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87 Ronald Knox as Apologist: Wit, Laughter and the Popish Creed. By Milton Walsh. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2007. Pages: 248. Paper, $14.95, ISBN 978–1–58617–121–6. I picked up this book to review on Gaudete Sunday,1 rather providentially, since joy was so key to the life and style of Monsignor Ronald Knox, to whom I was introduced by my father while but a boy of nine or ten. Like most boys in the 1960s, I laid aside many of those early fascinations, only to pick them up again years later, more than a decade ago having used one of Knox’s sermons on Acts 12 to assist the members of the Anglican parish of All Saints in Ashmont, Massachusetts, in their discernment process on “swimming the Tiber”—they did and are now the Congregation of St.Athanasius within the Archdiocese of Boston.2 The author of this book, Father Milton Walsh, served as a wonderful guide to help re-acquaint me with an old friend. The title of this book was the topic of the author’s doctoral dissertation at the Gregorian University but, unlike most worked-over dissertations, it is lively, conversational and interesting to “normal” people. The first section, “Seeking the Treasure,” is roughly a third of the volume providing biographical information, generously peppered with quotations from the works of Knox. The next section, “Finding the Treasure,” deals with large topics like Knox’s use of imagination and metaphor, as well as his approach to “experience, reason, and authority”—again bolstered by citations from Knox. In the final section,“Sharing the Treasure,”Walsh treats us to whole essays of Knox, for which he prepares the reader with insightful commentary. Ronald Arbuthnott Knox was born in 1888,just as Cardinal Newman was making proximate preparations for death. However, many similarities in cultural and theological landscape were the same for these two imposing converts. Ronald was the baby of six children, whose father was the Anglican Bishop of Manchester. “Ronnie” was raised within the Evangelical wing of Anglicanism (like Newman) and eventually worked his way into Anglo-Catholicism (like Newman). Bishop Knox was no fan of Newman, however, and referred to him as “a misguided weakling”—a sentiment rejected by his son. By 1915,Father Ronald Knox saw the hand-writing on the wall as far as his relationship with the Anglican Communion was concerned but delayed the inevitable until 1917 because, again like Newman, he was concerned about the pain his “crossing over” would cause to those he loved. Once within the Roman fold, he quickly became a leading light in the Catholic literary revival of his day, a movement well documented by Joseph Pearce.3 He was allowed to make his preparation for the Catholic priesthood,like his preparation for theAnglican ministry, on his own. After his Roman Catholic ordination, Father Knox succeeded “the Catholic Chaplain at Oxford”—which title he changed to “the Chaplain to Catholic Students at Oxford” because he did not want to give the impression of proselytism. Unlike BOOK REVIEWS 1 Gaudete Sunday, the third Sunday of Advent, is so called from the first word of the Introit at Mass (Gaudete = “Rejoice”). 2 Information about the Congregation of St.Athanasius is available at:http://www.locutor.net/index.htm. 3 Joseph Pearce, a convert to Roman Catholicism, is a prolific writer, whose works include: Wisdom and Innocence: A Life of G. K. Chesterton (1996), C. S. Lewis and the Catholic Church (2003), and Literary Giants, Literary Catholics (2005). NEWMAN STUDIES JOURNAL 88 Father Feeney at Harvard,4 for example, Knox did not view his role as extending officially beyond the confines of the explicitly Catholic flock. That does not mean that he lacked a missionary spirit, but his personality was such that, à la Newman, he relied on what Newman had termed“personal influence.” Most significant about his Oxford tenure was that, as Wilfrid Sheed put it, Knox demonstrated that there was “nothing shameful about being a Catholic.” Indeed,Catholicism rose exponentially in the estimation of most fair-minded persons there as Knox“created an intellectual fad of Catholicism,” as Walsh puts it. Among the literati, a particularly strong bond...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2153-6945
Print ISSN
1547-9080
Pages
pp. 87-90
Launched on MUSE
2020-01-22
Open Access
No
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