Whenever I hear about a Protestant entering the Catholic Church, I feel the way Tiger Woods must when he sinks a 45-foot putt during the Masters.
Mental fist pumps of triumph aside, it is always encouraging when this happens — just as it is likewise discouraging when the “conversion” goes in the opposite direction. When that happens, I have the mental picture of Boston Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner letting a routine ground ball dribble right between his legs in the 1986 World Series.
Now that we’re done with the sports metaphors, we have the latest high-profile conversion story. High profile is a relative term, as the vast majority of the world has not noticed. But for some people with too much time on our hands, the name Cameron Bertuzzi is not so obscure.
Bertuzzi built a YouTube empire with his channel, on which he defended his Protestant-centric view of Christianity. He did this without appeals to emotion or promising people their bank accounts would swell commensurate with how much money they donated to him. The result was an impressive 150,000 subscribers to his channel.
Bertuzzi was also openly engaged in discussions with fellow Christians who may have not shared all of his views — namely Catholics. This was evident when I watched a Catholic version of Bertuzzi’s YouTube channel, where he was a guest, engaging in a lively and intelligent debate with Scott Hahn, Ph.D., on the primacy of the papacy. Those familiar with Angelus magazine will know Hahn’s position, yet it was refreshing to see two adults have a disagreement on a very big issue, while always maintaining a sense that, though separated by some issues, they were still brothers in Christ. No invectives were spewed, and no table was pounded — what kind of “reality” TV is that?
By the end of the segment the two men agreed to disagree about the papacy, but there was more to the story. Apparently, Bertuzzi took the words of G.K. Chesterton to heart and realized that there are innumerable angles from which an object will tumble, but only one point from which it will balance.
Bertuzzi obviously thought and prayed a lot more about his exchange with Hahn, and came to believe there was that one point whereby everything balanced. That point was to be found in Rome.
The next time I saw Bertuzzi, he was on the same Catholic channel with the same host. But this time, they were out on a balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, and the topic was no longer Bertuzzi’s doubts about the papacy, but his belief that the fullness of the truth that is Christianity resides in the Catholic Church.
The host was exuberant almost to the point of being giddy. I do not think any Catholic who loves the Church and wants to share her truth could react any other way. But Bertuzzi stole the show, not because he was also ebullient and full of self-satisfaction, but rather, because he was demonstrably serious and purposeful.
Bertuzzi knew his decisions would leave the vast majority of his numerous subscribers viewing the move as a betrayal, or at the very least, a bitter disappointment. Imagine the personal cost he may be paying with this decision. It was obvious Bertuzzi was bearing a new kind of cross on his back, but was doing so with amazing amounts of courage and humility.
I began to scan the YouTube universe for reactions to Bertuzzi’s momentous crossing of the River Tiber. They were as mixed as one might expect. Surprisingly, there were some very positive, if disappointed, videos from Protestant apologists who know Bertuzzi on a personal basis. There were also some less than kind reactions.
Besides the feeling of happiness that comes when hearing about someone entering the Church, I get another unsettling feeling about myself. I never had to make this kind of decision. I think I have made efforts, dysfunctional and clumsy as they have been, to grow in my faith and to go deeper into it than just the “three Hail Marys and three Our Fathers” phase, but I tremble in my sneakers made of clay thinking how badly I might perform if faced with a decision that could ostracize me from my colleagues at work, my fellow believers, and my family.
Although perhaps not on the same scale as the conversion of fellow Protestant churchman turned saint John Henry Newman, Bertuzzi seems to have chosen a similar roadmap to the Church. He had the “fidem” (“faith”) and used the ratio to get all the way home. Bertuzzi’s heart already belonged to Jesus, and his open and humble inquisitiveness showed him the physical Church of the Lord, structured in a sacramental framework, with apostolic succession.
We should all add Bertuzzi to our prayer intentions this Advent season — and not just him and his family, but all who may be doubting their doubts about the Catholic Church. Who knows how many other lives can be touched if we not only proclaimed more often how the fullness of the truth resides in the Catholic Church, but acted more like we believed it.