Groping for a faithvgwoom
TO the discussion on " How Christian is Britain? " the New Statesman and Nation has made a contribution which is well worth noting by those who are interested in the spread of the Faith.
The New Statesman, it will be recalled, recently launched an essay competition on Faith and Reason." More than 700 people, the paper reports, sent in essays stating their own intellectual attitude towards religion.
Summarising the entries, the Editor writes: " The essays showed no religious ' enthusiasm,' but much dissatisfaction with life without
religion. 1 hey were much more critical of rationalist assumptions than of certain orthodox alternatives.
" They showed, as you might expect. that whereas the internal struggles of the past were mainly among people brought up in religious backgrounds who lost their faith. today the internal conflict is rather amongst people who, finding themselves dissatisfied in a sceptical or humanist background, have sought for a religion in which they could believe.
" One candidate wrote : 'For many of the younger generation. embracing dogmatic religion in as positive a step as n the
past would rebellion against it.' Another aptly summed up his contemporaries as ' eager but wary.'"
I think that the above observations are made. if anything more, not less interesting by the fact that New Statesman readers can hardly he described as a cross-section of the British public. The character of the journal being what it is, one would expect to find a high proportion of atheists, agnostics, rationalists and humanists among them and the vast majority presumably move in circles where unbelief is prevalent.
Other side THE picture which emerges is of men and women born into modern paganism but groping for a faith.
Here is the other side of the medal—a picture of young men born into the Faith sliding into paganism. It comes from Nicholas Danby, who until he was called up recently was organist at St. Etheldreda's Church in London.
Mr. Danhy has been good enough to make some notes on the other Catholic men he has met in the Army and their attitude towards their religion and churchgoing.
The number of lapsed Catholics he has met since going into the Forces, hc says, is " very large indeed." For many the only evidence that they are Catholics is on their record cards—not in their t s them into four categories behaviour. eu —whilst stressing that any such categories are bound to he too rigid.
1. Those who because of home upbringing and teaching are almost totally ignorant of their religion. 2. Those who are seemingly well instructed in the Faith but lax in its practice.
3. Those who, although formerly practising Catholics fall off because of the alien atmosphere in which they now have to live.
4. The lazy ones, who do not care enough even to discover where
the camp church is or at what time Masses are said.
Well. all those types are familiar in " civvy street " too. But they emerge as types more clearly and rapidly under Army conditions.
The upshot is that in the experience of this one young Catholic, at any rate, " out of the 3040 or so Catholics that I have met and come in contact with only about four have shown themselves to be good and devout practising Catholics."
Yet it need not be so.
No problem TWELVE months ago, when 1 was living for a short time with the British Commonwealth Division of the United Nations forces in Korea, I was happy to be able to report that, far from our boys falling away from the Faith there they were coming hack to it, so that practically every one whose record card showed him to be a Catholic was being drawn into the practice of his religion.
Boys from Glasgow, Liverpool and elsewhere who had not been near a church since the day they left school because they thought religion was "cissy stuff " were packing the camp Masses to overcrowding.
In this case the explanation was not difficult to find. Two first-class chaplains were doing a magnificent job, half killing themselves in the process but getting the enormous satisfaction of being able to say that far from having any leakage problem they were actually adding to the number of Catholics among National Service men.
Do you remember the Death March to the Yalu River? Mgr. Thomas Quinlan emerged as the hero among the victims of that appalling piece of Communist brutality in the Korea war, His companion on the march and in the years of captivity which followed was his fellow member of the Society of St. Columban, the Australian Fr, Philip Crosbie.
Fr. Crosbie has recently written his story which has been published in Australia under the title " Pencilling Prisoner." I understand that an Irish publisher will be bringing it out shortly.
Unadorned with any literary frills, it nonetheless tells the story, diary fashion, of the appalling experience shared by a mixed group of missionaries of various faiths, diplomats. GIs and others. in grip. ping, straightforward fashion. Look out for it. it shows both the depths and the heights to which men can
Asked for it
COMING back to the New Statesman's "Faith and Reason " competition. one entrant, according to the Editor, summarised the faith of Graham Greene as follows : " Let us go and sin and not enjoy it: then God will punish us and we shall be happy."
Well, although I shall always feel indebted to Greene for whit his novels taught me about the Faith when I was still outside the, Church, 1 have to admit that he asks for it.
Just, for that matter, as he asked for the quiet chiding which Fr. Patrick O'Connor S.S.C.. has given him in a despatch from Saigon.
In a recent article in the Sunday Times Graham Greene made a disparagingreference to " a priest representing some American paper which would have been more fittingly represented by a layman."
It was clear to anyone who knew the situation in the Far East that his reference was to Fr. O'Connor and that he had slipped up in his assumption that the famous priestjournalist was connected with an American paper. Fr. O'Connor is an N.C.W.C. representative and as such writes for Catholic papers throughout the world.
In the Press Club in Tokyo last year I found that Fr. O'Connor was seen by case-hardened newspapermen there as being one of the best informed journalists in the Far East.
Last time I saw him Fr. O'Connor, clearly exhausted by his years in the thick of the battle in Korea and with his arm in a sling as the result of a dislocated collar-hone, was just preparing to fly to Vietnam in order to he in on the seige of Diem Bien Phu.
I don't think Greene's articles in the Sunday Times helped the cause of the Church or of Vietnam very much. But 1 do know that the world would know much less of the sufferings of the refugees of Vietnam if it were not for Fr. O'Connor's recent journalistic activities.