Aiming to Re-evangelize England
Father Aidan Nichols Tells Why the Realm Is Ripe for Conversion
By Annamarie Adkins
CAMBRIDGE, England, APRIL 6, 2008 (Zenit.org).- A great civilization can only be built on a religious or metaphysical principle, begins the "unfashionable" argument of Father Aidan Nichols in his new book on the re-evangelization of England.
The Dominican priest and theologian is the author of “The Realm: An Unfashionable Essay on the Conversion of England” (Family Publications), in which he makes the case that in England, that principle is the Catholic Church.
Father Nichols is the first John Paul II Memorial Visiting Lecturer at Oxford University, a lecturer in the Cambridge University Divinity Faculty, and Visiting Professor of Systematic Theology in the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family in Melbourne.
He told ZENIT why the conditions are right for the re-conversion of England.
Q: The subtitle of your book is “An Unfashionable Essay on the Conversion of England.” What makes your thesis unfashionable?
Father Nichols: It is unfashionable to hold -- over against contemporary pluralism, liberalism and multiculturalism -- that a great civilization can only be formed on a metaphysical or religious principle.
This is especially true if one adds that in the case of England -- whose emergence as a nation coincides with its conversion -- this principle can only be Christianity, and more especially, the Catholic Church.
Q: You challenge the assumption that Protestantism is an essential mark of the character of England. In what ways was Catholicism central to the making of England, and what does the Church offer today that can remake it?
Father Nichols: Protestantism was central to the attempt to remake English identity under Elizabeth Tudor; to the reaction against the Catholicizing tendencies of the Stuarts after the Restoration of the monarchy; and to the project of welding England and Scotland together as a united “Britain” over and against France, after the union of Parliaments at the beginning of the 18th century.
But the almost 1,000 years of Catholic Christianity that preceded any of that are responsible for the origins of the English literary imagination, for the principles of the common law, for the concept of a covenanted people under God which permeates the induction of a sovereign, and for the range of virtues which have been commended -- and sometimes practiced -- in English culture and society.
What the faith of the Catholic Church can offer today is an intellectual, moral, and imaginative framework for the salvaging of these virtues, and their re-energizing by sacramental grace.
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