Evelyn Waugh’s Welcome to Modern Europe Some Seventy Years Ago

It was some years ago — in the early 1970s during Graduate School in North Carolina — that a learned and charmingly eccentric Classics Professor unexpectedly showed to me a memorable passage from the conclusion of a modern book: Evelyn Waugh’s short 1949 novel, entitled Scott-King’s Modern Europe. Set in 1946, this vivid and nuanced little book, in tacit support of longstanding Christian Tradition, certainly does not propose to us for our imitation any “conforming to the world,” especially not any conforming to the Modern World, as it is perceived and deftly portrayed in the book.

Some seventy years later, however — in 2018 — the optimistic “opening to the world” and an openness to its specious solicitations are even encouraged by, dare we say it?, the Modernist-Occupied Catholic Church — by means of tolerance, diversity, pluralism, dialogue, religious liberty, ecumenism, and de-centralization, and other such openly “non-proselytizing” activities. Indeed, traditionally missionary-evangelical purposes and action are attenuated, often even excluded. The risks of not attaining to Eternal Life (Vita Aeterna) seem also to be more and more largely ignored or unacknowledged or treated with lax indifference, and even spiritual sloth. The true and persevering, very robust Adventure of the Faith, under Grace — with its risks of infidelity to God and a final voluntary defection from God—appears to be an altogether unwelcome challenge, and maybe it does not even appear to be so necessary now, much less indispensable, given the growing Naturalism and the all-too-promiscuous and lax interpretations of the purportedly unconditional Omnipotent Mercy of God.

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