Skip to comments.Catholic Converts - Malcolm Muggeridge
Posted on 02/23/2007 6:45:27 PM PST by NYer
Editor of Punch magazine; convert from agnostic, then Marxist, then Anglican background.
[edited in 1991 and originally uploaded to my website in 1997. Malcom Muggeridge's words will be in black, mine in green]
Malcolm Muggeridge's spiritual evolution is fascinating (as is all that he writes):
As early as 1925, Muggeridge wrote to his father:
I want God to play tunes through me. He plays, but I, the reed, am out of tune. (1)
In 1958 he wrote in his diary:
Christianity, to me, is like a hopeless love affair. It is infinitely dear and infinitely unattainable. I . . . look at it constantly with sick longing. (2)
In 1966 he was a self-professed "religious maniac without a religion" (3). He declares, "I don't believe in the resurrection of Christ, I don't believe that he was the son of God in a Christian sense," (4) and says he is "enchanted by a religion I cannot believe" (5). Due to various studies, experiences and personal influences, Muggeridge had become a Christian sometime between 1966 and 1969, but not in the "born again" fashion:
My evangelical friends are always rather disappointed that I can't produce a sort of a Damascus road experience - you know, that I was such a person and then suddenly this happened and I was such another person. But I can't. (6)
Biographer Ian Hunter had a cloudy crystal ball when he opined in 1980 - two years before Muggeridge "poped," as the English put it:
Given his attitude to the church and clergy, it is amusing to read a news story every so often that Malcolm Muggeridge has just, or is just about to, join the Church . . . the Roman Catholic Church seems to be most often favored. In the highly unlikely event he were ever to join, this might well be where he would wash up . . . If he did, parallels with G.K. Chesterton would undoubtedly be drawn . . . In any case, whatever inclination he may have had in the direction of Rome has been extinguished since Vatican II . . . Temperamentally, Muggeridge is a nonjoiner, a free-booter who owes allegiance to no institution . . . or denomination. (7)
Always disdainful of liberal Protestantism (especially Anglicanism, like the three illustrious converts already described), Muggeridge had very mixed feelings about Catholicism through the years. Some excerpts of his ambiguous opinions will follow:
How silly, and how characteristic of the times, is the idea that truth is to be got by going back to, say, the Sermon on the Mount, or leaving out of account the historical fact of the Church, as though it were a sort of later parasitic growth. (8)
There are a lot of things to admire in the Roman Catholic Church - its survival, its plainsong, its authentic internationalism, the tough, obstinate battle it has waged against the 20th century; above all, the fact that, with all its villainies and chicanery, it has managed to keep the allegiance of the poor . . . The Protestant churches have long ago become, like N.A.T.O., a headquarters without an army. (9)
Roman Catholics are . . . altogether, in certain respects, very appealing to me, but on the other hand there are other aspects which are very unappealing. (10)
I know that Mother Teresa cannot understand the hesitations and doubts which make it impossible for me . . . to see it as other than an institution which a mortal hierarchy and priesthood can make or mar, sustain or let collapse . . . She wrote: . . . "Today what is happening in the surface of the Church will pass" . . .
What is more difficult to convey is the longing one feels to belong to the Church; the positive envy of those the bell calls to Mass . . . What joy to be one of their numbers! . . . Why not, then? Because, for me, it would be fraudulent . . . However much I long for it to be otherwise, the bell does not ring for me . . . The Church, after all, is an institution with a history; a past and a future. It went on crusades, it set up an inquisition, it installed scandalous popes and countenanced monstrous iniquities . . .
Today . . . the Church . . . has decided to have a reformation just when the previous one - Luther's - is finally running into the sand . . . If ever it became clear to me that I could enter the Church in honesty and truth, I should rush to do so, the more eagerly and joyously because I should know that it would give happiness to Mother Teresa . . . It is probable, in any case, that so potentially discontented and troublesome a member would be refused admission anyway. (11)
The only Church I would join is the Roman Catholic Church, which I have a sort of insane love for. But I would be an awful nuisance as a Church member . . . I wouldn't want to join a church that would accept me. (12)
If I were to find myself Pope . . . I should . . . meditate upon the . . . confusion, strife, and lunacy following Pope John's Vatican Council and the amazing decision resulting therefrom to have another Reformation . . . My first venture . . . would be to reissue Humanae Vitae . . . reinforcing its essential point that any form of artificial contraception is inimical to the Christian life . . . The divorcement of eroticism from its purpose, which is procreation, and its condition, which is lasting love, consequent upon the practice of artificial contraception, was proving increasingly disastrous to marriage and the family. (13)
I take a very pessimistic view of the Catholic Church, despite the very brilliant Pope you've now got . . . The things in it that hold my admiration are the very things that it's turning its back on . . . I can't join it; and I'll have to meet my Maker not having joined it. Probably I'll get a frightful pacing in purgatory for it, but I can't help it. (14)
One reason for my hesitating so long before becoming a Catholic was my disappointment at some of the human elements I saw in the Catholic Church. In spite of the following letter from Mother Teresa I held back, and a number of years went by before I could make up my mind:
"You are to me like Nicodemus . . . 'unless you become a little child . . .' I am sure you will understand beautifully everything if you would only become a little child in God's hands . . . The small difficulty you have regarding the Church is finite. Overcome the finite with the infinite . . ." . . .As Hilaire Belloc truly remarked, the Church must be in God's hands because, seeing the people who have run it, it couldn't possibly have gone on existing if there weren't some help from above. I also felt unable to take completely seriously . . . the validity or permanence of any form of human authority . . . There is . . . some other process going on inside one, to do with faith which is really more important and more powerful. I can no more explain conversion intellectually than I can explain why one falls in love with someone whom one marries. It's a very similar thing . . .
Sincere apologies! The colors did not transfer to the posting so you will have to figure out the questions from the responses. No doubt, you will do an excellent job of it too :-)
Bless your heart, NYer. That man is very dear to me.
My dad had a subscription to the National Review, or something to that effect, that earned a free book. The book was "Jesus Rediscovered" by Muggeridge. I stole it from his shelf and read it many times when I was a confused college kid away, struggling along. It actually had the effect of alienating me a bit from the Church as institution (which She must be), but I think I was reconnected to Her because of the obsession with Christ, which the book helped engender. I don't know if it makes sense, but love is like that I guess.
May you behold Him, Malcolm, and live.
I like Muggeridge. He was a friend of Buckley's and my favorite Protestant apologist, Ravi Zaccharias, has referenced him on numerous occaisions.
Welcome to Free Republic.
Great story and thank you for sharing it. No doubt you were 'guided' to that book by a loving Father.
Was a big fan of Muggeridge in the 80s and 90s.
Lovely post. Thank you.
God I hope some Bishops read this.
Then you might enjoy his book ...
No woman alive today has inspired so many with her simplicity of faith and compassion so all-encompassing. As she daily embraces the "least of the least" in her arms, Mother Theresa challenges the whole world to greater acts of service and understanding in the name of love.
First published in 1971, this classic work introduced Mother Theresa to the Western World. As timely now as it was then, Something Beautiful for God interprets her life through the eyes of a modern-day skeptic who became literally transformed within her presence, describing her as "a light which could never be extinguised."
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