By Jim Bowman
The dog days of August are a time to smuggle in the kind of article you've been meaning to write but putting off because of all the trouble it's going to bring you. But still, I hesitate even now to write about convert neurosis, and how it conditions critiques of Pope Francis.
For one, I don't want to be seen to be sniffy and condescending towards people who become Catholic, which is how Dr. Stephen Bullivant, writing in First Things, said he felt about a comment in Michael Sean Winters's blogpost. "I am so tired of converts telling us that the pope is not Catholic," complained the sage of the National Catholic Reporter [Winters].
This slave to conscience and duty is none other than Austen Ivereigh, a cradle Catholic (and proud of it!) whose book about Francis has the title The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope.
I hate to be a plot-revealer, but you will find this book a full-scale explanation of and apologia for Francis; so enter its pages with eyes open wide, prepared for some overwriting of the first journalistic order and (in its favor) also some good reporting.
For Crux in this piece, however, he lets his inner tiger take over, while dripping honey from his maw (sample of overwriting here, sorry, I get vivid myself now and then), naming names and getting down to the papal-critic converts' problem, namely that they are nuts — not certifiably or irretrievably but clinically so, in Ivereigh's humble opinion.
In a sort of revenge on interlopers, he unloads:
Now it is quite possible that elegant [papal-critic] commentators such as Ross Douthat [NY Times] and Matthew [Schmitz's] boss Rusty Reno (both former Episcopalians [First Things]), or, at the rougher end, writers such as Carl Orlson [sic – it's Olson] (ex-Protestant fundamentalist) and John Henry Westen [LifeSite] (ex-atheist), or indeed ex-Anglicans in my own patch such as Daniel Hitchens of the Catholic Herald and Edward Pentin of the National Catholic Register in Rome, are all correct in their readings. [Really? Raise your hands, all you who think Ivereigh means this.]
But it is a lot more likely [say, 100% more likely] that their baggage [as converts from whatever] has distorted their hermeneutic, [method of interpretation, as of the Bible] and they are suffering from convert neurosis. [The worst kind!]
And if you think Ivereigh is just tossing words around (he's not a tosser!), think again.
A neurosis is a pathological or extreme reaction to something that simply doesn't correspond to reality. A war-scarred victim, for example, might react to a friendly cop's question by throwing herself on the ground and covering her ears. You understand why she does it, but it's neurotic.
It pains Ivereigh to say this, but have a heart. He's a liberal newsie-commentator, BBC and all that; and that's a mold it's hard to break out of. Meanwhile, talk-show style or not, let the show go on.
Meanwhile also, consider this point-by-point rebutting of Ivereigh the convert-slayer, at one hotbed of papal criticism, One Peter Five — "What if We Were All Cradle Catholics, Mr. Ivereigh?"
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