Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Why I am Converting to Catholicism

Yes. You read that correctly.  I’ve lived my life as a Jew, a traditional Jew in many senses.  And I have always been a rationalist.  But I am converting to Catholicism.  And it is the most rational thing for this rationalist Jew to do.  It’s motivated by empirical observation and analysis that suggests, quite convincingly, that The Roman Catholic Church has been telling the truth.  I cannot be an obstinate super doubting Thomas and remain unconvinced, even after probing the wounds of the Savior with my own grubby fingers.  The fact is, the Catholic Church has performed a miracle.

Yes. A miracle.  In the true sense of a providentially ordained supernatural eruption, a purposeful momentary abrogation of Natural Law.  A mystery that testifies to its transcendence of temporality and materiality.  It has created, or located, or been sent, a humble Argentine.  This is not only an unprecedented phenomenon, but a truly impossible one.  Now, before you cry “racist!”, I must insist that I am no racial essentialist.  Argentina is a nation of immigrants together with indigenous remnants.  My familiarity with the essence and form of Argentinism comes from New York, where most Argentinians I met were of European Catholic background, like Pope Francis whose forebears were Italian, and from Israel, where most are Jewish emigrants.  So it’s not racial.  Rather, I am a cultural essentialist, at least as regards the Argentines.  

Humility and Argentinism are as naturally opposed as oil and water, acid and base, positive and negative electrical charges.  But when Francis stepped out on that balcony with his serene smile and asked the members of his flock for their prayers and blessings on his behalf, I grew dizzy.  It was more shocking than seeing rain fall upwards or seeing Fred Astaire fall downwards.  It was like being knocked to the ground by a ray of light on my way to Damascus.  Open your arms Holy Mother Church.  Here I come.

I’ll have to work on my revulsion to the aesthetics of torture and execution, so that I can feel love when gazing upon a crucifix, and cultivate a revulsion to the idea of men penetrating one another sexually, which never seemed more or less weird than the penetrative sex I have enjoyed with women.  And I don’t know how I will learn to refrain from non-procreative sex with my wife in the future.  But on the other hand, I was never a particularly good Jew with regards to compliance with doctrinal consensus.  So I expect to be an equally flawed and dissenting Catholic.  The question is how traditionalist I go.  Do I want the Latin Mass like Mel Gibson?  Will I abstain from meat on Fri.?  It doesn’t seem such a restriction, given my new licit access to pork and shellfish.  

There’s still a lot to figure out.  But in the mean time Ave Maria!!!

[PS In spite of any impressions this snarky ramble might have given you, I wish Pope Francis I and all 1.2 billion Catholics well and congratulations.  What people who only focus on Catholic crimes and abuses miss, is that it is an institution dedicated, at least since Augustine (of whom I am an enormous fan, even when I disagree with him…or maybe especially when I disagree with him), that true love of self comes by loving God through loving one another.  In the viciousness of human history, that is a remarkably profound idea, even when the Church has participated in the viciousness of that history.  Francis seems a genuinely humble man (apologies to Argentina by the way) and committed to relieving poverty.  We could use a genuinely humble figure on the world stage right now.  I hope he strengthens the Church by drawing on its best and most beautiful traditions and that he is a force for the promotion of compassion, reconciliation, peace, and human dignity.  Anyway, Francis is a much more interesting figure than our now re-established PM here (coalition achieved today as his clock was about to expire).  I can’t wait for life after Bibi.  Gut shabbes.]

UPDATE: I’ll be offline as the sun is setting.  But feel free to use this as an open thread about Francis I.  I do indeed think him an intriguing choice.  And I have great respect for the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) in its modern iteration.


  1. Diana in NoVa

    Naturally, I respect the right of others to believe as they choose.  I do not support their “right” to inflict their religious views on me.  My religion is the only one I’ve been able to discover that respects and empowers women.

    Blessed be.

  2. bill d

    from the Southern Hemisphere if he will switch Christmas to Summer and Easter to Fall?

    He better not mess with Thanksgiving or the 4th of July though.

  3. slksfca

    You had me fooled until

    I’ll have to work on my revulsion to the aesthetics of torture and execution, so that I can feel love when gazing upon a crucifix, and cultivate a revulsion to the idea of men penetrating one another sexually, which never seemed more or less weird than the penetrative sex I have enjoyed with women.

    …which didn’t quite ring sincere. Then I saw your p.s. :-)

  4. Nurse Kelley

    Pope Francis, then Cardinal Bergoglio, allegedly said this in a speech against Argentina presidential candidate Cristina Kirchner in 2007:

    Women are naturally unfit for public office. Both the natural order and facts show us that the political being par excellence is male; the Scripture shows us that woman has always been the helper of man who thinks and does but nothing more.

  5. He might emphasize aiding the impoverished more than his predecessors. But, his stances on gay rights and women and traditionally held catholic teachings is very unyielding.

    Pretty certain I won’t be drawn back by that.

  6. DeniseVelez

    Catholic liberation theology movement in Latin America and the Caribbean (which Francis is/was not a part of)

    As an anthropologist I can’t help having an interest in ritual and symbolism (the pagan roots of much of Catholic  imagery and traditions are a favored personal study)

    Having no expectations for him to make any sweeping changes to Catholic doctrine I guess I find his “vibe” (whatever that means) more bearable than Benedict’s.

    As a music lover my ear was tuned to Gregorian chants at the Cloisters in NY from an early age, and other sweeping pieces of liturgical music like the Misa Luba, from the Congo


    or the Ave Maria

    one of my favorite versions is from Aaron Neville  

    Your post got me to thinking about why I ignore the papacy but have worked alongside of priests and nuns – people of faith and impressive progressive politics with no problem.

    The Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic come to mind, as does my old friend Father David Kirk (deceased) who founded the Emmaus House shelter in East Harlem and who is best known for his Quotations from Chairman Jesus (it was a little red book)

    In 1969 David Kirk produced the book Quotations from Chairman Jesus (via Templegate Publishers), which became a revolutionary best seller after its release. The book aims to show, by compiling a wide variety of Biblical and early Christian quotations, that Jesus’ life and teachings, as well as early Christianity, were actually based upon a community-centered mindset. In the text, Kirk wrote, “Our present Christian community is not the church it ought to be… If this book has anything to say it is that the oppressed ought to come first in the Church which dares to follow Jesus Christ. If it suggests nothing more to you, let it say that money and property are meant to be common to everybody, and that he who shares power, property, and money with the poor, only returns what rightfully belongs to the poor.”

    I guess I have very mixed feelings about religion (organized – when it is patriarchal) and spirituality (personal)when it is transformative and propels individuals to either expand and grow in their understanding of self – by looking inward, or to change the world to a better place acting upon that faith tradition, which is why I struggle with religion bashing much of the time, though I have never bit my tongue to critique right wing extensions of any religion.

    The RC Church has done severe damage throughout history – from the time of the Crusades, witch burnings and inquisition … and yet it has also run schools, food pantries and other needed services for the poor or distressed.  

    As I mentioned in Wee Mama’s diary, I attended a Jesuit University, and had some truly radical priestly professors.

    On Francis — I wonder how he’s going to deal with living in Vatican City?  All the pomp, pageantry and glitter seem to be the opposite of his personal preferences.

    It will be interesting to watch.

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