(LifeSiteNews) — When I was in Washington, D.C. recently, I attended a dinner in honor of Bishop Athanasius Schneider. When people were asked to raise their hands if they were converts to the faith, almost half of the people in the room raised their hands.
My guest on today’s episode of The John-Henry Westen Show, Eric Sammons, is also a convert to the Catholic faith from Protestantism, as well as an author, father, podcaster, and editor-in-chief of Crisis Magazine. He discusses what Catholics should think and do about the Francis pontificate, as well as what they should do to fight the cultural insanity we find in the Church and world.
Sammons converted to the Catholic faith from Protestantism thirty years ago, he tells me. While raised a Methodist, he converted while doing pro-life activism with a group of Catholics at a large state college, including his now-wife. Sammons tells me the reason he converted was because he became uncomfortable belonging to the United Methodist Church while being a pro-lifer, as it is pro-abortion. He says a church that supports killing babies “cannot be the Church of Christ.”
When studying the Catholic Church’s claims, he asked a friend how he knew the Church would not change its teaching on abortion, looking for the certainty of a Church that could not change its teachings.
“And I remember one day, I went to my good friend… and I just said to him, ‘How can you know? How can you know that the Catholic Church won’t change its position on abortion some day?’” Sammons tells me. “And I ask that because the fact that I knew if I jumped to [the] Southern Baptist[s], who’s to say they won’t change? And now I have jump again. I didn’t want to keep jumping.” Sammons also explains that he was influenced by the strong pro-life position of Pope St. John Paul II, who gave clear certainty to the Church’s teaching on abortion.
After discussing his conversion, we discuss how a Catholic should view Pope Francis and his papacy, and if Francis’ actions have shaken his faith.
According to Sammons, Francis’ actions have not challenged his faith. First, because of God’s grace, and second, because he has studied the history of the papacy. He maintains, however, that Francis is a “unique problem historically,” comparing his pontificate with those of the Renaissance popes, the Arian crisis, and the pornocracy of the 10th century, when Roman matrons would use their influence to get their lovers and sons elected pope.
Sammons tells me that after Francis’ election, he studied the history and theology of the Church to see what the possible views Catholics could have of Francis. Sammons maintains there are three: sedevacantism, or the belief that Pius XII was the last pope and the Chair of Peter is currently vacant, the view that “whatever the pope says today is Catholic dogma,” as seen by the Where Peter Is blog, or what is in his view the right option, the view that Christ suffers bad popes to test the faith of the Church.
“When I look at the promises of Christ to St. Peter, the promises He makes the Church, He does not guarantee that we can’t have a pope like this,” Sammons explains. “He does not ever promise that. And in fact, I think it’s a means in which people are really tried and tested and [Christ says], ‘Okay, will you follow me … even when my vicar is doing things that are … against what I want him to do? Will you still be faithful to me and to my Church?’ And ultimately, that’s what we have to hang our hat on.”
“I don’t claim to have all the answers,” Sammons continues. “But it is enough for me to say that, ‘Okay, all the things I believed in, which I decided to accept when I became Catholic are all still true. They’re not playing out like I expected, but they’re all still true.’ And … I’m not going to let this … guy in Rome, even though he’s the Pope, shake me from that attachment to the Catholic Church I have.”
We also discussed the possibility of excommunication, and how Catholics should respond to the threat of excommunication for criticizing Francis.
“I would take it very seriously, and I would do everything possible to follow what my bishop asked me to do,” Sammons says. He also adds that if his bishop or someone in a position of authority asks him to do something beyond his power to ask, he would explain why he could not follow it and why he believes himself to be a faithful Catholic, but that he would follow the directive to the best of his power. Sammons also advises that Catholics should treat bishops with reverence, noticing that some Catholics “are a little too cavalier” in their behavior toward them.
Sammons adds that we should pray for Francis’ conversion as loving sons, noting that Francis is our spiritual father. “If we if we believe [his conversion] is possible, which we should, then I think our prayers for him are more efficacious [and] more powerful.” He also remarks that criticism of the Pope is more powerful when done in a spirit of fraternal correction.
Later in the episode, Sammons advises Catholics to read Scripture and become familiar with the traditions of the Church, especially the theological writings dating from before Vatican II, and that Catholics should practice the traditional devotions and practices of the Church, such as praying the Rosary and keeping the ember days, in addition to accessing the sacraments regularly.
“If you hold on to the faith as it’s been handed to you through Scripture, through tradition, through the teachings of the Church over the centuries, you’ll be fine, even if very influential and powerful Catholics are telling you otherwise, even if the highest office in the Church is telling you otherwise, you’ll be fine,” Sammons says.
“That’s the way you save your soul. … It will help you to weather the storm, so to speak, and help you to help others with it as well.”
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