EXPRESSIO BONAE VOLUNTATIS
THE CITY OF ROME and all that it represents has been for ages an obsession of our European civilization. Before the birth of Christ, the city itself had already begun to dominate the known world. Mass obsessions of this kind are easy to understand. Even the barbarians, the Huns themselves, when they streamed into Italy, plundering and destroying, were so inhibited by the very name of Rome that they cringed aside from the city that had no defense, and that needed no other defense except her immortal name. Today it is the same thing. Rome obsesses the classical scholar, the archaeologist, the historian. Men still come to Rome as strangers, and then live there the rest of their lives because they simply cannot get away.
Still stronger is the obsession in matters of religion. People come to think of Rome as the center of Christian Unity; the Limina Apostolorum; the Cradle of the Faith and its Impregnable Fortress that has defied all the attacks of its enemies. All this is a perfectly natural inheritance of an historical influence.
A great group of Christians owe an especial allegiance to the Bishop of Rome. Rome is the center of the circle of their faith. Another great group, the Protestant sects, are also obsessed by Rome and by all that they imagine she represents. They are not attracted to a center of unity, but repelled and separated into constantly dividing groups by the power of their repulsion. Love is the moving factor of one obsession; hate of the other. And love and hate are often very close together.
But between these two groups lies another group, the English-speaking peoples or nations who trace their Christian lineage back to the Mother Church of England, the Ecclesia Anglicana. On them the Roman obsession works in both ways: sometimes it repels, sometimes it attracts.
The repelling force does not interest us for the moment. But every now and then some priest of the Anglican communion--or some lay man or woman--yields to the attractive power of the Roman ideal. After all, he or she is only yielding to an obsession of enormous power. If it could turn aside the hordes of the conquering Huns, no wonder if it overcomes the resistances of some modern man or woman who has little or no historical wisdom and who naturally does not recognize an obsession when he sees it. But when such a "conversion" happens, it at once becomes "news." It is splashed over the front pages of newspapers and printed side by side with the latest murder. On the other hand, when some member of the Roman group finds some valid personal reason for leaving it, and for seeking among Anglicans something that he cannot find among Roman Christians, then this is not called a "conversion" (as of course it is not) but at any rate it is not "news." One might deduce, and quite wrongly, that the Romopetal conversions were so rare as to be interesting to the public, while the Romofugal types were quite the contrary.
However, among my own colleagues I find that many of them are "upset" whenever one of their clerical friends "goes to Rome." I find, too, that the Romans themselves take a keen interest, a relatively undue interest, in such cases. Of course, when the former non-Roman has become Romanized, this interest ceases, and the Romans wonder what under the sun to do with him, just as they once wondered what to do with the Christianized barbarians. But the newly Romanized person himself feels exalted; liberated. He has been fighting an obsession for a long time; now he has yielded to it--and this gives him a sense of freedom. Of course, it is not freedom at all. But it feels like it. And he has to tell people how he feels. So he writes a book. There is in existence a whole series of such books, beginning with Newman's Apologia and ending with the last volume written by the last Anglican rector who insists on explaining to the public just how "he found his way home." Home?--he'll never feel at home again in religious matters to the end of his days.
Such books are read once by the few Anglicans who have been personally interested in the writer. I suspect that they are read more than once by the Romans. They ought to be. For they are like the rostra of the captured enemy ships in the Roman forum. Probably they are recommended to Roman seminarians by their teachers as a means of studying the "Anglican question." Perhaps they are even read aloud at meals in the refectory, sandwiched in between selections from the Lives of the Saints, while the reader, who may be of Hungarian, Czecho-Slovakian, or Irish descent, must have difficulty in pronouncing the august names of Edward Bouverie Pusey or Richard Meaux Benson.
Moreover, every little while a number of such conversions are gathered together in an article or a pamphlet, and are waved tauntingly before the noses of Anglicans, especially if a Lambeth Conference or General Convention happens to be in progress.
To anyone interested in mental reactions, this Roman obsession and those who yield to it cannot help but be interesting. It has been my good or bad fortune to know a great many men who did yield. With some of them I was rather intimately associated. It has always fascinated me to attempt to analyze their motives, and to trace the result on their lives of their change of belief. I have not the slightest intention of impugning the conscious motives of such people. No unkind criticism is intended. But if the Romans themselves will persist in assigning these conversions entirely to the faults and failures of the Anglican communion, it is only fair to ask, not as a priest but simply as a psychiatrist interested in history, what the elements seem to have been in the personal situations of such converted men, which ended in so weakening their mental resistances to an obsession, which they had repelled for years, that they yielded to it at last.
All the conversions that I have known to Holy Roman Church from the Anglican communion fall roughly into two classes: First, those conversions that seem to have taken place from purely intellectual or spiritual difficulties, with no intermixture of personal dissatisfaction, disappointment, or failure. And secondly, those that were preceded by situations which contained in themselves the real reason for the change. In this latter class, the reason for the change, in last analysis, is not to be found in any theological difficulty. The change has always been preceded by the gradual development of a situation that involved the man in personal difficulties. Do not misunderstand me for a moment. I am not referring to any moral lapse; to any difficulty arising from some actual wrongdoing. There may have been "conversions" of this kind, both Romofugal and Romopetal. We are not interested in them here; not interested in the type of man who seeks a new position because he has been kicked out of his last job. By "personal difficulties" I mean exactly what psychiatrists call "seemingly impossible situations," which are met by people in various ways. One develops a "nervous breakdown"; another an "amnesia"; another a "depressive psychosis." So many a priest who has met, in his life or in his parish, a situation from which he sees no means of escaping successfully, takes the way out of avoiding the situation altogether by cutting all contacts that connect him with it. He "goes." And incidentally "goes to Rome." In almost every one of the conversions that I have personally known there has existed, often carefully camouflaged, some situation of this kind. This fact involves no criticism of the "converted" man--at least not from the standpoint of the psychologist. He simply met a difficult situation in a certain way, that had been more or less predetermined by his personal powers of resisting emotional stress and strain. It does involve criticism of those who insist that such conversions are entirely motivated by a search for truth and finally happen because the person in question has "found the truth at last." In reality he found it "at first," because it showed him "a way out." Rome has no right to make emotional capital out of the experiences of these men.
There is another type of man who, in middle age, is obsessed by the lust for change. This kind of emotional restlessness overtakes men and women in matrimony, in business, and in religion also. The half conscious desire for some new emotional experience is often overwhelming. And many a Catholic-minded Anglican priest has yielded, under these circumstances, to the Roman obsession, because it seemed to promise him a new life--a fresh experience. And for a time he is carried away by this sense of newness. Archbishops are gracious; even cardinals take a transient interest in the new convert. But very soon the sense of newness disappears. The routine of life makes itself felt once more. And the convert finds that he is doing the very same things as he did before, and becoming just as bored by the sameness of everyday life. He is like a man who has yielded to the lust for change and has divorced his wife because she bored him, and who finds that, after marrying another woman or setting up a mistress, he still has to eat his breakfast every day opposite the same woman. He has merely changed one element in his situation: his human partner. He has not changed, he cannot change, himself or the laws of life--which make success and happiness depend on the acceptance of the law of routine, on the willingness to go on day after day, doing the same things, no matter how wearisome those same things may seem.
Of course there is that second class of conversions--a very small one--which appear to have taken place from purely intellectual motives, although I suspect that if one knew more about these men one would discover, in the situations preceding their conversions, the same emotional and personal elements to which I have already referred. Newman's conversion, for instance, appears on the surface, to have been the result of thinking, not of feeling. And yet one wonders whether he would ever have allowed himself to think himself into Roman obedience, if he had found that the newly launched Catholic movement in the Church of England was popular and generally accepted, if Tract No. 90 had never been condemned by the Heads of Houses, and if he had felt assured that he could go on living a Catholic life in the Church of England without running afoul of bishops and getting himself generally disliked and distrusted. Among all the Roman converts whom I have known, one man stands out, in my memory, as a man who needed no "way out" and who seemed to be acting from motives that had no tinge of egocentric desire to escape from some difficult situation--Robert Hugh Benson. Even his name is still a delightful one for me to remember. I was with him in Rome during the first months of his new life, and I knew how bitterly hard it was for him, impregnated from boyhood in an Anglican atmosphere, to turn his back on his old allegiances and, by his action, to brand his own father as a lay interloper in the ancient see of Canterbury. Yet even Hugh Benson once told me that his first break with his past, his first yielding to the Roman obsession, had come from a purely emotional motive. He had been in Jerusalem. He had seen the Greeks, the Copts, the Armenians saying Mass at their altars at the Holy Sepulchre. He had seen the Roman altar there also. And he, as an Anglican priest, had had to "say his Mass" on a little table, wheeled into some remote corner and provided by the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament, feeling himself an interloper, just tolerated on the fringe of Catholic Christendom. Had he only realized that, in Jerusalem, the Roman altars are not called Catholic, but "Latin," he might have been saved this emotional upset.
However, Hugh Benson illustrates admirably a characteristic that I have persistently noted in almost all the Roman converts that I have known--at least in all those men who had once been Anglican priests. In almost every case their acceptance of the Roman obedience has marked a definite intellectual or emotional loss. When such men leave their own communion, they leave something very precious behind, something that they never regain. Just what that something is may vary in different cases. Often it is hard to describe. Once again Hugh Benson will serve as an illustration. During his last years as an Anglican, he wrote a little book of stories or sketches, called The Light Invisible. I have read, I think, everything that he ever wrote. I followed with increasing disappointment the series of novels that he published after his conversion. For during his Roman years his books had all lost a gracious somewhat. Never again did he touch the heights that he reached in The Light Invisible. His novels are all forgotten now. But this last Anglican book of his is treasured by all those among us who love good writing and who recognize its touch of power and its rare insight into the things "that are not seen and that are eternal." At least twice every year, I read The Light Invisible, although I know it almost by heart. And I believe that there might have been other books like it from the same mind, if that mind had not felt forced to cut itself off forever from the sources of its early inspirations. There are plenty of Roman Catholics. But there are few--very few--people who can write books like The Light Invisible. Ah, the pity of it. And the loss, to those of us who grope blindly after the light invisible, and need so badly a guide to lead us to its source.
As I have already said, the conversion of an Anglican priest to the Roman obedience is always "news." But Anglicans are a reserved people; we are not over-anxious to see our names in print, nor are we good controversialists. It never occurs to us to write pamphlets on "Roman conversions" any more than we write about the Methodist or Presbyterian clergymen who have found their way to us, and who have often become distinguished and useful priests. Nevertheless, there are many of our parishes that carry on their lists of faithful communicants men and women who once owned to the Roman obedience. A Roman Catholic woman marries a Methodist husband. She cannot make him a Roman. But he and she will become faithful communicants of some Catholic Anglican parish. You will find them at Mass every Sunday, and in church on Saturday evenings for their confessions. And there are Roman priests who sometimes seem to find the Roman atmosphere too oppressive. I am not thinking of those Roman priests who want wives and want, at the same time, to remain priests. Nor am I interested, as I have already said, in those men who, after some scandal at home, suddenly lose their faith in Papal Infallibility. The men who come to us from Rome are not all like that, although Rome would wish the world to believe it. There are and there have been Roman clergy who have not wanted to marry and to become Protestant ministers, and who have left their old allegiance and have come to us for motives that no one can fairly criticize. Or, at the very worst, their motives are quite as high, quite as defensible, as the motives of the Anglican priests who yield at last to the Roman obsession.
No Anglican wants to convert Roman Catholics. But it is not fair to magnify the motives of an occasional Romeward-going Anglican as a search for truth, and to decry the motive of the Roman who sets out for Canterbury as nothing but a search for a wife.
Only a short while ago I had the unusual experience of having my Mass served by a Roman priest who was Doctor of Philosophy and Doctor of Sacred Theology also. A scholar and a gentleman. He was waiting until he could be received by an Anglican bishop and able to say an English Mass. He was a philosopher; he had come to us because he wanted to be able to think within reasonable limits--to think without being constantly in fear of ecclesiastical discipline or censure. His coming to us was not "news." He would have been distressed had his private affairs been made a matter of general interest.
I am not writing as a controversialist. God knows I have no quarrel with Holy Roman Church. I am writing, in this chapter at least, for those men and women of my own communion who often become inhibited by the Roman obsession, who cannot shake themselves free from it, and who fuss themselves into Roman Fever because General Convention may pass a new divorce canon, or because some of our Reverend Fathers in God are beginning to copy the Roman censorship, the Nihil obstats and the Imprimaturs of Roman authorities in connection with a new Mass book that is really as old as the hills.
But enough about "conversions" to and from Holy Roman Church. A certain bitterness seems always to cling to the subject. If people would only not try to explain their conversions, the whole subject might be treated, from the standpoint of the behaviorist, in an objective manner. But the moment the convert tries to explain why he has been converted, he is forced apparently to foul his old nest and to make it known just why he could not remain in such an unhygienic spot, even though he happened to be born there. And so he stirs up bitterness--although he may succeed in selling his Confessio or his Apologia. I imagine that Newman did not profit greatly by the royalties on his own Apologia; but he and his book are exceptions.
Ave Roma Immortalis--there is a tremendous emotional power in those three words. But it is the emotional power of an ideal. And it must always obsess those who know nothing of the actual that the ideal covers up and adorns.
Rome, the center of Catholic Christian Unity, where the successor of St. Peter still says Mass over the grave of the greatest of the apostles. An ideal of organization, of coordination, of efficiency in religious matters. Not national, but--in the best sense--international, ecumenical, really universal, and Catholic. Christian worship offered to God by representatives of all nations under heaven; all nationalities offering the same sacrifice in their own way, each in its own tongue. Unity, with diversity. A central authority that speaks with far greater weight than any Delphic oracle; a guardian, divinely appointed, of the Faith once revealed and deposited--a teacher than cannot err. A court of final appeal that must be right, and a great, complex, legal and religious mechanism that has power and intelligence enough to decide justly all the million difficulties of all the thousands of million individual Christians. Here is an ideal indeed.
The Pax Romana. The ideal of it dominated for centuries the civilized world. And it still persists. Yield to the ideal and you will have peace. No wonder Rome is an obsession.
But--and there is a very important but--it is an obsession to only the Western world. Go east of Italy, go where the Roman obedience and the Roman Pax is no longer called Roman and Catholic, but Latin, and then you will rid yourself of the obsession once for all. Of course, one must admit that if we are Anglicans and Catholics at all we are western Catholics. And Rome is the only apostolic see of the West. But why forget Byzantium? Why allow the Roman obsession to blot out the glories of the Eastern empire that flourished long after the barbarians had put an end to the Pax Romana for all time? It is true that even among scholars Byzantine studies have been greatly neglected. But that is being remedied. As a slight antidote to the Roman obsession, I suggest the reading of Anna Comnena by Georgina Buckler, herself a devout Anglican and a great scholar. In your religious thinking set the center of your interest, for a while at least, not in Rome, but in Constantinople, with St. John Chrysostom, with the great bishops of Nicea, with the Catholics of the East. There is the real Cradle of Christianity. If you will think for a while with Byzantium, you will begin to realize that Roman altars are not the only Catholic altars--they are merely Latin altars.
Better still, go to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Such a visit will re-orientate the troubled Anglican better than anything else. You will find there the great altar of the Greeks, the altars of the Copts, the Armenians, and of other Orthodox. And in another part of the church you will find the Latin altar. Watch these Masses. You will, I feel sure, get more sense of devotion, more dignity, more reverence at an Eastern altar. And you will soon have a right to communicate there. For the greatest, the most stirring event in the history of Christendom during this present century is the approaching intercommunion of Anglican and Orthodox Christians. The recognition of our orders by the Eastern Church is of infinitely greater historical consequence than any possible recognition from Rome could ever be. But so many of my clerical brethren pass over these things with a shrug. If the Holy Father made the slightest motion to reconsider the question of Anglican orders, they would ring all their sanctus bells and have a solemn procession with incense. They are still obsessed by the Roman ideal. They had better do a little work in Byzantine history.
Why, then, does the Roman ideal persist so definitely? It is the ideal of Ecclesia Una Sancta Apostolica Catholica Romana. The "Sancta" involves the ideals of beauty--beauty of architecture, beauty of ritual, beauty of the spiritual life. The "Apostolica" connotes unity, organization, historical continuity. And the "Catholica"--the ecumenical--suggests the power of universal appeal, the "ubique et ab omnibus" of St. Vincent of Lerins.
But "Romana!" Because one has repeated and been impressed by the first four adjectives, it seems easy enough to tack on this final one. Really, it is this last adjective that quarrels so fiercely with the other four. Perhaps, not to the Thomistic theologian. But the quarrel is evident enough to the historian. Of course, according to papal pronouncement, it is not permitted to cite history against theological dogma. But one does not cite history; it cites itself.
Is there no other type of Sanctitas except Sanctitas Romana? No other beauty? And something that is universal and ubique et ab omnibus cannot possibly be Romana always.
However, why quibble over words? For the sake of some of my Rome-obsessed friends, let me point out some of the realities that lie behind the ideal:
The supposed unhampered spiritual power of the Roman Pontiff is very limited indeed. The many Concordats that have been made with various governments definitely limit a power that is supposed to be absolute. What is more important to unity of spiritual dominion than the unhampered power to appoint the parish priests--the bishops themselves? Few people have really read through the latest Concordat with the Fascist government. The government ultimately selects the bishops and parish priests. And the Spanish Concordat, in effect until the late peaceful revolution, is infinitely more drastic. Anglicans often wail over the fact that English bishops are appointed by a Prime Minister who may be a Nonconformist. They think that in Rome--ah, there things would be different. Yet things are not different there at all. The Holy Father may talk about jurisdiction, and insist that he could withhold the pallium from an archbishop of whom he did not approve. But the State would probably make short work of such a suggestion. How would we Anglicans in America like it if the Governor of New York State, who might possibly be a Holy Roller, could send to our House of Bishops three names for the vacant bishopric of New York, one of which the House had to accept? What if he could name our parish priests? No, the disgruntled Anglican will not find in Rome that unhampered central authority that stands out so prominently in the Roman ideal.
And then that attractive sense of unity that fascinates many an Anglican wearied by the parties and cliques in his own communion. Of course in Rome he will find an external unity. There every priest says Mass in the same way. That was not true some hundreds of years ago when, before the Reformation, there were as many ways of saying a Catholic Mass as there are in the Anglican communion today. But gradually the so-called Roman rite has supplanted almost all local liturgies and rituals, so that there exists now an external unity that appeals to the puzzled Anglican. But this ritual unity, this external unity of dogma, is only the external clothing; it covers all kinds of human bodies, all types of human minds. And minds and personalities vary just as much among Roman Catholics as they do among Anglicans.
Two priests may say successive Masses at the same Roman altar. The first may be a strict fundamentalist. The second may be as liberally minded as the editor of The Churchman; he may deny all supernatural nature to the Church, consider it merely as a human society, and have no definite belief in the Real Presence, even though he will genuflect after the consecration because that is part of an ancient traditional rite. Anyone who has ever had an experience of seminary life knows how the Jesuits are often at odds with the local Ordinary; how Dominicans and Jesuits love and discuss one another; how powerful the Modernist liberals were at one time not so long ago. Men like Hermann Schell, [Apologie des Christentums von Hermann Schell, Professor der Apologetik an der Universitaet Wuerzburg. 2 vols. a ed. Paderborn. Schoeningh. 1902] professor of Apologetics in Wurtzberg, were quite as liberal, or almost as liberal, as the Lord Bishop of Birmingham. Schell was persecuted and finally downed, just as the Lord Bishop may be downed some day; but there he was once a professor in a Roman seminary. There have been, there still are, so-called Liberals among the Jesuits themselves. But any external uniformity of ritual action covers all these natural diversities, and gives to outsiders an ideal of unity that is not borne out by actual experience.
In the realm of theological dogma, the ideal of absolute unity of concept is humanly impossible. Yet many disturbed Anglicans imagine that such unity is not only possible but actually at hand, just around the corner in the nearest Roman Catholic church. But human minds vary, in Rome as well as everywhere else. Nevertheless, the Roman Church has learned how to produce at least an external shell of unified dogma. Or to use another simile, she has built around herself an enclosing wall that impresses the outsider. Once inside the wall, however, the newcomer will find the same variations of human thought that bothered him so greatly while he was standing outside.
For example: The Council of Trent, in defining the doctrine of Purgatory or the Intermediate State, is careful to limit its definition to two facts--that there is a place called Purgatory,8 in which the departed and saved souls are prepared for the Beatific Vision, and that, while there, they are helped by the prayers of the faithful and the offering of the Holy Sacrifice. [Canones et Decreta Sacrosancti et Oecumenici Concilii Tridentini. Editio Stereotypa. Ratisbonae. G. J. Manz. 1888. See Sessio XXV, Decretum de Purgatorio. pp. 161-62. "purgatorium esse animasque ibi detentas fidelium suffrages potissimum vero acceptabili altaris sacrificio iuvari."] Beyond these simple limits of definition there is endless room left for differences of opinion about what happens and how it happens in Purgatory: what the method of "preparation" is, what it involves, and a thousand other questions. Again; the Vatican Council pronounces that the Holy Father is infallible when he speaks ex cathedra. But among Romans you will find all shades of opinions as to what ex cathedra means. The Pope is infallible. Quite so. But when?
Moreover, Anglicans do not realize that Roman theologians may teach inadequate dogma for centuries, and finally be quite willing to admit that they have been wrong. The new teaching about the nature of the Sacrifice of the Mass, as set forth by that great Jesuit theologian, Professor de la Taille, stamps as fundamentally erroneous the teaching of Suarez and other equally great theologians whose definitions have been accepted and taught for centuries in Roman universities and seminaries. So, for all her claims, Rome herself may possibly have accepted and taught dogmatic concepts that are proven inadequate by better informed theologians of a later day. All this is perfectly natural. It is what one would expect of any group of thinking, intelligent men. But it is just this same human variation that disturbs the uncertain Anglican who is seeking a uniformity of Christian thinking that would be only possible among a group of theological robots.
Again, the Anglican is often obsessed by the ideal of Rome's ecumenical supra-nationalism. She seems, from the outside, to rise above all purely national interests. She is interested, not in Frenchmen or Germans, or even in Americans, but only in Catholic Christians. Anyone who has ever lived for some time in Rome knows how little truth there is in this concept. Roman Catholics who extol the non-national atmosphere of Rome, when they are talking with outsiders, are eager enough, when left to themselves, to lament the dominance in Church government of one particular race and nation. If one lives in Rome long enough, one will surely come across at some small pension, an unhappy bishop, from some distant country, who has come ad limina apostolorum to give an account of his diocese and who finds as little understanding of his difficulties among the great and courteous cardinals who receive him as a small manufacturer from Zanzibar would find among the directors of some great New York bank. It is not the fault of the cardinal or of the New York banker. It is the fault of a system.
Why is it that Roman bishops pick out the best men among their candidates for Orders and send them for several years to a college in Rome? The candidate who during his years in Rome does not learn to speak Italian fluently, and who does not make there some useful friends, will never be a bishop. Why is the rector or the vice rector of some national college in Rome so often chosen as a bishop for some vacant diocese in his own country, although he may not have set foot in that same country for years? The Italian element dominates the Sacred College. In Rome, the center of all real Roman Catholic action, it dominates everything.
Again let me protest that I am not criticizing. I am merely attempting to state historical facts. The center of Roman Catholicism is not really supra-national; it is distinctly national, almost provincial. How could it be anything else? If one likes Italians and can live happily with them--why then, an Anglican convert who has money enough to spend the rest of his life in Italy may be very reasonably happy. But he is an exile just the same.
Other Anglicans are impressed by what one may call the moral unity of Roman Catholicism. It is impressive. But, in the last analysis, it becomes too legalistic--too careless of the individual in its effort for the maintenance of an absolute moral code. The trouble with many disturbed Anglicans is that they do not know much moral theology anyhow; and they do not know Roman moral theology at all. Of course, in such difficult questions as that of Birth Control, so-called, the clear-cut pronouncements of the Roman Church are impressive and inspire intense respect. But, as the Lord Bishop of Birmingham said at the last Lambeth Conference: "In such matters, the Church of Rome maintains a very high moral ideal, but a very accommodating practice." Personally, this accommodating practice, that takes into consideration each individual case while maintaining a definite ideal, seems admirable to me. But nevertheless no Anglican ought to be tempted Romewards merely because Roman moral theology is better codified than Anglican teaching along the same lines. The fact remains that the legalistic traditions of Roman morals, with all their hair-splitting distinctions, will never appeal very much to the English-speaking races. The disturbed Anglican had much better remain in his own communion and devote himself to working out a moral theology suited to his own people and his own time.
Then in Rome there is the ideal of beauty. To appreciate what this means one must have seen some great cardinal priest, like Cardinal Merry del Val, pontificating on Easter morning in St. Peter's Basilica. An Anglican bishop, in a black magpie, hurrying up and down a line of kneeling candidates for confirmation does suffer by contrast. But the comparison is unfair. A Roman bishop in some small American diocese, administering the same rite, is not much more beautiful than his brother, the Anglican Episcopos. And most of us have seen, in our own Anglican churches or cathedrals, ceremonies quite as impressive, and often much more beautiful, than anything that Rome can offer. What beauty Rome itself--the Eternal City--has to give is the beauty of the past. We Anglicans are, or we ought to be, more concerned with the creating of beauty for the future.
Finally there is the ideal of sanctity. It is a commonplace, a very vulgar commonplace of anti-Roman controversy, to paint Rome as a sink of iniquity, to believe that all Roman bishops are simoniacal and all Roman priests immoral. Nothing can be further from the truth. Human nature is more or less the same all over Christendom. Neither Rome nor Canterbury nor New York has any monopoly of immorality. So I believe that any Anglican who really desires to increase in the way of holiness can find just as safe spiritual guides among his own clergy as he could find at the nearest Jesuit college. There is no greater proof, to my mind, of the reality of Catholic faith and practice in the Anglican communion than her power to develop the spiritual lives of her children. One sees it so often among our Catholic-minded laity. And anyone who was present at the open air Mass of the last Anglo-Catholic Congress in England must have been almost overpowered by the white heat of devotion that seemed to emanate from the great crowd of lay men and women--phlegmatic English people, people of a supposedly Protestant country; and yet--so great is the power of the Catholic faith--all burning with intense devotion to their Eucharistic King, like a mass of colorless, smokeless flame rising straight up to heaven.
Looking at the entire question from the standpoint of the historian and of the psychologist, I cannot believe that the atmosphere of the Roman Catholic Church will ever become permanently livable for the great masses of the English-speaking peoples. The Frenchman knows no other form of Christianity; if he believes anything he is a practising Roman Catholic. He has breathed that atmosphere for generations. The same is true of the South German, the Austrian, the Belgian, the Italian. But we English-speaking races are, in many ways, a peculiar people indeed. For some strange reason we are not at our ease among Europeans. A form of religious belief, which is intimately associated with the prominence of any one European nation, will never satisfy us. It is idle to talk of a renewed and readjusted Rome, of an English Pope, of a leavening of the European loaf and its overpowering smell of Italian garlic with the leaven of English or American thought and activity. Such a change might be possible. But Rome changes slowly. And if such a change should ever come I believe that it would come too late.
In the Church of San Silvestro in Capite, in Rome, there is a great statue of Our Lady, before which generations of English-speaking Roman Catholics have prayed for the "conversion of England." By that they mean the submission of English people to the Roman obedience. So many, many, earnest prayers have been offered there. But England and America are unconverted still. In England itself, the Roman Catholics are like a small, foreign body that has found room for itself in a human organism, but that does not assimilate itself to the other cells or to their activities. The Cathedral of Westminster was made purposely as utterly unlike every Anglican cathedral as possible. It is a symbol and a permanent one. In our country, the great body of Irish people that forms the backbone of Roman Catholicism is, in many ways, an entity in itself. Not infrequently one hears the boast: "I am not American; I am Catholic and Irish." And I know of Roman institutions here in America that scorn to keep Independence Day as a holiday. This does not mean that Irish Roman Catholics are disloyal. Not at all. It only means that their sense of tribal unity is so great that they form, in spite of themselves, a sort of fenced-off group that hangs together through ties of nationality and--of religion.
Let me speak, then, directly to every fellow Anglican who is at the present time troubled by the obsession of Rome. Let me assure him, first of all, that what I have already said is not written in any spirit of controversy. Nothing would please me more than to live quietly in Italy, as a good Roman Catholic, enjoying the glories of Rome, making novenas to St. Catherine of Sienna, and striving to grow in grace under the spiritual direction of some learned Jesuit or Dominican. But I know that this is something that I cannot do. I do not think so. I know it. And what I have written I have tried to set down objectively, not for my own sake, but for the sake of those of my fellows who are, for the moment, not at ease in Zion.
You say that you have doubts about your Orders--that you think you may be disloyal to the Anglican communion because of your love for western Catholic faith and practice. You feel that you ought to make some decision, to do something about it. You exhibit all the mental symptoms of a man suffering from a mild obsession. Well, don't be afraid of it. Admit that you are obsessed by the thought of Rome; that you want to get rid of it, and be at peace again. The one way NOT to get rid of it is to yield to it. The more you yield to obsessions the stronger they become. Let us examine this thing that obsesses you. It is very old and very powerful. It has dominated the western part of Europe for centuries. But read what I have already written. Try to understand that you are obsessed by an ideal which does not really exist. You are like a man who is afraid to drive his automobile because he is obsessed by a fear of running over someone by accident and being carried off to jail as a "hit and run" driver. You want to yield to your obsession by getting rid of your Anglican motor car at once and never driving it any more. But you live a long way from your place of business. You have to get to it every morning. If you give up your car because you are obsessed by a danger that does not really exist--then you will have to travel in a trolley or in the underground. And I want you to realize that these means of transportation are much less satisfactory than the automobile that you are so anxious to get rid of.
But seriously, if you really consider yielding to this Roman obsession, do look into your own life a little and try to discover what your real motives for yielding are. There is only one adequate motive: a humble desire to do the Will of God. If that is really your motive, then Ave atque Vale. But I hate to see you go, because I know exactly what you are going to experience. And I know that in going you will lose a precious something that can never be replaced. If you are an Anglican priest, and if you have taken advantage of the lib-berty reserved to you in Article 32 of the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, then you must drop back into lay life, and if you have ever had or thought you had a real vocation to the priesthood you will drop back into a living hell. "Converts" are nothing new to Roman bishops; but they are often a tremendous bother. How to find a place for you? At last a place is found, and in a year or two from now you may be teaching history in some small Roman school or college, where your colleagues, who were "born free," will look down on you as a converted Protestant, and be suspicious of you because you are a graduate of some really important university. And your wife--but then, if you once thought you were a Catholic priest you ought never to have had a wife. Now that you are a Roman Catholic layman your wife will probably have a much harder time than you yourself. All the harder, if she has refused to make her submission to Holy Roman Church. Nor, from a worldly point of view, do I envy you if you happen to have believed in the celibacy of the clergy. You will go, if you can find a bishop to accept you, to a Roman seminary. This will be good for your pride, and will not do you any harm. But at your ordination to the priesthood, I wonder how you will feel. Other episcopal hands had been laid on that same head of yours before the Roman bishop lays his on the same spot. Nor do I envy you the experiences of your first Roman Mass. Later on I may meet you as a curate in some city parish. I shan't ask you about your life in the clergy house because I know exactly what it will be like. But I shall want to ask you whether you are now, at last, after all these readjustments, really at peace in Zion. And you will answer, as you will be bound to answer: "Oh, I have never, never for a moment, regretted the hour of my conversion." And I shall go away rather sore at heart, for two reasons. First, because you have exchanged a field of wide usefulness to struggling immortal souls--souls that only you, as an Anglican, could reach--exchanged this for a very limited scope of activity, in which the youngest new priest from Ireland, with the sacred chrism scarcely dry on his forehead, could do just as well, if not better than yourself. And secondly, because in protesting about that "never to be regretted hour" of your conversion, you have, as psychologists say, "over-compensated." You have protested too much, and I know now the exact measure of your present peace.
Historically and psychologically, Rome does not understand the English-speaking temperament. She has no place for it; she does not know how to use it. And in a Roman atmosphere that same temperament is inhibited, always ill at ease, never "at home."
Speaking again as an historian, I see no difficulty in accepting the so-called Petrine claims, from the actual presence of St. Peter in Rome down to the primacy of the Roman apostolic see. My difficulty, and the difficulty of all Anglicans, is really not historical but psychological. It is not so much a matter of the intelligence as of the emotions. It is the ethos of Roman Catholicism that makes her atmosphere impossible to the minds and the personalities of English-speaking peoples. No Italianated form of Christianity can ever satisfy them. An Inglese Italianato may not be, as the proverb says, "a devil incarnate"--but he is an exile and, psychologically, in a persistent state of mental conflict. And where there is mental conflict there is no automatic activity; and without automatic unconscious mental and physical activity there can be no mental health, no efficiency, no happiness, and surely no peace.
Expressio Bonae Voluntatis. That should be our attitude toward Rome and all that she represents. Toward her worst, and toward her best. When she is at her best we can frankly say: "Si talis fuisti, utinam vester fuissem." When at her worst, better say nothing. Nevertheless the Good Will remains. This very wish, in those brief Latin words, makes plain the impossibility of her being noster or of our being vester. When all is said, one can add only: "I am sorry. But you are not of my house. If you would only come in, if you would share our life and live yourself with us, then I might come to know you so well that I could, at last, enter your house and not find myself a stranger. On the other hand, you ask me to enter yours on certain conditions that force me to forego my own home and to make myself an exile there. That I cannot; that I dare not do. I have no right to make myself a stranger to my own people."