12 October 2011

Judith Tells Her Parents about Her Conversion

At last Sir George spoke, very calmly as he sipped his brandy.

"Judith, I doubt if you could have done anything which would cause me more displeasure.  You may have thought that because I never talk about religion I am indifferent.  Insofar as this is so, it is my fault.  I am not indifferent.  I despise all religions except one, Roman Catholicism; it I hate.

"I hate it because it is the most religious of religions, carrying escapism from the realities of the world and human needs to the uttermost limits.  I hate it because it is uncompromising, whereas reality is one long compromise with the possible.  I hate it because it exalts suffering instead of relieving it.  I hate it because of its claim to be universal when in fact it is outrageously exclusive.  I hate it because it looks backwards and never forwards.

"Its two pillars are bald, unverifiable statements which it calls dogmas; and an appeal to the superstition of the ignorant, which it calls sacraments.

"When the world is clamouring for social justice, what does it do?  It talks about private sins!  Instead of stretching out the hand to help their neighbours, Catholics clench the fist to beat their breasts.  You have only to look at the slums of Naples and the bogs of Ireland to see how it works.  It creates poverty and ignorance because it thrives on them.

"I need not mention confession except to say that it is a poor specimen of humanity who cannot face his own acts and asks forgiveness for what he cannot undo.

"You say you are going to Mass tomorrow, and I suppose nobody can stop you.  I have had to go dozens of times for weddings and funerals.  The intolerable mumbo-jumbo and mystification of it all!  Is there any attempt to instruct the people or make them perform intelligible human acts?  No!  Are there any prayers which might crystalize the people's consciences on human needs?  No!  Any uplift, any hope?  No!  What is there then?  The adoration of a corpse!  It is the religion of death.

"Yes, so much is it the religion of death that it denies the very process of life-- evolution.  And I am not merely talking about the superficial evolution of matter.  I am talking about the only evolution which could possibly justify religion:  the evolution of man to God."

There was a good deal more along the same lines.  What staggered Judith was that her father might have listened in to Father McEnery's instructions and turned them inside out.  The facts in both cases were the same but produced diametrically opposite reactions.  Precisely what made the religion lovable to Judith made it hateful to her father.  It suddenly struck her: yes, the difference shows exactly what they mean by "grace" and the "gift of faith."

She tried to interrupt a time or two:  "But Daddy, you know, there is a reverse to the coin."  But she was promptly squashed: "I have tossed it and it always comes down tails."  Later she tried again:  "Just suppose, Daddy, that Catholics did suddenly veer round and say that God was point Omega in the evolutionary process; that the social virtues were the important ones; turned the Mass into a ceremony of uplift; became compromising, ecumenical and forward-looking, would you believe in it then?"

Sir George paused for an appreciable time.  He had not expected the question.  But he was both a very intelligent and a very upright man.  "No, Judith, I should still hate it.  In the last resort, I hate it for what it is, not for what it says and does."

"That is very deep of you, Daddy," said Judith perfectly sincerely; "and I suppose it is the same with me.  I love it for what it is..."

--from Judith's Marriage, by Bryan Houghton


Anonymous said...

Thank you TIM MAN, this story has has changed my life, all the way from Europe. THANK YOU!

thetimman said...

You're quite welcome. The whole book is a great little homage to the beauty of the Church and a critique of its senseless autodemolition beginning in 1962.