Sunday, 10 August 2008

Saint Barnabas Society.

Last Sunday we were delighted to find that rather than a homily we were to be addressed by Dr. Cyprian Balmires from the St. Barnabas Society. This Society has as its mission the support of those former clergy of other Christian denominations who he taken the step of converting to Roman Catholicism.

Dr. Balmires in a charming, witty and quite moving talk explained to us the difficulties pertaining to that special situation. He himself had been for all his working life a minister in the Anglican church but eventually found he could not deny the call to come home to Rome. He explained to us in some detail the problems in which both he and many others found themselves. The decision to convert has to be taken as an individual, not as a clergyman. In other words he converted as an ordinary Catholic. Any question of his status or role within the Catholic Church had to be put aside until after his full conversion. The question of priestly status is decided on an individual bases by the bishop if the convert wishes to go down that route afterwards. When you think about it that is a very sensible approach to take but very difficult for the convert.
He spoke a little about the emotive issues involving family, friends and former colleagues and congregations and how matters are made worse by misconceptions of what it is the Catholic Church preaches and believes. He himself is married to "a Belfast Protestant" and has several children. He mentioned in particular the cases of at least two female ministers who had come to feel that they had to convert and the extra difficulty of their situation.

Dr. Balmires decided not to seek ordination within the Catholic Church but found along with many others that he was essentially unemployable. After several very difficult years he is now employed by the St. Barnabas Society to help those who find themselves contemplating conversion and those who have converted.

A book is available from the St. Barnabas Society of essays from a number of clergy converts incl. Fr. Dwight Longenecker of the Standing on My Head blog. The St. Barnabas website does not really provide a lot of info but they obviously do great work behind the scenes...

He has also written a truly excellent booklet for the Catholic Truth Society on the subject of Protestantism and what it is they believe, both about themselves and about Roman Catholics. It is well written, level headed and very enlightening and as you read it has the marvelous effect of clearing the mind. I was somewhat surprised on clicking on the CTS website to find a great number of highly interesting publications available at very reasonable cost. They would appear to have reinvented themselves splendidly. Have a look...

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