Project Canterbury

Conversion, Catholicism, and the English Church

By Walter Carey, D.D.
Bishop of Bloemfontein

London: Mowbray, 1923.


MY object in writing has been to state certain conclusions which I have come to see and to believe true.

After a great deal of ignorance, bitter ignorance, and doubt of mind I have found in the twin bases of authority a great mental peace, and long to pass it on. I don't want others to go through the anguish of mind I experienced, nor to suffer from the weakness and ineffectiveness which always dogs those who don't know their own basic principles.

I have also seen, again and again, the mental and spiritual paralysis of those who are priests, and yet neither heartily Roman nor contentedly Church of England. They suffer, they grumble, they become defiant, reckless, and insubordinate, and then either join Rome in a flurry of ungentlemanly words and acts, or become leaders of a forlorn band of similar spirits who have no clear and compelling message for the world, but sink into a morass of querulous criticism of the Church of England and all its ways. Every foolish utterance of any individual bishop seems to them the last straw which will break the back of their already groaning and strained faith in their own position. It is a horrid position, and it needn't be. I do want the new blood, the sort of man I loved and taught at Lincoln, to know where he stands at Ordination, so as to avoid these tremors, and I want the laity not to sniff at the Church of England just because they have never boldly explored her basis.

I am convinced that when that position is securely held we can issue forth and teach conversion and the Sacraments and the Christian life, boldly.

But in writing of my convictions I may seem to have written strongly--perhaps too strongly. It is not possible for me to write hesitatingly on what I feel so strongly. I am convinced that a section of the Church is in real danger of swamping the boat. After seventy years of unjust persecution they have won a position: and their very success involves the danger that they may press their principles beyond what reason and history justify. And then some of them go to Rome and leave behind wounded congregations who trusted them, who never would have been in that perplexity if both their priests and themselves had lived on a thought-out basis of adhesion to the English Church.

Although I believe the Catholic Church is a bigger thing than the Church of England, yet I am jealous for the honour of the Church of England. She is the Mother of great souls, and she has a great future. She ought not to be so maltreated by her own sons. So I write strongly because I cannot help it: and I use the personal pronoun for the same reason; it is not dictatorial, but it is more vivid than the third person. And of course I have left out all details. I merely wish to affirm principles. And if in so doing I have unnecessarily hurt any honest man's feelings I am sorry, and ask to be forgiven.

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