In divisive times, Chesterton inspires unity

Light of truth

At a time when Catholics seem to be split between conservative or progressive factions, the life and works of English writer G.K. Chesterton can inspire men and women in the church to rise above conflict, according to U.S. scholar Dale Ahlquist.

“People on the left and right both find things to connect to Chesterton,” Ahlquist told Catholic News Service on March 22.

“Chesterton is a unifier. I think he did see the potential for the schism that is going on right now, the great division between people. But it’s just a general splitting of society because we’ve lost our roots.” Ahlquist’s latest book, titled “Knight of the Holy Ghost,” is designed to introduce people to Chesterton, who lived from 1874 to 1936.

“There are some excellent biographies out there that are very good. But sometimes, Chesterton can get lost in the details and I wanted to bring out the highlights, some of the most important features of his life so that he stands out,” he said.

Ahlquist, who serves as president of the Society of Gilbert Keith Chesterton, a Catholic lay apostolate inspired by the early 20th century writer, also makes the case for Chester-ton’s sainthood cause.

In 2013, Bishop Peter Doyle of Northampton, England, appointed Father John Udris, a priest of the diocese, to conduct an investigation into Chester-ton’s life and writings. The report, Ahlquist told CNS, has been completed and “recommends that the cause be opened.”

Now it is up to the bishop to request Vatican permission to open the cause.

In his book, Ahlquist dispels misunderstandings or falsehoods that some have cited as obstacles to Chesterton’s canonization, including the misconception that he was “rapidly anti-Semitic.”

“It’s one of those things that the more it gets repeated, the more it is believed,” said Ahlquist.

“No, it’s not that wine and beer are evil things, they can just be abused like any good thing,” said Ahlquist. “He called puritanism the ‘righteous indignation about the wrong things.’”

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