Sometimes an issue of the magazine is planned around a particular theme, and sometimes one just emerges of its own accord. In recent weeks, as protesters have crowded the streets to demand that statues are taken down, Herald writers have been reflecting on how we relate to the complicated past.
On page 47, two historians – John Charmley, a critical biographer of Churchill, and Paul Lay, whose latest book focuses on Oliver Cromwell – discuss why, despite everything, they hope their subjects’ statues continue to loom over London streets. John Sutherland considers on page 7 the future of Orwell’s statue, while on page 20 Philip Hensher says literature is an even more vulnerable target than public art. Watch out Evelyn Waugh. Elsewhere, Matthew Schmitz, Patrick Deneen and Fr Martin Boland take a close look at the passions unleashed by today’s debates.
Another theme of this issue – a less obvious one – is the Church’s role in preserving culture. Of course, that isn’t the Church’s main role. And yet it is curious how often Catholicism becomes the guardian or protector of a way of life.
In Croatia, for instance, where – as Robin Harris writes on page 26 – the Church has repeatedly taken the lead in defending the country’s sense of itself. In Newcastle, where the Dominicans have been so involved with the life of the city that the football club’s famous stripes have been attributed to the colour scheme of the friars’ habits (page 36). In East London, where a Catholic school has kept up a long tradition of community organising (page 15). And on the road to Canterbury, which William Cash walks in this month’s cover story, and which thanks to the Canterbury Tales and all the pilgrims who have passed that way before and since, has come to symbolize part of the national character.
There is a link between those two themes. Maybe current events – the protests and media denunciations and public displays – are just midsummer madness and will pass; but they might also represent, as quite a few people fear, something fundamental breaking down in Western society. If it is as bad as that, then the Church will be there again to pick up the pieces.
Notice anything different? We’ve increased the font size just a touch – something which a few readers have asked for, and which we’ve been thinking about for a while. It should make the magazine even easier to read.