A Harvard law professor who experienced a dramatic conversion to Catholicism has suggested there is no middle way between atheism and the Church.
In an interview with Christina Dearduff, Dr Adrian Vermeule said that the logic behind his Catholic beliefs is inspired by Blessed John Henry Newman. He said: “Raised a Protestant, despite all my thrashing and twisting, I eventually couldn’t help but believe that the apostolic succession through Peter as the designated leader and primus inter pares is in some logical or theological sense prior to everything else – including even Scripture, whose formation was guided and completed by the apostles and their successors, themselves inspired by the Holy Spirit.”
He said he realised “the very great evil of schism and private judgment” when the US Episcopalian church “decided to go its own way based on novel views even in the face of faithful admonition by the broader Anglican Communion. Ultimately I think with Newman … that there is no stable ground between Catholicism and atheist materialism. One must always be travelling, or slipping unintentionally in one direction or the other.”
Dr Adrian Vermeule is the Ralph S Tyler, Jr Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School. He served as a law clerk for Justice Antonin Scalia between 1994 and 1995.
Citing the influences on his conversion to Catholicism, along with Cardinal Newman, he mentioned Fr Brian Dunkle SJ and Fr Kevin Grove CSC, and added: “Behind and above all those who helped me along the way, there stood a great Lady.”
When asked if the West could still be called Christian, he replied: “There is hope for renewal because of Fr Jacques Hamel and others like him. God acts through the weak and the marginal-the humble aged parish priest who goes to his death filled with faith and courage, naming the darkness and pushing it away. Out of this, God has fashioned a light to illuminate France and the whole West.”
Professor Vermeule also said that legal change could only come about through cultural improvement. He said: “I put little stock or faith in the law. It is a tool that may be put to good uses or bad. In the long run it will be no better than the polity and culture in which it is embedded. If that culture sours and curdles; so will the law; indeed that process is well underway and its tempo is accelerating. Our hope lies elsewhere.”
Princeton Professor Robert George has welcomed Vermeule – “one of our nation’s most brilliant and influential legal scholars” into the Church, saying: “How the Church, weakened and wounded as she is at this historical moment (with the worst of her wounds being self-inflicted), continues to attract such extraordinary men and women is, to me, well . . . a miracle. Welcome home, brother!”
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