With the arrogance of youth, I determined to do no less than to transform the world with Beauty. If I have succeeded in some small way, if only in one small corner of the world, amongst the men and women I love, then I shall count myself blessed, and blessed, and blessed, and the work goes on. -- William Morris

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Tolkien on Scandal in the Church

"'Scandal' at most is an occassion of temptation -- as indecency is to lust, which it does not make about arouses. It is convenient because it turns our eyes away from ourselves and our faults to find a scape-goat. But the act of will of faith is not a single moment of final decision: it is a permanent indefinitely repeated act > state which must go on -- so we pray for 'final perseverance.' The temptation to 'unbelief' (which really means rejection of Our Lord and His claims) is always there within us. Part of us longs to find an excuse for it outside us. The stronger the inner temptation the more readily and severely shall we be 'scandalized' by others. I think I am as sensitive as you (or any other Christian) to the 'scandals', both of clergy and laity. I have suffered grievously in my life from stupid, tired, dimmed, and even bad priests; but I now know enough about myself to be aware that I should not leave the Church (which for some would mean leaving the allegiance of Our Lord) for any such reason: I should leave because I did not believe, and should not believe any more, even if I had never met any one in orders who was not both wise and saintly."

--- Letter 250, to Michael Tolkien. In The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien. ed. Humphrey Carpenter (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1981).

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  • At 6/06/2007 6:47 PM, Blogger Athos said…

    Superb insights from "Ransom". I (finally) ordered Carpenter's The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, and high time too!

  • At 6/07/2007 4:23 AM, Blogger Henry Karlson said…

    Too bad Franks(Frankley) didn't appreciate this insight...

  • At 6/24/2007 7:15 PM, Blogger Ken Smith said…

    Good reminder. I'm a Protestant, not a Catholic, but I've had my run-ins with plenty of unpleasant pastors in my time. If I had been able to follow Tolkien's advice better, at least five years of my life would have been significantly improved.


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