A Bitter Trial

Evelyn Waugh portrait by Henry Lamb

Evelyn Waugh portrait by Henry Lamb

Editor, Alcuin Reid, in A Bitter Trial: Evelyn Waugh and John Carmel Heenan on the Liturgical Changes, notes:

By the 1930s the rising tide of converts to Catholicism had become a torrent. Throughout that decade there were some twelve thousand converts a year in England alone. Literary converts included Compton MacKenzie (Monarch of the Glen), Alfred Noyes and G.K. Chesterton. On the Continent converts included Sigrid Undset and Jacques Maritain.

It is a singularly intriguing fact that the preconciliar Church was so effective in evangelizing modern culture, whereas the number of converts to the faith seemed to diminish in the sixties and seventies in direct proportion to the presence of the much-vaunted aggiornamento, the muddle-headed belief that the Church needed to be brought “up-to-date”. The success of orthodoxy in winning converts compared with the failure of modernism must surely raise not merely eyebrows but soul-searching questions. The facts would appear to confirm the maxim usually attributed to Chesterton that we don’t need a Church that will move with the world but a Church that will move the world.