Australian Catholic Truth Society (1948) No. 1062
Nihil Obstat: WILLIAM M. COLLINS, D.D., Censor Deputatus.
Imprimatur: + D. MANNIX, Archiepiscopus Melbournensis
This pamphlet will be at interest to
all those. engaged in convert-work. The author, brought up in the
Anglican Faith, (his father being an Anglican Archdeacon and his uncle
an Anglican Bishop) graduated in 1933 at Melbourne University, becoming
an Anglican Minister in 1935. He went to Oxford in 1936 for further
studies in Anglican Theology. The result was his conversion to the
faith of his fore-fathers. This pamphlet was written to help others
seeking the way back to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
1. EARLY YEARS
2. AT THE UNIVERSITY
3. ANGLICAN ORDINATION
4. IN ENGLAND
5. FURTHER STUDIES
6. THE PAPACY
7. SIGNS OF AWAKENING
8. SOME WITNESSES TO THE TRUTH
9. THE CHURCH IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
10. THE CHURCH IN HISTORY
11. HELPS ON THE ROAD
(or Various Influences)
13. SUBSEQUENT REFLECTIONS
14. MY SPIRITUAL HOME
15. Concerning READING MATTER
16. AMAZING MISREPRESENTATION
18. TO REBUILD THE WORLD
* * 19. HELPFUL READING * *
* * * * *
"Men will not believe because they
will not broaden their minds. . . ." - G. K. Chesterton.
Born in Melbourne in 1911, named after a grand-uncle whose career in
high finance was to be crowned with a knighthood (Sir John Russell
French), I was a true child of the age, dominated as a matter of fact
by a blind faith in scientific progress and capitalist efficiency: the
titles of the books I chose as prizes at school are significant: - "Modern Inventions," was one of
them, as was "Electricity of To-day,"
"The Romance of Modern Engineering,"
"This World of Ours." In the
meantime, grace was at work alongside of nature: devout parents secured
for me the blessing of Christian Baptism (my father was a clergyman of
the Church of England, and his brother, my godfather, is a Bishop of
the same denomination), and it is through them, humanly speaking, that
I came to know and love God and His Church.
But to begin at the beginning. We were five little Australians,
blissfully ignorant of the spacious Catholic world existing abroad,
even within our predominantly Protestant Empire (though we knew and
respected the noble work of nuns, as two of us had godmothers among the
Anglican Sisters at Cheltenham). No wonder, then, that a good-humoured
reference to that strange world by a dear friend of the family has
stuck fast in my memory - "God help us poor Protestants, there are so
few of us."
My education began at Moreland State School and continued at the Church
of England Grammar Schools of Launceston and Melbourne. At the latter I
had the privilege of being taught by Carl Kaeppel of whom Professor
Chisholm has written that, "no man in Australia has done more to
preserve intellectual ideals and to indicate the values of scholarship.
None ever passed through his hands at Melbourne Grammar School . . . .
without getting some insight into intellectual processes and learning
to appreciate scholarship. . . He had unlimited faith in the British
way of life and in the British Empire, and he defended his beliefs most
valiantly during the first World War, when he served in France as an
officer in the 18th A.I.F. Battalion and won the Military Cross. . . .
In Sydney, where he spent his last years - and where he had first been
educated - he was converted to Catholicism. . . . It was, he said,
partly an intellectual conversion and was partly based on the
conviction that the Catholic Church was the only organized spiritual
force capable of resisting the infiltration of those Communist
doctrines that he loathed. . . ."
>From a nominally Christian school I went into a frankly atheist
Education Department and University, to which I went up in 1930 on a
Government Studentship, won as a Junior Teacher at Abbotsford State
School during the previous year. "The Australian way is secular
education," writes Bernard Shaw in a book I read at that time, "meaning
total exclusion of religious and philosophical teaching. Now to teach
science without any reference to philosophy and religion is to present
the world to the child as an automatic machine worked by soulless
mechanical forces and energies without purpose or scruple - the
organism called man goes through a course of action as an avalanche
does when it goes down hill, or a hydrogen balloon when it rises
through the air. You can no more draw a line and put a barrier between
the temporal and spiritual in education than you can in the soul of
But it was only years after, as a Catholic, that I found the true
philosophy of education. Meantime my Protestant public school religion
succumbed to scepticism, and in spite of the satisfaction I found in
student life, convivial and otherwise, playing cricket and football,
and from time to time falling in love, I was vaguely conscious of the
fact that my Catholic fellow-students did not find life quite so
meaningless as myself.
A period of no less than seven years elapsed before I was received into
the Church. During all that time my mind turned constantly to study of
the faith of my fore-fathers. I began rebuilding my lost Christian
faith from the imperishable materials provided by what my Anglican
friends spoke of as "the Catholic heritage of the Church of England."
And I remember that it was from my father, whose ample library bespoke
the true Doctor of Divinity, that I borrowed that profound little book
of Christopher Dawson, The Spirit of
the Oxford Movement, published by Sheed and Ward in 1933, the
centenary of the movement. It was my first glimpse of the intellectual
giant that Newman became in his Roman maturity, and of Rome as the true
terminus of the movement. But my Anglican loyalty was triumphant for
the time being (I have no recollection of its being tested by any
shadow of doubt), and I took my stand with Keble and Pusey on the
Anglican Prayer Book and the doctrines of its court of appeal (as yet
known only by Anglican report), the early Church. I had moved from a
Government hostel in Parkville to Trinity College in 1931, on winning a
scholarship there, and thoroughly enjoyed the open forum for the
discussion of every subject under the sun which university life there
and across Tin Alley provides.
The year 1933 found me flaunting an Arts degree, qualifying for a
post-graduate scholarship in French, failing in Diploma of Education
exams, - and in health. Invalided out of the service of the State, I
sought to enter the service of the Church, much to the annoyance of
even a Christian professor at
Melbourne's secular university, who asked a friend of mine why a
first-class honours man was talking about wasting his life in such a
My theological studies began at Trinity, the chaplaincy of which I was
offered at the end of the year (1934) by the Anglican Archbishop of
Melbourne. However, I preferred to stay with my uncle, who had just
ordained me deacon at Bathurst. During his absence in England, his
Coadjutor, Bishop Wylde, ordained me to the Anglican priesthood, in
June, 1935, at Forbes, where I was serving my curacy. We had parochial
hostels for boys and girls attending the local high school, and there,
as in Victoria, the subjection of baptized children to a non-Christian
education struck me as a scandal as well as a sham.
I began to see why a faithful few refused to bow the knee to Baal; why
a fifth of the population of Australia denied themselves the use of a
school system which they could have used as tax-payers, and instead had
to pay all over again for one they could use as Christians.
Nor does my experience lead me to hope for the Christianizing of the
State system by allowing its teachers to supplement the clergyman's
weekly half-hour of "Religion." For example, the Forbes High School
Magazine published in 1934 a play which showed that the unfortunate
pupils had been given as "history" a view of Luther as a noble symbol
of a noble Germany waging a war that was still on against our common
enemy the Catholic Church. For myself, I saw Hitler as the true heir of Luther
(though he had, like Luther, been baptized a Catholic) and when Hitler
first came to power I had denounced Nazism as the imminent peril to
Christian civilization in an editorial in the Melbourne University
weekly, Farrago. Hence I was
not exactly happy in collaborating with a system of education which
fostered such strange misconceptions of the truth. In the case of
wealthy parents, of course, we could offer a Christian education for
their children at Bathurst or Sydney, but what was that compared with
the Christian education given by the Marist Brothers at their college
in our town and by the Sisters at every far-flung convent, to children
who were often as poor as themselves?
I borrowed Archbishop Sheehan's Apologetics
and Christian Doctrine: what better preparation for life could a
school give? Could such good fruit as the lives of these dedicated
teachers grow on an evil tree? My theological text books accused "Rome"
of so many corruptions that I thought I'd better see what it had to say
for itself. I bought Dr. Rumble's Radio
Replies. "Oh, it's all lies," said the theological luminary to
whom I referred some of the replies, "as you'll see when you get among
scholars in England" - where he and other friends had always urged me
to go, to complete my theological education.
So to England I went, accompanying my uncle and his family when he left
the See of Bathurst for the pulpit of St. Pancras in 1936. I had found
a true friend in my Rector at Forbes, and have the happiest
recollections of all the clergymen I came in contact with in the
diocese, nor will I ever forget my uncle's zeal for the things of God,
which was an inspiration to us all. I have pleasant memories, too, of
the home life of parishioners I used to visit, and also of a Catholic
family which their friends of all denominations regarded as a model of
goodness and joyousness, and which has since seemed to me a modern
counterpart of the household of that great humorist and model of civic
virtues, who died a martyr for Our Lord and His Vicar on earth: Sir
Thomas, now Saint Thomas, More.
Even before I left Australia I was regarded as being more English than
the English, so saw nothing incongruous at the time in the Lambeth
Curia treating Australia as a colony, when I went to receive a license
from the Archbishop of Canterbury to exercise my ministry in England,
under the Colonial Clergy Act.
For eight months I buried myself in the heart of England, as assistant
to the curate in charge of the parishes of All Saints and St. Laurence,
Evesham, who was the soul of kindness to me, and I proceeded to lose
all interest in Australia until Holy Church, which is the Mother of us
all, as St. Paul says, taught her returning prodigal son to love the
sunburnt country of his birth.
But I anticipate: In Michaelmas term, 1936, I began a two-years' course
of study in the Faculty of Theology at Oxford, and soon found that the
real scholars there would admit Dr. Rumble's contentions, and that the
"lies" were on the other side. And in informal discussions in the
Origen Society, and other places, I heard not only the Modernist views
taught in Australian theological colleges, but also those of such
Catholic Biblical scholars as Lagrange and Grandmaison; and Professor
Lightfoot, for one, spoke of them with respect. I had also been told
about apostate priests and disloyal Catholics among the so-called
intelligentsia of Europe, as an encouragement to enter the Anglican
ministry. I met some of them, but did not find these meetings exactly
encouraging. I had an Australian letter of introduction to one of the
theologians who eventually presented the "Report on Doctrine in the
Church of England". What I heard from him of all schools of thought
reaching a surprising measure of agreement, saved me at least from
being surprised myself when the Anglican Archbishops published the
document in 1938. The orthodox party among the clergy, be it said to
their credit, repudiated its implications at once, but the unorthodox
party welcomed it, and the effect on the unbelieving world which the
Church exists to convert to the truth, was to give ecclesiastical
respectability to heresy.
Fortunately, my studies at Oxford took me not only to the great
Anglican divines, but also to the Fathers and Councils of the early
Church, whom reason as well as Faith point to as the true interpreters
of- Our Lord and His Apostles. I found- that the Papacy was regarded as
being of the essence of Christianity, and that "Fourteen centuries
before Pius IX Papal infallibility was already proclaimed," as Vladimir
Soloviev declared in 1889.
On the much misunderstood dogma of Papal Infallibility, I found that
Shaw was right when he wrote in the preface to his St. Joan, "compared to our
infallible democracies, our infallible medical councils, our infallible
astronomers, our infallible judges, our infallible parliaments, the
Pope is on his knees in the dust confessing his ignorance before the
throne of God."
"Dominus Illuminatio Mea" is Oxford's motto: The Lord is my light. In
matters both of faith and of morals that light was coming to me from
the Catholic and Roman Church which founded Oxford. Even Professor
Lightfoot's lectures on St. Mark's Gospel, which I attended, were
introduced by a courageous avowal of the failure of Protestant
scholarship to emancipate Christians from dependence on the Church for
our knowledge of Christ. The lecturer on Scripture at Pusey House was
following the rulings of the Roman Pontifical Biblical Commission,
because of the weight of sound scholarship behind it. My special field
of study embraced the works of the French Bishop Bossuet as well as
those of his Anglican contemporaries, and my understanding of all
Christian doctrines was enriched in the process,
Immorality and race suicide were once again threatening to undermine
society, as when Salvian described the cities of the Roman Empire as a
series of vast brothels. I learned from the late Pope's Encyclical on the Sacrament of Matrimony
that the practice of contraception commonly hailed as making the
unmarried safe from the consequences of indulging their passions, was
sinful even for married people, and that the flouting of moral laws, as
of physical laws, is a flying in the face of reality which has its
inevitable retribution here or hereafter.
On the other hand I found that in 1930 the Lambeth Conference of the
Anglican Bishops had given a limited approval to contraception. By
about 1937 T. S. Eliot's "Thoughts
After Lambeth" were my thoughts on the subject too. On this and
other points, including the fundamental point of the indissolubility of
a valid marriage, we must stand once more where Rome has always stood,
upholding Christ's life-giving law, not just in some respects and in
some dioceses, but, as He commanded, every jot and tittle of it, in
each and every place.
On other questions of social and political morality - there had been
Papal encyclicals which provided rallying points for Christians of all
denominations. "Quadragesimo Anno"
on the abuses of present-day capitalism and the true rights of capital
and labour; "Non Abbiamo Bisogno,"
on the revived "pagan worship of the State," exemplified in Italian
Fascism and its followers; "Mit
Brennender Sorge" on the Nazi tyranny, "Divini Redemptoris" denouncing
Communism, and offering truth and love to Communists. The Russian
Orthodox writer, Berdyaev, in The
End of Our Time, had warned us since the Russian Revolution "the
rhythm of history has become catastrophic," and the Pope's words on
Nazism and Communism were a last warning of what is now come upon us.
SIGNS OF AWAKENING.
I tried to persuade myself that it was my duty to assist the spread of
the Catholic message to man and society through the Church of my
upbringing, as Eliot and many other better men than I sought to do, and
to satisfy the claims of Our Lord's Vicar on earth to my personal
allegiance by the pious hope of "corporate reunion." There were signs
of a growing recognition of Catholic truth among Anglicans. There was a
"Church Times" controversy in
which it was conclusively proved that the commonest Protestant
objection against Transubstantiation had been met by modern science.
Oxford granted a research doctorate to Rev. Dr. Scott for his Eastern Churches and the Papacy;
and Professor Nairne, of Cambridge, had written in the Church Quarterly Review in 1928
that the Roman Canon of the Mass is "the best of all prayers in its
direct unadorned prayerfulness." In the diocese of Worcester in which I
continued to take Sunday duty for some time after going up to Oxford,
Miss Evelyn Underhill, asked by Bishop Perowne to address his clergy,
gave them the fruit of her own studies of the Catholic mystics, and
recommended, as helps in their interior and professional lives, Dom
John Chapman's "Spiritual Letters"
and a book on the Sacrament of Penance based on modern Catholic
sources. My friends in the Nashdom and Cowley communities drew their
spiritual strength under God from such sources.
SOME WITNESSES TO THE TRUTH.
But here again I had to face the question of obedience to the Faith. This latter
was the fruit of the experience of a Benedictine Abbot, the turning
point of which had been his conversion to Rome as a deacon at St.
Pancras' Church in London, in the days when a predecessor of my uncle,
Bishop Paget, was Vicar. In answering Bishop Gore's accusations of
"pride," etc., against the Catholic Church of to-day, he began by
repeating in all simplicity the only kind of invitation to share her
mission that the Church of Christ has ever given: "You are serving Him in your way, we serve
Him in His." And a clergyman friend had told me of the
submission to Rome for conscience' sake of Bishop Kinsman (a graduate
of my own college, Keble) after seeing the effect of attempting to
apply the sacramental and hierarchical principles of the Oxford
Movement to the realities of American Episcopalian Church life. Dr.
Pusey, it was true, had remained an Anglican, but there was a tradition
at Oxford that after Newman's conversion he was never seen to smile
again. Moreover, since a widower, Archdeacon of Chichester, became a
Catholic, and Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, clergymen of all
denominations, married and unmarried, had been making their submission
at an average rate of one a month in England alone. Monsignor Ronald
Knox, then stationed at Oxford, was the son of a Bishop; Robert Hugh
Benson had been the son of an Archbishop of Canterbury.
Among the Eastern schismatics, too, God had not left. Himself without
witnesses to the necessity of Catholic unity, from the Greek Bishop
Bessarion, when his fellow-bishops repudiated the reunion of the
Council of Florence, to various Indian Bishops in my own time, men
whose birth or position seemed to mark them out as perpetuators of
heresy or schism, but who had heard and followed a Voice to which all
around them were deaf (as the Russian Bishop Meletzev did recently, since Stalin re-established the
Church). Millions of men and women (now organized as Uniate Churches)
have thus been brought back to Catholic unity. Nor does the Catholic
who holds the doctrine (Unam Sanctam)
that it is objectively necessary for everyone to be subject to the
Roman Pontiff thereby relegate to damnation those who in all sincerity
believe otherwise, as I had learned from Karl Adam's book, The Spirit of Catholicism. It is
the Church's enemies, not her theologians, who thus interpret this
doctrine, ignoring its theological context and its continuity with the
Athanasian Creed, and with Our Lord's teaching that all who reject
Christianity itself will be condemned (Mark 16, 16) : the doctrine of
invincible ignorance illumines much of the teaching of Christ and His
Church, and its wide application is the measure of the charitableness
THE CHURCH IN THE NEW TESTAMENT.
Moreover, the more I studied the New Testament, the more convinced I
was that it is of the essence of Christianity to be infallibly taught
as a complete body of doctrine to a unique body of followers, the
People of God, the cross section of humanity portrayed in the Parables
as good and bad fish, wheat and tares, all mixed up until the Last
Judgement. It was also the Mystical Body of Christ, in which name the
Epistles echo Our Lord's burning words to the man who thought he was
persecuting a human organization: "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting
And the more I learned of history, the more clearly I saw that human
society was healthy or unhealthy according to whether or not it allowed
itself to be leavened, not by Christian individuals or by sects cut off
from the Body, but by that divine and human Thing itself. For example,
"In England it was the Church rather than the State that led the way to
national unity, through its common organization, its annual synods, and
its tradition of administration. In the political sphere the
Anglo-Saxon culture was singularly barren of achievement . . .
Benedictine Abbeys were not only the intellectual and religious leaders
of Europe, but also the chief centres of material culture and of
artistic and industrial activity . . . the monks made it their business
to clear the forests and drain the fens and to establish flourishing
settlements" (Dawson: "The Making of
Europe," Sheed & Ward, London, 1936). At Evesham I had under
my eyes a microcosm of this Europe, the "Merrie England" that had been.
The local tradition was to the effect that Our Lady had founded the
Abbey of Evesham and through it the town; by appearing there to St.
Egvvin, seventh century Bishop of Worcester, and moving him to become
first Abbot of the monks who were to pray and work on this hallowed
ground until the Reformation. In that little portion of Mary's Dowry I
learned so to love her that I eventually took her all-powerful name at
my Confirmation, and there, too, I was drawn closer to her Son by the
devotion to His Sacred Heart, which arose in what are known to
historians as the Benedictine centuries.
THE CHURCH IN HISTORY.
But to revert to what I was learning of the Church's role in history.
By the end of the Middle Ages, she had obtained the abolition of
slavery, step by step, against the vested interests of the ruling
class, but in proportion as her social activity was rejected it. was
always coming back under new forms: Of the capitalist industrialism of
his time, Southey had said: "The slave trade was a mercy compared with
this." And Belloc's prophecy of a new transition from citizenship to
slavery was already coming true in Italy, Germany and Russia, as it has
since in Poland and other countries virtually annexed by Russia, and as
it threatens (under Governments representing the majority of the
people) to do in Australia and in England at the time of writing. What
lesson does the history of the nominally Christian Roman Empire teach
us here? "Under the later Empire the Church came more and more to take
the place of the old civic organization as the organ of popular
consciousness. It was not itself the cause of the downfall of the city
state, which was perishing from its own weakness, but it provided a
substitute through which the life of the people could find new modes of
expression. . . . The citizenship of the future lay in membership of
the Church. In the Church the ordinary man found material and economic
assistance and spiritual liberty. The opportunities for spontaneous
social activity and free co-operation which were denied by the
bureaucratic despotism of the State continued to exist in the spiritual
society of the Church, and consequently the best of the thought and
practical ability of the age were devoted to its service" (Making of Europe, p. 35). Again
to-day, the real leaders of men, as far as the Catholic minority were
concerned, were not their politicians, but their Bishops.
On the destiny of men in most countries and nations I found plenty of
food for thought, and not least in Shakespeare's plays, deeply
impregnated as they are with the Catholic view of life. "Middle Ages
Catholicism was abolished, so far as Acts of Parliament could abolish
it, before Shakespeare, the noblest product of it, made his
appearance," as Carlyle wrote in "the
Hero as Poet"; and I saw him draw Catholic lessons from stories
of every age when I attended from nearby Evesham, a whole season's
repertoire at Stratford-on-Avon. The contemporary world, too, was a
stage, but some of its scenes were of a sterner reality: bishops,
priests, brothers, nuns, were being added in Spain to the age-old list
of Christian martyrs. In England, as Dr. Inge has written in the Fortnightly Review, "The Public was
deliberately misled by mendacious propaganda" (quoted in The Bulletin, Sydney, 2nd April,
1947), Anglican dignitaries taking a leading part, in the teeth of
exposures by the Dean and such authorities on Spain as Prof. Peers, of
Liverpool University (a devout Anglican). When the priests of Russia
were being "liquidated" twenty years before, the Pope had stood by them
in word and deed, as a fellow-Christian, though they were not in
communion with him. When the leaders of the Church I was serving saw
their fellow-Christians in Spain threatened with the same fate, they
were silent or (as a non-Catholic layman expressed it, in discussing a
later instance of the kind) "Preferred to their Christian ministry that
HELPS ON THE ROAD
(or Various Influences).
Influences in the realm of reason are hard enough to assess: the graces
that lead from reason's probabilities (for Catholicism and against any
other religious allegiance) to the certainty of Faith are known to God
alone. So I shall simply record, with gratitude, the bare facts that I
discovered after my conversion, that Catholic friends had long been
praying for it. In holiday times in the year preceding it I had been to
several of the holy places of the old world: Glastonbury, with its
memories of St. Joseph of Arimathea, the Holy Grail, and the other
Arthurian legends, and of its great Abbey, which gave England so many
saints and statesmen, until the Reformation decreed its death; Ars,
where the parish priest, St. John Vianney, had fulfilled, before the
incredulous eyes of the modern world, Our Lord's promise to His
representatives: "The works that I do, he shall do, and greater than
these shall he do"; Paray-le-Monial, where He had appeared to St..
Margaret Mary, and told her how His Sacred Heart longs for the love of
us men for whom it was broken; Lisieux, where St. Teresa of the Child
Jesus had become a saint within living memory; the Cistercian
(Trappist) Abbeys of Sept-Fons, where a non-Catholic guest had written
in the Visitors' Book: "Here we have felt the beating of Christ's
heart," and of Notre Dame des Dombes, whose monks had inscribed on
their walls this testimony of the reigning Pope - "It is easily
understood that those who discharge perpetual duties of prayer and
mortification contribute much more to the growth of the Church and the
salvation of mankind than those who cultivate the Lord's field by
At the beginning of 1938 I ceased to administer the Anglican
sacraments, but continued to receive them until, soon after asking for
instruction in the Roman Faith, I attained to that certainty of its
truth which I have been blessed with ever since: "You all shall KNOW
the truth, and the truth shall make you free." So I turned from
uncovenanted to covenanted means of grace. I had seen the gulf (to be
bridged by grace alone) that yawned between Catholics on the one hand
and all my non-Catholic friends and mentors on the other - and they
ranged from Dr. Wheller Robinson, Chairman of the Board of the Faculty
of Theology (whose Congregationalist lectures on Biblical subjects
belonged, like the Anglican ones given at Ripon Hall and at Jesus, to
the Modernist or "earthquake" period), to the pro-Papal clergyman who
thus concluded a friendly talk on the eve of my reconciliation to the
Church: "The difference between us seems to be that with you the Papal
supremacy enters into the matter of the act of Faith." This was a more
crucial difference than one, for example, about the arguments for the
Immaculate Conception (incidentally, a lecturer at one Anglican
seminary in Oxford thought it meant that Mary was conceived without
human intercourse). For becoming a Catholic is not a question of
satisfying one's devotional bent, or of coming in out of the wet in the
political, sociological, or any other order of human things. It is the
facing of a challenge, a personal challenge, from a Person one loves:
"If you all love Me, you all will keep My commandments." He commands
us, among other things, to love the brotherhood (I Peter 2), His one
Church, His Spouse, and to prove love by obedience: "He that hears you
hears Me, and he that despises you despises Me. . . ."
In my last Oxford vacation I had the privilege of staying at Mount
Melleray Abbey, home of the Irish sons of St. Bernard, where I came
once more upon the very heart of the Church, and found it to be none
other than the heart of Our Lord, the same Sacred Heart that St. John
had been so close to at the Last Supper, and that I had learned to love
at my mother's knee. Returning to Oxford, I was taken under the
hospitable roof of Fr. Leo O'Hea, S.J., at the Catholic Workers'
College - unemployed though I was, and not yet a Catholic!! How happy I
was in that last term, receiving instructions from Fr. Victor White,
O.P., attending Mass, saying Vespers and other parts of the Divine
Office, and writing the thesis which was the fruit of my special
studies. For the latter I received the degree of Bachelor of Letters,
and have published in the Melbourne quarterly, Twentieth Century (March, 1948).
the portions of it which correct some long-standing errors of the Rev.
Dr. Sparrow Simpson and other writers on Bossuet and the subject matter
of his works.
But again I anticipate. A few days before this, the catechumen had been
absolved from heresy and schism and all his other sins, by a man to
whom the keys of the Kingdom, the august powers of Holy Order and
Jurisdiction over His subjects had been lawfully entrusted by Christ
our King; and the next day, at Holy Communion, he entered into the
completeness of union with the Head and all members of the Mystical
Body of Christ, including those whose membership is invisible and
un-statistical. It was the feast of Pentecost.
And have your Pentecostal expectations been realized? a reader may ask.
As regards my own person, the piece of twisted metal that I brought to
the Church to be twisted straight, I answer: As well as can be
expected. Among my fellow-Catholics, I have seen the happiness of those
who seek first the Kingdom of God, especially the young apostles whose
daily work has been transformed by Catholic Action ideals, and the
unhappiness of those who having cast off the easy yoke and the light
burden of Christ, no longer frequent His Holy Sacrifice and Sacraments.
I have seen Ecclesia Australiana producing her first Cardinal,
regenerating and civilizing eager pagan souls on her north-east
frontier in New Guinea and protecting them against what Prof.
Malinowski once described as the "pandemonium" of Western civilization (International Review of Missions,
July, 1936), and making many conversions, too, in her five home
provinces. The grace of God has taught me to see, as never before, the
workings of His Providence; to mean, as well as say, "Your will be done
. . .", for man proposes but God disposes. We have here below no
abiding city, and when our citizenship is really in heaven, all things
without exception work together for good. I gratefully acknowledge that
the self-same grace of God has kept my Anglican relatives and friends
close to me in charity and affection.
In spite of human imperfections, I have found realized in the Catholic
Church the Christian ideal expressed by St. Augustine as "In things
essential unity, in things not essential liberty, in all things
charity"; or, as my father used to say, "All's love, yet all's law." I
may add that it was a great act of courtesy and charity on the part of
a great Archbishop that first reconciled my father to my conversion and
hopes of being found suitable for the Catholic Priesthood. To cut a
long story short, October, 1938, found me at the College of St. Bede in
Rome for a year of Christian philosophy (my Anglican text-book had been
a survey of philosophy by an American named Durant).
MY SPIRITUAL HOME.
"All Christian pilgrimages must end in Rome,"
says H. V. Morton (Through Lands of
the Bible), "because alone of all the ancient patriarchates of
the once Universal Church, Rome has preserved unbroken contact with the
Apostolic Age." I have been at those Masses in the catacombs that even
this non-Catholic writer found so moving; and have lived long enough
among students of the five continents doing higher studies in Rome to
know that the Church is still Universal as well as Roman. I have served
a West Australian Monsignor's Mass at the tomb of St. Peter on his
great high feast . . . and when next I heard from him he was Brother
Jerome, leading the hidden life of a missionary hermit in the West
Indies; kept a night-watch over the body of a Pope, and seen a new one,
blacklisted by the Nazi and Fascist press, triumphantly elected to the
Holy See. I have rejoiced with an Australian priest over his first
Mass, offered at the tomb of St. Paul, and among the Benedictines who
serve the magnificent Basilica which enshrines that tomb I have found a
spiritual home, being enrolled among the Oblates of that Abbey -
priests and clerics, laymen and women, bachelors and fathers of
families, who try this way to make their whole life revolve around the
liturgical worship of God.
I cannot close without a word of gratitude for blessings received at
Whitlands, Victoria, where I saw a church arise and an integrally
Christian community grow up around it and its priest, under the
inspiration of St. Benedict and St. Francis and of an uncompromising
Australian disciple of both. They have kept their spiritual roots and
lost their contact with the existing order of society, instead of
preserving their social contacts and losing their spiritual roots,
which Christopher Dawson presents to the Christian in our
post-Christian world as a more and more urgent choice. This means,
among other things, helping one another to produce the necessities of
life by manual labour - the dignity of which I am glad to have learned
by actual practice.
And, finally, an acknowledgement of my debt to New Norcia Abbey, whose
Spanish founder, Bishop Salvado, brought .to Australia the Benedictine
missionary tradition of Pope St. Gregory the. Great and St. Augustine
of Canterbury; with results that won for him Florence Nightingale's
admiration and the lasting friendship of Lord Forrest: and whose
present community's prayer and work, at the Abbey and at its Mission on
the north coast of West Australia, have wrought more things in peace
and in war than their adopted country dreams of.
And now a word about books. As it was in the beginning, when St. Peter
wrote the first Papal Encyclical (1st Epistle of Peter) and St. Paul
was forming saints and correcting sinners in every part of the Gentile
world, so now a man needs no books, but only the humility to which God
gives grace, to recognize the City set on a hill. But to those who read
books, and yet no Catholic books, or not enough to offset the
unconscious prejudice of the modern man against the ancient Faith, I
recommend the reading of some of the books quoted above, and below. I
must beg the reader not to think that the few quotations made in
passing exhaust the matters with which they deal (you cannot take
Catholicism up in a teacup, as Newman once observed), or that I have
been engaged in comparing Catholicism with Anglicanism, as a reader of
another draft of this pamphlet thought (a more savage draft which found
no publisher). I assure the reader that, like Lord Cecil, I regard the
Church as an Evangelist, whose Message is beyond all comparison, and
that I think it a Christian duty to warn men against all institutions
which keep them from hearing the full message. but especially against
those I know by personal experience, and to pass on gratefully to
others the helps to hearing the full message that individuals in those
institutions have given me. I regret that it is necessary to explain
also that I regard such men as Our Lord's friends, and therefore mine,
and had no more intention than Lord Cecil of questioning their
sincerity when I quoted his letter denouncing Our Lord's enemies.
As a matter of fact, I am so convinced of their sincerity that I think
they would turn at once to the Church if they saw that "the Churches"
are a device of the devil for dividing the friends of Christ and
bewildering the souls of those they have yet to win to Him. I regard it
as a work of charity to them to remind them that our common Master
foresaw all these things, and has given His disciples not only a
warning against them, but a remedy: "Behold, Satan has desired to have
you [He is addressing Peter, but the 'you' is plural, as the Greek text
shows] that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and thou, being
once converted, confirm thy brethren"
(Luke 22: 31-32).
Let us see the situation clearly, and see it whole. Protestants of all
denominations rejoice, and rightly so, that their foreign missions,
each according to its lights, win for Christ many souls in whom grace
triumphs over the scandal of division. But as an example of the other
side of the story, I will just mention that Protestant Liberal
theology, disseminated by the printing presses of Cairo as Christian
support for the Moslem view of Christ, has been holding up the
conversion of the Middle East for half a century.
Shortly before my conversion I was sent a book by Canon Maynard, Continuity of the Church of England:
its defence of Anglicanism consists largely of a caricature of 16th
century Catholicism, a "revelation" of scandals and abuses, unrelated
to the Council of Trent, at which they were admitted by all (including
the Papal Legates who presided), denounced and reformed. They will be
found in their proper place in any Catholic history or in such a work
as the Cambridge Modern History. If we were to be regaled with so many
details of the court life of a Borgia prince who intruded himself into
the priesthood and the papacy, might we not have heard a little of the
reformed and reforming Borgia who became General of the Jesuits and a
saint? Or been referred to the life of St. Pius V, the Pope who did so
much to reform Europe, and excommunicated Queen Elizabeth when she
proved impenitent in her claim to be supreme governor in England of the
Church of the living God? Or to a life of a few others among the
saints, over a hundred in number, that the "Roman" Church produced just
before and during the "Reformation" period? Will our author go to none
but Protestant sources for his explanation of the English Reformation?
Unto Caesar he shall go. It was "engendered in lust, brought forth in
hypocrisy and perfidy, and nourished and fed by plunder, devastation,
and rivers of innocent English and Irish blood" (William Cobbett, a
Member of Parliament in the days when that privilege was reserved to
"Love men, slay their errors," said St. Augustine, whom so many
followed to the Truth which he had found. "Neither in the confusion of
the pagans, nor in the sweepings of the heretics, nor in the feebleness
of the schismatics, nor in the blindness of the Jews, is religion to be
sought, but only among those who are called Catholic or orthodox
Christians, that is, keepers and right followers of the whole truth"
(Augustine: De Vera Religione).
When an Anglican Archbishop earnestly commends to his readers the
long-discredited anti-Jesuit sweepings of Continuity of the Church of England,
and an Anglican Primate solemnly warns the people of Adelaide that
"political Romanism" is one of their most fearful perils, heresy stands
revealed in all its destitution, and we may well sympathize with Mr.
Stanley High, a Congregationalist minister, who recently deplored this
sort of thing in an appeal (in the Readers'
Digest) for something more positive from his fellow-Protestants:
". . . The really vital matter is that for the modern man the Roman
Catholic Church has something to offer which Protestantism isn't
Another institution whose errors make men strangers, and sometimes
enemies, to revealed truth, is Masonry. I was not a member myself, but
saw enough of its influence during my Anglican ministry to think it
worth while at the time to read a book by an English Non-conformist,
Rev. C. P. Hunt, B.A., entitled The
Menace of Freemasonry to the Christian Faith, making the
following notes from it: "The Solomon so much admired by Masons, having
built a temple to Jehovah, (Yahweh) (the only true God) proceeded to
permit the worship of Baal therein. . . . 'The broad-minded Solomon'. .
. ; (Masons take over St. Paul's name for the Church) 'the household of
the Faith.' . . . Other writers filch such texts as 'living stones' and
'fitly framed together,' cutting out the phrase 'Christ the chief
corner-stone' . . . . (filching also) 'the gates of hell shall not
prevail against it.' . . . The evidence is over-whelming that the Craft
takes the place of the Church. . . . It is the most glaring case of
schism. . . I have received letters from all parts of the country from
ministers testifying that such (frustration of their Christian
ministry) is the local effect of Masonry. . . The Bishop of Bradford .
. . stated that if the documentary evidence of this book were
substantiated, he would have to reconsider his relationship to the
Craft. . . ."
TO REBUILD THE WORLD.
I have "kept at my thesis": this pamphlet is its bibliography. I
regarded it as a much greater service to the Christian cause to offer
such a reading list to the Australian public than to write lesser books
myself. My thesis points to the Catholic Church for the strength by
which our Empire and the civilization of the West "might yet be saved"
and the sacrifices of our sailors, soldiers and airmen in the last war
made fruitful. This conviction arises not from bigotry, but from what I
know of the past history and present state of the portion of humanity
that forms this once Christian civilization. The Church alone dispenses
the graces that convert whole nations: she who is converting kingdoms
in Africa would give to us, if we were willing, similar graces. The
first of these would surely be repentance for sins which cry to heaven
for vengeance: for example, our attitude to war on women and children
at home (Australian homes are being broken up in the Divorce Courts at
an average rate of twenty a day) and abroad. [and these were 1948
figures!!] The eminent scientist, Sir David Rivett, describes the
Allies' abuse of atomic research in the recent war as "ghastly," but
the public is apparently not interested in the moral implications of
such things. Nothing but the stark supernatural stands up for our
salvation, as Chesterton put it when explaining the Dark Ages as a
necessary purgatory between the corrupt paganism of the ancient world
and the new Christian civilization of the Middle Ages (St. Francis, p. 35).
It is not, of course the cultural darkness, but the moral light, of the
Dark Ages that we must seek again. Modern civilization springs, on its
non-religious side, from the Renaissance - the re-birth, as Ruskin
reminds us, of pagan pride; it has now brought in its train, one after
another, all the old phenomena of pagan cruelty and sensuality. "The
sins of the world, especially now sins of the flesh, cry to heaven for
vengeance. Do penance, say the Rosary, practice devotion to my
Immaculate Heart. If men amend their lives, God will spare the world.
If my requests are observed, Russia will be converted and there will be
peace. . . ." (The Blessed Virgin at Fatima, in the year of the first
Catholicity is the God-laid foundation on which men are meant to build
their world: they may ignore it (and come to grief thereby), but it
alone abides of the things that are seen. This was the message of
Soloviev, vividly illustrated in the last of his books (Three Dialogues) by a scene showing
the end of the world. Over against the unity of Antichrist and the
apostates, the last Pope (Peter II) and the Catholics are chanting
imperturbably: "They shall not prevail." The Metropolitan John and the
Professor Paul bring their followers, Orthodox and Protestant, to join
them. The true unity of men is consummated. A light shines, a sign
appears in the heavens: a Woman clothed with the sun. The Pope leads
the flock towards Mary, and the glory of God.
19. HELPFUL READING.
Of books that are helpful in the search for religious truth, the most
important is a prayer book,
at least for those who do not yet know how to pray without one.
Then there is, of course, the Bible,
especially the Gospels, Epistles, and Acts of the Apostles (I recommend
the new Knox translation)
and the "Imitation of Christ,"
especially (for the distinguishing of the Church from the sects), the
portions on Christian monasticism, as an attempt at the perfect
imitation of Christ and on the sacrificing priesthood, as continuing
His redemptive work.
I would also recommend, mostly from my own experience,
Mgr. Fulton Sheen's "The Divine
Frank Sheed's "Theology and Sanity"
and "Map of Life,"
St. Augustine's "Confessions"
and "City of God,"
Dom John Chapman's "Bishop Gore and
the Catholic Claims,"
Penrose Fry's "The Church
and "The Making of a Layman,"
a C.T.S. pamphlet entitled "Why Not
Be a True Bible Christian?" by a convert from the Scottish Kirk
that I had the pleasure of meeting in Rome (Sir Stuart Coates),
Karl Adam's "Christ Our Brother,"
Chesterton's "My Six Conversions,"
"St. Thomas Aquinas"
Mgr. Knox's "Belief of Catholics,"
Fr. Johnson, S.J., M.A., "Plain
Talks on the Catholic Religion" (Angus and Robertson),
Stoddard's "Rebuilding a Lost
Fr. McNabb's "Nazareth or Social
and "The Church and the Land,"
Belloc's "How the Reformation
and "The Servile State,"
Arnold Lunn's "Now I See,"
Abbot Marmion's "Christ the Life of
Dawson's "Progress and Religion,"
Cardinal Newman's "Development of
Christian Doctrine" and
Fr. Darcy's "Nature of Belief,"
Maritain's "Freedom in the Modern
and "Three Reformers,"
Abbot Chautard's "Soul of the
Mgr. Batiffol's "Catholicism and
Sir Charles Marston's "The Bible is
the late Lord Halifax's "Conversations
at Malines: Original Documents,"
John Oxenham's "Protestant Testimony
to The Wonder of Lourdes,"
Karl Barth's "The Church and the
William Law's "Serious Call";
also "Science and Faith," by
Rev. Paul Bull, of the Anglican Community of the Resurrection,
"The Church and Science"
(Catholic Truth Society, London, 1928), by the distinguished scientist
and convert, Sir Bertram Windle;
Dr. Alexis Carrel's "Man the Unknown"
(Hamish Hamilton, fourth Australian edition, 1946), and
Colonel Turton's "Truth of
Finally, any of the Papal Encyclicals:
the Anglican, Dr. Bell, Bishop of Chichester, describes them as
* * *
St. Michael, via Madang, New Guinea, Epiphany, 1948.
* * * * * * *