Friday, 8 June 2007

Plus ca change...

I've been following with a mixture of amusement and dismay the flame war which appears to be going on between two people whose blogs, both of which are on my personal list of daily reads, I enjoy equally. I don't know (or care) how it started, or why - but I do worry that it's symptomatic of a wider sickness in the Catholic blogosphere, and wish we could all just play nicely together.

Dissent, of course, has always been with us. I mentioned a while ago that this month's book for my book club was 'A Journal of the Plague Year' by Daniel Defoe - first published in 1722 (and a book which I highly recommend). A propos of nothing, I give you this quote from that book (p 168-170 in the edition I'm reading):

As it brought the People into publick Company, so it was surprizing how it brought them to crowd into the Churches, they inquir'd no more into who they sat near to, or far from, what offensive Smells they met with, or what condition the People seemed to be in, but looking upon themselves all as so many dead Corpses, they came to the Churches without the least Caution, and crowded together, as if their Lives were of no Consequence, compar'd to the Work which they came about there: Indeed, the Zeal which they shew'd in Coming, and the Earnestness and Affection they shew'd in their Attention to what they heard, made it manifest what a Value People would all put upon the Worship of God, if they thought every Day they attended at the Church that it would be their Last.

Nor was it without other strange Effects, for it took away all Manner of Prejudice at, or Scruple about the Person who they found in the Pulpit when they came to the Churches....

Here we may observe, and I hope it will not be amiss to take notice of it, that a near View of Death would soon reconcile Men of good Principles one to another, and that it is chiefly owing to our easy Scituation in Life, and our putting these Things far from us, that our Breaches are fomented, ill Blood continued, Prejudices, Breach of Charity and of Christian Union so much kept and so far carry'd on among us, as it is: Another Plague Year would reconcile all these Differences, a close conversing with Death, or with Diseases that threaten Death, would scum off the Gall from our Tempers, remove the Animosities among us, and bring us to see with differing Eyes, than those which we look'd on Things with before; as the People who had been used to join with the Church, were reconcil'd at this Time, wtih the admitting the Dissenters to preach to them... but as the Terror of the Infection abated, those Things all returned again to their less desirable Channel, and to the Course they were in before.

I mention this but historically, I have no mind to enter into Arguments to move either, or both Sides to a more charitable Compliance one with another; I do not see that it is probable such a Discourse would be either suitable or successful; the Breaches seem rather to widen, and tend to a widening farther, than to closing, and who am I that I should think myself able to influence either one Side or other? But this I may repeat again, that 'tis evident Death will reconcile us all, on the other Side the Grave we shall be all Brethren again. In Heaven, whether, I hope we may come from all Parties and Perswasions, we shall find neither Prejudice or Scruple; there we shall be of one Principle and of one Opinion, why we cannot be content to go Hand in Hand to the Place where we shall join Heart and Hand without the least Hesitation, and with the most compleat Harmony and Affection; I say, why we cannot do so here I can say nothing to, neither shall I say any thing more of it, but that it remains to be lamented.

Bubonic plague, anyone....?

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