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My Conversion to Rome

Dear Friends,

This may come as a surprise to many of you (it is as much of a surprise to me), but I am, next month, joining the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter in the Roman Catholic Church. I do not write this to argue but to explain my thought process and to clear the table for my future theological ministry that I have thus provided.

First things first, I want to make it clear that everything I had written in the past against Holy Mother Church was genuinely done, as an Anglican, not as a “Closet Romanist.” I am not sure what I will do with those articles and videos where I labored in vain against the chair of St. Peter, but, for now, they will remain up for archive purposes. To be clear, I repudiate anything I have written or recorded that is against the Catholic faith.

Apologia Anglicana will not die with my conversion. I will continue my theological ministry under the name “Militant Thomist.” A dear friend and fellow Davenant Student, Jacob Watson, will continue the project I started under the name “Apologia Anglicana.” This process will take a few weeks, but I will be sure to direct you to him.

Now, I will give a brief explanation about my conversion. It will be brief, there are many moving parts and unconscious motives that I am not even yet aware of, so this may not satisfy many of you.

My conversion is one of both intellect and affections. As Pascal once said, “Le cœur a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît point.” (The heart has its reasons that reason does not know) First and foremost, I am joining the Church because I love the Church. The Spirit has worked within me, healing my affections, bending them towards an inexplicable love.

My intellectual conversion has been a year and a half in the making, yet I never converted. Why? I did not love the Church. I believed in many of her doctrines, I enjoyed her liturgy, but love is what converted me. This affective conversion was not like my intellectual conversion. It was not a long, drawn-out, and painful process, wrestling with some of the best minds of Christendom, but it was as if I had been transformed in a moment, infused with love for the Church; an overwhelming desire to be joined with and to serve the Church.

I said with the Psalmist, “He has put into my heart a marvelous love for the faithful ones who dwell in his land. Those who choose other gods increase their sorrows.”

Now, to my intellectual conversion. I do not wish here to give a lengthy apology for the Church of Rome, but what I do wish to show is that with the consistent outworking of my thought, conversion was inevitable.

This debate came down to authority. In regard to the preaching of doctrine, the efficient cause is the Holy Spirit, the material cause is scripture, the formal cause is the Divine Mind, and the instrumental cause is the Church. Or, as Richard Hooker writes,

“What success God may give unto any such kind of conference or disputation, we cannot tell. But of this we are right sure, that nature, Scripture, and experience itself, have all taught the world to seek for the ending of contentions by submitting itself unto some judicial and definitive sentence, whereunto neither part that contendeth may under any pretence or colour refuse to stand. This must needs be effectual and strong. As for other means without this, they seldom prevail. I would therefore know, whether for the ending of these irksome strifes, wherein you and your followers do stand thus formally divided against the authorized guides of this church, and the rest of the people subject unto their charge; whether I say ye be content to refer your cause to any other higher judgment than your own, or else intend to persist and proceed as ye have begun, till yourselves can be persuaded to condemn yourselves. If your determination be this, we can be but sorry that ye should deserve to be reckoned with such, of whom God himself pronounceth, ‘The way of peace they have not known.’” [1]

Are we to submit to those authorities over us or not? How could I continue to stand against the Patriarch of the West? How could I continue to stand against those Medieval councils of the Church that you call “local western councils?” Did I not show that we are to submit to the Catholic Church and the English Church? Why not, as I once phrased it, to the “Western Latin Church?”

Should I go the way of the Novatians? They survived for five centuries. Should I go the way of the Donatists? They survived for four centuries. Should I seek such otherworldly purity that I continue to be a child of the English Schism? Either way, among the Anglicans I have no such purity. In the words of St. John Henry Newman,

“when, leaving this first look of the subject [of the early church], and the broad outline, and the general impression, we come to inspect matters more narrowly, and compare them exactly, point by point, together, certainly it is not difficult to find various instances of discrepancy, apparent or real, important or trivial, between the modern and the ancient Church; and though no candid person who has fairly examined the state of the case can doubt, that, if we differ from the Fathers in some things, Protestants differ from them in all, and if we vary from them in accidentals, Protestants contradict them in essentials, still, since attack is much easier and pleasanter than defence, it has been the way with certain disputants, especially with the Anglican school, instead of accounting for their own serious departure in so many respects from the primitive doctrine and ritual, to call upon us to show why we differ at all from our first Fathers, though partially and intelligibly, in matters of discipline and in the tone of our opinions.” [2]

I could neither live without being united to the Church I have come to love, neither with such cognitive dissonance that arose within my system of theology.

I love and appreciate all of you who have thus far been my readers, Patrons, and supporters. I pray that our relationship will survive my ecclesiastical conversion.

In Christ,

Christian B. Wagner

Feast of Pope St. John Paul II

[1] Richard Hooker, The Works of That Learned and Judicious Divine, Mr. Richard Hooker, ed. John Keble, vol. 1 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1874), 166.

[2] St. John Henry Newman, Twelve lectures addressed in 1850 to the party of the religious movement of 1833, pgs. 364-365

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