Last fall, I traveled to Palo Alto, Calif., to meet the man with the unusual gift.
Some priests are known for their work among the poor, others for their learning, still others for decades of service to a parish. The Rev. C. John McCloskey III, a priest of the traditionalist Opus Dei order, has a different calling. He makes converts, often of the rich and Republican.
He has personally prepared for conversion to Catholicism, among others,Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas; the Supreme Court nominee Robert H. Bork; the columnists Robert D. Novak and Lawrence Kudlow; the conservative publisher Alfred S. Regnery; the anti-abortion activist Bernard Nathanson; and Lewis E. Lehrman, an investment banker and former candidate for governor of New York.
Father McCloskey, 61, is hardly the only conservative priest or minister. But few have his knack for persuading political conservatives to adopt a different religion.
After military school, Columbia University and a stint at Merrill Lynch, he joined Opus Dei and became a chaplain at Princeton University. He then ran the Catholic Information Center, an outreach ministry near the White House, where he introduced many Washington insiders to Catholicism. At his silent retreats in Virginia, Capitol Hill and K Street types see one another and nod.
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