restricted access The Church and Society. To the Editor of The New English Weekly
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216 ] The Church and Society To the Editor of The New English Weekly The New English Weekly, 6 (21 Mar 1935) 482 Sir, – In replying to Fr. Demant’s letter in your issue of March 7th, I have had still more difficulty than in replying to Mr. Reckitt, to decide what the points of difference are.1 I did not speak of the obligation of the Church to “pass beyond” saying that the state of things is bad, to saying why it is bad, because I assumed that the Church should know why it is bad before saying that it is bad. But Why may mean several different answers: here, I suppose, we mean the reason whythestateofthingscontrovertsChristianfaithandpractice.Theanswer to the Why is not quite the same for the Christian and the non-Christian. “The Church fails socially because she fails theologically” [443], says Fr. Demant. With that I wholly agree. If I and another Churchman advocate the same economic changes, but disagree in our theology, then our agreement is as ordinary citizens and not as Churchmen. I do not want to say with any Churchman: “let us sink our theological differences, and unite on a social policy” as Churchmen. What I find difficult to understand is Fr. Demant’s distinction between “the nature of the re-ordering of society which will remove the evil” – with which he thinks the Church should occupy itself – and prescribing “the political or economic means for that re-ordering.” I should be glad if he would make clear the difference between the nature of the re-ordering and the political or economic means for that re-ordering. Until he does that, until we agree as to what are ends and what are means, I shall not know whether we disagree or not. I should think that it was quite within the scope of the Church’s business to give us a definition of work and leisure; and certainly to have an opinion between collectivism and distributism, the latter in view of the confusion between ownership, control, and title to interest.2 One might also wish that the Church might be more positive even in its negative pronouncements. It sometimes seems as if the Church was opposed to Communism,onlybecauseCommunismisopposedtotheChurch.Ihaveat hand a book containing statements by Sir Oswald Mosley, which anyone [ 217 The Church and Society with the merest smattering of theology can recognise to be not only puerile but anathema.3 So far as I know, the Church has given no direction to the Faithful in response to these statements. But I should like to qualify Fr. Demant’s statement that “Sir Francis Fremantle . . . is representative of the Church in her official congresses” [443] by suggesting that the Church is not really represented by her official congresses – or at least by the Church Assembly. Fr. Demant knows as well as I do how the Church Assembly is recruited.4 T. S. Eliot Notes 1. V. A. Demant’s letter is printed under the title “How Far Can the Church Go?,” NEW, 7 Mar 1935, 442-43. TSE wrote to him on 8 Mar: “I have not thoroughly taken in your letter to The New English Weekly yet, but I shall try to produce some answer in next week’s issue.” 2. Demant argued: “The Church should know which way out of the evils of Capitalism she is going to encourage, collectivism or distributed property” (442). 3. Possibly James Drennan’s B.U.F.: Oswald Mosley and British Fascism (London: John Murray, 1934), which reproduced large portions of Mosley’s speeches. See “Religion and Literature” (5.227 n.18) for TSE’s critique of Mosley’s ideas. 4. Although the Church Assembly Committee was granted the authority to determine and express the Church’s mind on a range of issues (5.214 n.1), there was no requirement that the members be regular communicants of the Church of England or any other faith or that they have any theological training. Some of the fifteen members from the House of Lords might be bishops; most of the fifteen members from the House of Commons would be laity. ...