Conrad Black is something else. In his essay excerpt, How I Became a Catholic, published by the National Post last week, Mr. Black regales us with his spiritual journey from non-practicing agnostic Protestant to full-fledged Resurrection believing Catholic. Mr. Black’s spiritual enlightenment is thoroughly unconvincing. His lofty vernacular is laced with arrogance and self-aggrandisement. Sprinkling his argument with the books he has read, the important clergy people he knows, and the places he has visited does not impress nor address what it means to come to Christ.
When Black’s friend, Cardinal Carter, told him that: “the one point I had to embrace if I wished to enter [Catholicism], and without which, all Christianity...is a fraud and a trumpery, was the Resurrection of Christ,” he considered the point. “If I believed that,” Black says, “I was eligible; if I did not, I wasn’t. What he was asking was not unreasonable, and I reflected on it for a few minutes and concluded that since, as defined, I believed in God and in miracles, I could at least suppress doubt sufficiently to meet his criterion.”
Theologians do PHDs on the Resurrection to better understand its meaning and significance. Lay people and clergy can spend a lifetime trying to come to terms with the power and legitimacy of this alleged event. It cannot be proven and it cannot be imposed as truth. Like belief in God, it requires faith, and faith can be very difficult to experience for analytical minds. So for Black to assert that it took a few minutes to come to his conclusion seems absurd, especially using such mercenary, cold logic.
No matter where one sits on the spectrum of Christian faith, one cannot ignore the fundamental principle: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Not once does Mr. Black convey a sense of love for humanity or caring for others. The Christian ideals of social justice, inclusiveness, and humility cannot even be gleaned between the lines of his essay. And treating his neighbours as himself seems to him a foreign concept (unless he wouldn't mind being defrauded millions of dollars).
I recall reading an article about Black during the time of his fraud and obstruction of justice trial; it provided an interesting glimpse into his character. The story was recounted across the media and, to my knowledge, never refuted or contested. Conrad Black and his wife Barbara Amiel were hosting a formal dinner party at their home in Rosedale back in their Toronto days--a smallish gathering comprising several big Toronto names. One of the guests, an older gentleman, was without a partner and a young woman who worked for Black was invited by the Black’s to be this man’s date for the evening. The woman was excited to be included and spent a small fortune on an evening gown. When she arrived at their home at the assigned time she was quickly ushered to the kitchen and told that her date had cancelled and she was no longer invited. She was dismissed through the back door.
When I first read the story, I thought there had to be another side. But when I heard it again, from different points of view (her father’s remains clearest in my mind because he was devastated and humiliated for his daughter’s sake), there appeared to be no “other side.” The Black’s behaviour was, in this case, the antithesis of grace and reveals character through action. I read that article a long time ago, but I've never forgotten the rude and insensitive treatment of this woman.
Another vivid image is that of Conrad Black sneaking boxes of documents through the back door of his office, which was caught on a security camera. Before the authorities had a chance to investigate the contents of these boxes, the documents were conveniently shredded.
Since his conversion in 1986, Black says he has “taken the sacraments at least once a week since, and have confessed when I feel sinful. This is not an overly frequent sensation, but when it occurs, I can again agree with Cardinal Newman that our consciences are “powerful, peremptory, unargumentative, irrational, minatory and definitive.”” Perhaps someone can explain to my feeble mind what he means in this last phrase—the words I know, but his point eludes me!
This is a man who sits smugly in his jail cell sharing his journey toward belief in the “Holy Catholic Church.” Here is how the article ends: “Though there are many moments of scepticism as matters arise, and the dark nights of the soul that seem to assail almost everyone visit me too, I have never had anything remotely resembling a lapse, nor a sense of forsakenness, even when I was unjustly indicted, convicted, and imprisoned, in a country I formerly much admired.”
Conrad Black may say he has found the answer to his spiritual quest, but from what I gather, he has barely begun.