The Guy cannot recall any “legacy media” coverage of Scott Hahn, the influential U.S. Catholic lay theologian. If you haven’t done a feature on this fascinating Ohioan, here’s the ideal news peg — Pope Francis’s Synod of Bishops that begins at the Vatican October 4.
There’s Catholic dynamite here. Hahn, who has a huge parish-level following, stated via Facebook August 24 that he’s “grateful for Bishop [Joseph] Strickland’s inspiring words,” and posted a link to a new pastoral letter from the outspoken Texas conservative who is attacking the synod (and under increasingly fierce Vatican pressure to cease his dissent or be forced to resign).
Strickland warned that “schismatics” are promoting “evils that threaten” the church, and implied that Pope Francis himself (though unnamed) is facilitating their nefarious cause through his Synod on Synodality process. See GetReligion backgrounder on the Synod dispute here.
Among reactions, founder Mike Lewis at WherePeterIs.com said he’s long admired Hahn’s contributions to the faith so it’s “deeply disappointing” that he is now embracing a “toxic” and “reactionary” movement that Catholics loyal to the papacy worry could produce a “schism coming from the far-right of the U.S. Church.”
Hahn, 65, is the longtime professor of Biblical Theology and the New Evangelization at Franciscan University, a growing liberal-arts stronghold devoted to “the authentic teachings of the Church.” Journalists who scan the websites for Hahn’s off-campus activities and his Saint Paul Center for Biblical Theology will find he’s a popular speaker in person and via religious TV and radio, and a prolific producer of his own and others’ books, articles, DVDs, CDs, podcasts, online courses and conferences.
His organization, in its Catholic conservatism and independence from official church agencies, resembles the EWTN organization that grew from TV talks by the late Mother Mary Angelica beginning in 1981.
Hahn holds a Ph.D. from the Jesuits’ Marquette University in Milwaukee, but it’s significant that his divinity degree is from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a Northeast anchor of evangelical Protestant thought. He’s a key figure among Catholics who draw upon their earlier evangelical resources as they spurn modern Catholic theorizing in favor of belief in a historically reliable Bible. Fans of his writings include New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan.
That Gordon-Conwell degree brings to journalists’ attention an intriguing facet of Hahn’s career: He’s a poster boy for Protestant clergy who convert to the Catholic faith, per his own account here. Also see “Rome Sweet Home: Our Journey to Catholicism,” a paperback he co-authored with wife Kimberly.
Hahn was a devoted evangelical, active as a teen in the evangelical Young Life ministry, and between seminary and conversion served as a Presbyterian pastor. In line with his own biography, Hahn is a speaker and official advisor for the Coming Home Network, whose unfashionable evangelistic work is worth a story in itself.
Since 1993, the network has helped some 1,200 Protestant ministers convert to Catholicism, as it says even “despite the scandal” of priests who molested underage parishioners. Founder Marcus Grodi was also a Gordon-Conwell alumnus and Presbyterian pastor who gradually accepted the claims and teachings of the papal church and departed from the “Protestant mayhem.”
The network, made up of both fellow converts and lifelong Catholics, says conversion can be “traumatic” for lay members and especially the clergy. “It often results in the loss of friends and family, as well as the loss of career and financial support. It usually requires a rethinking of one’s doctrinal and moral convictions, as well as one’s vocation as a child of God.”
The Coming Home Network states that it is helping Catholicism fulfill “its mission of evangelization and its call for Christian unity as proclaimed by Pope John Paul II” in his 1995 encyclical on the ecumenical movement, Ut Unum Sint. The pope commended friendship and efforts toward unity with other Christian churches and especially the Eastern Orthodox. But he made it clear that unity with the office and authority of the papacy “is — in God’s plan — an essential requisite of full and visible communion.”
FIRST IMAGE: Publicity photo from ScottHahn.com