As THE POLITICIANS say, I must at the outset declare my interest. As editor of the CATitoLIC HERALD I am in the happy position of being the sole arbiter of what goes into this weekly column of mine. It will, therefore, be quite futile for any enraged reader to write a confidential letter to the editor asking him to sack Desmond Albrow. Even my schizophrenic tendencies (and all editors have them) will not stretch to such limits.
The column will be a personal, as opposed to an official CATHOLIC HERALD, view of life; it will consist, among other things. of the more interesting shavings from the heavier wood of editorial sawings. Usually it will he written in' haste against the clock. Prejudice will, 1 fear,
occasionally insinuate itself into otherwise rational prose.
As a Yorkshireman I may be less than fair to Lancashire: as an Oxford man I may be too prone to see the beam in Cambridge's eye; and as a cradle Catholic suckled in Northern climes and taught much of history by an Irish priest I may be slightly prone to take an Irish view of history. 1 am also virtually tone deaf so there will be no musical criticism unless it is to throw boulders at the Rolling Stones, for even I can recognise their appalling badness.
IWOULD have thought that A the great British Public, with its passion for sport, would have had no doubt about the answer we gave South Africa over its refusal to allow that wonderful coloured cricketer, Basil D'Oliviera, to tour with the M.C.C. in the Republic. But 1 was surprised to find on reading interviews with people in the street on the subject, how many of them were ready to accept this latest piece of South African lunacy. What these good folk obvi
ously did not realise was that the Republic's authorities were, in effect, acting as M.C.C. selectors.
There is nothing like sport for sowing seeds of international discord. If only our cricketers and footballers would spend their time playing politics world affairs would be easier. Why not start the process by electing D'Oliviera as M.C.C. captain for the tour? He certainly couldn't do any worse than some I could mention and it would bring the colour question right into the middle where it belongs. Even South Africa would think twice before telling the M.C.C. to change its skipper.
IF FLEET STREET bar conversations are any guide I must be the only journalist in London never to have been offered a lucrative job by the late Lord Beaverbrook or to be on Christian-name terms at the moment with Lord Thomson of Fleet.. But although I should know that everyone, but everyone, calls the latter "Roy" I must admit that I found the "Roy" and "David" form of address on the Frost Programe recently slightly nauseating.
It's hard, of course, to keep a sense of balance about Lord Thomson (you don't mind me calling you Lord Thomson, do you, Roy?) and I thought that the Daily Telegraph went sadly adrift last week in its treatment of the Earl of Arran's attack on Thomson for his take-over of The Times.
It was hardly worth the second lead on page one of the Telegraph, although Tom Lindsay, the writer, did an excellent piece. If the Telegraph had wanted to build up the prominence of both Thomson and Arran it could not have done a better job, Somehow I don't think that this was the intention of Mr. Michael Berry (1 daren't call him "Mike"). but I am willing to bet that "Roy" and "Boofie" were both delighted.
IF YOU are fascinated by the 'thirties, as I am, and also find Malcolm Muggeridge, as I do, as endearing in print as he is in the flesh and on television, then I can thoroughly recommend The Thirties (Collins, 36s.), by Muggeridge. The book was first published in 1940 and has now been reissued with a scintillating new preface by the author. Perhaps the most staggering feature of it is how well it stands
up to the acid test of history and hind-sight. Yet to me the most revealing thing about the book is the fact that in 1939 Muggeridge wrote as well and mordantly as he does today,
In my innocence I had thought that it wasn't until he had thrown off the heavy yoke of full-time newspaper work that the wit, the epigrams and the marvellous malice began to flow. How wrong I was. Even in those young days the vintage Muggeridge was already uncorked.
Here he is on Ramsay Mac(the Boneless Wonder) and Noel Coward. "Both MacDonald and Mr. Coward had reached the climax of their careers. By routes how different, they had arrived at the same point, the one purveying sentimental idealism, the other sentimental cynicism; sweetly bitter and bitter sweet, my working-class friends and my idling-class friends. This was their supreme moment, higher than this they were not to go."
And how about this: "To the Left Book Club's standard flocked Friends of the Soviet Union, Popular Front advocates, near and actual Communists, all the restlessly progressive who have nothing to lose but their hopes. Providing ideological fare acceptable to all of these, was no easy task."
Read it. You'll love it or hate it
THE RECENT LEI I ERS in our correspondence columns on whether to say "Ahmen" or "Aymen" may be a trivial topic; yet it is one of those things that do irritate people at Mass. A slightly wider issue now that we have Mass in the vernacular with responses by the congregation is the question of accents.
When the responses were in Latin I was never conscious of the voices of my neighbours. but now that we have gone all English I have to stop myself trying to identify my fellowworshippers' origins by the way they say "And also with you."
THREE CHEERS for the Knighthood bestowed on Francis Chichester. If honours went only to people of similar courage and endeavour and not to the dray horses of our political and social set-up then I could support the system— at least until I was,.offered one. S SO often, the Second Vatican Council provides the best point of departure for this discussion. It is commonplace that the full implications of what was said and decided at the Council will emerge fully only after decades, perhaps centuries, to come, The "international" aspect and spirit of the Council, all the same, deserve far more serious and immediate attention than they have been given.
The kind of idealism which prompted Cardinal Ottaviani to call for the "creation of one world republic composed of all nations of the earth" may have beenstrong meat for most of the bishops; they did, however, give their general support to the idea of a world authority with effective power. And in his visit to the United Nations, of course, Pope Paul carried this further, explaining that the message he brought might be called a ratification, a "solemn moral ratification" of that "lofty institution."
After Pope John's decisive assault on the barriers of reserve and mistrust dividing Catholics from full and sincere commitment to the international institutions of the modern world, the Council, notably through the avenues opened up by the Constitution of the Church in the World of Today, finally rejected the inward-looking implications of the imagery of the Church as standing physically apart from the world.
Balancing this development, was the Council's emphasis on the need for an intensification of international co-operation among Catholics themselves, strengthening and enriching their secular activities. Two developments at the Council were particularly important here. First. there was the rapid growth. with extraordinary results of communications between bishops and experts of different nationalities and races in Rome itself. The traditional, vertical lines of communication within the Church were extended, almost overnight. by new horizontal links, and it was above all because of the resultant cross-fertilisation of ideas that the major advances of the Council were achieved.
Next, the Council itself made explicit the idea of cor Judging by the way Catholics write and talk about Catholics at the present time, the answer seems to be "no". It is not only the so-called "institutional" Church in England which has come in for savage criticism; there seems to be general acceptance of all the depreciation of the Church in England of recent years.
We are all familiar with the composition: the feeble intellectual contribution made by born Catholics, as opposed to a handful of literary converts, to the national life; the ineffectiveness of Catholic MPs; the subservient piety of predominantly Irish congregations; the millions of pounds wastefully poured into Catholic education and the dismal "leakage"; the hopelessly conservative hierarchy. And so on and so forth.
None of these accusations is more than a half-truth, as anyone who has studied the ferment in the Church in England since the Council knows full well. The static, inward-looking and bellicose Church in England—so well delineated by Bernard Bergonzi in Encounter two years ago (January 1%5)— Is 'changing very fast, even if not in as revolutionary a manner as some would like.
A most rewarding exercise for English Catholics now would surety be to look at what is newly developing in the Church, and what is being sensibly preserved from the not so despicable past, in the light of what it can bring to closer contact and interchange with the churches abroad.
Not new but generally overlooked, for example, is the way in which co-operation between the Church and State in England in the field of education has developed since the war, up to and including the latest agreement on financial assistance. There is certainly room for improvement, not least for the encouragement of closer links between the denominational schools and their staffs and the maintained schools.
But what Mr. Kevin Nichols (writing in The Tablet) recently called the "finest flower of the English flair for compromise"—the dual system—contains lessons for the effective.jusion of Christian who became bishops. In France—where there is an excellent output of thoughtful writing on the need for the "living parish"—over half the priests are not engaged on active parish work.
This may leave the Church in England, as compared with the Continentals, rather lightweight on the intellectual side, although it is at least arguable that the down-to-earth approach of English theologians provides a useful leaven for French, Dutch and German work.
ERTA N LY, when one struggles with the concepts of the Constitution on the Church in the World Today, admirable as these are, one could wish that the basic draft had been in English rather than French. Nor, finally, should we ignore the stimulating if awkward intellectual flights of the Catholic "new left", apparently revolutionary but—as Michael de is Bedoyere has shrewdly pointed out in Search—in some measure a continuance of the pre-war protest of the distributists, in—of course— very academic terms.
It has been suggested that the Council might have taken a different and even better organised course had English representation not been weakened by the illness' and then the death of Cardinal Godfrey and the comparatively late emergence of the succeeding Archbishop of Westminster. To be sure, anyone who has studied the proceedings of the Council receives the impression that there was a specific English contribution which could have been made but by and large was not, partly no doubt because of the lack of preparation for what kind of Council it was going to be.
There is time for preparation now for the shaping of a specifically English contribution to the world in the ecclesiastical context of the new emphasis on corporate development inside the Church and the secular context of the growth of internationalism, immediately via British membership of the European Economic Community. Merely to think on these lines could give a powerful psychological uplift to the English Catholics, who badly need a fresh sense of purpose and direction, just as Britain does.