Volume 92, 2018
Philosophy, Catholicism, and Public Life
Public Conversion, Private Reason, and Institutional Crisis
Following the 2018 Pennsylvania grand jury report, which detailed the sexual abuse of clergy members, many have questioned the value of personal institutional commitment to the Catholic Church, preferring instead more individualistic expressions of faith. Alongside the sex abuse crisis, the age of free information makes the Church’s epistemology appear antiquated. This article explores the individualistic versus community-based practice of Catholicism, drawing a distinction between private conversion versus public conversion. The article offers a defense of public conversion, arguing it explains the rationality of conversion and offers a solution to the problem of divine hiddenness. Using details from her own faith journey, Sullivan explores why God graces us with less perspicuous knowledge, causing subluminous conversions, as opposed to the more glaring, which leads to luminous conversions. Sullivan suggests that we obtain knowledge of God by loving one another, which takes place in the framework of the institutional Church. She subsequently uses this Church-making theodicy to offer five ideas about how we might engage the Church institutionally as Catholic philosophers.