CATHOLIC EVIDENCE GUILD PAMPHLET
THE CATHOLIC EVIDENCE GUILD
By F. J. Sheed
This book, published in 1925, remains the definitive description of the Catholic Evidence Guild. Although the history is not up-to-date, and references to “today” refer to the situation over 70 years ago, this remains the best source for information about the Catholic Evidence Guild.
As Francis Sheed writes, “It is difficult to do more than lay down the principles. Their detailed application cannot be stated so absolutely.” When Sheed tells us that speakers need not concern themselves with the rare atheist in the crowd, or explains that the guild is carefully supervised by priests, we are reminded that he is writing in a different time. But these anachronisms are matters of detail and application; the basic principles laid down here remain valid today. If there’s something more you need to know about catholic church in the news, feel free to contact us
- Explanatory Note
- Getting Speakers
- The Outdoor Work
- The Crowd
- Our Attitude Toward the Crowd
- Certain Guiding Principles in our Teaching
- Spiritual Life
- Summing Up
The Catholic Evidence Guild was founded in the Diocese of Westminster, England towards the end of 1918. For the first couple of years its hold on life was precarious. Gradually, however, it took firm root in its birthplace, and began to spread to other parts of England. In Hyde Park meetings are held every night except Tuesday, and on Sunday the meeting lasts for eleven hours, during which time the crowd averages about 500. In the rest of England there are between 20 & 30 guilds, some very strong, some just emerging from that two years heartbreak without which no guild can be founded, some not yet emerged from it. No member of any guild receives any payment for the work.
It is to be noted that there is no central governing body for the whole of the movement in England. As the Church is constituted, the control of the teaching of Catholicism in any diocese is vested absolutely in the Bishop, and cannot therefore be exercised by any outside body. Thus the Guilds are a series of independent groups, each free to choose its own methods (subject of course , to the bishop, whose control is absolute) without reference to any other. But for all this apparent diversity, the guilds are one in fact. All realize that if the title Catholic Evidence Guild is to have any meaning, the platforms must have a common aim. The tendency, born of isolation and preoccupation with one’s troubles, to develop in one direction or another and thus lose identity, is countered in a multitude of ways-notably by an annual conference, interchange of speakers and an annual retreat. Thus there are certain common principles whose infraction is a moral impossibility; and although there is no one who can speak with authority for the whole guild movement, yet the writer is confident that, while in details Guilds may differ, he states no principle that is not common to all.
To the chance spectator, the Catholic Evidence Guild means a number of speakers explaining Catholic Doctrine to a number of crowds; just that and nothing more. But platforms do not grow of themselves just where crowds are gathered; speakers do not drop from the skies with a thorough knowledge of Catholic doctrine and perfect skill in handling a crowd. Men and women must be found and trained, mentally and spiritually; pitches must be selected and allocated; and the resultant activities cover a very wide field–propaganda, training properly graded, systematic testing and licensing, squads of speakers, and an elaborate constitution apportioning work and responsibility, a financial system of sort a social life becoming ever more strongly marked, and a regular corporate spiritual life. The Guild in action includes all these lines, and this paper might as a consequence, very easily be drowned under a mass of detail. But highly involved as it seems, the whole organization works smoothly by reason of the great central fact – the man on the platform. There is nothing to be done by the Guild that is not aimed at the more efficient attainment of the Guild’s objective. It follows, therefore, that nothing is superfluous; the whole thing exists that more speakers may speak better on more platforms. With this as the key, it is possible to obtain a sufficiently comprehensive view of the Guild under three main heads–
- Getting speakers.
- Their preparation for the platform.
- Their work on the platform.
Fortunately there is a great reservoir on which the Guild may draw; for experience has shown that there is no one who cannot hope to reach the platform. On most other platforms the speakers run to type; whether it is the type that loves revivalism and recital of a past that grows more lurid with every recital; or the type that drops its H’s and attacks the Church for ignorance and hates Catholics because Christians should love one another; or the earnest religionist with no sense of humor. But it cannot be said that there is a guild type, save in the sense that every Catholic is a Guild type. And the lesson which, after six years of surprises, the Guild has learnt is that no one may be safely be dismissed in advance as hopeless; every week the miracle of dumb speaking is reenacted. Every Catholic then must try his vocation – secure in the knowledge that if he is fit, he will be thoroughly equipped before being sent into action; if he is unfit the Guild will very definitely tell him so–since the Guild is more determined even than the speaker that he shall not make a fool of himself on its platforms.
The way of recruiting is probably more difficult and obscure than any other part of the Guild’s work. Much is done by direct appeals at meetings convened for the purpose. Many a man who has thrilled to read of the work done at the boundaries of the world by the Church’s Missionaries is brought to realize that the Guild points the way to a vmissionary work as real, if not as picturesque–and none the less necessary for being carried out in surroundings where danger and discomfort scarcely exist. But the Guild is an outdoor organization, and the greater part of the recruiting is done–as is fitting–at the pitches themselves. Catholics in the crowd are variously affected; and while some feel that they are serving the Church by boxing Protestant ears, and regards the Guild as a very milk and watery organization of somewhat poor-spirited Catholics, others are inevitably drawn Guildwards. One feels that the speaker on the platform is doing the work so badly that he himself must join the Guild to put the guild things right; another feels with shame that men less equipped than he are manfully striving to pay their debt to the Church: more, probably, realize for the first time the splendid quality of those outside the Church and their desperate need. There are those too, other motives more dubious–a mere passion for controversy, or that very human failing, the love of one’s own voice!
But whatever the motive, and whatever the channel, they come–some with the fire of a vocation but newly realized; others to whom the public platform is utterly repellant, who, with no feeling of vocation yet see a pressing duty and force themselves to do it. That the recruits form a fantastic mixture goes without saying–male and female, learned and unlearned, and the vast mass who are neither, of all professions and none, at all stages of doctrinal vagueness and oratorical awkwardness. And if the Guild is not yet as Catholic as the Church, it is undoubtedly as various as Noah’s ark.
This then is the jumble of people that the Guild has collected and is trying to make into a weapon fit for the hand of truth. A superficial critic could see only the inadequacy of the means to the end proposed; but the story of our Faith is the story of the strong things of the earth confounded by the weak. If the Guild way is not the ideal way of teaching Catholicism to England (and the rest of the world), at least it is the only way; and hope is never so much a virtue as when it is forlorn hope.
We are sometimes warned that in talking so freely of our training system, we are foolishly making a complete exposure of Guild strategy to the enemy. But we cannot regard the non-Catholic as an enemy, and the Guild is not trying anything in the nature of strategy in its lower sense. This is no case of a conjuror explaining his tricks; for the Guild has no tricks to explain. There are no shortcuts; no clever ideas for getting the better of an antagonist; no suggestion of the conversions-made-easy method. The only “trick” is the thorough knowledge, only to be acquired by honest industry, of the whole Catholic position and of how to explain that position to the man on the street.
There is always a tendency for any discussion of training methods to become little more than a mass of principles surrounded by fog. Yet it is difficult to do more than lay down the principles. Their detailed application cannot be stated so absolutely. Every Guild is faced with the hard necessity of adapting actually existing resources to actually existing conditions–this indeed being the great Guild tragedy. It seems then most practical to discuss principles only in the body of this paper and indicate in footnotes the application of them made in the Guild that the writer happens to know best–Westminster.
To some extent the Guild must take a great deal for granted in its members. It cannot set out laboriously to instruct them as though they were non-Catholics. It assumes ordinary Catholic knowledge, and–since that may be assuming too much–it provides a library and suggests courses of reading, while new speakers can always count on individual guidance from seniors.
But the object of the Guild training system is not nearly so much to impart this new knowledge as to ensure that the knowledge already there (or at any rate within reach and easily obtainable) shall be so fully realized that it may be given to a crowd with the greatest effect. (1)
It is impossible for a speaker to have too much book work, provided that the street corner audience is his companion at every page; but mere book work is fatal, and the speaker trained on book work only is speaking in the air, and will soon find himself speaking to the air. It is only when the Guildsman–knowing the Catholic teaching on any doctrine–knows also what the crowd think the Church teaches, and what they have in its place, and why they prefer their own substitute, and how best they may be shown the superiority of the Church’s teaching to their own substitute, that he may be said to understand the doctrine for Guild purposes.
To bring a speaker to this stage, three main factors play a part:
- The general current of Guild life.
- The Classes.
- The Platform.
The great fact of Guild life–without which this knowledge of the crowd could not easily be imparted–is the pooling of ideas. There is no such thing as copyright. Here, if nowhere else, plagiarism is a virtue, and the common ownership of goods in the early Church was not more real than the common ownership of ideas in the Guild. (2)
The classes are in a sense only an attempt to organize this “pooling,” and the whole training system is an instrument powerfully designed to make available to all the resources of each. If we are to bring the Church to the street-corner, we must begin by bringing the street-corner to the classroom. Whatever may be local variations, there can be no progress if that cardinal maxim is ignored. The class must be the common ground where church and street-corner meet, so that its members may bring every item of knowledge, old and new, into relation with what the crowd is thinking and saying.
The Guild mind is always on the crowd, studying the problems it presents. A Guildsman must try first one line and then another, until a solution can be reached which can be put at the disposal of all the other speakers. It is found that only those can do the training who are in constant touch with the crowd, and even a short absence is sufficient to put a man out of touch. For the crowd is always alive, always changing, absorbing influences of all sorts, including ourselves. Above all the crowd mentality is so different from anything inside the church, that it is impossible to keep it in mind if it is long out of sight.
The classes, (3) then, are given by people who are doing the outdoor work and the instruction they give is of two kinds:
- doctrinal–though, as has been indicated, the instruction is not so much on the subject as on how to lecture on the subject at the street corner.
- technical–how to prepare lectures, deliver them, handle crowds, etc.
In all this section of Guild activity, the dominant mode is the thoroughness–amounting in some cases to ferocity–of the criticism given not only by teachers to taught but by all speakers to one another.
But there is no way of learning a crowd quite so effective as meeting it, and it is only by outdoor speaking that one can become an outdoor speaker. It is a definite part of the training scheme to get people on to the platform as soon as possible, since experience has shown, not only that otherwise they lose interest and drop out of the Guild, but also that the study is rendered far more efficient by actual contact with the crowd.
In this matter the Guild has two interests to consider–the training of the speaker and the good of the crowd; and though ultimately these are one and the same, there is a stage at which they appear to be in conflict. The speaker must have outdoor work if he is to improve; yet the crowd do not learn so well from the newcomer as they would from a more experienced lecturer. The difficulty had to be faced frankly; and a solution was found by which the new speaker gets his practice and the crowd take no harm.
Before outlining this solution, we may add one word more; and that as to the need of taking long views. England has been Protestant now for 400 years, and the work of 400 years cannot be undone in four weeks. For the moment the principal activity of every Guild is training; even the outdoor platform is part of the training scheme. The Guild’s objective is not so much the crowd of today as the crowd of five or ten years hence; so that the crowd of today is training us to be more efficient instructors of the crowds that are to come.
Thus if it is felt that many of the newer speakers, though safe enough on their subject, are inadequate, the Guild can only re-assert that there is no other way of making them adequate. But this must not be taken to imply that anyone can be flung onto a platform entirely unprepared; no one must be sent out who is likely to utter heresy, or who is not prepared for crowd questions, or who cannot put two sentences together. The Guild makes certain conditions:
- The new speaker shall choose one subject; know it thoroughly, practice it before the class, and be tested (4) on it by priests. The test is a real test, and there is an unsparing rejection of those who cannot be made fit, that they may not waste their time in the Guild but be set free to work on one of the many other roads to Rome.
- He shall speak and answer questions only on the subject on which he has been tested, until such time as he may qualify in another.
- He shall start on easy subjects. Many a man can make an admirable speech on the use of Images who will never be able to begin explaining the doctrine of the Immortality of the Soul.
- He shall start with easy crowds.
- He shall be under the charge of a senior speaker (5) who is Chairman of the meeting and can take questions on which the junior has not been tested. It is the Chairman’s duty to see that a novice comes to no harm and does no harm to the crowd.
It must not be imagined that all this is a determined attempt to force all speakers into the one mould. As the people who come to me Guild are varied, so are those whom the Guild sends out to speak in public. Men vary enormously in their choice of subject; no two men will handle the one subject alike. In whatever style, there is an indispensable minimum of equipment but, given this, there must be a natural development of the whole man. All that the technical traning attempts is the freeing of each speakers’ personality by the removal of the ignorance and the awkwardness which are bars to its natural development.
The guild needs complete men and women, and its method is reasonable guidance, not a chopping and chiseling and squeezing and stretching to make each speaker like every other–and like no other being in the world.
THE OUTDOOR WORK
In any discussion of the outdoor work of the Guild, the temptation is to describe incidents or perhaps to attempt to reproduce an actual meeting. Here again detail must be avoided, and certain broad principles stated; although this may appear difficult, since superficially the Guild in action would seem to be a very heterogeneous Guild. One speaker will be found to pound his crowd for their greater good, another is given to a certain humility of address; one lets the crowd do all the talking, and another does it all himself; one prefers simple explanation, and another moral appeal; and so on endlessly. But though all this looks chaotic enough, there is a great unifying principle involved in the Guild’s conception of its mission.
The immediate aim of the outdoor work is not conversions; or at least these are not the measure of our success. We long for, and work for, the conversion of England, like any other Catholic society; but we have no secret of whole-sale conversions. We have simply faced a big task and decided on a common-sense method.
We have proposed to ourselves a long job: to spread a knowledge of the truth and to kill lies; a steady humdrum sort of job that has to be done–whether as a vocation or a duty. Big results will come in time, but we sow with no expectation of seeing the harvest. A ready analogy is to be found in the great cathedrals which took centuries to build, and yet each man did his part of the work none the less earnestly and lovingly. The Guild is no place for those who cannot keep on without the stimulus of great results, and the cheaper sort of optimist will find the work wearying. As we are not unduly elated by conversions, so we are not unduly depressed by the lack of them.
To put it in one word we are teachers. This is emphasized in our official title “Diocesan Cathechists.” The teaching itself is conditioned by the needs of the crowd, and therefore some attempt must be made to analyze the religious condition of the people among whom we are working. Protestantism in England, contrary to widespread belief, is not dead. Protestantism as an organization is dead, but then from the beginning the organization was an anomaly in a religion of private judgement. It lasted because old habits die hard; and it did not simply break up in one catastrophe, but proceeded by the way of more and more (and therefore smaller and smaller) groups toward the natural unit of Protestantism–the individual. (6) The essential thing in it as a religion has always been Private Judgement; that principle has reached its ultimate stage of development, and is at last completely triumphant in England.
It must be stressed that the Protestant really believes that he is doing the will of God; but in practice private judgment means that he interprets the will of God by his own will, and that his rule of faith is to do what he thinks right–that is to say, he uses his own judgment to decide what God’s judgment will be, and then follows the result as God’s judgment. Thus while he thinks he is agreeing with God, he is really making God agree with him. (7) Gradually he comes (usually unconsciously) to leave out this middle step and no longer thinks of God in each individual case, but only as a kind of general approver of his actions. Then rejecting alike Atheism and Deism, he has reached the practical position of believing in God’s existence and God’s will for us, but of acting exactly as though there were no God but his own will.
Thus it would seem that our crowds have a belief in God and in the next life–atheists in the crowd are usually isolated and can count on no support–and therefore little time need be devoted to proving those things. (8) But they scarcely have a notion of the supernatural (9) or of institutional religion; hence these must form the staple of our teaching; so we must teach about Christ, His twin gifts of Truth and Life, and the Church He founded to guard those gifts.
All the time we must hammer home what religion is; not–as many of them view it–a symposium of our own opinions and feelings , leading us to be pleased at good things and dislike bad things–or even a general preference for Heaven rather than Hell–or even a kind of decent gratitude to God (if there be any God) for having made us, and to Christ for having died for us (if indeed he did die for us). We must show them that real religion includes a great mass of belief and rules of conduct given to us by God (so that our approval or otherwise is not particularly relevant). We must be disciples not critics. There is one true religion given by God and every one must search for it.
Always we must insist that Christianity is not merely a philosophy of life, thought it has its philosophy; nor a code of laws, though the laws be there. It is a life, and if our Christianity is real, then every single thing in our life is part of it. Of that life the guiding principle is the will of God, and that will is not simply to be found in our own feelings. In short we must bring home to the crowd that while they are creatures, that is “created,” God is not merely a superior creature, but the source of all created things; a Being Who demands our service, and Whose religion means believing (even if we do not see the necessity) and doing (even things we do not like).
After this somewhat lengthy introduction, some detailed treatment of the outdoor work may be attempted, under the heads:
- The Crowd.
- Our attitude toward the Crowd.
- Certain guiding principles in our teaching.
1. The Crowd.
It always takes some time fully to realize that the unit that we meet is not the individual but the crowd; which is a whole and must be handled as such. But a collection of individuals is not a crowd; and the people who come to hear us are a thoroughly mixed lot.
Anyone looking over the top of a platform at the hundreds of upturned faces could enumerate a dozen reasons for their presence; some are drawn by a kind of shuddering curiosity (the type who dream of the Pope, and wake up in the night screaming “Rome”); some are there to see that Rome does not have it all her own way; and these have their jackals who come to back them up simply out of a natural human love of a row. Many are there because they find it cheaper than the pictures and on the whole more entertaining. There is, too, an occasional pious Christian of uncertain denomination who hopes to convert the lecturer; because he is young and has a good face; also a not so occasional drunkard; a very frequent gentleman too of the cuckoo type, who, having no chance of an audience of his own, comes to use ours; while here and there a lapsed Catholic is watching the issue of the contest as it seems to sway from one side to the other with a stirring of a feeling dead and buried for many a year. The invariable background consists of a great number of silent men and women–the people for whom mainly we come–who say nothing (as though they had been there when the meeting started, and were too lazy to move away), who give no sign of interest, whose presence might seem an odd accident–if they did not return again and again.
To make a rabble of this kind into that very personal thing, a crowd, which can be handled as such, some unifying force is needed. Truth, unfortunately, is able, not only to bind, but to sunder, and truth alone therefore is not the unifying force needed. We must find some common interest–not an interest merely: the Mormons inspire that–but some interest that we can persuade them to share with us. Tet thinking over the elements that go to the composition of a crowd we might be led to despair; for, as the crowd began with individuals, so into individuals is it resolved; and though the crowd must be treated as one, yet the effect is multiplex. The result of one speech may be to send away a section raging, another thinking still another praying, and perhaps one man convinced. But this experience should never lead to a promiscuous hurling round of pious remarks in the hope that some of them may, on the law of averages, affect someone. Every crowd has its own physiognomy due, not to any peculiarity of its elements, but to their proportion and arrangement; and a kind of common interest is needed to hold them and what kind of teaching may be expected to have an effect.
2. OUR ATTITUDE TOWARD THE CROWD
Our attitude to the crowd should be very clear to ourselves, because it will always be very clear to them, for they sense character and they sense attitude. Whatever may be thought of the possibility of effecting necessary repairs in our character, at least we can see to it that our attitude is right.
In the first place it is above all tings vital to like the crowd; we can do no good to the soul of a person we hate, and if we are simply indifferent, our offer of spiritual help will be a mere impertinence. If we do not like them, we must try to; and if we cannot manage that with all our trying, we are in a bad way. This liking is easy enough in theory and should be so in practice. But it is difficult to feel like an apostle all the time; the work of controversy has this peculiar danger–that we think of winning the argument rather than of winning the arguer. We must beware too of the resentment natural to the gift horse that has been looked in the mouth–and anyhow, crowds are so very candid about oneself! (10) But there are two considerations that should help us to keep our balance:
- (a) That we are not doing anything particularly virtuous in working for the Guild, rather that, far from deserving any special treatment, we should regard the unpleasantness as the price we pray for a great privilege.
- (b) That the crowd are under no real obligation to behave decently. Why should they? They don’t ask us to come, on the contrary we ask them. Hence to complain if they, having accepted our very pressing invitation, find us dull and nasty, is against the reason of things. Since we ask them to listen they have a right to do so on their own terms; it is for us to treat them as a host might treat an eccentric guest whom he has not only invited once, but intends to invite again.
It is necessary to impress the crowd in our two-fold capacity as individuals and as representatives. They must, first of all, come to respect the speaker personally, and, that accomplished, the more they regard him as a typical Catholic, the better. In the due balancing of these capacities lies a certain danger. Since there is, in the beginning at least, a prejudice against the Church, the speaker’s personality must be strong enough and good enough to win a hearing–but his personality must never be so far stressed that the crowd lose sight of his representative quality. We are not out to talk about our own souls–their goodness, or badness, or history–but about Catholic doctrine; it is by the speaker’s character alone, without his own testimonial thereto, that he must make an impression. The anonymity of the work is more than an accident due to the obscurity of us who do it, it is an essential factor; one may measure a man’s understanding of the work by his understanding of that principle. It involves that not only all praise, but also all blame, shall go to the Church, and while the absence of personal praise should induce unselfishness, the possibility of harm to the Church should make us the more determined to do our best.
The paid heckler falls under a different set of rules: in the ordinary course, at least, we cannot hope to convince him–and we have no right to count on miracles. Ordinarily, we have to regard the determined heckler (as opposed to the honest questioner) as an instrument ready to our hand for the instruction of the audience: if we take his questions, it is not for his own sake, but for their information. Yet we must remember that a heckler has a soul, and if we cannot do him any good, we should be immensely careful not to do him any harm. The law of charity should govern our attitude always, but if at times it is necessary to hit we should remember certain obvious rules:
- Never be personal: we are for the most part extremely in the appearance of our hecklers, as in their grammar and manners; but we must under no circumstances mention it.
- Make sure that the crowds see the justice of your action, otherwise they will feel that they themselves have been assaulted.
- If you hit, hit hard: don’t merely scratch. But we should never deal out justice of this sort when we are ourselves out of temper–in this case charity begins at home. The golden rule in the treatment of a heckler is to make the crowd see that it is not a personal matter between him and us; but that he, a solitary individual, armed with his nine days’ doctrine, is attacking the three hundred million whose belief has stood the test of many centuries.
Thus our attitude to the crowd at large must be that of men who are very conscious of their responsibility to the Church and to the crowd; anxious only that their audience should see the Church as she is, and absolutely honest both as to the doctrines of the Church and as to their own knowledge of them; so that they neither modify her teaching to make it easier of acceptance, nor pretend to any knowledge that they do not possess.
3. Guiding Principles in Our Teaching
In a discussion of the teaching to be given from our platforms, dogmatism of any sort might, at first sight, seem dangerous, since crowds differ widely one from another, and speakers, if anything, differ more widely. But Catholicism not only binds all he children; she has a strange binding effect also on those outside. Everywhere one finds the same line of opposing thought or feeling, with but slight local modifications. Hence there are certain principles which would seem to be of universal application and which can be dealt with under two heads:
- (a)Manner –how to present our teaching; and
- (b)Matter–the teaching itself.
Here there is only one entirely indispensable quality: simplicity. The shining gifts of the orator must yield precedence to the homely virtue of the teacher. The Bible tells us that at the first Evidence Guild meeting, the speakers had a most mixed audience, yet every man understood them; and we, with a much simpler assemblage, must aim at the same result. By sheer force of personality it is possible to hold a vast crowd for hours–yet give them nothing at all, and in the end send them away with a pleasant thrill–and a quite empty mind. Unless they understand, the time is wasted: that they may understand a degree of simplicity and clearness is called for such as the non-guildsman can scarcely conceive. This simplicity involves: (a) treating one point at a time; (b) arranging the subject matter clearly; (c) keeping the lecture to 20 minutes at most; (d) using very simple words. Such words as “finite,” “creatures,” “impeccability,” and a thousand more mean nothing to a crowd. Words of one syllable (if very common) are desirable!
There is an old lady who frequents a certain pitch whose picture should be in every Guild class-room. Having listened intently to one of our speakers lucidly explaining the doctrine of Infallibility, she shook her head sadly and said, “it’s no use, young man: you can talk till you are black in the face, but you will never persuade me that your Pope is God.” When speaking to a crowd never forget that old lady.
So long as it does not interfere with simplicity, eloquence is a valuable but by no means indispensable asset. For the most part we are not orators or preachers, but teachers simply. Still at every meeting a moment will come that calls for something more, and at such a moment real eloquence may be of profoundest effect. But so surely as eloquence takes the first place (and the sense of power it brings is very pleasant) so surely have we fallen from grace as Guildsmen.
Given these two qualities in due proportion, there is no fear of obscurity, but there is a grave danger of another sort: that by our manner we may seem to be forcing our ideas on the crowd. There is nothing gained by the smashing dogmatism of a speaker who tramples on heckler and sincere questioner alike, who sneers at great difficulties as though they were merely childish and who attempts to drive souls into the Church by main force. Such methods are amazingly easy, but either ruse the crowd to very justifiable fury (so that he who takes the sword perishes by it) or leave them silent indeed, but with a resentful feeling (as one victim expressed it) of “having been kicked all over.” We must be careful to avoid any suggestion of forcible feeding as though we were thrusting a privilege on them or insisting on their capitulation. As men offering to men a free gift, we must strive to convey, as far as we are able, the ineffable beauty of the birthright of the Children of God so that they may feel how much they lack and may freely choose the teaching which we, as members of the Catholic Church, come to offer.
It is very easy to show a crowd without offending them why we believe that the Church is the one true Church, and we may be as dogmatic as we please so long as we seem to be leaving them some freedom of choice. But we should not get into the way of so striking at every red herring drawn across our trail that the whole thing becomes a wraangle. If sinx people in the crowd are attacking, it is for us to see that the crowd does not get a confused impression of seven combatants, but of two opposing forces of which the speaker is one, the six hecklers the other. The speaker must try to bear the same relations to the audience as the Church bears to all other churches–not one in a crowd, but one and a crowd. This can never be accomplished by meeting violence with violence. Catholicism versus Protestantism means universality versus protest; and we must help the crowd to see it.
We would sum up then the ideal platform qualifications as simplicity and clearness to the utmost degree; eloquence on the leash; gentleness without weakness; and an unswerving determination to maintain the moral ascendancy which belongs to the Catholic Church.
1. This applies especially to the training of new members. In the training of seniors, more stress is laid on the actual imparting of knowledge, though, here again, the main object is to enable speakers to pass on the newly acquired knowledge as efficiently as possible. Back to text
2. A striking instance is this paper. Quotations from other Guildsmen are nowhere acknowledged. Back to text
3. The system adopted in Westminster is based on two classes per week. In one class a course of lectures is gone through on the lines above indicated. The class hears a short leacture, is then heckled mercilessly (from the non-Catholic point of view) by the speaker, heckles him equally without mercy, and findally each member gives a two minute speech on the subject. In the other, speakers deliver a lecture they have prepared on some simple point to the rest of the class who behave exactly like a street corner crowd, interjecting and heckling. The speaker is criticized by the senior in charge of the class, and tries again next week; and so on, week after week, until he is considered fit for his test on that subject. In the junior course the training is mainly done by lay speakers. This might at first seem rather dangerous; but the safeguard is that every speaker must be tested by priests. The training of seniors is somewhat different and includes a course of lectures on advanced subjects given by priests. On all this section, the Handbook should be read carefully.
4. In Westminster the examining board consists of two priests and a senior layman. The latter is known as the Devil’s Advocate, and represents especially the outdoor crowd.
5. In Westminster senior speakers are of two sorts; holders of a chairman’s license, who may lecture only on subjects in which they have been tested ,but may take general questions; and holders of a general license, who may both lecture and answer questions without restriction. Both licenses are awarded, after examination, to speakers of considerable outdoor experience.
6. There are of course still groups in existence but they have no real function: no member of a group holds himself bound to obey the group, and in fact members of sects are as liable as those who belong to none to declare that one religion is as good as another. Back to text
7. It is not simply that every man is his own Pope, but that every man is his own God. For the Pope’s authority is limited by God who gives it, but the individuals authority, being wrong ab initio, is limited in no way.
8. This is fortunate having regard to the limitations of the majority of the speakers. Most Guilds have mirthful memories of attempts made by ambitious speakers to handle philosophical subjects on the platform.
9. This is one (thought not the sole) explanation of the exclusion of social and political topics. The crows hear sufficient of these things elsewhere, and need desperately to learn of the supernatural. That they are, dimly at any rate, conscious of their need is shown by the striking fact that the Guild, rigidly as it excludes the topics that are supposed to be man’s first concern, can usually count on a larger crowd than political platforms in the same locality.
10. The writer was once asked: “Has the Church in England come so low that it needs fellows like you to defend it?”