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No Sainthood for G.K. Chesterton

G.K. Chesterton appears in a black and white portrait before his death in 1936
G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936) (AP)

By    |   Wednesday, 04 September 2019 05:26 PM

A top Catholic bishop has torpedoed the possibility of sainthood for G.K. Chesterton, the noted British lay theologian, philosopher, and creator of the popular Father Brown stories featuring a crime-solving priest.

Fans, including the Society of Gilbert Keith Chesterton, had led a campaign to have the London-born writer – who died in 1936 at the age of 62 – canonized as an officially recognized saint.

But Bishop Peter Doyle of Northampton decided against exploring the coveted religious honor for Chesterton, in part because he said he was not spiritual enough and had been dogged by charges of anti-Semitism.

In his book, “The New Jerusalem,” Chesterton stated that Jews needed a separate nation to “live, as far as possible, in a Jewish society ruled by the Jews,” according to Alfa y Omega, a Spanish Catholic weekly. As well, the publication says, Chesterton believed Jews should wear distinctive clothing.

“This is not a letter I find easy to write, and I know that you will not find it easy to receive,” the bishop stated in a letter read to the 38th Annual Chesterton Conference held over the summer in Kansas City.

“I am very conscious of the devotion to G.K. Chesterton in many parts of the world and of his inspiring influence on so many people, and this makes it difficult to communicate the conclusion to which I have come. That conclusion is that I am unable to promote the cause of G K Chesterton for three reasons.

“Firstly, and most importantly, there is no local cult. Secondly, I have been unable to tease out a pattern of personal spirituality. And, thirdly, even allowing for the context of G.K. Chesterton’s time, the issue of anti-Semitism is a real obstacle particularly at this time in the United Kingdom.”

Doyle added that while he recognized Chesterton’s “goodness and his ability to evangelize … in my heart of hearts, I believe that he himself would not want any fuss other than asking his prayers for the Church today and praying for him … I have no doubt that you will seek new ways to promote Chesterton’s cause …”

But Chesterton supporters reject Doyle’s argument.

“People all over the world are devoted to Chesterton, asking for his intercession because they have been touched and transformed by his wisdom and goodness. He brings people to Christ, said Dr. Dale Ahlquist, president of the Society of Gilbert Keith Chesterton.

Ahlquist added that Chesterton was “the model of lay spirituality” and definitely not an anti-Semite.

“A man who not only physically defended the Jews when they were attacked … but repeatedly spoke out against their persecution in Germany, in Russia, and in England, who said, ‘The world owes God to the Jews,’ and ‘I will die defending the last Jew in Europe,’ should not have this poisonous epithet anywhere near his good name,” he said.

“While Chesterton’s writings are amazingly fresh and vital, there is no question that he occasionally says things that are awkward by our modern standards of political correctness …”

Ahlquist insisted the drive for Chesterton’s sainthood is not dead.

“We are confident that, in time, it will open, under a different ordinary and perhaps in a different diocese, which is a possibility under canon law,” he said.

But Aidan Mackey, who compiled the G.K. Chesterton Library, told The Tablet, an international Catholic news weekly, he was glad Chesterton hadn’t been canonized, even though he’s “absolutely sure” of his holiness.

“The reason why I would prefer not to have him canonized is because I have seen, over many decades, the influence for good he has exercised over so very many people, as is the case with another great Christian thinker, C.S. Lewis, and that influence would wane if he has 'Blessed' or 'Saint' placed before his name, for librarians and booksellers would very probably shelve them as Theology, where far fewer readers would notice them,” Mackey said.

Father Brown is a fictional Roman Catholic priest featured in 53 short stories Chesterton published between 1910 and 1936. He solves crimes using his intuition and understanding of human nature. The author loosely based Brown on the Right Rev. Msgr. John O‘Connor, a parish priest involved in his conversion to Catholicism in 1922.

A popular TV series called “Father Brown,” inspired by Chesterton’s stories debuted on the BBC in 2013 and stars Mark Williams, who’s also portrayed Arthur Weasley in the Harry Potter films.

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G.K. Chesterton, the noted British lay theologian, philosopher, and creator of the popular Father Brown stories featuring a crime-solving priest, has lost the possibility of sainthood by a top Catholic bishop.
catholic, cannonized, gk chesterton, sainthood, british
Wednesday, 04 September 2019 05:26 PM
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