Chesterton Knew The Importance of Ecumenical Dialogue

Chesterton Knew The Importance of Ecumenical Dialogue

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Chesterton Quote Found At Last!

GKC Conference & Pilgrimage and lots of people who can remember things they have read by him, and tell you where they read them! Oh help! While I may be Chesterton's biggest fan, lets go by weight, I've read less than half the books he wrote and remember nothing! I have spent years however telling GKC's story about a gate across a road, but could not remember which book it came from, and sometimes would wonder if it was not Belloc's story instead.

So in absolute fear of meeting anyone who has read a lot of GKC, I turned to my secretary and sent her to London to get me some books! (Sorry in-joke, St Aquinas would get it). So I'm now reading The Thing by GKC, for the first time. Then I find the following at the start of the chapter, The Drift From Domesticity;

IN the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, "I don't see the use of this; let us clear it away." To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: "If you don't see the use of it, I certainly won't let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it."

This paradox rests on the most elementary common sense. The gate or fence did not grow there. It was not set up by somnambulists who built it in their sleep. It is highly improbable that it was put there by escaped lunatics who were for some reason loose in the street. Some person had some reason for thinking it would be a good thing for somebody. And until we know what the reason was, we really cannot judge whether the reason was reasonable. It is extremely probable that we have overlooked some whole aspect of the question, if something set up by human beings like ourselves seems to be entirely meaningless and mysterious. There are reformers who get over this difficulty by assuming that all their fathers were fools; but if that be so, we can only say that folly appears to be a hereditary disease.

The hard thing about quoting Chesterton for me is that I want to quote the whole book! This quote is great, I have used it to defend many many things, be it Altar Rails, Communion on the tongue, Adoration, The Old Rite Mass or the Old Rite Mass!

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