Liberal Manifesto. To the Editor of The Church Times
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666 ] Liberal Manifesto To the Editor of The Church Times The Church Times, 121 (27 Jan 1939) 78 Sir, – Your leading article of last week may evoke replies from those better qualified to speak than myself; in any event, I wish it to be understood that I write only for myself and without consultation with any other signatories.1 I gather from your article that the impression left upon your mind was of excellent intentions expressed in a slipshod way. I myself deprecate the continued use of the term “Liberal Catholic,” unless the Liberalism is understood to consist in an attitude to ecclesiastical polity, and not to theology . “Liberal Theology” seems to me about as useful a term as “Liberal Mathematics” would be; and I should prefer to call myself a Catholic without qualification. But as you devote your first paragraph to an affirmation of your own Liberalism, this is not here an issue. What surprises me is that, in the latter part of your article, you should treat the manifesto as if it was designed to be a comprehensive statement on all pressing Church problems . I should have thought it evident that such matters as government and administration, or the reform of church machinery, did not come within the purview of this document. I cannot be the only person who regretted the publication of the Report of the Doctrinal Commission, although in agreement with much that it contained; or who regarded as ill-advised the protest issued by the Catholic Advisory Council, though, again, agreeing with much that it contained.2 (The former, if privately circulated, might have been left to such incisive but temperate criticism as that of Fr. Hebert.)3 Such, at least, is the context for myself, I therefore welcomed a statement which – with certain imperfections : the use of the word “missionary” in so brief a statement is perhaps unfortunate4 – appeared to take its stand upon the Anglican tradition, and to maintain the Catholicity of the Church, rather than the Catholicism of a party. I do not think that the admissions remarked upon in your last paragraph constitute any surrender of principle, but only a recognition of the conditions which we have to face, and which perhaps only a small number of clergy are so happily placed as to be able to ignore.5 Laxity of discipline [ 667 Liberal Manifesto is regrettable. But would you yourself advocate, under present conditions, the excommunication of persons practicing usury? Yet there is authority and reason for it, as well as for excommunication for the reasons commonly recognized.  T. S. Eliot 24, Russell Square, London, W. C. 1. Notes 1. In the Church Times of 20 Jan, the editor responded to the printing in the same issue of “A Liberal Manifesto / The Place of Reason in the Thought of the Church,” the text of which was preceded by a list of twenty ecclesiastical and lay signatories, including TSE (5.769). The manifesto was an expression of the signatories’ belief “that it is urgently necessary at the present time to give due expression to the Liberal Catholic tradition within the Church of England,” and in the further belief “that if Anglo-Catholicism is to play the part [in removing the divisions within Christendom] which it might, certain present tendencies must be counteracted in regard alike to worship and to teaching.” In the editor’s response, titled “A Liberal Manifesto” (60-61), he asserted that some of the declarations, “far from being inspired by the spirit of God, are in fact inspired rather by the spirit of unreason and confusion. Faith in spiritual inspiration without any provision for the discernment of spirits is as rash as faith in moral progress without allowance for the devil” (61). 2. As reported in the Times of 22 Apr 1938, under the heading “Doctrine in Church of England / Criticism by Catholic Advisory Committee,” the Council, representing the principal Anglo-Catholic societies and communities, issued a statement the previous day deploring the recent report of the Doctrinal Commission before there was any known consideration of the Doctrinal Commission by the bishops (9). 3. A. G. (Arthur Gabriel) Hebert (1886-1963), a monk of the monastery at Kelham, Nottinghamshire, and a distinguished biblical scholar, was a strong proponent of the Liturgical Movement in the Church of England and author of Liturgy and Society: The Function of the Church in the Modern World, published by Faber in 1935. TSE alludes to Hebert’s Memorandum on the Report of the...