With a memoir by the Rev. Allan Ross
of the London Oratory and a foreword
by the Rev. C.C. Martindale S.J.
In almost any piece of continuous history there are moments at which the student has an almost free choice as to how he shall interpret the facts, this way or that. For research is worth little until an interpretation of and a verdict upon the evidence are possible. Every now and then, these are exceptionally important and exceptionally difficult to read. Thus: Can the gulf between the thought of Christ and that of His first evangelists and apostles be bridged? Is the Church of 150 A.D. organically continuous with that of the Apostles? Such questions as these are vital to one who would decide what he must "think of Christ." Perhaps in all cases the answer is best given under the strong impulse of God's grace. Still, human words can help.
For Mgr. Benson, the crucial points, at which he believed himself able to help, were not those which we have mentioned, but certain "moments" connected with the position of St. Peter and the Pope, with the crisis of the Reformation, and with the relation of modern religious instinct with the unseen world. Infallibility and Tradition was a topic which from the beginning had preoccupied him. Mr. Spencer Jones, under whose auspices his paper was read, had, years before, helped Hugh Benson not a little towards submission to the Infallible See. Queens Mary and Elizabeth stand almost as symbols of the acceptance or rejection of that See: Benson puts before you their Death-beds, and leaves you to interpret his picture of those meaningful and yet mysterious moments in our history. In Christian Science and Spiritualism he examines two modern manifestations of that strange tendency which drives men, despite themselves, to reach out beyond the materalistic world, into the unseen, and he unhesitatingly condemns these two systems as frivolous, dangerous, and degrading. To whom then shall we go? Back to that Catholicism which includes all that Christ taught; that Queen Mary clung to, finding in it the happiness which Elizabeth had lost; and all that the modern spiritistic methods offer and do not give. To Catholicism, he argues in yet another pamphlet, belongs the Future; to Catholicism England, in particular, he avers, must, if she is to keep any Christianity, receive Conversion.
In this group, then, of reprinted pamphlets is to be found one expression of the scheme into which Mgr. Benson's outlook fitted itself. It is again and again true that, starting with Christianity as the Revelation of God, he could see no form anywhere save the Catholic into which it could intelligibly place itself. Since then Christianity, he believed, is immortal, to the Catholics belong the future -- even as they have possessed the past, and educated Europe into all that is best and truest in the present.
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