Page 6, 21st May 1937

21st May 1937
Page 6
Page 6, 21st May 1937 — IS THE OXFORD GROUP CHRISTIAN?

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Locations: Reading, Paris, St. Louis, OXFORD


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An Analysis

SIR,—Writers in the Catholic Herald on the subject of the Oxford Group, both Miss Doreen Smith, author of the original article, and the correspondents who' criticise the movement, seem to have missed the one point that, more than anything else, brands the Group as completely un

Catholic in outlook. As a journalist I week-ended with the Group (incidentally in one of the most magnificent hotels in the home counties). I expected to find a body of Christian revivalists. I came away with the impression that they were nothing of the sort. Revivalists, yes, but not Christian, and hence, completely unCatholic.

In saying this, and anything else about the movement, it is necessary in fairness to insist that standing for neither creeds, nor theology nor definitions of faith, " Groupers " cannot be described as posi tively non-Christian. But if they affirm no non-Christian doctrines, neither do they affirm doctrines that are Christian. They refuse dogmatic teaching absolutely, and therefore teach nothing at all, beyond a few moral precepts and practices C' sharing," " guidance," " quiet times," etc.) and a vague acceptance of the Bible. To form an opinion of the movement, therefore, one is compelled to judge almost entirely from their activities and practices, presuming that at least these spring from some sort of mass belief, however vague and undefined, that gives the Group any unity it may have. Such a judgment can only result, in my opinion, in the conclusion that the Group is both un-Christian and anthropocentric.

Is the Oxford Group Christian? Although the ideas of the Incarnation and the Redemption seem to be entirely absent from the typical Group outlook it would not be fair to say that Our Lord is forgotten. He is our Guide, we must follow Him, observe His precepts, model our lives on His, and even be saved by Him inasmuch as He can redeem us by teaching us the way to Salvation, but He is not (and again one must insist that the Group does not teach this negation) He is not the God-Man of Christianity. At a Group meeting one hears much about following Christ, about " winning the world for Christ," about accepting Him as Master and Model, but nothing of the Redemption of the world on Calvary, nothing of the Incarnate Word. The reason, I believe, is that the Group is too occupied with man to realise the significance of the Son of Man.

Is the Group anthropocentric? In reply to this question one is forced to a " Yes " by a study of the practices of " quiet

times " and " God-guidance." The " guidance " that is sought in " quiet times " is almost invariably directed towards the regulation of personal conduct, very often in business and personal relationships, and (with exceptions, of course, and remembering that there are no creeds to this effect) rarely towards the establishment of the true relationship of faith and love of man to God. At week-end parties " changed" men relate how " quiet times" have helped them to realise business difficulties and their solutions, and (many of them are employers) how to treat their staffs, business competitors, etc. I heard a prominent business man describe his experiences of being " changed," and he concluded his eulogy on the Group with words to the effect "and it helps your business." (Compare: honesty is the best

policy!) One can hardly fail to come away with the impression that the underlying idea is of a God who is first and foremost a guide, and whose main role is the assistance of man through the tangles and difficulties of his daily life.

The Church alone has the perfect Act of Sacrifice, " the oblation of the just , . . an odour of sweetness in the sight of the Lord." She alone, of all the religions of the world,


SIR,—In your review of Leon Blum's Marriage it should surely have been made plain that, although it has only just been translated into English, it was originally published in France in 1907. To confuse this more or less adolescent essay in psychology with the mature judgment of the Prime Minister of France is, at the least, very misleading. The English publishers are considerably to blame in not revealing the original date of publication.

As a matter of fact the book urns the necessity of united family life, and it is only in M. Blum's doubt of young people's ability to realise this that he differed from the Catholic approach. Of course, no Catholic can possibly follow him in his advocacy of a preliminary period of polygamy, but the fact that he shares the Catholic ideal of a happy undivided wedlock is matter for appreciation, rather than abuse.

Lastly, to describe Lion Blum as a " bourgeois," as did your reviewer, is to use an epithet as grossly unsuitable as it

is fantastically irrelevant. Blum may be a " scoundrel," he may be a " Marxist dog " and a " vile Jew,but that exquisite " litterateur," the student of Stendahl and of Proust, the theatrical critic, the " aristocrat of the Ile St. Louis," is certainly a world removed from the truly " bourgeois" tribe of politicians who, previous to the election of the Popular Front, made French democracy a stinking mockery to the world. Whatever one thinks of Blum's politics, one must admit that he is probably the most cultured leader of French policy since Saint Louis.


[According to our Paris correspondent the book has recently been revised by M. Blum and republished in French and English with his consent. He must therefore still take full responsibility for all its contents.—Editor.] knows with the instinct of Divine Faith that Her sole raison d'être, the sole raison d'être of all creation, is the worship and glory of God. From the Church there appears to be a descending scale of religious bodies in which stage by stage God is gradually thrust out of His due place, forced into the background to make way for the intrusion of his creature, man. At the extreme end is Caesar-worship, Nazi-ism strikes a low note, and somewhere in the middle stand the Oxford Group and similar bodies, placing God and man side by side, with God helping men, but helping him as though he were an end in himself.

Put this to a member of the Group and he would deny it, and that with honesty and conviction. But with him will has stifled intellect. There is no longer any room for affirmations or denials, creeds or anathemas. He has crippled human nature by neglecting reason, and if his action has led him to a heresy that the faint voice of his abandoned intellect would cry against, he may stretch back for a dogmatic denial, but he can't have his cake and eat it. R. P. S.W.

P.S.--Incidentally, if the Group has neglected the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity it has placed great emphasis on the Third (" guidance of the Holy Spirit," etc.), thereby reminding us Catholics of our neglect of the " Forgotten Paraclete."

Catholics and Oxford Group

Sir,—The letters of your two correspondents in the issue of May 7 on the Oxford Group " were both interesting

and enlightening. I met the " Group" about three years ago and, within an hour of my introduction, I could see quite clearly during their efforts to get me " changed" that the " Group" is both an organisation and a religious sect.

At the time, I was at a loss to appreciate why they wok such pains to cover up these facts. Further observation of the " Group," however, showed me that it was consistent with their policy of penetration, by means of cells. into all spheres of life, including the churches of every denomination. Where the Catholic Church is concerned this subterfuge is indeed necessary if they wish to ensnare unwary Catholics who otherwise would not even contemplate active participation with any religious sect outside the Church.


4 Kent Gardens, Ealing, W.13.


Sue—The letter from Mr. A. S. Christie raises an important point to my mind if I have not misunderstood the meaning of the words " Catholic Action." Do the existing Catholic societies fulfil the Pope's idea of Catholic Action? Are they not more in the nature of Catholic activities or action by groups of Catholics than "Catholic Action "?

One cannot help gaining the idea from the Encyclicals that the words " Catholic Action " have a special sense in the mind of the Holy Father. We are repeatedly informed that Catholic Action is the participation of the laity in the apostolate of the Hierarchy: that it is quasi-sacerdotal in character. Now many societies carry out numbers of good works and participate in some aspect of the work of the Hierarchy, but I cannot call to mind any existing organisation that concerns itself specifically with the Apostolate except, of course, the Catholic Evidence Guild. But even here its scope seems to be limited to areas where such public speaking is customary. If Catholic Action is " quasisacerdotal " in character is there any organisation which gives its members a quasi-sacerdotal training? It seems vitally necessary to distinguish between Catholic Action and the auxiliaries of Catholic Action. We have plenty of the latter but I am anxious to be pointed out an example

of the former. Perhaps one of your readers could perform this kind office for me?

Surely in any event it is not up to us to indulge in any pet schemes of our own but to follow the clear directions of our Sovereign Pontiff.


Tetherdown, Arnersham, Bucks,


Sist,—I was not a little surprised to read at the end of James Gilbert's excellent review of the Life of Mark Symons that the writer suffered from " poor English"

and lapsed into " occasional silliness." I do not know what the latter phrase refers to except to some slighting references to the Royal Academy (obviously to be taken cum grano), but the English of this book shows a charm and delicacy of style—to my mind—such as one rarely meets with today:

" The black fir is lovely, but I find it a thousand times lovelier for the golden green of the larch beside it; and that because of the red may near-by; and all of them for the line of grey-blue trees in the distance . • . "

I will quote no more or I may be accused of trying to give a " puff " to the book. But I am not; the book does not need my praises. I am merely amazed that your critic is not alive to the simple charm of many of its passages.

. CHARLES G. MORTIMER. Blackmore Farm, Kidmore End, Reading.

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