Monday, January 09, 2006


There have been various rumblings lately (in the form of a cordial declaration on the part of the Eastern Church about being "open to talks" and of some more concrete pronouncements from leaders of the Traditional Anglican Community) that the beginnings of a reunification could be at hand.

This is a wonderful time to hear about it, of course; we're just coming off of Christmas (or going into it, for our Julian readers), and Benedict XVI's upcoming encyclical, Deus est Caritas, could prove just the catalyst to reinvigorate the love of man and spirit of reconciliation that are meant to be manifestations of the love of God, but so often and so tragically fall by the wayside.

Now, there is clearly a sort of general optimism about all of this that is, I would hope, infectious. Things are at a very early and uncertain stage, but all things, as we know, are possible with His stewardship. The concept of a reconciliation - particularly with the Eastern Church - is a serious matter, of course; a matter over which I exert no control and in which I have no great stake. I am thrilled nonetheless.

It is in this buzz of possibility that I recalled one of Chesterton's better - and snarkier - editorial replies. It is a delightful and browpeating piece of verse, penned at the height of the debate over the Welsh Disestablishment Bill. It could almost be belted out in a tavern were it not so esoteric. It is as follows:

Antichrist -or- The Reunion of Christendom

'A Bill which has shocked the conscience of every Christian community in Europe.' -- Mr. F.E. Smith, on the Welsh Disestablishment Bill.
Are they clinging to their crosses,
F.E. Smith,
Where the Breton boat-fleet tosses,
Are they, Smith?
Do they, fasting, trembling, bleeding,
Wait the news from this our city?
Groaning 'That's the Second Reading!'
Hissing 'There is still Committee!'
If the voice of Cecil falters,
If McKenna's point has pith,
Do they tremble for their altars?
Do they, Smith?

Russian peasants round their pope
Huddled, Smith,
Hear about it all, I hope,
Don't they, Smith?
In the mountain hamlets clothing
Peaks beyond Caucasian pales,
Where Establishment means nothing
And they never heard of Wales,
Do they read it all in Hansard
With a crib to read it with --
'Welsh Tithes: Dr Clifford Answered.'
Really, Smith?

In the lands where Christians were,
F.E. Smith,
In the little lands laid bare,
Smith, O Smith!
Where the Turkish bands are busy
And the Tory name is blessed
Since they hailed the Cross of Dizzy
On the banners from the West!
Men don't think it half so hard if
Islam burns their kin and kith,
Since a curate lives in Cardiff
Saved by Smith.

It would greatly, I must own,
Soothe me, Smith!
If you left this theme alone,
Holy Smith!
For your legal cause or civil
You fight well and get your fee;
For your God or dream or devil
You will answer, not to me.
Talk about the pews and steeples
And the Cash that goes therewith!
But the souls of Christian peoples . . .
Chuck it, Smith!
It all sounds rather silly to us now, of course. We must remember that it took guts to stand up to someone as powerful as F.E. Smith, later Lord Birkenhead, at the height of a furor that was one of the sole interests of the nation. We must make similar allowances for the gallons of ink spilled in the name of the Superman over the years, but that is a story for another time.

Until such time as I can produce a light verse sketch of Pope Urban II and the Emperor Romanus shaking hands warmly in St. Peter's square without it seeming sordid, it would be worthwhile to keep the efforts of the various ecclesiastic diplomats in our thoughts. As with all things, we should watch and pray.

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