17 January 2014

Mascall and Betjeman

Two very different men, two quite different poems. Mascall was not primarily an aesthete; with a precise cerebral logic he really did believe, with a passion for dogma, sometimes demonstrating sharply and polemically his disgust at sloppy thinking and careless expression. In his poem, the supreme irony is in the penultimate word: despite all the Ultra-Catholicism ... the priest had a wife. And remember that Mascall led an austerely disciplined celibate life as a Priest of the Oratory of the Good Shepherd.

Betjeman loved with an all-consuming passion the whole Anglo-Catholic edifice ... but I think he was sometimes troubled by doubts about whether anything was true. If God, then ... yes, the rest all follows ...  thurifers most certainly, and Martin Travers quite definitely, and baiting the Kensitites ... what else are they for! But ... God? And his sensuality, his sexuality, often got the better of him. But how he tried to believe! In his poem, the last line of the last stanza is not reserved for a final waspish irony but for  tear-jerking nostalgia as he recalls the real Faith under all the 'play-time' of triumphalist 1930s Anglo-Catholicism.

The Dogmatician versus the Aesthete, obviously. The Incisive versus the Maudlin??

But both are part of the luggage we brought through Customs into the Ordinariate!


Patrick Sheridan said...

I doubt whether most of your new RC friends would have even heard of them, father.

Don Camillo SSC said...

What a pity, then.

Don Camillo SSC said...

By the way, I'm changing my sign-in identity- but it is still me.

√Čamonn said...

I cannot claim the honour of being "a new RC friend" of Fr Hunwicke's but I am an old RC admirer of his blog; I have certainly heard of John Betjeman - who hasn't? Mascall is well known in RC philosophical circles and his work was recommended to me by the late Fr James McEvoy (Professor of Scholastic Philosophy QUB) as well as +Cahal Cardinal Daly (sometime Reader in Scholastic in Belfast). I admit I had never heard of Martin Travers - I'm not at all well-informed about architecture but what's why I read Fr Hunwicke, since I always learn something new!