Re Anne Roche Muggeridge.
After reading "A Tribute to Anne Roche Muggeridge" in the September 30 issue of The Wanderer, I pulled my copy of The Gates of Hell off my bookshelves to have another look at it after all these many years. Out fell a page from The Chelsea Journal, (November/December 1975), containing two reviews of her work - one by you, and one by a mutual friend of ours, the late John O'Farrell. I remembered then not only that I had bought The Gates of Hell as a consequence of reading these reviews, but also that I had sided at the time less with Jack than with your more critical appraisal.
Like you, and unlike Anne Roche, I was then less nostalgic for the old Rite than Jack, remembering all too well the Speedy-Gonzales 'low' weekday Latin Masses of old, the verger's policing of us kids at Sunday Mass, the pang of guilt after swallowing some water while brushing my teeth and still receiving communion, and so on. Nevertheless, overall I had very fond and comfortable memories of my Catholic upbringing in the southern Netherlands, and especially at the hands of the Augustinian fathers who taught me at St Thomas College's Gymnasium in Venlo until my family emigrated to Canada in 1957. During Vatican II, I could not for the life of me understand the bitterness of nearly all my relatives at what they termed in letters, and pointed to in highlighted newspaper articles, as the "lies" the Church had 'brainwashed' them with in years past.
You judged Anne Roche's critique of the post-Vatican Church to be overly angry and impatient, and even uncharitable on occasion. Jack was much more complimentary, and concluded that her nay-sayers "will read her with more interest in 1985". In retrospect, I think Jack was rather prophetic. At any rate, when I went back in 1982 to Venlo and visited some of my former teachers (just about the time Geert Wilders would have graduated from my Augustinian alma mater), I was very saddened at the devastation wrought in the wake of the Council in once-Catholic Limburg--comparable to what happened in Quebec.
After re-reading both your reviews, I am now inclined to think that Jack's assessment was more prophetic than yours. I mentioned as much to some friends and mused that, given your own decades-long struggle to defend and maintain orthodoxy in Catholic beliefs and practices as editor of The Interim and Catholic Insight, you might be inclined to revise your 1975 opinion of The Gates of Hell. Some challenged me to ask you exactly that. I said you were a very busy man, but that no doubt you would be remembering Anne Roche in the November issue of your much-needed magazine (the closing date for the October issue having been September 14, the very day of her death).
If so, and if it is not too late, would you kindly include a reference to your 1975 review to 'prove' me right or wrong?
Editor's comment: I cannot put my hand on the book review because my copies of the Chelsea Journal (1975-1980) are in the Basilian Archives. I had asked Prof. O'Farrell to also review The Gates of Hell so as to provide two opinions, rather than just mine.
As to whose review is more prophetic, one cannot decide just yet, I think. Thirty-five years have passed since the review was written which seems a long time, sufficient for a judgment. Still, the post-Vatican period has not yet ended: for example, we are about to get a brand new and far superior English translation of the new Roman Missal; and no doubt other changes are to come. So history will have to wait another 35 years or more.