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Intent on converting Irish Catholics to his understanding of true Christianity, Darby came to see the established Anglican church as fatally compromised by the world.But disillusion with the established church was having quite other effects, notably in the Oxford Movement.American Catholics seem particularly vulnerable now to people such as Hunt, as more and more we blur the teachings and surrender the rituals that might help us to distinguish ourselves from the times in which we find ourselves.
Many tell of having been encouraged away from the Church by such writers as Dave Hunt, who writes against humanism, against the occult, against the New Age — and, most fiercely, against Catholicism.
Hunt is a "dispensationalist," a follower of John Nelson Darby (who founded the Plymouth Brethren, the denomination in which Hunt was raised). Ordained in 1826, the parson of a poor country parish in County Wicklow, he grew increasingly dissatisfied with Anglican formality and externalism, as well as with the socio-political position of Irish Anglicanism.
Though a militant anti-Catholic Protestant, Darby (to his credit) was appalled by the Protestants' treatment of the Catholic peasants whom he was seeking to evangelize.
Catholic hearts left unmoved by a stripped-down American Catholicism are reportedly being moved by lively evangelical congregations, and Catholic minds left uninstructed by woolly or dissenting catechizers are offered sharp lessons by such as Dave Hunt in his speeches and widely selling books. Hunt's explicit anti-Catholicism speaks forthrightly the tacit anti-Catholicism so often encountered in the American Catholic Church today.
This article, I hope, will suggest that the clarity of vision offered by Hunt is specious, and that if Hunt could but see more clearly he might realize that his soundest spiritual instincts and best ecclesiological insights put him, too, on the road to Rome.
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The leaders of this movement (John Henry Newman, John Keble, and others) found the Establishment's accommodations to the times driving them in a more Catholic direction, while Darby in Ireland went the other way, toward a radically sectarian and otherworldly Protestantism.