Introduction to The Chesterton Review
Vol. XXXIX, nos. 1 & 2, Fall/Winter 2013
This issue provides an overview of Chesterton’s life and writings. Two biographical pieces illustrate his gift for friendship. The first is a passage from his Autobiography in which he recalls his friendship with the controversial and radical Anglo-Catholic cleric Conrad Noel, and the second an obituary he wrote about his friend Charles Masterman, the Liberal author and politician whom Belloc once attacked for political opportunism, and Chesterton praised for “jovial pessimism” and a “noble bitterness on behalf of the poor.” Other pieces examine such topics as Chesterton’s journalism, his moral philosophy, his detective fiction, and, finally, his passion for social justice and his role in inspiring the work of Dorothy Day and that of her Canadian counterpart Catherine de Hueck. There are also pieces on the conversions of Chesterton and Newman, and on the theological basis of the social philosophy Chesterton called Distributism.
The “Reviews” and the “News and Comments” defy easy summary.Perhaps the most topical subject dealt with in the latter section is the recent initiative to have Chesterton declared a saint. My own opinion is that the initiative is a mistake. In a curious way, it may even narrow Chesterton’s appeal. Many Protestant Christians have been willing to learn Catholic truths from the author who defined his version of orthodoxy as simply “the Apostles’ Creed, as understood by everybody calling himself Christian until a very short time ago and the general historic conduct of those who held such a creed.” They may be far less willing to be taught truths of the faith by someone who is called “Saint Gilbert.” Ronald Knox once remarked that when he received anyone into full communion with the Catholic Church, he always asked them whether or not they had read any Catholic authors. Invariably they answered that they had read Chesterton. Is it possible, I wonder, to declare someone a “Doctor of the Church” without bothering first to declare him a “Saint”? I wish it were. But this is a topic about which every Chestertonian will have his own opinion.
The issue concludes with reports about the work of the Chesterton Institute. Institute conferences have again taken place in Brazil, Chile, Argentina, France and Italy, and of course in America and Canada.The Review is now published in French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish.Next year we shall celebrate our fortieth anniversary with a full programme of activities. On a more personal note, may I add that in December 2013 its Editor will celebrate the fiftieth anniversary his ordination to the priesthood. I was ordained in Toronto by George Cardinal Flahiff, the Archbishop of Winnipeg and the Superior General of my religious community, the Congregation of Priests of St. Basil. My first solemn Mass was said in the cathedral of Edmonton Alberta, with the assistance of my brother Leo, an Oblate missionary priest who served for many years in the Yukon. My life-long interest in Chesterton goes back to the influence of my father, who had been a subscriber to G. K.'s Weekly, and whose copies of that journal now adorn my office here at Seton Hall University. The work of the Institute therefore originated in Canada, and now has a further international dimension. Its key figures are Gloria Garafulich-Grabois, our Managing Editor, who belongs to a distinguished Croatian family from Santiago, Chile, and Dermot Quinn, a Professor of History at Seton Hall, who is a native of Ireland and a graduate of Trinity College, Dublin, and Oxford University. With their generous and unfailing help, may our work continue into the indefinite future!