The enigma, Graham Greene

Greene: “Goodness has only once found a perfect incarnation in a human body and never will again, but evil can always find a home there. Human nature is not black and white but black and grey.”

We were travelling together in the early 1980s and I was reading the latest Graham Greene (The Human Factor?) and scandalised, as a convert might be, by the heresies about the imagined and improvised Mass. You said, “Poor man.” And it did not occur to me that you were in a similar place, not wanting to change anything and knowing it was all wrong and would not end well.

The End of the Affair was what made sense to me. Something  for which I could give up everything, something that lay beyond renunciation. “I’ve caught belief like a disease. I’ve fallen into belief like I fell in love”


And I too was a convert who could not account for my belief. I would study the arguments and  want to think this was rational, this was what thousands of men and women much cleverer than myself had come to believe though steady unemotional thought. But there was a lure called mysticism and that was what drew me closer.

“You see, I wasn’t in the position of a Protestant who is searching for an alternative. I believed in nothing. Father Trollope and I saw each other regularly for six months, sometimes at the cathedral, sometimes on the open upper deck of a bus, when we’d pursue our arguments for the entire journey! (When I was baptized, I made it clear that I had chosen the name of Thomas to identify myself not with St. Thomas Aquinas but with St. Thomas Didymus, the doubter.) I eventually came to accept the existence of God not as an absolute truth but as a provisional one.”

This too: that you had grown up in am oppressed and impoverished Ireland, you had gone to Rome to become a priest just after WWII. I had lived in Africa all my life, I had grown up in an older and more magical, even terrifying culture.


Greene “I still believe in magic, even in the art of writing. If Catholicism has succeeded in reaching the remotest corners of Africa, it’s no doubt because of certain magical characteristics. Its sense of magic is closer to the African than the abstractions of the Methodists and Anglicans. I’m inclined to find superstition or magic more ”rational” than such abstract religious ideas as the Holy Trinity. I like the so-called primitive manifestations of the faith.”

He died at La Providence Hospital in Vevey, near Lake Geneva in Switzerland. He was 86 years old. You would die back in Dublin in your 60s of cancer and I would not see you before your death or write to you. I would henceforth consider myself lapsed or believing and not belonging. And the journey back would continue…


“No . . . I’ve broken the rules. They are rules I respect, so I haven’t been to communion for nearly thirty years . . . . In my private life, my situation is not regular. If I went to communion, I would have to confess and make promises. I prefer to excommunicate myself.”


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