The news has been reporting of the abandonment of the Catholic Faith by a recent high-profile convert from Islam. I actually do remember the Easter Vigil baptism of Magdi Cristiano Allam whose reception into the Church was held up as a sort of trophy. I remember being disturbed by the conduct of this. As much as we’d love to celebrate new members of the Church, I always worry about high-profile conversions. Allam felt that the Catholic Church was not as outspoken against Islam as he thought, and wrote that the rock of objectivity that he thought the Church was did not meet his expectations.
On the first point, I wish someone would remind Allam that his choice of the Church was not a choice against his cultural past, but a choice for something far better. The Church doesn’t define herself in opposition to something, other than to fill the void of evil. The Church is not based on anti-Islam, especially since Islam came hundreds of years after Catholicism!
On the point of objectivity, I addressed the potential for such concerns when Atheist blogger Leah Libresco decided to become Catholic.
In our day, it is easy to be let down by the practical experience of a church whose instructors are too cowardly to teach the fullness of the truth, preferring to water it down to make it palatable to those who prefer to hear what we want to hear.
I fear that Allam, who was encouraged and supported through his RCIA was probably left to continue his journey on his own with insufficient welcome and support. Our converts should not be under the illusion that they have joined a church full of perfect people. Christ’s church is full of wounds, made up of sinners and misfits who struggle to integrate their lives according to God’s plan in the midst of the chaos of the world. At any given point, those we look to as Saints, role models, speakers and writers and bloggers can disappoint.
When somebody leaves due to disillusionment, we are guilty of scandal. At the same time, it’s evidence that the relationship to Jesus was not strengthened and supported. Those who desired a more solid church should have been empowered to contribute to the building of such a church. Allam’s departure is a loss, but I trust in God’s everlasting love and mercy, finding ways to call him back.
Even when many of His disciples struggled with teachings that appeared scandalous to their own human sensibilities, the faithful apostles remained not necessarily reasoning out the struggle, but realizing: “To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”