Saturday, 22nd July, 2000

I arrived at John Fleming’s home just before P. and Peter. John welcomed me by saying “It’s been a long time”, and later asked after “that other Lutheran who used come with you” (namely R.). So he had not forgotten me.

We sat down, and Peter led off the discussion, asking about the doctrine of vocation, especially citing those who said that since we were in the Lutheran Church and called to the Lutheran Church, that is where God wanted us to be. John replied that he was told much the same thing, but that it doesn’t follow either logically or theologically. Otherwise he said, no one would ever come to faith (being called from unbelief to belief) or be called to the priesthood (since this also means leaving a vocation for another one).

When we raised the issue of our vows, I refered to my suspicions of what he said on the tape [see earlier blog] that because his call to Rome was the call the truth, then his vows were null and void. I asked if this was not like a man who comes to me saying that God is calling him to leave his wife and marry someone else. John answered that the analogy does not follow, because in the former case, God’s call was based on objective, demonstrable truth, and in the latter case the “call” was no more than an undemonstrable feeling. Fair enough.

I asked whether Newman was not right when he said that one should only convert to another church when one feels that one can no longer be saved in the church to which you belong. John said that this was only an opinion of Newman’s, whereas the Vat II council declared it to be the ultimate duty of every human being to seek the truth and to follow its dictates when they have found it.

Peter Holmes asked how would know that this is truly the calling of the Spirit. John replied that with people such as ourselves, logic and intellect would play a great part in that calling.

We talked about our seminary mentor's assertion that the Catholic church was where the orthodox liturgy was celebrated. John concurred with this to a certain extent, as long as it included a validly ordained priest as the celebrant of the liturgy. Ipso facto, a Roman priest.

We talked about many other things, but somehow we got onto the topic of the fact that we were all married. John seemed confident that once we converted to the Church there would be little impediment to us being cleared for ordination to the priesthood. He said that George Pell was instrumental in clearing the way for his own ordination with the authorities in Rome, and that we could expect, as ordained ministers converting to the church, to be treated the same way.

At first I was going to say nothing about my own marital status, but in the end, my heart was sinking as I listened to him (as one does when a great possibility is held before one, but not the possibility of grasping it). So I told him about my divorce and remarriage. He concurred with Fr Tony Kieran that the fact that my former partner did not desire to have children with me, compounded by the early age of our marriage, was very good grounds for anullment. But then I said, having gone through the anulment process and been remarried, it was unlikely that I would then be okayed for ordination. He asked “Why not? The Roman Catholic Church is very consistent. If it declares that your first marriage was null and void, and if it blesses your current marriage, what is there to find fault with?”

I must say that this was very, very good news for me. More than I could have hoped for. I had to leave early to go to lunch with my first wife's parents (who are still good friends although I have not seen them for a long time), but John closed by saying to us: “Give immeadiate attention to process. Think through what you will do if you will do it. This is perhaps more important at this stage than making the decision to convert.”

I agree with him. From what I was hearing from P. and Peter, they were hearing and lapping up what John was saying. I think the three of us need to give some serious consideration to this question.

As I was listening to John, I knew that what he was saying was right. I have to become a Roman Catholic. I will not be able to continue ad infinitum as a Lutheran with a good conscience. I do not think that I will follow David Stolz’s advice after all--I do not think that I can--given what happened at Pastors’ Conference--and take the line of “in statu confessionis”. Rather, I will hold my cards to my chest and proceed with the anulment application, and with the application to declare Cathy’s marriage to her former husband as non-sacramental. When I have a result from this, I believe then I will be able to move forward with a clearer vision.

Deus in adjutorium meum intende!

No comments: