Scotland And The Faith
Destroyed By Reformation
Catholicism and Scotland. By Compton Mackenzie. (Routledge. 5s. net.) Reviewed by PETER F. ANSON
With far more justification than King Henry VIII does Mr. Compton Mackenzie merit the title "Defensor Fidel" for having written this outstanding little book. Much as 1 have always enjoyed the author's novels, I doubt if any of them have given me quite the same thrill as this apologia for Scottish Catholicism. Please note that it only costs five shillings. No Scottish family should be without one, or more copies to read
and give away or lend. Were I a rich man I would present copies of Catholicism and Scotland to every public library in the country, not to mention hotel bedrooms, where tourists could pick it up and learn some home truths about the nation whose religious ideals and material prosperity are popularly supposed to be essentially bound up with the religion of the "Open Bible."
It was this surrender to Calvinism in the 16th century, argues the author, which COMPTON MACKENZIE, who writes: " The Real Presence of God upon her altars will be more precious to Scotland than the real presence of a parliament in Edinburgh."
(This photograph was taken on the Isle of Barra while the author was writing the book.)
began the destruction of Scotland as a recognisable and recognised European nation. What were the causes that led up to this and what have been the aftereffects are the theme of the book.
Celtic Christianity was as truly Roman as that of St. Augustine, despite the efforts a almost every Presbyterian historian to explain it away. An interesting point is raised by Mr. Mackenzie when he remarks on the difficulty of rendering into either English or Gaelic the full force of the original expression in our Lord's promises to St. Peter in the gospel of St. Matthew. "How shall the devout Skyeman, reading the gospel by the light of his own judgment, understand that peadar ' and carraig ' are the same? Why from the reading of these words in his Gaelic Bible should the Skyeman be led to ask himself in a sudden humility whether, on that dim blue island thirty-five miles nearer the setting sun, the Barraman might not have been granted by the grace of God a revelation of the divine purpose more illuminating than the feeble rushlight of his own intelligence?"
St. Margaret The author does full justice to the influence of St. Margaret, regarded by so many Presbyterian historians as a dangerous Romaniser.
" It is impossible to suppose," he writes, " that the disorganised Scottish church could have survived much longer without the reforming genius of St. Margaret. The fact has to be faced that the Scottish Church was an anachronism in Christendom, not because it was apostolic or primitive or evangelical or protestant or anti-papal, but because it was barbaric and rapidly growing more barbaric The paradox of the history of Great Britain and Ireland is that it requires a Celt to lead a Saxon and a Sayin to lead a Celt, or let us say a man with a non-Celtic background."
The long struggle throughout the middle ages between the claims of the English archbishops for jurisdiction in Scotland and the constant loyalty of Rome itself to the national episcopate north of the border is well brought out. As for the Reformation, Mr. Mackenzie rightly maintains that it was thrust on the country in a similar fashion as the bolshevik revolution in Russia.
" Indeed, the history of Europe since the war of 1914-18 offers repeated parallels for the way in which the Reformation was carried through in various countries, and after fascism, Hitlerism, bolshevism, and other less successful political experiments, it is much easier to understand the apparent spontaneity with which the revolutionary religious doctrines were welcomed."
Yet at the same time the author honestly faces the facts that in Scotland the Catholic clergy themselves were to a large extent to blame for the whole business.
Persecution, Old and New
" Indeed it might be true to say that the greatest sin of the Scottish clergy was their failure to esteem that Mass of which they were at last to be deprived by a just God, using as the instruments of his wrath the basest of mankind. . . . The Church needed the humiliation Almighty God inflicted, and not the least bitter part of that humiliation was the comparative fervour of Protestantism at its beginning."
In the latter chapters we are given the story of those brutal persecutions which but for a miracle would have stamped out the Catholic religion in Scotland as effectually as in Scandinavia. Thanks to the heroism of those loyal remnants who held on in the Western Highlands, the Outer Isles, the Banffshire hills, and the glens of Aberdeenshire, Catholicism did not die.
In 1878 Pope Leo X111 restored its hierarchy to Scotland, since when the " Catholic Church, her strength of purpose invigorated, her confidence of its ultimate achievement secure, has moved forward majestically but humbly under Almighty God on her divine mission of restoring a nation to the full splendour of the Christian faith."
Finally Mr. Mackenzie discusses the recent outbursts of bitterness and bigotry in Scotland of which all Scottish citizens may well be ashamed, and he points out the dangers which might easily arise if Scotland became an independent nation once more without proper safeguards for Catholicism. " Even national independence can be achieved at too dear a price if such independence is to mean a recession along the dim and tortuous paths of religious bigotry." So long as there is this danger ahead a Scottish Catholic can take no active share in the re-creation of a sovereign Scotland where a Presbyterian kirk is to be even more powerful than at present and where her 600,000 Catholics would be still treated as outcasts and aliens.
" Fortunately for his peace of mind, the Scottish Catholic knows that he can do his country no richer service than to devote all his energy, all his emotion, all his eloquence to upholding and spreading what he believes to be the only Truth that can guide man safely towards his immortal destiny. The Real Presence of God upon her altars will be more precious to Scotland than the real presence of a parliament in Edinburgh. The Scottish Catholic can afford to forget Bannockburn, will repine no more at Flodden or Pinkie Cleugh, and may count even Culloden well lost, if he reminds himself that no country's independence is worth winning unless it be won for the dedication of it to the greater glory of God."
At the bottom of the author's prefatory note are the three words Isle of Barra. To the ordinary reader they may have little significance, but to anyone who has had the privilege to stay on this remote island in the Outer Hebrides, where Mr. Mackenzie has his home, they will be more than enough to account for the spirit which characterises this volume. For the Southern Hebrides are one of the few districts in Great Britain where the Reformation doctrines never managed to take root, and where you still find a purely native Catholicism. Without the Isle of Barra I doubt if Mr. Mackenzie could have given us Catholicism and Scotland.
The English Abbey. By F. H. Crossley. (Batsford, 7s. 6d.) Reviewed by R. C. RICHARDS The bulk of The English Abbey is taken up by photographs, pen-and-ink drawings of architectural details, and three excellent ground plans. A commentary has been added dealing with monastic life.
Mr. Crossley has adopted an archxological approach to his subject and treats of monastic remains as traces of some thing long dead and done with. As a result his chapters on Building, the Convent (which deals with the various offices and their holders), and the Monastery are far more convincing than those on the Daily Life and Administration. So the publishers in their blurb can say with all too much truth: "In its pages we watch the stately assemblies in chapter, the cowled processions descending the night-stairs to the midnight matins, and feel the dark chill of the hushed church."
That is, the book is a piece of romanticism, though, on the whole, nice romanticism. But Mr. Crossley himself says when talking of the daily life of the convent, "All this must have led to a gradual numbing of the senses and a dulling of all those activities which make an intelligent mind."
The Grail Magazine, vol. 3, no. 5, is concerned with peace and the forthcoming people's Mass at Westminster. An account is also given of what has been happening at Cleator Moor.