To the Editor of The Church Times
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290 ] To the Editor of The Church Times The Church Times, 98 (25 Nov 1927) 612 Sir, I was glad to see, in your issue of last week, an editorial paragraph on the subject of the Action Française.1 This affair, of the greatest moment to all French Catholics, has been ignored by English newspapers, and I am glad to see that you have not overlooked its importance. I have followed the affairs of the Action Française for some years, and I hope that you will allow me to make a few comments on your excellent article. I should not venture to speak to English Romanists on this subject, as their point of view is already decided for them. But I have found amongst Anglo-Catholics a tendency to assume that this was a simple case in which the Vatican was quite right in reproving an immoral doctrine. But it is by no means a simple case. I have, as recently as last week, discussed the affair with Romanist friends in Paris; and they admit that the affair is not only so complicated as to pass the comprehension of foreigners, but complicated enough to baffle the understanding of Frenchmen. It is, in short, a matter in which no foreigner can come to an opinion unless he has a considerable knowledge of the social, political, and religious history of France since the French Revolution to the present day. I do not wish, in this letter, to enter into these matters thoroughly; and it could not be done in the space of a letter. I wish only, first, to caution your readers against a hasty and summary conclusion; and, second, to protest against your intimation that the doctrines of Daudet and Maurras have had a bad influence.2 I speak as one who cordially regrets the religious views ofCharlesMaurras,butwhoisatthesametimeproudofhavinghisacquaintance and friendship. No one can understand Maurras who does not understand the anti-clerical age in France in which he was educated. He belongs to what I should call a “sacrificed generation” – a generation brought up in the shadow of Renan. He belongs to a generation for which religious belief never came into consideration. Almost alone of that generation , Maurras perceived the defects of that mentality; and without religious belief himself, and without the support of any constituted authority, took upon himself to aim at the recovery of that social order without [ 291 To the Editor of The Church Times which the Catholic Church cannot flourish. It is owing to the fact that he came to the same conclusion by different processes, that he has attracted so many devout Catholics to his cause. Other men of the same intellectual generation – men, as I think, of partiallyperniciousinfluence ,suchasAnatoleFranceandMauriceBarrès–have beenacceptedand(intheFrenchpoliticalsense)canonized;Maurras,whose teaching is far more moral, more austere, than that of either of these – not corrupt like France, less nationalistic than Barrès – has been denied the Academy, and even any decoration. I am, moreover, more than sceptical when anyone suggests that Maurras has inclined a single young man to religious doubt. He has had, certainly, great influence on men in France, from men of my own age down to youths of eighteen or twenty at the present time. But my strong impression is that theyouthofthepresentdayacceptsthepositive,ratherthanthenegativeside ofhisteaching;andthatthoseyoungmenwhoregardhimastheirmasterare fortified, rather than weakened, in their religious faith, by what they take from him.3 A generation which, like the present generation, has utterly repudiated Anatole France, could hardly fail to be uncritical4† in its attitude towards Maurras. I have, in this letter, deliberately omitted consideration of the Vatican policy, which is another and a very complicated and obscure question. But many people must wonder why the condemnation occurred just at the moment when it did, and took just the form that it took.5 24 Russell Square, London, W. C. 1. T. S. Eliot Notes 1. “Summary,” The Church Times, 98 (18 Nov 1927), 579: “The intelligence that Rome, through the French hierarchy, proposes to inflict certain further penalties, extending even to excommunication, on the readers and supporters of the Action Française is of interest outside theRomancommunion....WeholdtheNationalistphilosophyofM.Maurrastobeuncatholic, and, in great measure, anti-Christian; and we consider that the Pope would have failed in his duty had he not warned the faithful against its teaching and tendencies. On the other hand, we confess that the attempt to inflict ecclesiastical penalties on the readers of a daily newspaper, perhaps no more anti-Christian than many other...