2 March 2014

Dixit Veritatem

In 1933, Dr N P Williams edited a volume entitled Northern Catholicism ..., in which he himself contributed a preface on 'Northern Catholicism'. Dom Gregory Dix wrote a review of this piece in the Nashdom Abbey periodical Laudate (which has long been out of print).

Dix, without much evidence, regarded himself as being of French origin, and very definitely as a 'Latin' Christian. The idea that, in Scandinavia, one might find a version of Catholicism which was manly and masculine and free of the superstitions of  flabby feminine 'Mediterranean' Catholicism, filled Dix with that combination of fury and satirical wit which so often resulted in his best writing. Sometimes he would quip that there once was a Nordic Catholicism; and that its decadence was one of the things that made a reformation necessary in the sixteenth century.

After a few witticisms about Nazi Racism, the Call of the Blood, and Heil Hitler, Dix in his review quotes Williams:
"the essential religious genius of the Northern peoples, where it finds unfettered expression ...[is] of a mystical and soaring quality appropriate to dwellers amidst the less genial aspects of Nature and beneath 'grey and weeping skies' - a quality which urges it to pierce straight upwards to the ineffable Godhead itself, and forbids it to take over-much delight in symbols, or to rest with satisfaction in material objects of devotion".

This risible tosh inspired Dix to comment: "It is a vivid and sympathetic picture. One can almost see these mystical and polygamous freemen at their simple devotions, and catch the rustle of their golden beards as they bend forward to breathe unsuperstitious prayers into their winged casques, seated on damp logs beneath the grey and weeping dome of heaven". In conclusion, Dix, referring to Horace's XVIth Epode, needles Williams with the suggestion that he might situate his Northern Catholicism in the non-existent Happy Happy Isles ... if only he will be prepared to take advice from a Dago poet (History does not record that Horace was a Swede).

Perhaps I ought not to be too hard on Nippy Williams; after all, he used to help out at S Thomas's. And he was a theologian of distinction. I believe he was so upset by Gregory's tour de force that he never spoke to him again. But the plain fact is that Dix exploded what was in reality just one more among the endless Anglican attempts to dream up some alibi for declining to accept the 'claims of the Roman See'. In this futile search, Nippy fell victim, in that very nasty decade, to a whiff of the very nasty 'Aryan' myth. Not nearly as badly as did some of the great names of up-to-the-minute German New Testament Scholarship, with swastikas framing their Fuehrer-worship and their Aryan Jesus in his Gentile Galilee. But even in 1933, when the Extermination Camps were nothing more than a perverted gleam in the Fuehrer's eye, Dix saw through it all. Because he was a papalist.

Dix's summary? "Truth will be held most entirely and in due proportion in a Church which is truly 'Universal', supra-racial, and unaffected by the transient spirit of a particular age".


William Young said...

When will someone do the same for the "Celtic Church"?

Little Black Sambo said...

When will someone do the same for the "Celtic Church"?
Excellent observation! Fr. H. himself has let off a few squibs in his indispensable Ordo. Perhaps he is the man.

Little Black Sambo said...

When will someone do the same for the "Celtic Church"?
Excellent comment! Fr. H. himself has already let off the occasional squib in his indispensable Ordo. Perhaps he is the man.

Joshua said...

Welcome back, LBS!

Fr H. was just wondering where you'd got to.

Melinda said...

Pun--er, fun--title...