To mark the 175th anniversary of the Catholic weekly The Millstone, this blog offers an in-depth interview with its controversial editor, Prue Matrix-Chambers.
Ignatius: Your anniversary was marked by a service in Westminster Cathedral with a star-studded congregation of present and former contributors, but observers noted some significant absences: G.K. Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc; Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene. Was that because they are dead?
Matrix-Chambers: Not entirely. Frankly, Iggy, they were not invited. Millstone has changed radically from their day, and I think they might have felt a little out of place. And one wonders, you know, in the modern world, whether they would really be able to hack it any longer. As I know from my own experience, apologetics in a media-savvy world has become more difficult. Take ‘Thought for the Day’, for example. There you are up alongside towering intellects like Rob Marshall and Giles Fraser. It’s tough going.
Ignatius: You say The Millstone has changed. How would you characterize that change?
Matrix-Chambers: Well, it’s really less a change than a complete reversal. For roughly the first 150 years Millstone was part of a movement for the conversion of England. It was rather pushy and preachy, if I can put it like that. A bit in-your-face. Then came Humanae Vitae, and people realised that you couldn’t go on like that. You had to go with the flow – or no one would listen.
Ignatius: So you stopped trying to make people Catholics and started campaigning to change the Church to suit them.
Matrix–Chambers: Exactly. Less dogma and more social concern. And now with Pope Francis it seems to be working. He has brought the real world into the Vatican: his spontaneity, his approachability, his refreshing candour. I was watching a clip of him kissing babies only the other day, and thought what a breath of fresh air he is.
Ignatius: But there are clips of Benedict kissing babies, aren’t there?
Matrix-Chambers: Well, yes. But with Francis it’s different. With Francis, you know that he wants every child to be wanted, if you see what I mean.
Ignatius: I think I do.