TALKING AT RANDOM
Then and Now
The abiding influence of J. S. Phillimore in Glasgow, although it is twenty years this month since he died so young, and although his Catholic life was not very long, is a remarkable and heartening thing to feel. How he would have rejoiced to see the Glasgow Newman Association, as it has taken root and begun to blossom these last two years! I was there this year, with Dr. O'Neill of Derby, for the General Regional Conference on the Catholics of Europe, their political parties and Universities. It has already begun to publish, and I read in last year's addresses on Newman how the Grammar of Assent came to be written, to convince Newman's scientific friend William Froude, the marine engineer.
And how immensely pleased Newman would be, not only with the Newman Association, but with the way it is welcomed and its progress is cheered on by the Bishops and clergy, not least in Glas-gow. There is a famous letter of Newman's on the very different mentality that was reigning a hundred years ago, written to a previous editor of this journal, in that private confidence with which, from the first, wise men have had recourse to this editorial ear. It was written from the Oratory in 1856 :— "It seems to me, speaking in confidence, that no small portion of the hierarchy and clergy of Ireland think it a mistake and a mis-fortune that they have any of the upper or middle classes among them—that they do but feel awkward when a gentleman is con-verted or shows himself a good Catholic—and in fact that they think then only Ireland will become again the Isle of Saints, when it has a population of peasants ruled over by a patriotic priesthood patriarchally."
The Roots of Modern Secularism In my addresses at Glasgow the point came in, and a very big point it is, about how unsuitable and inadequate the structure of the Church proved, as it emerged from the Council of Trent, when the Church had to fight the battle for the mind of the educated world, all through the eighteenth century ; how little of an educated laity there was, and how little place for them in the post-Tridentine pattern, until with the French Revolution it became more and more a matter of "all hands to the pumps."
What the Church was taking appropriate precautions against in the Counter-Reformation was very much the upstart rise of the amateur theologians—Henry VIII among them—and all the heresies that came from untrained minds digging about in the Bible. It was necessary to emphasize the need for a strict and extended theological specialization, but as this worked out it meant that a whole great field of apologetics, on the border line of theology, was under-staffed and uncultivated. The French clerical response to the philosophers and encyclopedists was a miserably inadequate affair. And it was the loss of this battle which prepared the ground for the great losses in the new industrial civilization. The poverty and bad conditions would not in themselves have led to unbelief, the great ages of faith had been much poorer, centuries of great physical privation and hardship ; the great new unhappy difference was what had happened in the eighteenth century, and it was not the loss of the working classes in the nineteenth, but the loss of the upper and middle classes in the eighteenth, which was the root of the trouble.
How the News Spreads When I was in Berne I ran into an acquaintance who is a leading man in the Oxford Group movement. He told me they had been having a splendid time in their new Swiss hotel ; with ten Catholics, a Cardinal, and several Bishops, said he. I was curious about this and asked the Cardinal's name. " Is there a Swiss Cardinal ?" he asked ; and when he heard there was not, he said he would let me know. I imagine it might prove to be the case that some Old Catholic prelates, in the denominational sense of old, were among the guests of the group.
And So Say All of Us Roger Eckersley, in his autobiography, B.B.C. and All That, tells of hearing an American lady, on the trial trip of the Queen Mary, getting into conversation with a clergyman with the gambit, "I see you have a partiality for Christianity."
Competitions in Knowledge This was more respectable and diffident than those Russians of the Tsarist days, of whom I have been reading in a very badly compiled history of the Church from 1900 to 1925, written by an Italian Barnabite for the Holy Year of 1925. These Russians were asked why the Russian Orthodox priests were so unlettered and boorish, and the answer they gave was : "We prefer our priests to be ignorant and uncultivated, so that they shall not have any influence over us." This is the reverse of the more common anti-clerical charge, that it is the clergy who like to see a nice ignorant laity.
More Wood If there are any readers who feel they have read enough and have given away their books and see the empty shelves gaping at them, I should like them to know that at Tablet House there is a chronic condition of bookshelf famine, books with nothing to stand on lying sideways on each other, and we should be eager to buy or be given any idle shelving or unwanted cases. D.W.