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Tuesday, February 1, 2005

When is a Unitarian more Catholic than the Pope?

From the long and distinguished annals of Unitarian Universalists who decided that the grass was greener on some other side (aka the Orestes Augustus Brownson files), here's a wonderful essay in Commonweal. Jean Hughes Raber asks, "What happens when someone in her late forties tries to 'be Catholic,' having been reared a Unitarian and spent most of her adulthood as an Episcopalian?" Happily, rather than embrace the cliches of most conversion narratives — I once was lost, but now am found — she reflects on the complexities of the post-conversion experience:

In truth, though, every convert may end up at that happy altar of First Communion, but his subsequent journey of faith is complicated, varied, and often filled with struggles. We are Mother Church’s step-children, and our super-Catholic attitudes that amuse or annoy cradle Catholics are both an effort to fit into the new family and (sotto voce) to atone for the yearning we sometime feel for our old families.

For although I call myself a Catholic, my faith was formed and informed outside the church, and what I know and believe about God will always (to use my inner Unitarian’s favorite word) transcend church teaching in some ways. This leads to what my inner Anglican calls my “Protestant moments,” those times when my new and old faiths clash, and I must struggle to “be Catholic.” Ironically, those Protestant moments, with God’s grace, can take us converts deeper into our new faith.

It's a very fine essay — and part of an issue with several other reflections on ecumenical and interfaith experience.

("The Bumpy Path to Rome," Jean Hughes Raber, Commonweal 1.14.05)

Copyright © 2005 by Philocrites | Posted 1 February 2005 at 9:55 PM

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February 2, 2005 09:44 AM | Permalink for this comment


That's as honest a piece of work as I have ever read. Thanks for pointing it out.


February 2, 2005 10:12 PM | Permalink for this comment

This article reminds me a bit of when a beloved UU District Executive converted to Catholicism. The reactions I heard were mostly incredibly prejudiced and cruel-- ranging from, "We think she's just in the midst of some mental health problems" to "She was just tired of working so hard, because of course to be a UU means you have to *think.*" When I asked her about it, it just seemed to me that she had fallen in love, in a quiet and sad and life-saving way. I am always thrilled when someone falls in love with Unitarian Universalism. But I almost equally appreciate the mystery of one of "ours" falling in love with another faith tradition. What can you do? I can't imagine going to a priest to discuss a tubal li-gation but hey, the "free and responsible search for truth and meaning" sometimes leads far from our sanctuaries. Pax vobiscum, group hug!


February 3, 2005 01:51 PM | Permalink for this comment


That beloved former district exec is an old friend of mine and we made the journey from Boston to Rome the same year.

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