Catholic Literary Converts

Richard Bruce PhC Economics University of California
former instructor St. John's University

The Catholic Church has long been proud of its literary converts. The writers and intellectuals who have converted to the Catholic faith are impressive but critics will say this does not prove the Catholic Faith is true. I grant that, however, it does suggest that the Catholic Faith is a live intellectual option worthy of investigation. This is what I seek to demonstrate. Jesus says in the Gospels, if people will ask for the faith, it will be given to them, if they seek the faith, they will find it, if they knock, the door will be opened (Matthew 7:7 and Luke 11:9). So the Catholic is called upon to remove the stumbling blocks that keep people from asking, seeking, and knocking more than proving the faith.

Here is my current list. If you have others you would like to add to the list, please contact me and leave the name.

  1. Mortimer Adler
  2. James K. Baxter
  3. G. K. Chesterton
  4. Sir Kenneth Clark
  5. Dorothy Day
  6. Annie Dillard
  7. John Dryden
  8. Avery Dulles
  9. Graham Greene
  10. Scott Hahn
  11. Nobel Prize winner Halldór Laxness
  12. Clare Booth Luce
  13. Bruce Marshall
  14. Marshall McLuhan
  15. Thomas Merton
  16. Malcolm Muggeridge
  17. Father Richard Neuhaus
  18. Cardinal John Henry Newman
  19. Walker Percy
  20. E.F. Schmacher
  21. Muriel Spark
  22. Blessed Edith Stein
  23. Nobel Prize winner Sigrid Undset
  24. Evelyn Waugh

Here is a list of literary converts that could be controversial for various reasons, in some cases they later left the Church. Even if a major writer joined and later left the Church it still is evidence that the Catholic Church is a live option for intelligent people.

  1. Herman Broch converted as a young man, was planning to return to Judaism just before death
  2. Earnest Hemingway converted during World War 1, some people think he converted later when he married a Catholic, committed suicide
  3. Karl Kraus joined Catholic Church 1911, left 1923
  4. Joseph Roth may have converted late in life
  5. Oscar Wilde death bed conversion, had been considering it for a long time

This is an intellectual whom I have heard converted but I have not been able to get confirmation. If you have information please put it in my guest book.

  1. Scott Morgan Peck
Here are a list of Catholics who had Catholic parents but it has been said incorrectly they were adult converts.
  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, his mother converted when he was about 8 years old. He was very devout.
  2. Erma Bombeck, My mother told me she was a convert, but I read she grew up Catholic.

Maybe there is some better information on this, did they leave the Church and then come back. I would like to hear about this in my guest book too.

Scandinavian Nobel Prize Winners

Thirteen people from Scandinavia have won the Nobel prize in literature. Two converted to the Catholic faith. This is impressive because Scandinavia is traditionally Lutheran. So they were going against the pressure of both family and the traditional religion of their nation.
Some people have kindly responded to my request to mention other writers who converted. One mentioned two poets, Wallace Stevens and Arthur Rimabud. Wallace Stevens may have converted on his death bed, but the point is disputed and Wikipedia says there is no record. Arthur Rimabud was a very devout Catholic as a child and a youth. He then lead a wild life, before returning to the Catholic faith. Another said that, "James K. Baxter, New Zealand's greatest poet, converted to Catholicism as an adult." James K. Baxter, was a very impressive Catholic.
On a different, but at least somewhat related topic, I have a list of religious films that have been nominated for Oscars. It is at least a little surprising to see how many religious films Hollywood has honored.

Educated people are less likely say they believe, but more likely to attend religious services. Measured by words the educated are less religious, measured by actions they are more religious. The standard saying, "Actions speak louder than words." suggests that actions are a better measure than words. If so then the educated are more religious, which suggests once again that religion is a live intellectual option.

I am fairly educated with a couple of graduate degrees in economics from the Davis Campus of the University of California, and I have taught college full time in the Economics and Finance Department of the College of Business Administration at the Queens campus of St. John's University in New York City. I am also an intellectual convert. One part of my conversion story was published in Catholic Digest. Another part of my conversion story is here. You can find an index page to new evidence I find impressive here.

I have another index page on the relation between science and religion here.

Finally I have many pages on religious statistics..

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