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[ 365 The Church as Action [II] To the Editor of The New English Weekly The New English Weekly, 8 (9 Apr 1936) 523 Sir, – I should be better contented with Mr. Barlow’s letter in your issue of April 2, if it had been written before instead of after mine; for I fear that by telling him what not to think, I have led him to think it. I do sympathize with Mr. Barlow’s complaint; and I am not undertaking to defend contemporary ecclesiastics.1 But even if all his objections are valid, they are still quite irrelevant to one’s decision to become a member of the Church or stay outside. This decision, on the other hand, does have a bearing on one’s criticism of the Church. I do not know where Mr. Barlow is looking for his “focal points.” Cathedral precincts are not necessarily such foci. I should have thought that every thoughtful and intelligent layman might be a focal point; and incidentally that Mr. Barlow had the native capacity, only needing improvement by study, to become a focal point himself. The Church, we might remember, consists not only of the living but of the dead. But at what period, I wonder, was the visible Church pure enough for Mr.Barlowtohavebeenamemberofit?WouldtheApostolicalSuccessionbe more genuine, the Sacraments more valid, if the visible Church were all that we should like it to be? I shall not be so disrespectful to Mr. Barlow’s intelligence as to believe that he could be converted by such flimsy reasons as he pretends. If I understand the quotation from Professor Macmurray (“to apprehend man we need religion”) I should say that the reply should be: “what religion”? And I doubt whether Professor Macmurray will provide a satisfactory answer.2 T. S. Eliot Notes 1. In response to TSE’s “The Church as Action: Note on a Recent Correspondence” in the NEW of 19 Mar (5.355), Barlow wrote that he would like to join issue with TSE “on one word –thatistheword‘do.’ . . . Mypointisnotthatthechurchis‘doingsomething’forchildrenorthat it is catering for lonely women – it is rather that the Church is doing nothing but these things. Essays, Reviews, Commentaries, and Public Letters: 1936 366 ] I understand the impropriety of judging the body of the Church by the action of its individual members but as a living Church I should expect that at focal points there would exist men preoccupied with essentially religious activities” (NEW, 2 Apr), 503. 2. Barlow writes: “In our present culture there appears to me one thing that is neglected. That one thing is man – his human situation and his qualities as a person. I know of no one who has stated this more succinctly than Prof. John Macmurray – ‘To apprehend man we need religion.’ This the Church does not offer” (503). ...


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