Evelyn Waugh’s Curious Catholicism

Evelyn Waugh was, without doubt, one of the great masters of English prose during the last century.  He was also one of the more eccentric literary figures of that period.

One of the more curious aspects of his life concerns his religion. Waugh converted to Catholicism in 1930 when he was  nearly 27 years old. Much has been made of it. The thing that I find most curious is this. Catholicism, as taught by Jesus in the Bible, is about upgrading one’s relations with one’s fellow man. It is supposed to be the doctrine of love. Certainly in its early days, christian faith was communal. But Waugh made no bones about his dislike for his fellow man. And his Catholicism did nothing to change that. Indeed, Waugh’s displeasure with his contemporaries appears to be one of his reasons for converting.

Instead, it appeared that Waugh was in love with the faux certainty that Catholicism provided. It was the grand old institution that survived all of the depravities that man could think of.  Waugh loved its authority and legitimacy. And love for others? Well, you can stuff that!

So much for the doctrine of love.


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