(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–a type of question that’s been an irresistible subject of fiction and speculation. 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 hold that the historical approaches of…well, of the Prophets, Christ, the Apostles, and 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? The implications of an affirmative response are seldom considered: e.g., if we have fundamentally changed, is natural law still a valid concept? Is Scripture still relevant if it was addressed to fundamentally different creatures? 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: sometimes individual Samaritans, but never Samaritanism itself. It’s not that He did not know that there was some good to be found in 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 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.)
Likewise, although we are not to speculate about the eternal destiny of any specific person, Christ spoke regularly about hell as a real concern, an alarming possibility, and a common destination. And His message was consistent: if you hear His voice (directly or through his Apostles) you really need to follow–not reject–Him, and repent. His disciples are to evangelize all the nations. He 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.
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 between Fr. Dudley and his era and our present moment in time: 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 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 be always seek the approach of Fr. Dudley: sometimes speaking strongly, and other times more gently, but 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.