The Catholic Sun

Wednesday, 26 September, 2018

Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine,
There’s always laughter and good red wine.
At least I’ve always found it so.
Benedicamus Domino!

Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953)

If he were to return to us, what would the Anglo-French writer Hilaire Belloc writer make of the state of the Catholic Church? Would he be plunged into despair by its various scandals? Or would he simply walk away from the Faith? To guess the answer, and to help put today’s trials into perspective, it pays to dip into Belloc’s 1937 book The Crusades: the World’s Debate. In it, he wrote, “Our religion is in peril… There is with us a complete chaos in religious doctrine… We worship ourselves, we worship the nation; or we worship (some few of us) a particular economic arrangement believed to be the satisfaction of social justice…” Twenty years later, he added:

“The Catholic Church is an institution I am bound to hold divine — but for unbelievers a proof of its divinity might be found in the fact that no merely human institution conducted with such knavish imbecility would have lasted a fortnight.”

To understand Hilaire Belloc’s outlook, one needs appreciate the complexity of his worldview: he was anti-imperialist, but doubtful of parliamentary democracy; he opposed both capitalism and socialism, and was suspected of anti-Semitism but was violently contemptuous of Hitler. His Catholicism, however, was uncompromising, and he believed that the Catholic Church provided house and home for the human spirit.

“Gentlemen, I am a Catholic. As far as possible, I go to Mass every day. If you reject me on account of my religion, I shall thank God that He has spared me the indignity of being your representative.” From a speech to the voters of South Salford in response to his Tory opponent’s slogan, ‘Don’t vote for a Frenchman and a Catholic.’ On polling day, 13 January 1906, Belloc, standing as a Liberal, overturned a Conservative majority to win by 852 votes, winning again four years later.

Sunflower


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