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Of Failed Conversion

May 24, 1987

Some months ago, Jack Miles wrote an "Endpapers" about Richard Gilman's confession of faith, or lack thereof (The Book Review, Feb. 22, 1987). I have just come across a passage in Flannery O'Connor's correspondence that seems to bear on Gilman's (and Miles') subject:

"I will never have the experience of the convert, or of the one who fails to be converted, or even in all probability of the formidable sinner; but your effort not to be seduced by the church moves me greatly. God permits it for some reason, though it is the devil's greatest work of hallucination. Fr. De Menasce told somebody not to come into the church until he felt it would be an enlargement of his freedom. This is what you are doing, and you are right. But do not make your feeling of the voluptuous seductive powers of the church into a hard shell to protect yourself from her. I suppose it is like marriage, that when you get into it, you find it is the beginning, not the end, of the struggle to make love work."

If O'Connor is right, maybe Gilman made a bad marriage with the church, an invalid contract. He should sue for annulment, a canonical procedure with which the church of late has been quite liberal.

ANDREW McKENNA

Chicago

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