Sir.-1 read with interest Miss Doreen Smith's article on the Oxford Group. 1 am in complete agreement with her that " the Group is out wholeheartedly to win the world for Christ " and that " the sincerity and good faith of its members are beyond dispute." The Oxford Group is undeniably a strong moral force and achieves praiseworthy results. It is averse to divorce and bincontrol, and so merits our respect. The zeal and untiring efforts of the Ciroupist can, more often than not, put apathetic Christians to shame.
On the other hand, if one looks round, there are other sects and revivalist movements whose members are just as sincere
as those of the Oxford Group. These, however, do not make such a stir as the latter since they have neither its attractive manner of approach nor the same proclivity for self-advertisement and spectacular conversion which the Group achieves as the result of a complete understanding of the use of controlled mass psychology.
Miss Smith points out that " it is idle to imagine that a Catholic who consistently practises his religion will seek a supplement to the eaith in a religious crusade outside the Church. for he knows (unless he is a fool) that his heart and mind and will can—and indeed must—be changed ' in their very essence if he is to be a Catholic iu anything but name." This is very true and yet the groupist is ever anxious to "change "—and to create opportunities for attempting to " change "—Catholics to the Buchmanite school of thought. The Group boasts of its Catholic membership, but this is a little misleading since they confuse Anglicans with Catholics and are unable to discriminate between slack or apostate Catholics and practising Catholics.
But if, as Miss Smith thinks, the Oxford Group has come to stay, it might be well for Catholics to know a little about the Group in order to be able to help any misguided Catholic who may feel tempted to " seek a supplement to the Faith."
Most people are aware that the founder of the Oxford Group is one Dr. Frank Nathan Daniel Buchman, an ex-Lutheran minister, who began his " changing " campaign in 1908. There is no need to dwell on his activities. Let us come immediately to the point where Catholics might be misled. We are told that the Group is neither an organisation, sect nor religion and, in the most disarming manner, we are invited to a " house party " or a drawing room meeting. But, let us consider all this.
The Oxford Group appears to be as well organised as any other revivalist movement of its kind. Was not Miss Smith able to " ring up headquarters "? And Was not a little luncheon party immediately arranged with a picked Anglican and Methodist in demonstration of how all denominations can co-operate in the Group? Are they not hoping that one day Miss Smith, as a Catholic, will become "changed " and "co-operate " with them also? The Oxford Group movement is organised on the most up-to-date lines with cells (groups) as the basic units.
When they tell us that they are not a sect we can only ask them, in astonishment, if they have ever consulted a dictionary.
Space will not permit of a detailed description of a " house party." It will suffice to say that it consists of a series of religious meetings at which those present indulge in "Sharing," " Witnessing," " Quiet Times " and " Guidance "—all fundamental practices of the Group movement.
The practice of " Quiet Time " consists in sitting silently, either alone or in company with other groupists, with eyes closed and notebook and pencil ready to jot down anything which " conies through." If in a collected Christian state, any thought which comes to the mind is presumed to be " direct guidance " from Ciod and, as such, should be acted upon. "Sharing " is confession and nominally takes place between members of the same sex. "Witnessing is public confession in witness of the results of being " changed."
Although " sharing " is supposed to be restricted to members of the same sex, the fact remains that when '' witnessing" takes place in public, before mixed gatherings of men and women. of all ages, many scarcely delicate admissions are made in the excitement of the moment.
Catholics, of course. can take no part in this sort of thing bolstered up, as it is, with Bible readings, discussions and the muddled thoughts of conflicting creeds. For a Catholic to take part in any of the Group practices would be to take part in religious practices with people of all creeds and denominations, all of whom deny the Divinity of the Catholic Church and its Sacraments.
In the event of a misguided Catholic becoming a groupist he would he encouraged to participate in sacramental confession to a priest. At the same time he would be expected to " share " and obtain " divine guidance " through the medium of quiet times," It is hardly difficult to visualise the complications which would be certain to arise when group " guidance " differs, as it would more often than not, from the advice given by a priest in the performance of his divine office.
It would be interesting to know how such a Catholic would act—whether on group "guidance " or the priest's advice.
And so it would seem impossible for a Catholic to take any part whatsoever in the Oxford Group movement even though we may respect their good intentions from a distance. It might be argued, why not let a good Catholic, well grounded in his Faith, go to Group meetings and, without taking any part in them. try to win souls for Christ through His Church? This would be impossible because none
could attend Group meetings regularly without taking part in the practices. Even friendly criticism is not tolerated while intelligent debate is laughed down.
If, after persistent efforts on the part of the Groupists, such a Catholic could not be persuaded to become " changed," he would be quietly " cold-shouldered" and " dropped" by these charming people and, so far as they arc concerned, would simply cease to exist either spiritually or temporarily, while their efforts would then be transferred to more promising fields.
Oxford Group IS a Sect
S1R,—I read Miss Smith's interesting article, entitled " Lunch with the Oxford Group," in your issue of April 23. There is one statement, which I beg to question, not for the sake of controversy but lest some may think that Catholics may lawfully become members of this movement. Speaking of the difference between the Anglican Church, the Salvation Army, numerous other denominations and the Oxford Group, Miss Smith writes; " There is one fundamental difference. The Oxford Group is not a sect."
The Catholic meaning of the term " sect " is a body or organisation holding or professing religious doctrines different from those of the Catholic Church. The Oxford Group is such a body because:— I. They have their own distinctive re ligious doctrines and practices. Only what they teach is essential for real Christianity. Their practice of Confession or " sharing " has been condemned by the Council of Trent, Sess. XIV, which defines that only priests are the ministers of absolution. Their notion of "Surrender " is based on the Protestant misconception of grace and justification. Their theory of " guidance " aequiparates the functions of the Holy Spirit with those of an international broadcasting station. Further it implies that Christ has not established one Church to teach all men the truth, and by proclaiming " Group " membership to be essential and by itself sufficient to acquire the maximum of sanctification it denies, or at least ignores the efficacy and divine institution of the Sacraments.
2. It is an organisation. The fact that the movement has spread through four continents shows that it is under very capable management. A propaganda campaign in Canada and America in 1932 cost over £20,000. It has its fulltime workers and it places Dr. Frank Buchman, its founder, and, so to say, President of the Inner Temple,on a level with the Vicar of Jesus Christ, for " Frank's guidance is always right " is one Of their accepted principles.
3. Only by membership of the Group will one be entitled to receive distinctive spiritual help. viz. the assurance that one's sins are forgiven and of the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Being a sect and heretical, no Catholic can be a member of the Group or participate in its functions without compromising his faith. Active participation in the religous functions of non-Catholics is never lawful. Passive participation is tolerated provided (a) there is a grave cause, (b) there is absent scandal and the danger of perver sion. Very rarely will these two conditions be present.
SAC ER DOS.