Wednesday 16th January 2019

Home » Frontpage » Currently Reading:

Convert, Lay Theologian, Novelist . . . Wanderer Contributor Philip Trower Dies At Age 95

January 12, 2019 Frontpage No Comments


Philip Trower, convert to Catholicism, lay theologian, novelist, and The Wanderer’s beloved friend and contributor, died on January 9. He was 95. Trower was born in London on May 16, 1923.
We unearthed the oldest letter we have from him on file, dated April 25, 1977. It followed our acceptance of his first article for us, part of a three-part book he was then just completing.
“I should perhaps explain why I have written it all,” said Philip about his book.
He gave us two reasons:
“I have written it partly as an act of faith; partly to fulfill a half-promise.”
The first “act of faith” reason forecast the books he did ultimately publish, including The Church Learned and the Revolt of the Scholars (The Wanderer Press: 1979), Truth and Turmoil: The Historical Roots of the Modern Crisis in the Catholic Church (Ignatius: 2003), The Catholic Church and the Counter-Faith — A Study of the Roots of Modern Secularism, Relativism, and De-Christianity (Family Publications: Oxford, UK: 2006).
The second reason for the book, the “half-promise,” he elaborated on as follows:
“To write it was not my idea. I was asked to by the American poet and writer Dunstan Thompson shortly before he died in my house in January 1975 after a long illness. He had himself begun such a book.
“But the manuscript was not in a state I could use, so after his death I began again from the beginning. The writing is all mine, but I can’t now say which ideas are his and which are mine as we discussed the whole subject together many many times from 1968 on.
“But I do know that he was far above me in intelligence and abilities. He had a brilliant and extraordinary mind, and a great love and understanding of the faith — and of truth in any form — deepened by having thrown the faith aside in youth and recovered it only, after much suffering and unhappiness, in his thirties.
“If I have been able to write about the faith in a way you think may be helpful to other people, I owe it almost entirely to him. I could say that from him I received my education as a Catholic.”
Seeing Trower’s letter, an editorial assistant at The Wanderer confused Dunstan Thompson with Francis Thompson, author of Hound of Heaven — perhaps prophetically.
Trower’s letter foreshadows his much later full account of his conversion to Catholicism, “How I Became a Catholic.” Written when he was age 90 — Trower was born in 1923 — and published at Christendom Awake, it relates what has to be one of the most astonishing conversion stories in Church history.
Pior to relating Dunstan Thompson’s role in his conversion, Philip recalls other figures who brought him from his “Anglican modernism” to Catholicism.
He outlines his coming to the faith in three stages: from his birth in 1923 to 1941 when he went to Oxford; his time in Oxford through his service in World War II, 1941-1945; and the final stage, which he likens to Psalm 17, “from on high He reached down and seized me; He drew me forth from the mighty waters.”
Among the dramatis personae in this three-stage story:
Four Catholic women star in stage one, none of whom made overt attempts to convert young Philip to Catholicism, but attracted him to it by their ways of life.
As Philip came from a prosperous legal family, his parents engaged a nanny to look after him and his elder brother and two younger sisters. Without directly evangelizing him, Nanny Gwen Butcher, a Catholic, counseled him to “offer it up” whenever anything went wrong, and introduced him to Sacred Heart devotions.
Next was a French governess, Mademoiselle Lambert, who had taught two earlier generations of Philip’s family. She lived with her three unmarried sisters in a modest house in London. Philip recalls in his 2013 online autobiography that these women exhibited “a holy light-heartedness which I have often since noticed in Catholics who have lived and loved their faith since early childhood.”
Third was “Cousin Curly” — not a real cousin, but a distant relative by marriage on his mother’s side and a convert to Catholicism. After Curly’s mother died, Curly lived permanently in Switzerland — Philip spent two memorable weeks with her in the summer of 1937.
“She had a devout Swiss Catholic friend who sometimes accompanied us when we went looking for rare flowers in the higher Alps. If we passed a crucifix they crossed themselves and from time to time stopped at a chapel or church to pray,” wrote Philip, noting that “going into a church to pray on a weekday was still a novelty for me.”
The fourth woman Philip recalls was Mademoiselle de Seze of Touraine, France, with whom Philip stayed for six months to learn French when he was 12. He recalls his love for his tutor, her home and surroundings — his “first experience of Catholicism as the dominant religion of a national culture,” though by then he had learned about the French Revolution and the Napoleonic period.
(Notably, Philip Trower is cited as the translator of philosopher Etienne Gilson’s Methodical Realism, the edition published by Christendom Press in 1990, so he must have then mastered French along with experiencing Catholic culture.)
In stage two of his conversion story, Philip began his studies at Oxford in January 1941. There, he befriended an Anglo-Catholic who introduced him to Orthodox and Catholic thinkers, including Nikolai Berdyaev and Jacques Maritain.
Also, he sought counseling from a non-Catholic don who told him: “You will never find love until you find it in the tabernacle.”
Philip served in World War II, where he befriended a Catholic Army officer who lent him a copy of Karl Adam’s Spirit of Catholicism.
“I did read this with interest, but again without its moving me to action or a decision,” wrote Philip in his 2013 bio.
He was stationed in Italy and recalls the interiors of the village churches around Naples.
“They were full of statues and pictures and gilded ornamentation. There were no great works of art in them such as I would later see in Rome and elsewhere….Looking back I feel that our Lord must have had, and continue to have, the same kind of pleasure residing in them in His sacred humanity that He had in the house of Martha and Mary at Bethany.”
In May 1945, Philip was posted to an intelligence unit in Cairo, remaining there until he was shipped back to England and demobilized in 1947.
But while he was in Cairo, the British Air-Marshal invited him to come to Rome with him and his wife and his aide-de-camp. While there, Philip and the aide had an audience with Pope Pius XII: “I have come across few men in my life of now 90 years whom I have so instantly warmed to and liked.”
Yet even this experience did not move to Philip to conversion.

Recovering His Faith

Stage three is when Philip became a Catholic.
While in London, before leaving for Egypt, he met a “deeply lapsed” American Catholic poet, Dunstan Thompson, then noted for his “homoerotic” poetry. Ultimately, the two became lovers, settling in London in 1947 and then in Cley-Next-the-Sea. Philip wrote, with “shame and embarrassment,” that he had, for about three years prior to this, been homosexually active.
They had unwittingly moved near the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, which Philip described as the “maneuverings of the Hound of Heaven.”
Soon, Dunstan began to recover his faith, something Philip first realized when he suggested a trip to Rome for the Holy Year 1950, when Pius XII proclaimed the dogma of the Assumption. They did attend the ceremony.
Catholic writer William Doino tells their story this way in a December 15, 2014 article for First Things:
“When Dunstan told him he had received the Sacrament of Confession, and reconciled with the Church, Philip knew what that entailed: an end to their intimate relationship. But the change liberated him, and gave him peace of soul: ‘The obvious unnaturalness and therefore wrongness of homosexual practice had been troubling me for years.’
“This does not mean, however, ‘that there cannot be a love of friendship between men’ — far from it. In fact, Philip and Dunstan continued to live together, in a chaste, platonic relationship, following the guidance of their pastor” — Fr. William Peers Smith, SJ, of the “Farm Street Church” in London, to whom Dunstan had come when he decided to return to the fold.
Dunstan had had a deeply Catholic upbringing and education. Before his formal reconciliation with the faith in 1952, he undertook an intense study of Catholic theology, philosophy, and history. He started to tutor Philip in Catholicism.
Philip then began taking instructions from Fr. Peers Smith, who received him into the Catholic Church on March 15, 1953.
“From then on, until Dunstan’s death from cancer in 1975, both men used their gifts, their time and their energy in apostolic work for their local parish and for the wider Church,” wrote Francis Phillips in a September 9, 2014 article for the UK Catholic Herald.
Following his reconversion, Thompson never again received his previous acclaim and fame as a poet.
While Trower may be best known for his historical and theological writings, he also wrote a well-received Catholic novel, A Danger to the State (Ignatius Press 1998: San Francisco), about the 1773 suppression of the Jesuits. The novel is set in Spain, the Jesuit Reductions in Paraguay, and Catherine the Great’s Russia.
In one scene from the novel, some children in the Reductions are staging a play in honor of St. Michael.
In the play, the holy Archangel and the Devil are battling for a man’s soul. Lucifer reads a list of the man’s sins. Michael reads a list of his good deeds.
“You’ll never find enough good deeds to match all his sins,” says Lucifer, demanding ownership.
But St. Michael replies: “None of your tricks….You know the law. No matter how many sins he’s committed, if he repents, a million million sins will be forgiven.”
In that April 25, 1977 letter to The Wanderer, Trower also wrote: “I think that only in eternity will The Wanderer staff and writers know how much good they have done, drawing together Catholics who have suddenly found themselves spiritually isolated and scattered, and keeping up their spirits.”
Certainly, his own writings informed much of that ongoing task.
May this servant of God rest in peace.

Share Button

2017 The Wanderer Printing Co.

Twitter Feed

Right now the most likely path toward reform in the Church-- intervention of government authority-- could lead to disaster. If only a “morally intrepid few” bishops, here and in Rome, could call for and make public acts of repentance, we might yet avoid that danger.

Cardinal Burke, in two interviews, calls current Vatican response to abuse crisis "more confusing than anything"; calls upon those responsible for the McCarrick scandal to resign. Speaks about a group in USCCB pushing for LGBT agenda. @TheWandererNews

Cdl. Burke: Pope Francis’ response to abuse crisis is ‘more confusing than anything’

Cardinal Burke said that Pope Benedict was 'very clear' on the matter of abuse.

Load More...

Cdl. Burke: Pope Francis’ response to abuse crisis is ‘more confusing than anything’

January 14, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Cardinal Raymond Burke told German TV in a January 8 interview that Pope Francis’ response to the abuse crisis is “confusing.” Cardinal Burke stated that Pope Benedict was “very clear on this [matter of abuse],”…Continue Reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Trashes Pro-Life People: You’re “Not in Line With Society”

Justin Trudeau, Canada’s radically pro-abortion prime minister, blasted pro-life advocates Wednesday amid a nation-wide outrage about barring pro-life groups from a federal grant program. “An organization that has the explicit purpose of restricting women’s rights by removing rights to abortion,…Continue Reading

Cardinal’s trial puts French Church in glare of Catholic abuse scandal

The Roman Catholic archbishop of Lyon goes on trial on Monday charged with failing to act on historical allegations of sexual abuse of boy scouts by a priest in his diocese. Cardinal Philippe Barbarin is the highest-profile cleric to be…Continue Reading

Trudeau to issue new coin commemorating decriminalizaton of gay sex

OTTAWA, January 4, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau has granted the Royal Mint permission to release a new one-dollar coin designed to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his father’s decriminalization of homosexuality. Trudeau’s government approved the coin…Continue Reading


ST. LOUIS, Mo. ( – Cardinal Blase Cupich is slated to be the keynote speaker at the annual conference for a notorious dissident priests’ organization. The annual assembly of the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests (AUSCP) will take place in June 2019, and…Continue Reading

Vatican spokesman, deputy, resign over strategy differences

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – The Vatican spokesman and his deputy resigned on Monday over disagreements on strategy, ending a year of upheaval in the Holy See’s communications structure. A brief Vatican statement gave no reason for the resignations. Spokesman Greg…Continue Reading

Chinese city bans public displays of Christmas, cites ‘clean city’ as reason

LANGFANG, China, December 19, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – A city in China has issued a sweeping ban on Christmas-related decorations, public celebrations, and advertisements, claiming it’s necessary to keep the city clean for an upcoming awards contest. Christmas is not an…Continue Reading

Priest: Pro-LGBT rainbow rosary promoted by Fr. Martin ‘comes from the pit of hell’

December 17, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – During a radio interview about the pro-homosexual “social justice” rosary that Fr. James Martin has been promoting, Fr. Donald Calloway prayed for Martin’s “radical conversion” and that the Jesuit might “repent of the things he has…Continue Reading

President Trump’s Decision to Defund Planned Parenthood of $50-60 Million Likely to Win in Court

President Donald Trump appears likely to win a court battle against the abortion giant Planned Parenthood. At issue are new guidelines for Title X grants, which fund family planning programs across the country. In February, the U.S. Department of Health and…Continue Reading

Pro-LGBT priest promotes ‘rainbow’ rosary with prayers for ‘full acceptance’ of gay couples

December 6, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Pro-LGBT Jesuit priest Fr. James Martin is promoting on social media a rosary with “rainbow” beads for one of the decades which are to be used, the rosary’s creators say, to pray for the “full…Continue Reading

Archbishop Viganò denies claims he defrauded his brother

ROME, December 3, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) — Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò today has denied claims he defrauded his brother, and has sought to clarify an October court ruling ordering him to pay his brother €1.8 million in inheritance. Many believe the ruling is being…Continue Reading

Vatican’s former doctrine chief: ‘LGBT’ has ‘no place’ in Church documents

VATICAN CITY, November 21, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – An influential cardinal says that pro-homosexual terminology such as “LGBT” has no place in the documents of the Roman Catholic Church. In a recent interview with LifeSiteNews, Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, formerly the Prefect of the…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for 150 years in our weekly print edition.

  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to su
bscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 150 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

Interview With Cardinal Burke . . . Discriminating Mercy: Defending Christ And His Church With True Love


  By DON FIER (Editor’s Note: His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and Founder of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wis., graciously took time out of his busy schedule to grant The Wanderer a wide-ranging interview during a recent visit to the Shrine. Included among the topics…Continue Reading

Developing Lives Of Peace After The Heart Of Mary

By RAYMOND LEO CARDINAL BURKE (Editor’s Note: His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke delivered the address below at the 32nd Annual Church Teaches Forum, “The Message of Fatima: Peace for the World,” Galt House, Louisville, Ky., July 22, 2017. The address is reprinted here with the kind permission of Cardinal Burke. All rights reserved. This is part one of the…Continue Reading


Today . . .

Archbishop Viganò urges McCarrick to publicly repent in new open letter

ROME, January 14, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — With a tone of fraternal and priestly charity, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò has written an open letter to former-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, encouraging him to publicly repent of his sins and thus to save his soul. In the brief letter, dated January 13, 2019 and published in English and Italian (see full text below), Archbishop Viganò has also sought to persuade McCarrick that he has a unique opportunity to greatly benefit the Churc

U.S. Catholics losing trust in clergy, survey finds

Washington D.C., Jan 11, 2019 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- Trust in the clergy has declined sharply over the last year, a new Gallup poll shows. Only 31 percent of American Catholics now rate the honesty or ethical standards of the clergy as “high” or “very high.” The figures, released Friday, show a drop of 18 points since 2017. Among American Protestants, the same question produced a relatively stable number of 48 percent, a drop of…Continue Reading

Vatican News pays tribute to Cuba’s brutal communist revolution, then deletes post

ROME, January 8, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – An article at Vatican News, in recognition of the 60th anniversary of the Cuban revolution, disappeared from the Holy See’s website just one day after it appeared on January 1. No explanation was offered for the self-censorship of the article, which marked the rise to power of Fidel Castro and his anti-clerical Marxist government, which has long been marked by grievous human rights violations. The Vatican News article, in…Continue Reading

Wuerl knew McCarrick abuse allegations in 2004

Washington D.C., Jan 10, 2019 / 05:13 pm (CNA).- An allegation of misconduct against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick was reported to Cardinal Donald Wuerl in 2004, despite Wuerl’s insistence he knew nothing about McCarrick’s alleged sexual misconduct until 2018. Wuerl forwarded the report to the apostolic nuncio in Washington, DC, the Diocese of Pittsburgh said Thursday. A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Washington confirmed to CNA that an allegation against McCarrick was presented to Wuerl while…Continue Reading

Analysis: The non-trial of Theodore McCarrick

Vatican City, Jan 7, 2019 / 12:30 pm (CNA).- While recent media reports suggest that a trial of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick is underway, Vatican sources have told CNA that his case is not being handled by a full judicial process. Sources at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith have confirmed that allegations against McCarrick are being considered through an abbreviated approach called an “administrative penal process.” That decision gives insight into the strengt


The Case Against The Sign Of Peace At Mass

By REY FLORES O Lord Jesus Christ, Who said to Your Apostles: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give you,” regarda not my sins but the faith of your Church, and deign to give her peace and unity according to Your will: Who live and reign God, world without end. Amen. — At…Continue Reading

Candor Is Not The Enemy Of Love

By DONALD DeMARCO Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, in his book Strangers in a Strange Land: Living the Catholic Faith in a Post-Christian World, makes two most important points when he reminds all those who love life that “candor is not the enemy of love” and that “real hope begins in honesty.” Candor may disturb one’s…Continue Reading

No, This Is Not JFK’s Democratic Party

By PATRICK J. BUCHANAN Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s House has more women, persons of color, and LGBT members than any House in history — and fewer white males. And Thursday, January 3, the day Rashida Tlaib was sworn in, her hand on a Koran, our first Palestinian-American congresswoman showed us what we may expect. As a…Continue Reading

Are The Knights Of Columbus A Hate Group Now?

By SHAUN KENNEY Democratic Senators Kamala Harris and Maize Hirono have chosen to make membership within the Knights of Columbus a variant of a hate crime. Judicial nominee Brian Buescher’s pro-life bona fides notwithstanding, his cardinal sin against the bureaucracy isn’t his judicial temperament, but rather the fact that he is a practicing Catholic. The…Continue Reading

The Quest Of The Magi And Our Own In 2019

By JAMES MONTI How truly fitting it is that the celebration of the Epiphany, the visit of the Magi, should come at the beginning of January. For just as the Magi set out on a quest “into the unknown” to find and pay homage to a Newborn King they as yet knew not, scarcely imagining…Continue Reading


Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

His Bride Is The Church

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Second Sunday In Ordinary Time (YR C) Readings: Isaiah 62:1-5 1 Cor. 12:4-11 John 2:1-11 In the readings for the past three weeks, the Church has given us the three traditional events which manifested our Lord’s divinity. The word Epiphany means manifestation. These manifestations took place thirty years apart, but were celebrated together because they point…Continue Reading

A Leaven In The World… The Wall And Abortion: No Moral Equivalency

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK The March for Life event each January draws thousands of pro-life Americans to Washington, D.C., to witness for the weakest and most defenseless among us, preborn boys and girls who cannot speak on behalf of the sacredness of their lives in the face of legalized abortion which, in some cases, threatens their existence at every…Continue Reading

The Authority Of Bishops . . . The Hierarchy Of Orders In The Catholic Church

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Part 8 It is a well-known fact that the Church today is going through a crisis, especially in faith, as can be seen as early as 1985 when Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger allowed the publication of The Ratzinger Report. I believe that Benedict XVI was the only Pope in Church history whose mind was already well-known…Continue Reading

The Crisis Of Hope In The Modern World

By DON FIER Two opposing vices were identified last week as contrary to the theological virtue of hope: despair and presumption. Despair, on the one hand, goes against Divine Mercy; presumption, on the other hand, goes against Divine Justice. To explain, the renowned Thomist philosopher Dr. Josef Pieper describes hope as “preeminently the virtue of the status viatoris [condition or…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Editor’s Note: In a recent reply about the appropriateness of giving blessings to those coming to Holy Communion, we said that the practice was an unauthorized innovation that should be discouraged. We have since learned that Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Ill., has instructed his priests and deacons not to give such blessings. Here is his rationale: “I do not…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Anthony Of Egypt, Abbot

By CAROLE BRESLIN While we can understand that God is infinite, it is difficult to comprehend the stretch of such infinity. Certainly our finite minds cannot begin to comprehend it. Hence, since our minds are finite, the more we have cluttering our minds with worldly affairs such as possessions, relationships, and activities, the less time and room we have in…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… Servant Of God Walter Ciszek

By CAROLE BRESLIN Part 2 After living 23 years in Russia in prison camps and various towns in northern Russia, Fr. Walter Ciszek was suddenly given orders to be prepared to go to Moscow. He was never told why he was being transferred to the capital of Russia. When he first arrived, he wondered what was happening. For once, he…Continue Reading