Page 1, 15th October 1943

15th October 1943
Page 1
Page 1, 15th October 1943 — H. G. Wells writes to us
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Uestion Of T E Week

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H. G. Wells writes to us

HIS LEITER THE EDITOR'S ANSWER

do not ask how far the Faithful are free to insult and

condemn the critics of their claims unheard, but it seems to me that you exceed the limits permitted to Christian charity and candour in your treatment of my very sympathetic record, Crux Ansata, of the dissensions that tore asunder the great and inspiring idea of the City of God. So far from being an angry book, unless the reader is very obtuse, there is a fair amount of cheerful derision in it, as anyone who is permitted to read it will realise. It is deplorable, perhaps, that I have always been disposed to laugh at pontiffs and priests, but laughter is not anger and there is real respect and empathy mingled with any cheerfulness

if you will read the book.

You denounce me as an old man, but it is not necessarily an offence to be old, You may live to be old. You will know better than I do the average age of the Roman pontiffs. Were they so very much younger than I am? Will you tell me? Even your brilliantly witty Era Juniper's happy laughter, associated as it is with the frantic demands of the Rev. J. A. V. Burke for the prompt suppression of my book (which probably he has not even looked at), seems to me a trifle ungracious when it is aimed at an old gentleman presumably on his way to the eternal agony of hell.

FORBIDDEN?

I do not know how far the Faithful arc permitted to read a book before they condemn it. Ate they allowed to read it through or must they judge it under instruction or decide it is all wrong before they arc permitted to read it? Which is it? I should be so glad to know just how you manage these things, If it evokes " merry laughter in clerical circles " I see no reason why you should not assist the Protestant Press Bureau in spreading the enjoyment as widely as possible. You will be able to rejoice over me for time without end, and surely I merit a touch of kindliness for that. There you will be in your heaven and I shall be eternally contributing to your glee. Or am 1 misinterpreting these guffaws of Era Juniper 7 In Crux ,4nsata I have done my best to get you right. Read it, read it through, take it statement by statement and tell me where I have got the Catholic clergy wrong. I shall be damned if you don't. Is it in order if I ask not (or scornful jeeting, but, before it is too late, for the prayers, candles, masses, intercessions of the Faithful for the soul of

Yours very sincerely, H. G. Weits.

13, 14anover Terrace, Regent's Park, N.W.l My dear Mr. Wells, What I can't understand is why you ate so frightfully ignorant about us. Before attacking a person or an institution it is only commonsense—as well as normal courtesy—to inform oneself about him or it. I suppose you rely on books, and probably those kind of popular, horizon-sweeping efforts of the imagination for which you have become famous since you gave up writing firstrate novels. This is a tragedy, because as an experienced novelist you are certainly capable of judging the worth and soundness of a man. An hour's conversation with Fr. Martin D'Arcy or Fr, Heenan would give you a totally different idea about us. Or if you can't get over your tendency to laugh at priests, I would be only too glad to do what I could over lunch one day. Is it a date?

HE WOULD LEARN

Among other things you would learn are the following: (I) No Catholic worthy of the name possesses either the right or the remotest desire to judge of the state of your soul. Hence it never occurs to any of us to think of you as " an old gentleman presumably on his way to the

eternal agony of hell." The average Catholic is far more worried about his own ultimate fate than he is about that of anyone else. He is worried about himself because it is his business to be worried about himself, whereas the soul of his neighbour is not his business, but hie neighbour's. But he is always ready to give any help, by prayer or advice, to ensure that his neighbour—of whom God alone is judge—does save his soul. I am only stating what I sincerely believe when I. say that I think it extremely likely that when Almighty God in His mercy comes to judge you and me He will find you worthier of salvation than He will find me. There are many reasons for this view, but the most obvious is that I know myself and how little indeed I must be worth in the eyes of the all-perfect God, whereas I don't know you. You alone can know that. This by the way is the real meaning behind " the prayers, candles, masses, intercessions of the Faithful " to which your present ignorance of us makes what appears to be a mocking appeal.

THE INDEX

(2) Another thing you would learn if only you take the trouble to talk to any of us is that Catholic censorship of books is the prerogative of the ecclesiastical authorities. As far as I am aware none of your works have come within this ban. At the present time about half-a-dozen books a year are listed in the Index, and most of them arc theological or devotional works written by Catholics which look very orthodox, but in fact are not. I happen recently to have published a 'little book, and I can assure you that the chances of its being put on the Index are greater than the chances of Crux Amstutz. My hook looks right, 'but if far more learned men than myself came to the conclusion that it was all the more dangerous because of that they would be acting very intelligently in warning people against it. Yours, you sec, doesn't even look right. Notices in Catholic papers have exactly the same ecclesiastical significance as notices in any other paper.

(3) Lastly, you would Team that Era Juniper is a contributor to the Universe and not to THE CATHOLIC HERALD. And if you think that they are really the same thing—well, let's add the Editor of the Universe TO OUT proposed lunch!

All this being understood. I admit that our reception of your book—not to mention letters about it which we have published—fell short of Christian Charity. Lack of space is partly to blame for this. It would need some twenty or thirty columns to deal with it point by point, demonstrating its errors and acknowledging such merits as it may contain. Besides we are but human and apt to defend ourselves. like naughty animak. when we are attacked. Our corresponslents references to your age were not in the best of taste, but the idea, I think, was that you might have been expected to attain to greater wisdom—and above all greater knowledge of those you choose to attack— in your long and distinguished span of life.

But I note that you describe yourself as " Yours very sincerely," and I can assure you that I too remain Yours very sincerely, THE EDITOR.




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