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Austen Ivereigh

BOSTON, Massachusetts, August 11, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — Pope Francis' English biographer is accusing a host of prominent Catholic writers of mental illness over their concerns about the controversial pope.

Writing in Crux magazine, funded by the Knights of Columbus, English writer Austen Ivereigh suggests these papal critics suffer from “convert neurosis.”

Ivereigh, a former spokesman for the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, named Matthew Schmitz and R.R. Reno of First Things, Ross Douthat of The New York Times, Carl E. Olson of Catholic World Report, John-Henry Westen of LifeSiteNews, Daniel Hitchens of the Catholic Herald, and Edward Pentin of the National Catholic Register as sufferers from this imaginary psychological disorder.

Although he has taken leadership positions among England’s small Catholic minority, Ivereigh is known in the United Kingdom chiefly for two libels suits he brought against the Daily Mail.

In his August 9 essay, Ivereigh discusses a debate he had with Matthew Schmitz, the literary editor of First Things. He suggests that Schmitz’s “narrative” is that Pope Francis is, in Douthat’s words, “the chief plotter” in a conspiracy to change the Catholic faith.

Ivereigh defends journalist Michael Sean Winter’s notorious comment that he was tired of converts “telling us that the Pope isn’t Catholic” by saying that there is an “incongruity” between joining the Roman Catholic Church and “later announcing noisily after a new pope is elected … that the pope is not doing what they believe popes should do.”

Ivereigh cites Twitter responses as proof that other Catholics find such converts “annoying” and believe these converts prefer to assume that they are right and the Pope is wrong about Catholicism.

Whereas Ivereigh calls writers for The New York Times and First Things “elegant,” he describes Olson and Westen as “the rougher end.”

Olson told LifeSiteNews that inventing a condition like “convert neurosis” to explain away his argument is “typical lefty laziness.”

“My experience when I converted twenty years ago — I’ve spent almost my entire adult life as a Catholic — I had a lot of Protestant friends who did the same kind of psychologizing, questioning my motives, but refusing to engage with my arguments. And now we get it from people like Spadaro and Ivereigh. It’s a sort of fundamentalism, actually.”

“This is a part of a larger tactic of isolating a group and trying to besmirch them,” Olson explained. “That’s far easier than dealing with the many questions and concerns that have arisen during this pontificate. The slur about ‘neurosis’ is cheap. The real attack here is not on converts, but on Catholics upholding the Catholic faith.”

Olson became a Catholic after much study and prayer. He spent three years doing nothing outside of his job but study Catholicism. He also earned a Master of Theological Studies from the University of Dallas.

“I think I know as much about Catholicism as most cradle Catholics,” he said.

Concerning his position in the “rough end” of Ivereigh’s imagination, Olson recalled that the two have clashed before. “I wrote a piece about Austen in which I went after him pretty strongly.”

On the other hand, perhaps Ivereigh, a former Jesuit novice, objects to Olson’s origins.

“Maybe it’s my blue collar background?” Olson said. “I’m from Montana. I’m from a small town. My dad is an internationally-known gun-maker.”

Westen was even less sure of his position at the “rough end” of Ivereigh’s scale.

“I would not at all characterize my writings on Pope Francis to be on the ‘rough end,’” Westen told LifeSiteNews. “I love the Holy Father and pray for him daily, more so than I have for any other pope in my lifetime.”

“What would be ‘rough’ indeed would to be to have such callous disregard for the soul of the Holy Father as to be silent or worse yet encouraging of the paths that he has taken to appeal to the world in contravention of the teachings of Christ,” Westen added. “For the true good of the Pope, we must lovingly call him to abandon the counsel of the wolves that he has surrounding him. We must pray and ask that he feed the sheep entrusted to Him by The Shepherd with the deposit of Food the Good Shepherd left for His flock.”

Westen also resists Ivereigh’s description of him as an ex-atheist “convert.”

“In a certain sense, you could say I’m an ex-atheist in that I abandoned belief in God and doubted or rejected His very existence,” he said. “Nevertheless, I was raised Catholic by a very devout father and in my youth loved Christ and the practice of the faith before falling away. My reversion thanks to my Dad’s example and True Devotion to Mary was a miraculous show of God’s great mercy even for the worst of sinners.”

On Twitter, Ed Pentin expressed regret that Crux had chosen to run Ivereigh’s essay:

Douthat was more succinct. His Twitter response to Ivereigh was: “Are we really doing this?”  


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