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A Church Without Spirituality?

March 06, 1994

Novelist Gabrielle Donnelly's favorable review (Feb. 13) of A. N. Wilson's "The Vicar of Sorrows" was marred by an unfair--and surprisingly nasty-toned--dismissal of the entire Anglican tradition.

She first recycles the false and worn out jibe that the Church of England was "originally founded by Henry VIII." Of course, it was not. He merely separated the English church from Roman jurisdiction. The canon law term "Anglican Church" long antedated the Reformation era, and serious tensions between England and Rome had been growing since the 13th Century.

She goes on to claim, astonishingly, Anglicanism is "lacking" in any "deep pull of spirituality" within its own structure, and has therefore been unable to produce any "truly religious adult novel set in the Church of England."

Really? I could not believe that I was reading this in the pages of the Sunday Times in the 1990s. This is the sort of freewheeling and ignorant vilification that we thought--or at least hoped--was passe in an Ecumenical Age. Local Episcopalians who saw the review might well be too "Anglican," too tastefully "restrained," to reply. But something really ought to be said for the record. I'm not an Anglican. I am a member of the Roman Church and an academic historian of Christian thought. And I am happy to reply--if no one else does.

Any religious tradition which has produced and retained a Richard Hooker, a Lancelot Andrews, a John Keble, an F. D. Maurice, a William Temple in theology; a John Donne, a George Herbert, a T. S. Eliot in poetry; an Anthony Trollope, a Dorothy Sayers, a Charles Williams as fully adult novelists and essayists--that tradition has nothing to be ashamed of "spiritually." Donnelly should try to get a clearer-eyed view of Anglicanism and the corpus of Anglican writing before she talks about them again.

CHARLES STINSON, LOS ANGELES

A WOMAN CALLED ERROL

I am interested to note that Dick Roraback, in his "In Brief" review of "The Lives of Beryl Markham," by Errol Trzebinski (Feb. 20), refers to the author as "he." (He contends that Markham's book was ghosted by then-husband, Raoul Schumacher, a ghost writer by trade.")

While the contention is correct, I wonder, nevertheless, if Roraback actually read the book, or even looked at the dust jacket. Errol Trzebinski, the "he" that Roraback notes, is a woman.

Incidentally, Raoul Schumacher was my uncle.

BETTY JO RAVITZ, SAN PEDRO

MISSING THE BIG PICTURE

In response to Naomi Wolf's "Women, Money and Power" (Feb. 6); she seems to be missing the big picture. This capitalist system in which we live is oppressive and by its very nature breeds inequality. Why would I, as a feminist/humanist, want to take power in such a system? Does Wolf hate power simply because she doesn't have it? I should hope not. We, women and men, need to realize that power is not something we want to take but something we want to destroy in order to put equality in its place.

TRACY HOF, SANTA MONICA

INFORMATION SOUGHT

For a study of Alfred Hitchcock, I will be most grateful for memories and anecdotes concerning his collaboration with his wife Alma.

NEIL J. HURLEY, S.J., MURRAY-WEIGEL HALL, 515 EAST FORDHAM ROAD, BRONX, N.Y. 10458

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