Hart to Heart

Certain circles in the blogosphere are all abuzz with the return of Fr Addison Hart to some form of Anglicanism. Here are his parting words:

As an Anglican priest who, with high ideals but considerably lower savvy, “poped” back in 1997, all I can say to those who may be thinking likewise is this: Unless you know in your heart you can believe in such super-added dogmas as papal supremacy and infallibility (very late inventions), that Jesus did not need to possess “faith” during his earthly years (to which I respond, was he or was he not fully human?), and that the bread and wine physically change into his body and blood during the Eucharist without any palpable evidence of it; unless you can believe in Mary’s “Immaculate Conception” (an unnecessary and unverifiable belief, if ever there was one), her bodily assumption, and so on, then I would urge you to stay put. You already have everything you need, and, what Rome would add to you, you not only do not need, but should positively avoid weighing yourselves down with. Anglicanism is doctrinally sound and blessed with great forms of worship. Rome is neither. As for Rome’s claims to a vastly superior moral authority — well, I would venture to say that after such revelations as clerical sexual abuse on an international scale and their bank’s money-laundering, the lie has been put to that.

No, don’t make my mistake. I wouldn’t make it again myself, and, as it is, I’m making my way out the Roman door.

Fr. Hart was a former Anglican priest, ordained under the pastoral provision. He is the brother of Revd. Robert Hart–who is a priest in one of the over 120 Anglican schism denominations. They have another brother who is an Eastern Orthodox theologian of some reknown.  Robert Hart and some of his pals maintain a blog called The ContinuumI’ve stopped by there from time to time and it’s never a joyful experience I’m afraid. It represents a sort of dry, overly intellectual, conservative Anglicanism. The blog has a musty bitterness to it. Think of milk soured by lemon or Ebenezer Scrooge in preaching scarf and tabs.

Fr. Addison Hart was, for a time, one of the Catholic voices of Touchstone Magazine, and I met him at a Touchstone conference in the late 1990s. He reviewed one of my books very nicely, and then I lost touch with him. I’m afraid there is a fair bit of gossip buzzing about him and his departure from the Catholic Church. Fr. Z dissects his words of departure here, and I can’t really improve on that. People are also saying that he divorced his wife some years ago and plans to remarry, and of course, there is no lack of self righteous comment and gossip on that element of the story (if it is even true).

I’m not going there. What befuddles me about Fr. Addison’s statement is the amazing naivety of it all. Was this man ever truly a Catholic believer? Is it possible that he not only was received into the Catholic Church, but was also ordained as a priest with so little understanding of the ‘difficult’ elements (for the convert) of the Catholic faith? If he had not got his head and heart around these elements of Catholic belief why on earth did he become Catholic? If it was only as a reaction to his unhappiness in Anglicanism that was not good enough.

This brings me to another point about the doctrines of the faith. As converts we confront the ‘difficult’ doctrines of papal infallibility, the Marian dogmas, Eucharistic dogmas etc., and we most often encounter them with our minds. We seek intellectual and logical understanding. This is good, and through study and prayer we can get to the point where we both understand and accept the Catholic beliefs. What is most often missing, however, is the heart. I do not speak for Addison Hart, because I don’t know him well enough, but I do know that for many converts the head is convinced of the Catholic doctrines, but the heart is not involved.

Someone has said the ‘longest journey is from the head to the heart.’ What I am trying to get across is that in the process of conversion we have to not only come to an intellectual understanding, but we must also come to love the doctrines that have been so alien to us. I could never, for example, abandon the Marian dogmas–not because I am so totally intellectually convinced that they are true (although I am) but because, by God’s grace, I have come to love the Mother of God. I do not just believe in her Immaculate Conception. I love her Immaculate Conception. It thrills me and fills me with wonder and joy. It is the same with her perpetual virginity, assumption and coronation. Likewise, I do not just believe in papal infallibility. I love the Pope. I wept with joy every time I saw him in person. What a marvel and thrill to have the papacy and both marvelous popes I have known. The same can be said of the Eucharistic Doctrines. I do not simply believe in transubstantiation. I have come to love and adore Jesus in the most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar.

This is what Bl. John Henry Newman means with his motto, Cor ad Cor Loquitor – Heart Speaks to Heart. The Sacred Heart of Jesus in the beauty and fullness of the Catholic faith, speaks to my heart. It is a matter of deep love for me, and I think I am only now beginning to understand how St Paul spoke of marriage to the Ephesians and then said–as if he was reaching for words he did not have–”But this is a mystery, but I am speaking about Christ and his Church.” I  therefore could not imagine walking out on this nuptial relationship. Where else would I go?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00035697104904110776 Denise Bossert

    Thank you SO MUCH! This paragraph truly captures the heart of a convert:I could never, for example, abandon the Marian dogmas–not because I am so totally intellectually convinced that they are true (although I am) but because, by God's grace, I have come to love the Mother of God. I do not just believe in her Immaculate Conception. I love her Immaculate Conception. It thrills me and fills me with wonder and joy. It is the same with her perpetual virginity, assumption and coronation. Likewise, I do not just believe in papal infallibility. I love the Pope. I wept with joy every time I saw him in person. What a marvel and thrill to have the papacy and both marvelous popes I have known. The same can be said of the Eucharistic Doctrines. I do not simply believe in transubstantiation. I have come to love and adore Jesus in the most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00681296306358764468 Andrew

    "The blog has a musty bitterness to it. Think of milk soured by lemon or Ebenezer Scrooge in preaching scarf and tabs."Ha! You nailed it.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12082251909728928600 railrider

    One has to wonder, Who inspires one to write words with such meaning?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03792937108732259684 priest’s wife

    …like Scrooge BEFORE his conversion, no?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08383178253798427977 Anthony Brett Dawe

    yer, self-important 'conversions''what have you done for the poor?'the only question to be asked of us all at the last judgment according toSt Dorotheos of Gazadoes kinda echo Somebody else[why is bruce willis partially clad featured jumping into a swimming pool?... ed.]

  • https://me.yahoo.com/a/PuhtZ7VylJOqXrVXX1PfPhdnYCao4s4q Robert

    I think the key thing missing in all of this isn't head or heart, it's a child-like trust in the Church. If you have this, then everything else will follow with time and experience. A child at a dentist might not understand why his parents are making him go through such pain and he might be extremely emotionally uncomfortable at being at the dentist. But he trusts his parent, and that is enough.Conversions are most often difficult, so I don't take his first conversion lightly. He likely lost some of his long time relationships (including family) to swim the Tiber. It's no surprise that he's trying to score points with his old crew (you don't make pots shots during a conversion unless you're either really immature or you're trying to win the trust of your new faith community).But I don't think Fr Addison Hart ever really trusted the Catholic Church is what it claimed to be. More than a few Anglicans run to Rome or Constantinople to escape the problems of the Anglican Communion, and not because they trust the alternatives more or buy all the heart or head reasons. Eventually it catches up with you. When you make a conversion, it has to be for the right reasons since ultimately you can't lie to yourself.Let's pray for him and his return to the Catholic faith.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05810707774675254803 Peter Brown

    I think Robert got it. The ultimate point for a convert (speaking as one myself) isn't really about the Marian dogmas or transubstantiation; it's, do you trust the Church?What strikes me about Hart's writing is *not* (pace Fr. Dwight) its lack of heart-level attachment to any particular Catholic truth. What strikes me is the essential Protestantism of Hart's authority structure. The Immaculate Conception, for example, is pronounced unnecessary and unverifiable on nobody's authority but Addison Hart's; but that, to Addison Hart, is dispositive.Myself, I can't really claim a heart-level attachment to the Marian dogmas, at least, *apart from* my heart-level attachment to the authority of the Church itself. No, I can't re-derive the Immaculate Conception from first principles; but that really doesn't bother me (at either a heart- or a head-level), because I've come to believe that I don't have the last word in theological discernment. God gave that to the Church (specifically, to the Pope and Magisterium); so my problem is to try to think with the Church, not to try to decide for myself whether (say) the Eucharistic species do or don't make a physical change.It's *that* commitment that Addison Hart seems to have missed on the way into the Catholic Church, or perhaps to have lost since; and his lack of *that* commitment is why he's on the way out now.Pray for the guy—and for all of us, sinners that we are.Peace,–Peter

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06962374096401238994 shadowlands

    When I was a teenager, (and for many years after, come to think of it)I would often discover someone/thing/place and absolutely be over the top with enthusiasm, at first. When I would reach an almost vomitting level of excitement, my dad would always look at me and say " The human heart is a great deceiver." I always thought he was trying to rain on my parade, but he wasn't.I think this guy's heart is otherwise engaged. The excuses of why he's leaving the Church are supposedly intellectual stumbling blocks it has taken him over a decade to work out or not work out, in his case. Pfff!! He even addresses his concerns to the 'wise' so where pray, was all this wisdom when he first poped? Or has he gained wisdom since being a Catholic?I suggest the wise don't need his advices. The less clever, maybe. He is an example of who NOT to listen to.If he wants to leave, that's his business. Don't drag Jesus through the mud with him by knocking the Church. As Mantilla might say, but using better Italian:"You knocka ma church, you knocka ma Jesus"Or as Jesus Himself says in scripture: As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" "Who are you, Lord?" Saul asked. "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," he replied. "Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do." The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything. – Acts 9:3-9, New International Version

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07541463404765388574 Foxie

    A great post. However, your web design simply doesn't work on my Google Chrome browser. The text of the blog is almost the same color as background and so the only way to read is via RSS reader or by copying text somewhere else… Probably something which can be fixed hopefully:)

  • http://romishgraffiti.wordpress.com/ romishgraffiti

    Dunno why, but this reminds me a bit of Tony Blair's conversion. The ink was barely dry on the confirmation certificate before he was criticizing authoritative Church teachings. It's the old joke I'd say when people wanted to bring praise services for the youth groups and someone would say, "It least it brings them in!" and the correct reply was "Yes. But into what do you think we are bringing them?" P.S. I second Foxie. Something is weird with this blog that I don't experience anywhere else.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15278304877483681582 Bruce L. Hall

    I have the same problem as Foxie, on both Chrome and Safari on my MacBook. I solved the problem by "selecting all" which covered the dark red background with a light blue sheen, allowing me to see the text.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06962374096401238994 shadowlands

    I never normally have a problem reading the blog, but have in the last day or so. I've been highlighting too, in order to read.Have you fiddled with a button somewhere Father?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14488939389859451887 Chatto

    I visited Littlemore and Oxford before the Pope's visit. As it happens, we were there on the Feast of the Immaculate Heart, which is the day after the Feast of the Sacred Heart – Cor ad cor loquitor indeed!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16127167259154710237 David Pell

    loquitur*

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14905987482813010660 St. Nikao

    "Trust the Church" ???That's the problem. You are asking people to trust in the face of overwhelming evidence of 'her' untrustworthiness.I am writing this May 31, 2011 when piles more evidence exists that the Roman Catholic Church is not trustworthy in her practices, system and dogmas.Only God, Father, Son, Holy Spirit is that kind of trustworthy.Psalm 118:8-9


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