Saturday, August 10, 2013

William Oddie on Chesterton's Cause

From The Catholic Herald:

Many, many people have prayed, for many years, for the opening of this Cause, without any official response. Now we seem to have one. The Bishop of Northampton (the relevant authority, since Chesterton’s home town, Beaconsfield, is in his diocese), has given Martin Thompson, of the Chesterton Society (with whom he has had a prolonged conversation on the matter), permission to say that he “is sympathetic to our wishes and is seeking a suitable cleric to begin an investigation into the potential for opening a cause for [G K] Chesterton”. So he has not yet opened an official Cause: but he has begun the necessary preliminaries without which no Cause could be opened. This isn’t yet the end of the long years of prayer for a Cause to be officially estabished: but to adapt and slightly reverse Churchill’s famous phrase, it is the beginning of the end, and not simply the end of the beginning (the beginning was ended years ago).

After that Chestertonian turn of phrase, Oddie quotes J.J. Scarisbrick, the Catholic historian and pro-life leader:

“We all know,” he replied, “that he was an enormously good man as well as an enormous one. My point is that he was more than that. There was a special integrity and blamelessness about him, a special devotion to the good and to justice … Above all, there was that breathtaking, intuitive (almost angelic) possession of the Truth and awareness of the supernatural which only a truly holy person can enjoy. This was the gift of heroic intelligence and understanding – and of heroic prophecy. He was a giant, spiritually as well as physically. Has there ever been anyone quite like him in Catholic history?”

And then he cites one of the qualities I've read about often--how Chesterton could disagree with someone's ideas without attacking the person (something we need so much today):

Chesterton, like many great saints (Newman springs irresistibly to mind) was a controversialist in his bones. But no matter how combatively he argued, as Belloc wrote after his death, “he seemed always to be in a mood not only of comprehension for his opponent but of admiration for some quality in him… it was this in him which made him, with other qualities, so universally beloved.” This combination of combativeness with charity was a quality that Chesterton shared with other holy men; it is, indeed, one of the reasons he understood them so well, a clear example of what is termed “connaturality”, the faculty by which one holy man has a special insight into the mind and heart of another; St Thomas Aquinas’s huge productivity, he wrote, could not have been achieved “if he had not been thinking even when he was not writing; but above all thinking combatively. This, in his case, certainly did not mean bitterly or spitefully or uncharitably; but it did mean combatively. As a matter of fact, it is generally the man who is not ready to argue, who is ready to sneer. That is why, in recent literature, there has been so little argument and so much sneering.”

Read the rest here. I have just been reading about the historian J.J. Scarisbrick and his pro-life efforts in Edward Short's new book Culture and Abortion. I had not realized the great biographer of Henry VIII and one of the early English Reformation revisionist historians was the founder of a comprehensive pro-life organization!  Mr. Short sent me a copy of Culture and Abortion, his book of essays from Gracewing Publishers:    
In Christifideles Laici (1988), Pope John Paul II exhorts his readers to recognize that "The inviolability of the person, which is a reflection of the absolute inviolability of God, finds its primary and fundamental expression in the inviolability of human life." For this great champion of life, "the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights ... the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture-is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination." This is the conviction that prompted Edward Short to write Culture and Abortion, a study which looks at how our own culture betrays the inviolability of life by invoking what feminists call 'reproductive rights' to justify killing children in the womb. Examining the scourge of abortion from a cultural perspective, Edward Short draws on history, literature and the encyclicals of popes to show how defending the right to life can help us to reaffirm an understanding of culture that is based not on human pride or human power but on what Pope Paul II calls the "civilization of life and love." Wide-ranging and incisive, Culture and Abortion takes a fresh and provocative look at the often unacknowledged evil that continues to define our culture of death.
Mr. Short has asked me for my honest opinion about his new book and I will offer it gladly soon!

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