Page 2, 10th September 1948

10th September 1948
Page 2
Page 2, 10th September 1948 — THE 3IERCIER AIETHOD

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People: Jesuit
Locations: Oxford


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SIR,-The length of this con, troversy on the conversion of England and the number of proposals it has thrown up. show how hopeles it is to try and convert 40 million people one by one. The reason is obvious : the retail method is bad psychology and worse history or tradition.

Bad psychology, because it either neglects or hurts one of the most fundamental instincts, that of loyalty to leadership, whether political or spiritual. Most individuals are unable to decide on questions that puzzle or divide their leaders, and their conscience tells them to follow those who know or ought to know better. Conversion implies the transference or the destruction of that loyalty. The obstacle is so formidable that common sense should tell us to turn away from it rather than to face it.

That is what the Catholic Church has always done and we have abandoned her tradition. No nation has ever been converted. no Church has ever been founded by individual conversions, except as a first start; the rest has always been left to political or spiritual leadership. No one ever thought of converting dissident Churches individually before the Reformation: they went for the Patriarchs or left them alone. The Vatican Oriental Institute went so far as to discourage individual conversions from the Oriental Churches, except when they were spontaneous. The early Jesuits siways made first for the rulers-Mewl, Chinese, French and others; and to-day they refuse all individual conversions in their Indian missions: the whole village or nobody. Call it "reunion" i' you like; but if you do not like it, it remains common sense all the same.

For the word. or the method, is often misrepresented. Reunion may be impossible with a whole Church, even difficult with groups, but it is in any case a good working hypothesis, because it creates a mentality of good will on both sides, and not even individual conversions can do without a preliminary modicum of good feelings. It is because the hypothesis of reunion necessarily concentrates on common ground, individual conversions must concentrate on differences. As St. Canisius wrote to his Superior General: "Send me men who know where Lutherans and ourselves agree." Such a mentality does not alter facts. I know; but it does alter their perspective and our mutual feelings. That is why an Oxford Jesuit told me not so long ago: "I know of only one method for the conversion of England, it is the Mercier method."

A. GELLE (Rev.)

99, Ridge Lane, Watford.

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