A Reluctant Sinner has done all the hard work here.
I was a little uncertain as to whether I'd make it and as to my views on him.
As it turned out he was a great deal more sympathetic and humorous in real life than I have seen him on his films. He explained the hard-hitting way in which he speaks as being a result of the fact that that was what got through to him in the end. I don't know too much about him, so can only write on the basis of what I heard last night.
To those who hesitate because he is a layman and this is the Catholic Church, I'm with you. Obviously, he is not speaking with the authority of the Church, but he has some interesting points to make and someone has to say something. Sometimes that comes easier from the laity, because in some ways we are freer to go places and express opinions than the clergy.
I wouldn't be about to make him some hero because I don't think that's what we are supposed to do, but as a means of, for example, attracting a large number of Catholics into one place for a meeting, he certainly did the job. Heavens, it's just good to be able to react the same as other people for a change.
I also think that he exhibits the phenomenon of the returned Catholic who is just a little bit annoyed that they didn't get the real deal when they were growing up and wants to put the situation right. A friend of mine once pointed out the damage that people do to themselves when they don't follow the teaching of the Church and how angry would you be if you discovered later on what you were not taught when you were growing up? (All of us stray to a greater or lesser extent, but at least inside the Church we have access to the remedies and hopefully manage to get back on track more easily and more quickly than those floundering outside.) I sometimes labour under the illusion that non-Catholics I meet are all having a great time. Surprise surprise they are not. Materially, the baubles may glitter, but as with a great meal, it's the company more than the food that make for the pleasure.
Every generation has its particular difficulties. For my parent's generation they went from schools populated by teaching orders and the old Mass to the collapse of those orders and the new Mass in about 20 years. (Maybe less.) How let down were they? My Grandfather's one soundbite on Vatican II was, 'John XXIII, a very silly man.' For people who never ever criticized the Church and he, the Headmaster of a Catholic primary school, that's quite a comment. Stashed on his bookcase, behind the arm chair I now have was a book of the documents of Vatican II, so we can deduce he was pretty interested.
In my case, always at the end of an era me, I got a very old fashioned primary school, which matched up entirely with the home and parish and then a secondary school where I cannot remember being taught anything in RE in the first 3 years and believe me I am very nerdy and remember lots. I won't mention the 12 years I spent teaching in Catholic schools, wondering why my reactions always seemed to be wrong.
Anyway, it was great to meet a few more bloggers - Paul Priest - at last for example - a large group of Catholics converging on a pub is always a good thing.
PS I should have said well done to young Mr Smeaton for the organisation.
We can muse on such a crowd of Catholics listening to a rousing talk...in a Salvation Army Hall.