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May 18, 2009

Catholic Is Not Enough

Just when you thought it was safe to call yourself "Catholic," an illustrious convert to the Catholic Church from Evangelical Protestantism explains what kinds of "Catholic" you should not be.

Catholic Is Not Enough

By Thomas Howard, Ph.D.
Envoy Magazine

A NUMBER OF YEARS AGO, I wrote a book (which was not a bestseller) under the title,
Evangelical Is Not Enough. The editor of Envoy Magazine has asked me now to write this article with the title which appears at the top.

What a malcontent this man must be, readers may be pardoned for murmuring. What an ecclesiastical dyspeptic. Will nothing satisfy him? Is anything enough? Come.

On the surface of things, such would indeed appear to be a just reaction on the part of a reader. On the other hand, there is a certain point which perhaps may legitimately be made without ones taking on the guilt of merely carping.

What, then, can possibly be meant by ones saying that Catholic is not enough?

Clearly we must begin with a demurral, or perhaps even a slightly sheepish admission of artfulness: The title is an editorial eye-catcher, of course. Readers of Envoy Magazine expect this journal to be squarely behind the assertion that Catholic is enough. Hence, when they see this title (or, so hope the editors and the author), they will snap up the magazine with, Oh-ho! What have we here? Envoy gone soft, eh?

On the other hand, unhappily enough, there is a sense in which the assertion that Catholic is not enough is very widely true. To be rigorously just, however, we would need to insert some modifiers: This sort of Catholic is not enough, or, what you hear being taught over there in that RCIA program is not enough.

But clearly, to venture such remarks is to sail very near the wind of arrogance. Well! I see we have a self-appointed inquisitor here, pronouncing on everyone's faith, and handing out obiter dicta hither and thither as to the quality of that faith. And all unsolicited in the bargain.

Such an accusation might well hit home, and to tackle an assertion such as we have in the title of this article, one must venture along hesitantly and tentatively, frequently testing ones own attitudes with the litmus test of Charity.

We might canvass several situations in which we find ourselves encountering a Catholic outlook which is not enough.

For example, here is Mr. O'Brian, or Mr. Przybyzewski, or Miss Spiridigliozzi, or Mrs. de la Rocha or Mrs. Garcia who, if asked about their faith, might pass off the question with some reference to the Old Country from which their family emigrated to America and leave it at that. Obviously, that won't quite suffice when it comes to the Divine Tribunal.

There is neither Jew nor Greek (nor Englishman, Irishman or Mexican) in Christ. Your country of origin won't save you. A highly ethnically-conscious Catholicism can be a genuinely robust thing, most heartening to behold (besides being perhaps enormously curious to someone strange to that background). The pluck, fidelity and loyalty which often accompany such an ethnic faith can well turn out to be the stuff of which martyrs are made.
On the other hand, as we know, such a stance can . . . (continue reading) 


  1. While his book is not a bestseller, I have given it to friends and family. It converted many of them.

  2. Dr. Howard's Evangelical Is Not Enough is an excellent book, I have it on my bookshelf.

    I have long thought that we should approach our faith like the man who asked Jesus what he had to do to be saved. When Jesus told him, he said "I do all this, what more can I do?"

    That's when Jesus told him to go and sell all his stuff, give his money to the poor, and follow him.

    It's because of that "what more can I do?" attitude that I've long thought that the young man must have, after a night of prayer, gone and done just that.

    How many people do we know who approach the faith and ask for only the bare necessities? "What more can I do without? I hope I can avoid that approach.

  3. I read that book! It was fantastic. I couldn't get into this article though for some reason. I must be tired ~ spring on the farm is insane and we're still in the middle of lambing and calving season. No sleep for us!

  4. As a WW2 Marine Corps Veteran who claims to be catholic (small c) which means universal and am a Lutheran, I wish to reply that this sounds like a good book to read. Thank you for the opportunity to "sound off."