Canon F. H.
ENIGMA : A study of Moral Re-Armament. By Sir Arnold Lunn. (Longmans 16s.). THIS. though a hastily written and untidy book. proved an absorbing one for the reviewer, who has never bothered much about MRA. taking it for granted as a modern version of the old 19th century Evangelical movement which was so narrow in some
ways yet so powerful a force for Social betterment.
But apparently the "Buchtnanites" have travelled far from their Keswick source, and have become a broad stream of activity with nothing less than world-remedy as an aim. '[hey retain all the momentum and personal devotedness of their Evangelical origin and many of its minor peculiarities and crudities.
But something has happened to the message. It still concerns chiefly .human behaviour and relationships, but (if the reviewer has got the right hang of things) the platform from which the message is delivered has changed. It is no longer Christian, but theistic.
"Exactly. there you are!" the reader may say. "That's what comes of the inner light-even Christianity gone complete religious indifferentism. just as we warned."
IVait a Minute
WELL. but wait a minute. This
movement is now an organised body (or moral discipline. as it prefers to be called) %%Oh hundreds of whole-time workers and a large headquarters carrsing on a world-wide propaganda %salt a definite moral programme on which men as such can unite: to be exact: honesty, purity. unselfishesess and love. with God's help to be obtained through prayer. If the cloven hoof of •• religious Indifference " is really there it should he recognisable by this time. Yet. de facto. some Catholic Bishops have given various degrees of encouragement to MRA. especialy the Swiss Bishop chiefly responsible as having the, headquarters in his diocese. Numerous Catholics arc amongst the wholetime workers; and if the evidence in this book is to he credited. no Catholic has neglected his religion' through NI RA. but many have been brought hack to their duties through it. and many outsiders have been brought into the Church.
One of the highlights of the book is a hitherto unpublished Report of 12 priests who, along with the Bishop of Lausanne himself, investigated _MRA in 1954 and .decided that it is not a selfsufficing sect and that Catholic contacts with it had brought nothing but good results for both tides.
WHAT about Rome? It is com mon knowledge that in 1951 an instruction was circulated to bishops recommending certain restrictions on participation in MRA by priests. This was made public in 1955. as if to re-emphasize it. Meanwhile lay participation continued to be tolerated except as regards the higher posts and the I.morld-missions," And later in 1955 (according to this book. pp. 62. 143 and 201) a kind of "gentlemen's agreement" seas arrived at with the Roman authorities, that some degree of Catholic cooperation with MRA iIl be tolerated on eight conditions; the Chief condition being to the effect that MRA ill confine its platfaint to the natural moral law and the bettering of human relationships, and refrain from 'any teaching of Christology or use of distinctive C'hristian terminology. This rather reminds one, doesn't it, of the formula which Rome found in order to tolerate the preaching of the la s man Francis of Assisi; he was enjoined not to preach doctrine but only to preach penance. The so-called " gentlemen's agreement," arrived at under the aegis of the Bishop of -Lausanne, is translated in full on pages 201-202. Meanwhile the English-speaking Bishops, understandabls enough hearing in mind its Protestant origins, still look askance at MRA and not only hold to the 1951 decree. but carry it further and disapprove of Catholics participating in it. The italics arc Sir Arnold's. He insists that the English Bishops' oiling most of course he respected but evidently hopes for further development. So. for the moment, you get the unexpected situation that the English Bishops veto participation for fear of doctrinal indifference, while Rome to some extent allows it on condition that doctrine is excluded from the programme. It looks as if ecclesiastical authority, like M RA headquarters, is feeling its %say cautiously. anxious not to quench any spark of good anywhere. Perhaps no one but a Leon Bloy would suggest that Catholic organisation and thought processes might have stiffened so much that the Holy Spirit finds it easier to start a new idea out ide to be baptised later on.
THERE are other things in this A book of course. Especially there is the manful reparation which this journalistic genius feels impelled to make, for the caustic satire he poured upon the movement long ago. There are vivid glimpses of life at Caux, the village of hotels above Lausanne, all now owned by MRA and serving as permanent worldheadquarters. There are also many points MI which Sir Arnold still heelsvery critical. MRA concentrates on the wealthy and influential. (but so did the lirst Jesuits); NI RA is rather all (hut se were the MRA Franciscans): RA voices utopian expectations (but so does the Magnificat); MRA is. in some Way puritanical (hut see hagiology passion!): MRA speakers are too apologetic about the British Empire: they often lack exactness of thought. sense of proportion, and capacity for sell-criticism. Theoretically there seems an opening for friction in the event of "guidance" being tactlessly offered to a Catholic by a non-Catholic " team " (process not clear to the present writer).
RUT all this apparently pales into " insignificance beside the "qualit) of life ", and of loving, that. everybods can recognise in the whole-lime MRA workers.
Another thing which impresses our author is the complete trust in Providence, and the way it is consistently answered by the appearance of material resources when needed.
Above all, of course, MRA seems successful at something which no Church seems able to manage in the present desperate situation of the world-it provides a practical theistic platform on which Mell of all races and religions and political and industrial factions can meet, and work for the restoration of mutual trust and moral discipline. The name "Moral Re-Armament ". adopted in 1938, must now he rather a handicap, as was the case with the earlier name "Oxford Groups", which seems to have earned the continuing hostility of that powerful University. Dr. Buchman's "guidance" may not be infallible in such points. or in any points. hut at 80 he ix still capable of adapting to circumstances. and of epigrammatic leadership such as: " MRA is not another Church, it is a gateway to the Church," The present reviewer repeats that he knows nothing about MRA, but after reading this book one •ie compelled to ask; can it he that the despised Dr. Buchman (like the despised Gandhi. too. perhaps with his new and better way of fighting crusades) has been God's instrument in bringing to birth a new mode of action which can be baptized and assimilated and made permanently available to mankind by the sempiternal Church?
SUCH a question must be in Sir Arnold's mind when he calls his book "Enigma." In the much smaller field of out-of-school education. Baden-Powell was able to work out a framework in which Catholic boys and girls can co-operate naturally with all other Godsbelievers. Can MRA do something similar with grown men and women in the world-wide region of social conduct'? If mankind, or its leaders. could indeed begin to take the existence of God seriously, and bring the " Our Father " and the Sermon on the Mount to bear on politics and industry, there would be more hope for man's terrestrial future. And (we may imagine, too) more readiness to entertain the possibility of some external Revelation, from the God thus realised as a Fact.