5 June 2016

British and Catholic? (2)

But there is a way in which Waugh does harmonise his Catholicism and his Britishness. He is at pains to present a picture of Catholicism which is comfortable with the English mindset. This he does partly by putting less comfortable manifestations of Catholicism upon the lips of characters from whom the author is clearly to a degree distancing himself, culturally although not theologically. "Mr Goodall was [in church on All Souls' Day], popping in and down and up and out and in again assiduously, releasing toties quoties soul after soul from Purgatory. 'Twenty-eight so far', he said. 'I always try and do fifty'". Perhaps  most significantly, in Brideshead Charles Ryder says "D'you know, Bridey, if ever I felt for a moment like becoming a Catholic, I should only have to talk to you for five minutes to be cured. You manage to reduce what seem quite sensible propositions to stark nonsense." One of the intriguing aspects of Brideshead is that Waugh gives the non-Catholic characters all the best arguments against Catholicism, and, at the end, while allusively making clear that Ryder has now become a Catholic, he never gives the 'answers' to all those earlier descriptions of the case against Catholicism.

There are two very minor details which Potter seems to me to have got wrong. (1) Waugh makes it clear that the priest, working as a German spy, who tried to extract military information from Crouchback, made this attempt, not "in confession", but after Absolution, when the Sacrament is complete, and the priest is no longer bound by the Seal. A priest would hardly put "extra questions ... in confession" to a penitent with the intention of reporting the answers to the Abwehr! (2) Julia Flyte's 'marriage' to Rex Mottram was invalid; it would not have been difficult to establish that she was canonically free to marry as a Catholic. The problem was that Charles Ryder was not free to marry while his wife Celia, whom he had validly married as a non-Catholic, still lived. That is why Julia has to "give up this one thing I want so much".


mark wauck said...

Two links--sadly, more valedictory, even despairing, than anything else:

Walsingham! O Farewell!

Christian Britain is dead

Woody said...

Of course, the Anglicans and the Catholics now have revived shrines at Walsingham, so although the original buildings, especially the Holy House and the massive Augustinian priory, are no longer there in the originals (the arch remaining from the priory is replicated at the Ordinariate's Cathedral of Our Lady of Walsingham here in Houston), there is still a very substantial Marian shrine presence there in Norfolk. One would also want to recall that there are parish shrines, memorials or chapels to OL Walsingham at many places in England and in the US. I have seen several in the Anglican side, and know that there is an Orthodox Church, and I believe, fellowship, devoted to her under that title, as well as our cathedral and shrine here in Houston for us Latins. You can see more of the cathedral by Googling Walsingham Houston and following the link.

Jacobi said...

Waugh also gives one Catholic, that is Julia, the ultimate Catholic and therefore uncomfortable answer and that is the essence of he book.

Cordelio said...

Perhaps it's because I'm not English, but I would be surprised to find that Waugh's portrayal of Bridey was intended to be, on the whole, unsympathetic. If such labels were in vogue in Waugh's day, I think Bridey would be identified as autistic.

Before Charles and Sebastian are caught by Cordelia on the roof, Sebastian explains how Catholics aren't like everyone else because the things that are important to them are different than the things that are important to everyone else. They try, Sebastian says, to hide it (in places like England where there are so few) but it comes out all the time. Bridey seems to be constitutionally incapable of hiding it.

Nothing that Bridey says, either on the occasion that prompted Charles's rebuke or elsewhere in the novel (for example, Bridey's bombshell), is actually stark nonsense. He simply doesn't (and may be unable to) appreciate the impact it is likely to have on his listeners. He's like an Old Testament prophet, dropping truth bombs at the most inconvenient times; except that the prophets seemed, for the most part, sensible of the havoc that their prophecy would wreak, whereas Bridey floats with "log-like calm" over the waves of social uneasiness he creates.

By his own admission, Charles isn't really being reasonable during the time we see him in the novel. The narrator-Charles acknowledges, in perhaps one of the best one-liner arguments for the Catholic Faith ever written in the English language, that the Church offers "a cohesive philosophical system with intransigent historical claims," while admitting at the same time that he wouldn't have cared if someone had told him so at the time. He wasn't looking for truth - he imagined that he was living in a world of three dimensions fully informed by the knowledge of his five senses. He only later learned that there was no such place.

tubbs said...

I fear I shall go to my grave never knowing the truth about the “sacred monkeys."