Rorate Caeli

The Conversion of Brother Roger of Taize?

In connection with the recent posting on Brother Roger's ecclesiastical affiliation, someone has reminded me of an article that appeared in the Remnant in 2006.

The article was written by Yves Chiron and translated by Michael Matt and reports that Brother Roger was, in fact, formally received into the Catholic Church (via a profession of the Catholic faith) as early as 1972. According to Chiron, Brother Roger and his close collaborator Max Thurian were received at the same time. Max Thurian was later ordained a Catholic priest and made a member of the International Theological Commission. Unlike Max Thurian's conversion -- which became public knowledge when his ordination to the priesthood was announced -- Roger Schutz's alleged conversion was wrapped in secrecy until his death.

While Roger Schutz did claim that he never ruptured communion with anyone, he apparently stopped functioning as a Calvinist pastor and no longer presided over Protestant services.
If this is true, less serious but still weighty questions arise: why did Cardinal Kasper refuse to define Brother Roger's conversion as that: a conversion? And why was this conversion wrapped in secrecy? Surely a true convert to Catholicism should not be ashamed to confess his faith? One can only imagine the great numbers of converts who would have been led to the faith by Brother Roger's example, had it not been hidden.

Chiron recounts:

Beginning in 1969, the Taizé Community welcomed Catholic “brothers” then, in 1971, an accord was made to institute a “representative” from the Taizé Community near the Holy Sea. The “representative” had as his mission “to negotiate questions between Taizé and the Catholic Church in harmony with the thinking of the Holy Father; to promote more collaboration in the ecumenical activities between Taizé and the Catholic Church; and to encourage the establishment of an organic relationship between them.”

This accord, made public at the time (L’Osservatore Romano, 9-10 August 1971), prepared the way for passage into the Catholic Church of the two founders of Taizé, Roger Schutz et Max Thurian. This “passage”, this conversion, took place in 1972, in the chapel of the Bishop of Autun, the diocese where Taizé is located. There was a profession of the Catholic Faith then Communion was given by Mgr. Le Bourgeois. No written certificate remains, it seems, of that event, but Brother Roger has given oral testimony of it and of his adherence to the Catholic Faith to the successor of Mgr. Le Bourgeois, Mgr Séguy.
Later on, Catholic practices like Eucharistic adoration and the Sacrament of Confession were established in the Taizé Community. Roger Schutz, having become Catholic, evidently no longer celebrated the Protestant service at Taizé or anywhere else and, since he did not become a priest, he received holy Communion only from a Catholic priest. “For that which concerns the ministry of the Pope, he declared and wrote that the unity of Christians centers on the pastor of the Church of Christ, who is the Bishop of Rome.”
Roger Schutz liked to say: “I have found my proper Christian identity in reconciling in myself the faith of my past with the mystery of the Catholic Faith, without rupturing communion with anyone.” (from an allocution of Pope John Paul in 1980 at the time of his Meeting with European Youth in Rome). The expression, repeated again in his last book (God Can Only Love), could be judged to be very unsatisfactory because it says nothing of the retractions necessary for a conversion. But Roger Schutz was not a theologian.

It is true that this secrecy of his conversion has not the limpidity and the solemnity of an abjuration. But who dares to doubt his sincerity? Cardinal Ratzinger, in giving him Communion in April 2005, certainly acted with full knowledge of the facts. And it is bad form to accuse him still today of “having given communion to a Protestant.”