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Catholics and fascism.

Saskatoon--The Chesterton Review is one of the surprising success stories of Canadian publishing, an academic journal with a healthy circulation and known around the world. Now in its 25th year, it was founded, and is still edited, by the Basilian priest and professor of English, Father Ian Boyd. The special numbers which he puts together from time to time are collectors' pieces, and this is eminently true of the spring issue of 1999, containing a symposium on fascism and British Catholic writers.

In his introduction, Father Boyd notes that Chesterton died in June 1936, before the Spanish Civil War had begun. Yet he had already commented on the crisis which would lead to World War II. In his view, the Communist menace and the growth of fascism were two aspects of the same problem. He correctly predicted that the next European war would begin at the moment that Hitler and Stalin formed an alliance for the purpose of partitioning Poland.

Kevin L. Morris, writing on "Fascism and British Catholic writers 1924-1939", sets out the problem by arguing that the Catholic intelligentsia showed a much greater attraction to fascism than one would have expected from such civilized and wellinten-tioned people. Belloc and Ches-terton, he says, both praised Mussolini at certain times; and Christopher Dawson in Religion and the Modern State (1935) suggested that Catholic social ideals set forth in encyclicals had more in common with fascism than with liberalism or socialism. Catholics dismissed criticism of Franco's atrocities as Communist propaganda and the Church's prophetic voice was muted while it tolerated fascism, condemned socialism and communism, and criticized liberal democratic society.

Four vigorous responses to Morris provide substantial evidence to counter this indictment. Father Daniel Callam answers the grotesque interpretation of the Spanish Civil War given on the Internet--that sabotage from within the Republic and the combined might of the German, Italian, and Spanish armies, "bankrolled by the endless wealth of the Vatican," put down the revolution. Callam, Peter Hunt, and Joseph Pearce also demonstrate why Morris's view of Chesterton is inaccurate. They also point out that English Catholic sympathies for Franco were not unexpected, given that before the war was over, twelve bishops, 4,184 priests, 2,365 monks, and about 300 nuns had been murdered by the Republicans, facts never reported by the Liberal mass media but well-known to Catholics from their own Catholic papers.

This issue of the Chesterton Review is nothing if not controversial. And Father Boyd is very adept at finding writings of Chesterton himself which are appropriate to the matter under discussion.

Fr. Robinson

In this same issue of the Review, there was another contribution by Father Callam--a discussion of a book on spirituality entitled On the Lord's Appearing. To their disgrace, not one Canadian Catholic newspaper has reviewed it, even though it was written by a Canadian-Father Jonathan Robinson, founder and Superior of the Oratory of St. Phillip Neri in Toronto. Father Callam has the acuteness and intelligence to deal with it on the level it demands; he is very appreciative of the work, but still has constructive criticisms of it. Two quotations will illustrate his overall impression of Father Robinson's writings:

"While there is nothing strikingly original in this study, Robinson has brought together with impressive erudition a wealth of insights that witness to the process by which the soul grows towards a sublime union with God."

"Robinson is writing for ordinary Christians who, with much to repent of, will benefit from his careful analyses of the initial process of conversion and of the means by which it can be incorporated into a developing life of prayer. His accurate and detailed description of the stages of the spiritual life will encourage and safeguard serious Christians on their journey to God."

High praise indeed. (For Catholic Insight's review of this book, see October 1998, pp. 29-30.)


Unfortunately, the Chesterton Review is being moved to Seton Hall University in the U.S.A, now that its editor and publisher is leaving St. Thomas More College at the University of Saskatchewan, its home for the past 25 years.

The Chesterton Review, like the man it is named after, is filled with authentic Catholic thought. What St. Thomas More College in Saskatoon does not want, is much sought after by Seton Hall University in New Jersey. The university has offered the editor a teaching post, and the Review office space. Canada's loss is New Jersey's gain.

By the way, the Review--though a Canadian academic journal for a quarter of a century-never received the usual publication grants from Canadian public agencies which all such journals get. When it applied for one to the Canada Council, the answer was, "No, of course not." Why not? Answer: You are a Catholic journal! That was supposed to be self-explanatory.
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Publication:Catholic Insight
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Sep 1, 1999
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