(This section is very much still under construction.)
Fr. Dudley’s books continue to be in print, as are several others involved in the Catholic Literary Revival–as well as the religious books of Anglicans C.S. Lewis and Dorothy L. Sayers. So their approach was an enduring one that speaks to us today.
But what would Fr. Dudley think of us if he were somehow to come back today. And beyond that, what should he think of us–whether or not he would. And what should we think of him?
The writers of the Catholic Literary Revival were popular and amazingly effective, but many (implicitly) hold that the historical approaches of…well, of the Prophets, Christ, the Apostles, and most of the Saints throughout history…are no longer relevant. If that were true, then the approach of many in the Catholic Literary Revivals would also not be relevant.
Obviously technology (e.g., the internet) has often changed the mode of delivery, but has human nature really changed? Has Christ changed? Has Truth changed? The implications of affirmative responses are seldom considered: e.g., if the fundamentals have changed, is natural law still a valid concept? Is Scripture still relevant? And so on…
This is important, because the Church Militant1 has experienced change–and I mean absolutely nothing controversial by that claim–and in some ways, it changed away from the communications approach used by Christ.
For example, Christ did not praise other religions: individual Samaritans, yes; but never Samaritanism itself. It’s not that He did not know that there was some good to be found in sects and other religions: rather, He did not seem to believe that is what He—and presumably we—should be spending our time praising. What distinguishes religions from each other is their differences: and contradictory claims cannot be both true. To the extent that other religions are different, to that precise extent they are false–if Catholicism is true.
(Moderns sometimes claim that there is wisdom where we find that all religions agree: well, all religions teach that only they have the most completely right answer in the end. Even syncretistic religions effectively teach that only their version of syncretism is the most correct. And religions disagree about even basic moral issues.)
Certainly Christ talked a lot about forgiveness, mercy, and heaven. Moreover, we are not to claim to know the eternal destiny of a specific person. And yet, Christ also spoke regularly and in vivid terms about hell. He portrayed it as a real concern concern for us…and a common destination. It was a both/and approach: not an approach in which we endlessly ask if we dare hope that hell is empty, or limit our discussion to the extraordinary means of salvation (“invincible ignorance”, “baptism of desire”, etc.).
Scripture portrayed the world (apart from Christ) as being at war with us in critical respects: and it really was not to be endlessly praised, but rather endlessly challenged…and the world would hate us for it.
In his books, Fr. Dudley did not discuss the Pope-of-the-moment, use terms like “the magisterium”, nor discuss the most recent Council or encyclical–indeed, virtually none of the older books throughout history did (at least if they were aimed at the laity). Rather, their focus was on Christ, prayer, the sacraments, and the teachings of the Church taken as one whole. They viewed these teachings more in terms of “the deposit of faith” which ended with the death of the last Apostles…and new Popes swore to pass this along unchanged. (I presume that they knew that there was development of doctrine, but that did not seem to them to be the central focus.)
Over two decades ago, I became involved in G.K. Chesterton groups (which is how I ran across Fr. Dudley). The dynamics are interesting. Orthodox Catholics of a more modern persuasion may read Chesterton’s books, and see real differences from our day, but just put it all down to it being a different time in history—with those differences posing no question calling for our attention. On the other hand, orthodox Catholic of a more traditional bent may read the books, and see them as being among the last examples before the Church (Militant) took a turn which was not prudential—and view them as being a reproach to us.
The discussions never turned angry unless the connection was made the current issues, and yet Chesterton himself was relentlessly contemporary (to his time)–as was Fr. Dudley–and so making the connection certainly seemed reasonable. But it was for that reason that this website delayed in explicitly drawing the connection to today: this is not a rage-seeking site of fruitless controversy.
However, this site was not created merely because Fr. Dudley spins a good yarn: but also in the belief that he has something to teach us by example–although occasionally by counterexample. And so, the connection must be made.
Since we (so far) have found no extensive collection of letters from Fr. Dudley, all we have to go on is his published writings (including his conversion story), his biographical information, and his contemporaries (especially his successor, Fr. John Carmel Heenan, who went on to become a Cardinal involved in Vatican II and the subsequent liturgical changes).
In raising these issues, this site will seek to use the approach of Fr. Dudley: sometimes speaking strongly, and other times more gently, but always with courtesy and respect.
But because these issues have such strong emotional connections, and positions are often so entrenched and even reflexive at this point, there is no short way to explore them.