. There he tries to point out that while this is an option that some feel compelled to take because of conscience, it is at best a “short-cut”, that, although it arrives at the destination desired, it misses out on the benefits of the journey, and at worst it is a blind alley. And yet he himself, in March 1998, at the age of 74, did convert--not to Rome, but to the Orthodox Church in America.

So what was the answer to this. I decided to try and get in contact with him and ask. I was looking for his email, but in actual fact, I found his telephone number, and phoned him in New Haven, Connecticut! It was thrilling to be talking to the great man himself, but disappointing in the end, because he declined to talk about his personal journey. He said that he doesn’t do email. I told him my situation, and he declined to go any further with his own comments. He says JH Newman converted at 44 years, and wrote a 600 page book; whereas he converted at 74 and would require a 1000page book to do my query justice. He also said that he had had between 750 and 1000 calls similar to mine. I apologised for interrupting his evening, but he was very gracious about it. I said that if he ever did write that book, I would definitely buy it, and he said, “Yep, I think it will be a best seller!”.

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