Maureen Laverock shares her own unhappy experience
Bernard Elsdon’s article ‘Last Times .Warning’ [September] struck a chord with me, as his experiences were similar to those I encountered, leaving aside the fact that he was an Anglican priest and I a mere lay person. Having been educated entirely at Roman Catholic schools since the age of five, I had always felt that I had one foot in the Catholic church, and knew and accepted virtually everything pertaining to it.
Prompted by the first rumblings about women bishops, I began attending a local Catholic church in May 2006 and eventually spoke to one of the priests there -an ex-Anglican – explaining my wish to become a Catholic. He was extremely kind and interested. He said he would be pleased to speak to me further when we were both back from holidays but, in the meanwhile, advised me to sign up for ‘RCIA
The course began in mid-September, but by then this pleasant priest had been posted elsewhere and, not feeling particularly drawn to either of the priests who remained, I began the course without having had the opportunity of explaining fully my Anglo-Catholic and Roman Catholic affiliations.
I was affronted by the very title of the course ‘Rite of Christian initiation for adults’. Surely I was already a Christian, having been baptized, but there I was with about five other would-be converts, two of whom had not been baptized. Exactly like Bernard Elsdon, I was dumbfounded to find myself being ‘introduced’ to the Bible in the first session of the course, and to such basic elements of Christian belief in subsequent weeks that I equated it to being taught one’s two times table when expecting to explore the mysteries of advanced mathematics.
After a few weeks, I happened to read an article in the Tablet which considered some aspects of the RCIA and, as a result, I wrote to the Editor expressing my own view that the RCIA should not be a ‘one size fits all’ course, but that it should be tailored to individual backgrounds. Much to my surprise, my letter was published, but on the following Sunday I was told by my RCIA instructress, accompanied unusually that week by the Parish Priest, to stay behind after the lesson.
I felt like a naughty schoolgirl being held in detention, but worse was to follow, for as soon as the other would-be converts had departed, I was subjected to a decidedly hostile attack for having had the audacity to write to the Tablet and to have dared to criticize the RCIA. I had not named the church in my letter, nor any individual, and considered this onslaught quite unjustified. I am ashamed to admit that I was so shocked and upset I was reduced to tears, and so ended my Catholic sojourn.
In spite of all the foregoing, I have not given up entirely and am pinning my hopes at present on the albeit slim possibility that the congregations of some Forward in Faith parishes may eventually be allowed to become Catholics en bloc, and that mine may be one of them.