Print Article | Email Article | Write To Us

6 of the Most Unexpected Converts

04/05/2011 Comments (138)

Dutch Schultz  - Cold blooded killer/Catholic convert. This literally deathbed conversion caused quite the uproar.

Born Arthur Simon Flegenheimer, he has to be one of the least likely converts. His parents were both German Jews who attempted to raise their son in their faith but instead he became the notorious gangster known as Public Enemy #1 Dutch Schultz.

In 1935, while plotting criminal activity Schultz was gunned down in the rear of a bar. He was rushed to a hospital where he registered as a Jew. But early the next morning, he unexpectedly called for a Catholic priest. Father Cornelius McInerney was told by Schultz that he wanted to die a Catholic. Father McInerney baptized him, and gave him the last rites of the Catholic Church. That night, Schultz died and he was later buried in a Catholic cemetery.

There were reportedly several protests concerning the Church’s acceptance of Schultz. Newspapers opined against it and people were outraged. They’d obviously forgotten the story about the thief on the cross next to Jesus.


Oscar Wilde -Wilde is known today for his wit and celebrated for a homosexual lifestyle. In fact, I’d bet he’s more well known for his flamboyancy than he is for his literary achievements which often had a strong moral lesson. The fact that Wilde was a deathbed convert to Catholicism is just about completely ignored. It doesn’t really fit into the caricature of Wilde.

John Wayne? - I put a question mark because there is still some question as to whether the Duke became Catholic in his last days. But the opportunity to put John Wayne and Oscar Wilde on a list together was just too much for me. Such is the beauty of the Church though.

Alexis Carrel - Carrel was an avowed atheist who received the Nobel Prize in 1912, for his work in vascular anastomosis. (I don’t know what it is either.)

Carrel had a secret, however. He’d witnessed a miracle in Lourdes which took place on May 28, 1902 when he met Marie Bailly, a young woman dying of tuberculosis on her way to Lourdes. So far gone she was that in March 1902 doctors refused to operate on her.

On May 25, 1902, she was smuggled onto a train that carried sick people to Lourdes. She was smuggled because such trains were forbidden to carry dying people. At two o’clock the next morning it was clear she was dying. Carrel was called. He gave her morphine and stayed with her, diagnosing her with a fatal case of tuberculous peritonitis.

On May 27 she insisted on being carried to the Grotto, although the doctors were afraid that she would die on the way there. On arriving, some water from the baths was poured on her diseased abdomen. Amazingly, Carrel watched as her enormously distended and very hard abdomen began to flatten. In the evening she sat up in her bed and had dinner.

Early the next morning she got up on her own and was already dressed when Carrel saw her again. She was healed.

Carrel asked her what she would do with her life now. She told him she would join the Sisters of Charity to spend her life caring for the sick. And she did.

The scientist in Carrel refused to accept the possibility of a miracle for years. He was a eugenics theorist with no use for God. In 1935, Carrel published a best-selling book titled L’Homme, cet inconnu (Man, This Unknown) which advocated that mankind could better itself with enforced eugenics.

For many years, Carrel tried to ascribe Marie’s healing to “psychic forces” and other lame explanations. But Carrel couldn’t shake what he saw and returned to Lourdes again and again because of his inability to explain fully what he’d seen. On his third trip to Lourdes, in 1910, Carrel saw an 18 month old child regain his ability to see.

Nearing the end of his life, Carrel finally accepted what he’d seen and received the sacraments of the Church and died reconciled to God. Oddly enough science seemed to stop hailing him as a genius around the same time.

Norma McCorvey - aka Jane Roe. Her name will forever be linked to the horror of legalized abortion but her soul is committed to God and the pro-life cause. She became a Catholic at a Mass concelebrated by Fr. Frank Pavone.

Buffalo Bill Cody - William Frederick “Buffalo Bill” Cody is one of the most iconic figures of the Wild West. His Wild West show made him one of the most famous people in the country. Cody was known as a trapper, a soldier, a Medal ofHonor recipient, bullwhacker, “Fifty-Niner” in Colorado, a Pony Express rider in 1860, wagonmaster, and a stagecoach driver. But Cody also became a Catholic the day before his death.

It is believed that Cody was inspired to become a Catholic by his friend Sitting Bull, himself a Catholic convert. Who could’ve seen that one coming?

Filed under

About Matthew Archbold

Matthew Archbold
  • Get the RSS feed
Matt Archbold graduated from Saint Joseph's University in 1995. He is a former journalist who left the newspaper business to raise his five children. He writes for the Creative Minority Report.