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.”


  1. Anonymous8:54 AM

    Matthew 10:32-33
    32 So every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.

    He failed to meet the necessary requirement set by Jesus.

  2. Anonymous9:17 AM

    Thank God that this necessary clarification from the past has been disclosed. For many years it was said that Brother Roger had been received into the Church and most assumed this to have been true. At last it has been confirmed.

  3. Anonymous10:49 AM

    This must be a joke, surely. Although Yves Chiron is an excellent researcher, he is known to be very reluctant (to say the least) to admit to any mistake or misconception.
    Whatever happened in 1972, Br. Roger was pertinax in errando in that he remained a master in confusion. He always maintained that he did not give up his protestant beliefs but that he subsumed themin a deeper vision of Christian unity. After all, did he not coin the expression "dépassement inclusif"? In short, he was a master at confusion and ambiguity and it is an essential feature of his very community that it is "superconfessional", not interconfessional. This hardly lays the ground for what I would call an unequivocal conversion. Est est, non non! On top of this, I have a personal account from a major ecumaniac figure very close to the Taizé community that says that Br. Max Thurian was treated like a paria by Br. Roger after he was ordained a Catholic priest (1988). Why was that if Br. Roger had been a Catholic for 16 years by that time?

  4. Anonymous1:46 PM

    Interview with Brother Alois
    Something that was without precedent
    Following an article published in “Le Monde” on 6 September 2006, Brother Alois replied to questions put by “La Croix”.

    La Croix: Did Brother Roger ever formally convert to Catholicism, as Yves Chiron, the historian, has just affirmed?

    Brother Alois: No. Brother Roger never “converted” formally to Catholicism. If he had, he would have said so; for he never hid anything about the path he was following. All through his books, often written in the form of a journal, he explained as he went along what he was discovering and what he was living.

    What exactly happened in 1972, in the chapel of the bishop’s house in Autun?

    - In 1972, the then Bishop of Autun, Mgr Armand Le Bourgeois, simply gave him communion for the first time, without requiring any other profession of faith from him besides the Creed recited during the Eucharist, and which is held in common by all Christians. Several witnesses were present, three of my brothers, a couple who are friends of ours; they can attest to this.

    Why at that precise moment?

    - That date was chosen because Brother Roger was preparing to receive the life commitment of the first Catholic brother of the community and it was unthinkable not to receive communion at the same Eucharistic table. Several months later, Mgr Le Bourgeois came to Taizé and, in the same way, gave communion to all the brothers of the community.

    Did Brother Roger himself testify explicitly to that development?

    - He understood very early in his life that in order to pass on the Gospel to young people a reconciliation of Christians was necessary. After John XXIII and the Second Vatican Council, he considered that the time for reconciliation had come. He often told how, during his last meeting with John XXIII, in 1963, he was eager to hear a spiritual testament from the pope and he asked him about the place of Taizé in the Church. John XXIII replied, making circular gestures with his hands, “The Catholic Church is made of concentric circles that are always bigger and bigger.” The pope did not specify in which circle he saw Taizé but Brother Roger understood that the pope wanted to say to him: you are already within, continue simply on this path. And that is what he did.

    You were close to him for many years; he even designated you as his successor, what was really at issue for Brother Roger in this way that he followed?

    - The way that he followed led him more and more to discover and bring to light the fullness of the tradition of the Church. He was not interested in an individual solution for reconciliation but, through many tentative steps, he sought which way could be accessible for others. Of Protestant origin, he accomplished something that was without precedent since the Reformation. In 1980, during a European young adult meeting in Rome, he expressed this publicly in the following terms in Saint Peter’s Basilica, in presence of Pope John Paul II, “I have found my own identity as a Christian by reconciling within myself the faith of my origins with the mystery of the Catholic faith, without breaking fellowship with anyone.” Receiving an Orthodox delegation one day, John Paul II later spoke of a communion that is “neither absorption, nor fusion, but a meeting in truth and in love”.

    Why was there so much discretion around something he wanted to be a testimony?

    - Since his approach was progressive and completely new, it was difficult to express and to understand. It was easy to misinterpret it. Thus, to speak in terms of “conversion” is not to understand the originality of what Brother Roger was seeking. The word “conversion” is weighed down with history; “conversion” implies a break with your origins. Brother Roger accepted that for some an individual conversion might be a way, but for himself and for our community he preferred to speak of communion. For him, entering progressively into a full communion with the Catholic Church was given concrete expression in two points he never kept secret: receiving the Eucharist and recognizing the necessity of a ministry of unity exercised by the Bishop of Rome.

    Even at the price of still being misunderstood?

    - Brother Roger’s aims have not been understood by everyone, but they have been welcomed by many; by Pope John Paul II, by Catholic bishops and theologians who have come to celebrate the Eucharist at Taizé, and also by leaders of Protestant and Orthodox Churches with whom Brother Roger patiently built up trust in the course of many years.

    Interview by Jean-Marie GUENOIS

  5. Brother Roger was not a Catholic in the public sense so the ostensible and visible association was with an interfaith community, Taize. Nothing in the Taize community's website says it is part of the Catholic Church so what are we to believe? If Bro. Roger had indeed become a Catholic, this should have been made "crystal clear" by the hierarchy and he should have made a public abjuration of all other religions.

    As far as I know, neither was done but this does not mean he, or anyone else, cannot accept the Catholic Faith at any time even up to the time of death. In fact, even the desire to do so can be enough seen with the eyes of the Almighty God.

    The whole point is did the Church act responsibly in this matter by surrounding his conversion with secrecy and intrigue? I submit that it handled this situation very badly indeed.

  6. Anonymous2:16 PM

    Why does the Taize community deny that he converted?

    A "secret" conversion for such a high-profile personality can only be seen as a scandal by most right-thinking Catholics.


  7. Anonymous4:15 PM

    Why are we failing to take into consideration the very real possibility that Brother Roger was waiting for the right moment to announce his conversion, but that his untimely murder foiled it?

    As well, we need to keep in mind that God's ways are not ours, and quite frankly neither are the Church's.

    Anyone who knows anything of the history of hagiography, for instance, knows that the Catholic Church venerates in her sanctoral calendars, Eastern and Western, several saints, especially martyrs, who did not die in communion with her: Arians (e.g. Nicetas the Goth), Monophysites (e.g. The Martyrs of Najran), even Eastern Orthodox (several post-schism saints, especially the Russians; Eastern Catholics venerate nearly every post-schism saints of the Orthodox Church, and they appear in the official Eastern Catholic synaxeries, and were doing so long before Vatican II).

    The notion that one might be saved by virtue of an imperfect, but very real, communion with the Catholic Church may not have been very explicit before Vatican II, but it sure has been implied by the teaching and praxis of the Church over the centuries.

  8. Anonymous5:22 PM

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but if a non-Catholic's public reception of the Blessed Sacrament is a scandal, so is a secret Catholic's reception of the Blessed Sacrament. For an act to be scandalous, it need not be sinful in itself, but must induce another to do something morally wrong ( But is it morally wrong to distribute Communion to a non-Catholic? Is it not permitted now under the new Code of Canon Law?

  9. Anonymous8:52 PM

    We also should keep in mind that well into the 19th Century the has, from time to time, allowed for a somewhat more relaxed Eucharistic practice than the letter of her law would seem to allow, especially when it was a case where the status of an individual's or a church's "communion-with-Rome" status was ambiguous or otherwise "oh-so-close".

    For instance, it's rather well-documented that for centuries many Eastern Orthodox hierarchs allowed Jesuits, Franciscans, and others in their territories to hear confessions, preach, and sometimes even concelebrate the Eucharist in their (i.e., Orthodox) churches and for their (i.e., Orthodox) faithful.

    The fact of the matter is that throughout the centuries, particularly with the Eastern Churches, the Church has practiced, or permitted, intercommunion with her separated brethren.

    Granted, this has not, to my knowledge, typically (if at all) been permitted with Protestants, but I can't see why the Church, in exceptional circumstances, extend the same "graciousness" to Protestants who are Catholic in all but name, especially when their heresy/schism is material and not necessarily formal.

    There is also, as I noted, the possibility that Brother Roger was waiting for what he felt was a more opportune time to announce his conversion, which opportunity was sadly cut short.

  10. Anonymous2:29 AM

    Jesus said to him: No man putting his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God. (Lk 9:62)

  11. Anonymous8:46 AM

    In Chapter 10, in his book "Open Letter to Confused Catholics", Archbishop Lefebvre states:
    'I am assured and know for certain that before the Council the Taizé community wanted to abjure their errors and become Catholics. The authorities said to them, “No, wait. After the Council you will be the bridge between Catholics and Protestants.” Those who gave this reply took on a great responsibility before God, because grace comes often only at a given moment; it may perhaps not come again. At the present time the brethren of Taizé are still outside the Church, sowing confusion in the minds of the young people who visit them.'
    How very sad that they were not welcomed into the Holy Catholic Church at that time.

  12. Anonymous8:53 AM

    (chiara): When I visited Taize in 1993, Mass was offered in the Crypt Chapel each morning, early enough so that one could still attend the Common Prayer. Catholics who attended the Common Prayer and wanted to receive Holy communion were directed to receive Holy Communion at the left side of the Church as the Hosts had been consecrated at a Catholic Mass.
    The situation was very different in 2004. I checked to see what time Mass was at the Crypt Church but it was now held in one of the rooms adjoining the big Church. However there was nothing scheduled for Sunday. I was quite shocked on the Sunday as it was a exactly like the Catholic Mass but at Holy Communion the Brothers went down the isle with pottery dishes and 'cups' and nearly everyone received Holy Communion 'by self-intinction'. Later, plates of blessed bread were passed to those who didn't receive ( I learned later that this was for Catholics e.g. divorced and remarried, those who didn't believe etc)
    I had an appointment to see one of the Brothers, who was Catholic and spoke to him of my concerns. He said that the Pope had agreed for them to have 3 of the Brothers ordained as priests because often there were buses arriving on a Sunday (the day they change over pilgrims) and many, particularly ones from places like Poland, were very upset if there was no Mass because there was no visiting priest there when they arrived late in the day.
    So it definitely was a Catholic Mass by 3 young Taize Brothers who were ordained.
    When I questioned him about nearly everyone receiving Holy Communion when at least half of them would not be Catholic. He said that in 1986 the Pope had given permission for anyone who believed that Communion was the Body and Blood of Christ was able to receive Commuion while at Taize. I replied that Anglicans would just regard it as a 'symbol', Lutherans that Our Lord was present 'with' the bread and wine etc etc. He said that the Pope met Brother Roger every year and he was sure that the Pope would know. I then said that they had surely read "Redemptionis Sacramentum" and that if it was a Catholic Mass they should also obey the rules concerning self-intinction and not having breakable vessels...he looked a bit embarrassed. I explained that I promoted the beautiful music and their beautiful traditional Prayer Around the Cross in my home town and that the sacredness and silence was a great benefit to me as I missed that in the Novus Ordo.
    The next morning at Mass there was definitely a purificator but most still just self-intincted.
    I explained that I had to be honest as i was encouraging young ones to visit Taize, which is a truly wonderful experience, but that it was very bad that they would come up against these things as our Bishop is trying to do everything according to the GIRM and obeying documents like Redemptionis Sacramentum etc.
    Has anyone else had similar experiences or know what is happening there now?

  13. The Pharisees of New Testament times - not all hypocrites by any means - genuinely believed that strict adherence to the rules was pleasing to God. In their glorification of the rules, they lost track of what the rules were for. They lacked "the vision thing". How often, in the name of orthodoxy, do we fall into the same pit?

  14. Anonymous11:44 AM


    Nonsense. The Pharisees, unlike the claims of progressivists, modernists and immoralists, were condemned because they did NOT personally in personis observe the "strict rules" and were hypocrites by excusing themselves from them.

    Just like the ecumenists and Fr. Roger talk about Church and unity, but did not take the consequences and convert to Roman Catholic Faith.

    The hypocrisy was their sin. Our Lord said about the Pharisees to the common believers: "Follow everything they instruct you, but do not imitate their works."

    The sin of hypocrisy, not the sin of following Mosaic Law, which was valid at the time and Divine.

    Our Lord Jesus Christ was no Sadducee, theologically he was in fact quite similar to the Pharisees' teachings and explanations. At least more than to the Sadducees. PLease note this.

    No jota will be removed from the law. "Who rejects you, rejects Me"

    Also the Catholic Church was instituted by Christ Himself, and Roger Schutz should have converted.

    He did not. He did not even say that he no longer believe the Calvinist heresies on the eucharist, merely that he 'grew closer' to the Catholic doctrine. That is not clear, not definite. Our YES, must be YES. There is no in-between in Christ's eyes.

    So yes, Ratzinger gave Holy Communion to a Protestant, and no, Taizé is not to be admired. It is product of the false (heretical ecclesiology.

    Of course we can also blame John XXIII for that, as pope Roncalli spoke with Roger about "concentric circles of communion" and that "Roger was already Catholic" etc. etc.

    Taizé and the false ecumenism history of the (externally) nice and friendly man Frère Roger, are the history of the Conciliar Church.

    A deadly history.

    Read "From ecumenism to Silent Apostasy" (2005).

    God bless you all,.

  15. "Why did Cardinal Kasper refuse to define Brother Roger's conversion as that: a conversion?"

    Well, I would like to think that nobody liked Cardinal Kaspar enough to let him on it. Unfortunately, that's probably not the case.

    "And why was this conversion wrapped in secrecy? Surely a true convert to Catholicism should not be ashamed to confess his faith?"

    A conversion need not be public if those converting do not require to abjure false teaching.

    I know of traditional Catholics being "privately" received back into the Church after having contracted marriage by a sedevanctist group. The secrecy was justified by a concern for not giving scandal to faithful Catholics who knew the couple for years prior, and to not give any unnecessary embarrassment to the couple.

    We could assume that extenuating circumstances existed that warranted a degree of discretion in this matter. However, the question for me that seems the most crucial is why those directly involved thought that a Protestant minister, who did indeed teach publicly Calvinist errors, did not need to publicly abjure those errors. In my mind, this is where the scandal resides, and it was caused by the bishop of Autun, Mgr. Le Bourgeois. He botched it because he was obviously a modernist, and by botching it he put a lot of people in a difficult situation (granted, some of those individuals may have been willing put there).

    The modernism of our modern ecclesiastics does nothing but sow confusion and doubt. This may become the textbook example of how our present era has strayed far from the truth of the Gospel.

  16. Anonymous7:48 PM

    Perhaps the proof of his Catholicism would be his reception of the Sacrament of Confirmation. This is not available among the Calvinists.

    So the question is, when was he confirmed, either through a bishop or priest? This is public enough; as a private layman there is no requirement for him to do so in front of the world's media.

    We are so hung up on the word conversion, we are sounding like American evangelicals. We Catholics grow in our faith and affirm it as we reach maturity, presenting ourselves of our own free will, by the grace of God, for Confirmation.

    Fra Stefano

  17. A protestant is a protestant is a protestant - bishops should not give Holy Communion to protestants. To claim, "in some way", that Brother Roger was a type of clandestine Catholic is a characteristic piece of phenomenological conceptual acrobatics we have come to expect of people such as Kasper. If he was that then why was he so ashamed of his catholicism that he should seek to conceal it from his brothers?

  18. Anonymous12:35 AM

    Fra. Stefano,

    For me it is not `conversion`so much as to know with certainty whether he was a Catholic or if he remained a heretic.

    He was very public in his behavior and influence and did he not pretend to be a Religous? There is a need to know if he was confirmed into the Catholic faith or not....with certainty and clarity and no more of this ambiguous confusing double talk.
    Diabolical disorientation.

    -Joe Catholic

  19. Anonymous7:43 PM

    The state of affairs in the Roman Catholic church is very sad for those who re devoted to the belief that Christ founded a Church and transmitted the teachings of that Church including the eucharist through his apostles. The communion has always been a sign of union already accomplished in baptism with the visible and apostolic church. The actions of the Church of Roman in its post-conciliar documents as well as the interpretations of those documents by successive pontiffs from Paul VI to Benedict XVI have sewn confusion. This is because one need not be in union with an apostolic church to receive communion. The basis for this deduction is the Augustinian interpretation of baptism: the idea that is a sacrament that need not be administered by an presbyter representing a bishop who himself represents a bishop of an apostolic see. Although this interpretation was not current before the Vatican Council II when the church routinely baptized converts conditionally, shortly thereafter it became current. Now it is true, non-Catholics may receive communion at Catholic altars. I personally disagree with this practice and have sought clarification at the highest levels. But this is the practice. Like or seek to join another church.

  20. This is because one need not be in union with an apostolic church to receive communion.

    Yes, the Church does allow for that, but it is not to be an everyday occurrence: it's more in the nature of an individual, one-time-only indult.

    The basis for this deduction is the Augustinian interpretation of baptism: the idea that is a sacrament that need not be administered by an presbyter representing a bishop who himself represents a bishop of an apostolic see.

    This is confused. The idea that the minister of baptism need not be a presbyter or bishop has nothing to do with the current, more relaxed discipline regarding Communion. The Church has always held that anyone, even a non-baptised person, can in an emergency validly confer baptism.

    Although this interpretation was not current before the Vatican Council II when the church routinely baptized converts conditionally, shortly thereafter it became current.

    If I recall correctly, the old Catholic Encyclopedia says the practical reason for the routine conditional baptism of non-Catholic Christians was because it was usually impossible to prove that the convert had ever been baptised: most Protestant sects didn't issue baptismal certificates, or didn't keep registers, or it was too difficult to consult their registers and verify baptism. It was simpler and safer to just confer baptism conditionally.

    Anyway, as I said, the discipline regarding the baptism of Protestant converts to Catholicism is altogether a different story from the discipline regarding the reception of the Eucharist by non-Catholics. In both cases the Church is now more "welcoming" than before, but that has to do with "ecumenism," not St. Augustine's correct teaching that baptism need not be administered by a priest.

  21. Anonymous2:15 AM

    (chiara) several of the Protestant denominations use an invalid form.They baptise in the name of the Creator, the redeemer and the Sustainer.(so as not to upset feminists) therefore it would be a great idea to bring back conditional Baptism for converts.


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