Crossing the Tiber – Converts to Catholicism

This is a list of prominent or famous people who are devout Catholics, reverts or converts from other faiths:

Ağca, Mehmet Ali – the Turk who attempted to assassinate Pope John Paul II

Ahmari, Sohrab – editorial page writer at the WSJ, has announced plans to convert based on the event of Fr. Jacques Hamel

Anscombe, G. E. M. – “was a British analytic philosopher. She wrote on the philosophy of mind, philosophy of action, philosophical logic, philosophy of language, and ethics. She was a prominent figure of analytical Thomism.” [Wikipedia]

Atwater, Lee – Republican strategist and RNC chairman during the Reagan-Bush era

Bach, Johann Christian – composer and son of Johann Sebastian Bach

Belloc, Hillaire – although French on his father’s side, Belloc was part of that early 20th century set of literary converts that included a teaming with G. K. Chesterton. Although not a convert, Belloc had a very brief lapse of faith but then went on the war path as an orthodox. Many books including one about the characters of the Reformation and a catalog of Heresies

Benson, Robert Hugh – was an English Anglican priest who in 1903 was received into the Roman Catholic Church in which he was ordained priest in 1904.

Black Elk – Sioux Native American medicine man and holy man of 19th and 20th century. It is curious that people have become interested in his life to learn more about Native American religion, but Black Elk not only converted but became a catechist. Here.

Blair, Tony – prime minister of the U.K. Converted along with his wife

Bocelli, Andrea – Italian tenor

Bork, Robert – Supreme Court nominee, until he was “borked”.

Brownback, Sam – U.S. Representative, U.S Senator, Governor of Kansas. Converted from Evangelical Protestantism in 2002.

Brubeck, Dave – famous Jazz ensemble leader. “Take Five” album is a standard in any collection.

Bryant, Kobe – NBA basketball star

Bush, Jeb – Governor of Florida, Presidential Candidate, son of President George H.W. Bush, brother of Dubya Bush.

Chervin, Dr. Ronda – from atheistic Judaism.  Catholic author, international speaker and Professor of Philosophy.

Chesterton, G. K. – brilliant British writer of the early 20th century. Was a modern socialist atheist until he met his wife to be Frances: “She wore a green velvet dress barred with grey fur, which I should have called artistic, but that she hated all the talk about art; and she had an attractive face, which I should have called elvish, but that she hated all the talk about elves. But what was arresting and almost blood-curdling about her in that social atmosphere, was not so much that she hated it, as that she was entirely unaffected by it.”

Chesterton, Frances Blogg – Wife of G.K. Was a devout Christian but became Catholic after G.K. crossed the Tiber.

Christina, Queen of Sweden (1626 – 1689). At the time, Sweden was Lutheran. Queen Christina abdicated the throne in 1654 and became Catholic to the condemnation of her countrymen. She is buried in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Colbert, Stephen – comedian and late night host

Connick, Harry – musician

Conway, Tim – American comedian

Cooper, Gary – famous American actor born of English immigrant parents who settled in Montana. His wife was a devout Catholic. Cooper was baptized in the Anglican church but converted in the 1950’s.

Crocker, H. W. III – author, historian. Wrote Triumph, an excellent history of the Catholic Church.

Dali, Salvador – one of my favorite paintings composed by Salvador Dali is the Last Supper on permanent display at the National Gallery of Art. After my conversion, I recalled this painting and just assumed it drew from a cultural upbringing. Now it makes more sense to me. As a side not, Dali was friends with another artist, H.R. Giger who is basically a Satanist. I wonder how that friendship evolved.

Dawes, Dominique – famous American gymnast won gold for the USA in 1996. Confirmed the same Easter Vigil as I, March 30 2013.

Dorothy Day – American Journalist and social activist. Founder of the Catholic Worker Movement of the 1930’s. In many respects, a counter-cultural.

Dowland, John – English Composer 1563-1626) at a time when it was treasonous to be RC in Elizabethan England he was reputed to be papist.

Dulles, Cardinal Avery – American Jesuit priest, theologian, cardinal of the Catholic Church converted from Protestant/agnosticism during his days at Harvard (miracles can happen)

Dunaway, Faye

Durham, Rhea – fashion model; wife of Mark Wahlberg. Converted from Baptist Protestanism

Ekman, Ulf – once charismatic pentacostal megapastor in Sweden, now Catholic and just after reading what he called the greatest document ever written, the CCC.

Elgar, Ann – Before the birth of her famous son, Edward Elgar. Edward was baptized and raised a Roman Catholic in Protestant England.

Fallon, Jimmy – late night comedian talk show host.

Fakih, Rima – Miss USA 2010, first Muslim to win that crown. Converted in April 2016 in marrying a Maronite Catholic.

Ferrero, Michele  – was an Italian entrepreneur. He owned the chocolate manufacturer Ferrero SpA, Europe’s second largest confectionery company. He was a fervent Catholic. Ferrero visited the Lourdes shrine annually, and had a Madonna placed in every factory and office. [Wikipedia]

Gaffigan, Jim – comedian

Gilyard, Clarance – American actor famous for many roles including a co-star with Chuck Norris in Texas Ranger.

Gingrich, Newt – speaker of the house; presidential candidate

Geach, Peter – English philosopher. Married Anscombe (another convert) and had seven children.

Guinness, Alec – famous British actor famous of Obi Wan on original Star Wars. Read his story.

Hahn, Dr. Scott and Kimberly – see my post dated December 19 2013

Heaton, Patricia – actress, most notably on Everyone Loves Raymond.

Hitchcock, Alfred – famous director

Hope, Bob – hardly needs introducing. Famous actor of the 20th century.

Hopkins, Michael – (born 1968) NASA astronaut who spent a long time on the ISS. Got special permission to bring a supply of the Eucharist.

Höss, Rudolf – commandant of Auschwitz and mass-murderer. This is a difficult entry in my list but I, as does the Catholic Church, must not canonize any one to hell. Höss returned to the Catholic Church, repented, received Sacrament of Reconciliation and Viatecum shortly before his execution at the same concentration came he once commanded. Many places on the Internet you can read about this include Wikipedia and here.

Ingalls, Edith Florence – of little house on the prairie pedigree. Here.

James II and VII (14 October 1633 – 16 September 1701) was King of England and Ireland as James II and King of Scotland as James VII. James took Eucharist in the Roman Catholic Church in 1668 or 1669, although his conversion was kept secret for some time and he continued to attend Anglican services until 1676.

James, Kevin – famous actor starring in TV King of Queens and movies such as “Here Comes the Boom”. Whenever Hollywood emits a person of faith, it’s a big deal.

Jindal, Bobby – Governor of Louisiana and Republican presidential hopeful. Converted from Hinduism.

Jung, Kim Dae – former prime minister of Korea.

Katharine, Duchess of Kent: Wife of Prince Edward, Duke of Kent (grandson of King George V and Queen Mary. [Wikipedia: “Since then her younger son, Lord Nicholas Windsor, her grandson, Edward Windsor, Lord Downpatrick, and her granddaughter Lady Marina Charlotte Windsor have also become Catholics. Her older son, the Earl of St. Andrews, father of Lord Downpatrick, married a Catholic and thus had been excluded from the succession until the Succession to the Crown Act revoked that exclusion in 2015. The Dukedom of Kent is not subject to the Act of Settlement, so St Andrews’ son and heir, Lord Downpatrick, is in line to become the first Roman Catholic Duke or Earl of Kent since the Reformation.”]

Kerouac, Jack – famous American Beat generation poet

Koontz, Dean – best selling author of fiction

Kreeft, Peter  – ex-Calvinist and now philosopher at Boston College.

Kudlow, Lawrence – from Judaism

Lax, Robert – American literary figure and friend of mystic Thomas Merton. Converted from Judaism and lived as a hermit in Greece for many decades.

Lewis, Edmonia – famous 19th century sculptor, American black Native American female. Had her own Google Doodle. More here. Converted while in Rome where she lived after studying there.

Longenecker, Dwight, Fr. – Graduate of Oxford university AND Bob Jones University. Once Anglican priest now a not so rare as you’d think married Catholic Priest. Blogger and Apologist.

Marley, Bob – converted to Ethiopian Orthodox Church just before he died. Although the schismatic Eastern Orthodox Churches were not in communion with Rome, things have changed and the differences are minor.  It’s my list and I’ll do what I want.

Maturen, Michael – American Solidarity Party presidential candidate.

McCorvey, Norma  – “Jane Roe”, plaintiff in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case, Roe v. Wade. She is now ardently pro-life as well as a convert.

Merton, Thomas – American writer, poet and Trappist monk. I heard about him in Bishop Barron’s book on Catholicism. Merton’s spiritual autobiography Seven Storey Mountain explains his life from secular beginnings, travels in Europe and education at Columbia. Several of his literary friends including Robert Lax became converts as well.

Mivart, George – 19th century English biologist who tried to reconcile Darwinism with Catholic teaching. His conversion at 18 disqualified him from Oxford, only open to Anglicans. Then tried to change Catholic teaching to suit; didn’t go so well.

Monaghan, Tom – founder of Domino’s Pizza along with his brother. Raised in a catholic orphanage.

Mullins, Rich – famous contemporary Christian musician whose last album included music from the Mass (Introit, Credo, Gloria). His tragic life was cut short in an automobile accident. Debate lingers as to his intention to become Catholic but he apparently went through RCIA and was considering conversion. Good enough for me.

Murray, Bill – famous comedian who prefers the TLM.

Nathanson, Dr. Bernard – the self described “mid wife” of abortion on demand, Nathanson opened the first abortion clinic in the US and founded NARAL. He himself performed 70,000 abortions including his own offspring. But after the invention of the sonogram, he stopped performing them and over time became a pro-lifer. His book “Hand of God” is worth reading.

Newman, Claude – death row inmate. Read the miraculous story.

Newman, John Henry Cardinal – once Anglican Vicar

Novak, Robert – from Judaism

Pence, Mike – governor of Indiana and now Donald Trump’s running mate.

Percy, Walker – American Southern Novelist. “Percy was raised as an agnostic, though he was nominally affiliated with a theologically liberal Presbyterian church” [Wikipedia]. He and his wife converted in 1947.

Powers, Kirstin – USA Today columnist. I wrote a letter to the editor regarding a piece she wrote on discrimination. She’s going to find out what I am talking about now.

Price, Vincent – famous actor.

Pugin, Augustus Welby Northmore – English architect, artist, and revivalist of the Gothic style in 19th century England.  I read an article about him in the second issue of Sacred Architecture.

Queen Nazli (1894-1978) Queen of Egypt from 1919-1936 as the second wife of King Fuad. Converted from Islam in 1950

Rahman, Abdul – of Afghanistan, sentenced to death for his conversion. He was given asylum in Italy after much international pressure.

Read, Sally – from atheism. British poet and author of Night’s Bright Darkness

Remini, Leah – actress for her role in King of Queens sitcom. She was a member of the Church of Scientology since the age of 9 but left Scientology to come home to the Catholic Church.

Reville, Alma – converted just before marrying Alfred Hitchcock (British filmmaker), a lifelong Roman Catholic.

Rubens, Peter Paul – from Calvinism

Rubio, Marco – Senator from Florida and presidential candidate: from Mormonism.

Schlegel, Karl Wilhelm Friedrich – “was a German poet, literary critic, philosopher, philologist and Indologist. As a young man he was an atheist, a radical, and an individualist… Ten years later, the same Schlegel converted to Catholicism.” [source Wikipedia ]. See also Journal of Sacred Architecture Issue 29, p33.

Seton, Elizabeth Ann – convert from the episcopal church in early America. Her husband died in Italy where Seton was introduced to Roman Catholicism. She converted upon her return to America. Seton was canonized by the church in 1975.

Shakespeare, William – possibly Catholic but hard to prove. Practicing Catholicism was illegal so he could have been a closet Catholic while presenting to conform to the state religion. Wikipedia has an article on this topic alone.

Sinise, Gary – Actor, activist, musician, famed for his role as “Lt. Dan” in Forest Gump. One of few Hollywood types I respect; even more since learning he was a convert.

Spencer, George (Fr. Ignatius) – great-great-great uncle of Princess Diana, converted in the early 19th century and today being considered for Sainthood. Read and read here.

Snow, Tony – presidential speaker

Talbot, John Michael – Contemporary Christian Musician and monastic. Born into a Methodist family and hopped around in his early life until the writings of St. Francis of Assisi converted him to Roman Catholicism in 1978. I’d known about him for a long time, knowing about his music through my wife who worked at Family Christian Bookstore and selling his products. Never knew he was a convert.

Tolkien, J.R.R.  – His single mom converted when he was a boy. Her landlord immediately through them out on the street. He was orthodox to the end.

Vermeule, Adrian – American legal scholar, Harvard Law Professor. Aug 2016.

Vogler, Candace – David B. and Clara E. Stern Professor of Philosophy and Professor in the College at the University of Chicago.

von Hildebrand, Dietrich – (October 12, 1889 – January 26, 1977) was a German Roman Catholic philosopher and theologian. Raised in a home without religion.

Wahlberg, Mark – famous actor and commiter Roman Catholic

Warhol, Andy – not a convert but secretly devout and celibate Catholic (Byzantine Rite) all his life. That really surprised me and I figured it needed a mention. Read about it here. And here.

Waugh, Evelyn – English writer, who people often think is a woman. He’s a man with woman’s name. Oddly, his wife’s name was Evelyn.

Wayne, John – famous Hollywood actor

Wilde, Oscar – much to write here. He was informally accused of homosexuality which he took legal action against as plaintiff; he should have let it go. He lost the legal battle and was tossed in gaol. That ruined his health and he died as a result. Here is an account of his conversion.

Wofford, Harry – U.S. Senator turned 90 decides to marry a man who is 50 years his junior. Why he converted to a religion that will not sanction his new marriage is a wonder.

Yamamoto, Shinjiro – admiral of the Japanese Navy during WWII. Not to be confused with Isoroku Yamamoto.

Zolli, Rabbi Israel – Rabbi of Rome during the dark days of World War II converted to Catholicism and took the name Eugenio Maria after Pope Pius XII of that era.

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