Sunday, December 21, 2014

Conversion: An Abuse of Language

Converted in a day,
sanctified in a lifetime.
We have all heard it when confessing to diocesan Roman priests: "conversion" used in some vague, indeterminate sense. "Focus on that on-going process of conversion" or "keep that conversion going," as though the person in the confessional is not already a Catholic, just a sinful one. They like to draw out the conversion of St. Augustine, whose conversion was a process which spanned many years. What they neglect is that it ended with one definitive moment, when he was baptized on Pascha in 387. From then on he was a Catholic who, like us, sometimes sinned. There was no "on-going conversion," only what the West calls "Sanctification" and the East calls "Theosis." 

Why do they do this, then? Why use "conversion" instead of the two perfectly suitable previous words? Have Confessors grown afraid of Sanctity? I hope not. Is it a "no true Scotsman" logical fallacy that circulates seminaries?—no true Catholic would sin. Is it the result of reading the Gather Hymnal too often ("We are pilgrims on a journey, We are travelers on the road....") and thinking that one is not really a Catholic until death, at which point one is likely to become at least a beatus

I find this point confusing, not only because I think the context of Confession inappropriate for use of the word "conversion," but also because, unlike other modern oddities in the Church, his Traddiness has difficulty pinpointing the root of this trend.


  1. I'm guilty of using the word in both ways, as (perhaps erroneously) the image of "turning towards" implied by the etymology of the word is congenial to me.

  2. I hardly think it is an abuse and, if it is one, then it is a very old abuse. Let's take a look a certain 13th Century work called Summa Theologiae.

    Further, sin arises from the inordinate conversion to a mutable good. Now presumption is a sin. Therefore it arises from turning to human power, which is a mutable good, rather than from turning to the power of God, which is an immutable good.
    (II-II q. 21 a. 1 arg. 3)

    Presumption on God's mercy implies both conversion to a mutable good, in so far as it arises from an inordinate desire of one's own good, and aversion from the immutable good, in as much as it ascribes to the Divine power that which is unbecoming to it, for thus man turns away from God's power.
    (II-II q. 21 a. 1 ad. 3)

    [I]n miraculous works something is found besides the usual and customary order of causing an effect, as when a sick man suddenly and beyond the wonted course of healing by nature or art, receives perfect health; and thus the justification of the ungodly is sometimes miraculous and sometimes not. For the common and wonted course of justification is that God moves the soul interiorly and that man is converted to God, first by an imperfect conversion, that it may afterwards become perfect; because "charity begun merits increase, and when increased merits perfection," as Augustine says (In Epist. Joan. Tract. v).
    (I-II q. 113 a. 10)

    As long as our hearts are fixed on things other than God, then there always remains a need to be converted to God.

  3. Jesus established His Church to carry on His work of Sanctification and Salvation. Period. All else is secondary.

    The process priests were infected in the seminaries owing to the baleful influence of modern psychiatry which is a Jewish project and which is suffused with pelagianism.

    Since soon-to-be-canonised Pope Paul Vi, the church has descended into anthropomorphism and so Grace is rarely spoken of as it has been supplanted by processes and programs and the masonic creed that confesses man is good in his nature.

    O, and just because a word, like conversion, is used by modernists is no guarantee the word is defined as it used to be for mere words have also been transvalued by revolutionaries.

    Just think of the word resurrection and what the modernists have done with that truth.

  4. Well and good, but I don't think that addresses the assertion of our host, viz., that the word "conversion" ought to be discarded in favor of "sanctification" and "theosis," and that the use of the term "conversion" constituted a denial of sins committed by Catholics on the part of priests. It appears from his post that he is under the impression that conversion is strictly the change from non-Catholic to Catholic. In actuality, the use of this word in the sense he is criticizing is old and valid and Rad Trad's criticism is misplaced. Look even at Sacred Scripture.

    Deus, converte nos, et ostende faciem tuam,
    et salvi erimus.
    Ps. 79:4

    Ostende nobis, Domine, misericordiam tuam,
    et salutare tuum da nobis.
    Ps. 84:5

    Hardly "vague and indeterminate," unless you would argue that these psalms cannot fittingly be prayed by Catholics.

    Furthermore, the term conversion directly implies the reality of sin (or else there would be nothing to turn from), whereas I can easily see a broader term like "sanctification" used in a vague, feel-good way by modernist priests.

    And it is really immaterial whether or not there are modernist priests who says certain words and mean something contrary. That is not a fault of the words, but of the speaker, and that can be true with any word. For example a priest might say, "the Catholic Church is the Church instuted by Christ," when they really believe, "the Catholic Church is a Church instituted by Christ (in addition to separated Orthodox churches and Protestant groups)." That is not a fault of the word "the."

    I know a certain Spanish priest who is exactly the sort of priest Rad Trad is describing. He always mumbles about praying for our conversion ("let us pray for our conversion... let our hearts be converted today...") without fail at the intercessory prayers in the Novus Ordo mass. He is definitely not a Pelagian, definitely does not deny the reality of sin (which was not the problem of the Pelagians anyway), and means it, as you would know if you were familiar with him, in a perfectly correct way.

  5. And said: Amen I say to you, unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Mt. 18:3