Survivals and New Arrivals: The Old and New Enemies of the Catholic Church/Chapter I

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Before we can understand the relative importance of the forces moving against the Catholic Church today, we must grasp the fact that She exists, in our divided and chaotic civilization, among three widely different surroundings. The way in which each of these affects the life of the Faith modifies, locally, every problem connected with Catholicism. In one, a particular Survival will be of high importance, which, in another, will be of little or none. In one a New Arrival appearing against Catholicism is already formidable, while in another it is unknown.

For if we look around us at the present situation of the Catholic Church in the modern world of Europe, and in the expansion of Europeans into Asia and the New World, we find Her living in three media or atmospheres, each hostile to Her, but each hostile in a very different manner from the others.

In all these three provinces the Catholic Church has long lost, and nowhere in any part of them regained, Her old and native position as the exclusive and established religion of society, with full official status, and the support of the civil power for Her authority. But Her own attitude towards the alien dominating civil authority, its attitude towards Her, varies in very nature from one to the other. Still more do the social atmospheres of each and Her own reactions in those atmospheres differ from one to the other.

These three provinces, with their three very distinct attitudes towards the Faith, are:

(1) The culture attached, historically at least, to the Greek Church;
(2) the Protestant culture; and
(3) the old Catholic culture.

I omit in this connection the situation of the Catholic Church as it is now in Mahommedan and pagan countries, for there it still normally follows the condition either of the European (or American) countries whence its missionaries proceed or of the European (or American) country ruling the particular district of paganism or Mahommedanism concerned.

In the Greek culture (including, of course, what is its chief part, the vast area at present controlled by the Soviet Government) the situation of the Church is, so far, that of an imperceptible minority. There are exceptions in particular provinces—for instance, where the Italians control an Aegean Island—but take the enormous area as a whole (with a total population not much less than 200 millions) the numerical proportion of Catholics therein is negligible, their social importance equally negligible.

The same cannot be said of their spiritual effect; the effect, that is, provoked by Catholic thought, occasionally, upon intellectual groups of some importance in leadership. But, generally speaking, the tiny fragment of Catholicism is drowned in that vast sea of the Orthodox culture. There is talk, indeed, and hope of some great Catholic development acting through the spiritual void left by the recent revolution in Russia; but that is for the future.

We must nonetheless remark that the Soviet revolution has shaken all the world of Greek culture to its foundations. Before it took place the whole of that culture ultimately depended, directly or indirectly, upon the armed might of the Russian Autocracy. The Czardom was the nucleus or foundation of all the Greek-Church culture; it was the essential institution; it was the central post on which all the fabric leaned. It made of the Orthodox religion a powerful monopoly; it acted positively and urgently for the forcible exclusion of Catholicism, not only in Russia but, for instance, in Serbia, where the example was copied. All that has gone to pieces.

The Soviet Government in spite of certain recent changes remains predominantly Jewish, not only in the personnel of its secret police within and of its propagandists without, but in its moral character and methods. Not perhaps because it is Jewish, but certainly because it is Bolshevist, it has as strong a hatred for the Greek Church as for Catholicism; perhaps in a final issue it would make its chief object of attack throughout the world that which it felt to be the most living force; and this is, without question, the Catholic Church. But the general position, so far as the Catholic Church in Greek countries (and particularly in Russia) is concerned, is so far little changed by the huge upheaval, She remains almost unknown to the mass of the people.

There is indeed one recent exception to be remembered. This exception is the precarious subjection of the Catholic Croats and Slovenes to the orthodox power of Serbia. The incompetent politicians who imposed their own confusion of mind and their own ignorance of history upon Christendom after the Great War, tied, not federally, but absolutely, a considerable body of Catholic culture to a dynasty, a capital and a government not its own: the dynasty and government of Belgrade. A large Catholic district was artificially sewn on, as it were, to the edges of the Orthodox peoples. Thus, politically, a new kingdom called Jugo-Slavia has, to its original Orthodox half, another half, as large, attached; and this new piece is Catholic in culture and western in script and all the details of life. We have already seen the disastrous consequences of that blunder.

Similarly Roumania has had attached to it a body roughly doubling its size, most of the inhabitants of which are either Latin Catholics or Uniate Catholics.

These anomalies, which have arisen from the crudity of our Parliamentarians, somewhat obscure the issue. But it remains true that in the area of the Orthodox or Greek Church culture the situation of Catholicism is one of such slight influence that we may for the moment neglect it. The real issue is between the situation of Catholicism in the area of Protestant culture and in the area of the old Catholic culture; and between the state of the Church in the one and Her state in the other lies a contrast such as the past history of our race never knew.

The area of the Protestant culture is formed by the United States of America, Canada as a whole (with the exception of the solid French-Canadian corner), Great Britain, Australasia and the Cape, Holland, North Germany, Scandinavia, and the Baltic States, excepting Lithuania.

In this area there are two things to be remarked. First that the degree in which the Catholic Church is known in the various parts of this culture, through its numerical proportion or moral influence, varies greatly; next, that this area of culture contains one province of a peculiar kind upon which one must speak specially if one is to avoid an erroneous conclusion—that province is the Prusso-German Empire, or Reich.

The Scandinavian countries, which are almost entirely Protestant, are small, and do not largely affect the general situation today. Another of the lesser countries, Holland, has a very large, active and well-organized Catholic minority, a great deal more than a third of the nation—indeed, nearer 5/12ths—but the traditions, political and social, of Holland are opposed to Catholicism, for Holland arose as an independent nation by a financial revolt against its monarch, Philip II, who stood in his time for the Church against the Reformation; and all the energies of its governing class were, for two hundred years, directed against Catholicism.

But in that Prussian system which is best named today "The Reich," and which has come to be popularly, though erroneously, called "Germany," a special condition of affairs was established by the genius of Bismarck.

Bismarck determined to divert the strong desire for German unity to the advantage of his own kingdom of Prussia and its ruling dynasty, the Hohenzollerns, whom he served. He therefore created a so-called "German Empire," which was to be the very negation of what the old words "German" and "Imperial" had meant for a thousand years. He deliberately designed it to contain the largest possible minority of Catholics consistent with leaving the majority of the new State Protestant and under the direct and indirect control of Berlin. Had he worked for a union of all German-speaking peoples he would have included Austria and the German parts of Bohemia, and he would have formed a State where the two cultures would have balanced each other. The word "German" would not connote for us—as it now does—the idea of "Anti-Catholic," nor would one of the principal Catholic bodies in the world—the Germans of the Rhine and Danube—have fallen asunder and, in losing their unity, lost their power.

As it is, we have the State which Bismarck artificially framed still existing among us, strongly organized, and in the peculiar situation of being directed from the Protestant culture, leaving the Catholic culture within it active and free yet politically dominated by an anti-Catholic tradition and standing before the world as part of the Protestant culture.

If one were to call the German Reich, as a whole, Protestant, there would be natural and justified protest from those portions of it in the south and west which are not only Catholic and strongly so, but for the most part Catholic in homogeneous bodies, with memories of comparatively recent local sovereignty, some fragments of which remain. Indeed the Catholics of the Reich amount to just a third of its whole population.

On the other hand, if one were to say of this Catholic element in the Reich that it was a separate affair, belonging to the Catholic culture as a whole, one would be still more wrong. The Catholic portions of the Reich are not forcibly joined to a greater anti-Catholic portion as are the newly annexed parts of JugoSlavia or Roumania, but they are still bound into the new state created by Bismarck for the benefit of Prussia.

Common great victories won sixty years ago, very strong common influences, accompanied by a great expansion in wealth and in population and a very striking development in all forms of civic activity, the founding of a whole new social system, a well-maintained internal order—all these things have welded Bismarck's Reich together. We thus have, as regards the situation of the Faith here, this anomaly; that, though very far from homogeneous in religion, as a unit the Reich counts in the eyes of foreigners as part of the Protestant culture. It attracts the sympathy of Protestant nations such as England and Scandinavia; its own hostility is rather directed against neighboring Catholic Powers such as Poland and France.

The Reich, then, not only contains a large minority of Catholics, but of Catholics particularly devoted to their religion, but this Catholic minority of the Reich, though culturally similar to a considerable German Catholic body beyond the nominal frontier (the main part of them are in Catholic Austria), is politically separate from its fellows. Should the future see a union of Austria with the Reich the whole character of Central Europe would be transformed and the work of Bismarck destroyed.

Such is the situation of Catholicism in those states of Continental Europe which have a Protestant tradition and direction.

When we turn to the particular case of the English-speaking world (outside Ireland) we find a situation quite different from that of the rest of the Protestant culture, because its history has been different. In almost all other aspects the term "English-speaking world" is a misnomer. The "English-speaking world" represents no reality to which can be properly attached one name. But in this one (and capital) matter of Catholicism the term is exact. With the exception of Ireland the area covered by English speech—that is, Great Britain, the white Dominions, and the United States—have a character of their own so far as the Catholic Church is concerned.

The English-speaking world, though now morally broken up, had a common root. Its institutions, at their origin, sprang from the English Protestant seventeenth century.

The American social groups arose for the most part as emigrant colonies with a definitely religious origin, and nearly all of them with an origin strongly anti-Catholic. In England, Scotland and Wales the Catholic Church had been defeated by 1605. Even at the highest estimate and including all who vaguely sympathized with Catholicism, we find it was by 1688 no more than a seventh or an eighth of England in numbers, much less of Scotland, and in both countries failing. It dwindled after 1688 to a tiny fragment—about one percent—and that pitiful atom was of no account in the national life nor of any effect on national institutions. From such a source flowed first the colonial system of America, next that of the Dominions. Of course, so general a statement needs modification. South Africa was, and may again be, Dutch; the New World had Dutch origins in one of its states and Catholic traditions in two others. But, in outline, the generalization is true.

The stuff of all this culture was one from which Catholicism had been driven out, and till the mid-nineteenth century the United States, Great Britain and her Colonies had little need to reckon with the Faith within their own boundaries.

In our own time all that has largely changed. The chief agent of the change has been the Irish people dispersed by the famine. They brought a large Catholic body into England, Australasia, Canada and America. There has also been more recently a large immigration into the United States from other districts of Catholic culture—Poles, South Germans, Italians.

There has been to some extent in the United States, but probably with much more effect in Britain, a movement of conversion. This movement has not largely affected numbers, but it has had a profound moral effect, because it has touched so many leaders of thought, so many general writers, and latterly, even, so many historians.

For example, the Catholic bodies in the two ancient universities of England number, I suppose, hardly one-fifteenth, perhaps not more than one-twentieth, of the whole. In the teaching body they are hardly present, and such very few as are may not spread the Faith. But no one can say that Oxford and Cambridge are not aware of Catholicism today.

For these various causes Catholic minorities and Catholic influences have appeared in the English-speaking world, but have appeared in societies of an historical foundation different from that upon which other parts of the Protestant culture repose.

In these you have either the conditions of Scandinavia and the Baltic Protestants—with no appreciable Catholicism present—or the conditions of the German Reich and Holland where a very large Catholic population is part of the State, where the boundaries of the State have been traced with the very object of including the largest Catholic minority compatible with Protestant domination, where the character of Catholicism is familiar to all, holding an ancient historic position, and where large Catholic societies of the same blood and speech lie just over the frontiers. Catholic literature, ideas, history are known. But in the English-speaking world it is otherwise. There Catholicism reentered late as an alien phenomenon after the character of society had become "set" in an anti-Catholic mold. There all national literature, traditions, law and especially history were (and are) fundamentally anti-Catholic. All the Philosophy of Society was long settled in the anti-Catholic mood before the first recrudescence of Catholicism appeared.

Therefore it is inevitable that the Catholic body within this English-speaking world should breathe an air which is not its own and should be more affected by a non-Catholic or anti-Catholic spirit than could be possible in the other Protestant nations wherein an ancient Catholic culture exists with unbroken traditions.

There has thus been produced in Britain and the United States a situation the like of which has not existed before in the whole history of the Catholic Church since Constantine. It is a situation of very powerful effect upon the general fortunes of our race today throughout the world, because the English-speaking communities are for the moment so wealthy and numerous.

It leads, among other things, to an atmosphere of debate rather than of combat, which every general observer must have noticed. It also leads to the conception of proportional claim; that is, the claim of the Catholic minority, even when it is small, not to be forbidden (by direct means) access to positions and public advantages in the general body. Conversely it leads (as in the case of University teaching just mentioned) to the use of indirect means for the prevention of Catholic progress.

It is a position rapidly developing; it is one the future of which cannot, of course, be determined—on that account it is the more interesting. But it is one which certainly will change. That is almost the only thing one can predicate about it. What began as a persecuted thing and went on as a tolerated anomaly has turned into a regular constituent of the State, but a constituent differing in quality from the rest of the State.

One effect is the close interaction between such Catholic minorities and the non-Catholic English-speaking world around them. One man will call it absorption of the Catholic body into the non-Catholic air which is about it upon every side; another would call it the very opposite—would say that into that non-Catholic air was infiltrating a measure of Catholic ideas. The fact that these two contradictory views are so widely held proves that mutual reaction is strong.

Another effect is the comparative lack of sympathy, politically at least, between these Catholic minorities and the great bodies of Catholic culture abroad.

The political quarrels of these great foreign bodies are either ill-understood or ignored in the English-speaking world, or, at the best, even in the case of widely traveled men with a large Continental connection, rouse no great interest (let alone enthusiasm!) in the Catholics of England and the United States.

You may say, for instance, that the Catholic body in England is slightly less hostile to the Polish cause than the run of Englishmen are, but you cannot say that they know much about Poland, or that one in a hundred of them has any marked sympathy with Polish resistance to Prussia. Similarly the great body of literature in the Catholic culture is closed to these minorities of Catholics in the English-speaking world. They have no powerful daily press. They get nearly all their news and more than half their ideas from papers anti-Catholic in direction. The books which make the mind of the nation help to make the mind of its Catholic minority—and that literature is, in bulk, vividly anti-Catholic.

My own experience of this lies especially in the department of history. The whole story of Europe looks quite different when you see it from the point of view of the average cultivated Frenchman or Italian from what it does in the eyes of the average educated English or American Catholic.

So much is this the case that the statement of what is a commonplace upon the Continent appears as a paradox to most Catholics in England.

The past, especially the remote past, is another world to them. All the belauding of the break-up of Christendom in the sixteenth century, all the taking for granted of its political consequence as a good thing, all denunciation of our champions, all the flattery of our worst enemies, all the sneers at nations which kept the Faith, all admiration of the Princes and Politicians who destroyed it are absorbed by us in the books on which we are bred. A ridicule and hatred of the later Stuarts at home, of Louis XIV abroad: a respect at least for the House of Orange: an insistence on the decline of Spain: all this and the whole mass of English letters train us in special pleading against the Faith. Nor have we, in England at least, any bulk of true history (as yet) to counteract this flood of propaganda.

But before closing these remarks upon the position of Catholics in the English-speaking Protestant countries, one point must be observed in modification: the Catholic, even under such favorable surroundings, has the advantage over his opponents both in definition and in knowledge. He knows much more about the others than the others know about him.

Further the Catholic has a philosophy which applies to all the practice of life and which does not change, while in the world about him there is neither a united philosophy nor even fixity in the moods of the time. This contrast is increasingly noticeable as the dogmas of Protestantism and its social rules dissolve.

The Catholic Church has, then, in that English-speaking world with which the readers (and writer) of this book are principally concerned, such advantages and disadvantages. It is badly cut off from the general Catholic world outside. It is permeated by an anti-Catholic literature, social custom and history. On the other hand it reacts upon that hostile atmosphere and perceives, though dimly, some of its inherent superiorities: notably in clarity of thought and a determined philosophy.

The disabilities of the Faith in such an air are closely connected with that modern cross-religion of Nationalism of which I shall speak in more detail when I come to the main modern opponents of the Church.

The mark of the Catholic situation in all this area of Protestant culture is toleration upon a basis of Nationalism.

Worship the Nation and you may hold what lesser opinions you please. Whether the Catholic body be very small and poor, as in Great Britain, or a strong locally grouped and politically influential, mainly urban, minority as in America (the estimates of this differ—some, I believe, would call it a sixth of the population); whether it be very large indeed as in Australia and Canada, or smaller as in New Zealand, everywhere this mark is apparent.

Therefore the Faith is treated as one among many sects within one nation: and we tend to accept that position. The modern Protestant doctrine, that sects, that is, opinions, have a sacred right to existence "so long as they obey the law," the idea that the State has a right of legislation against which no moral appeal can lie—let alone the legislative power of the Church; the inability of those who think thus to see that toleration and conformity with every law make a contradiction of terms: all these create the social atmosphere in which we live. The particular practice of Catholicism may be continued without hindrance; we may hear Mass. Certain characteristic products of Catholicism may develop unimpeded. For instance, the religious orders enjoy complete freedom in every part of this world, they possess property without limit, and spread and build without restriction. But all is within and beneath civil society.

Again, what is most important, the Catholic educational system is safeguarded in the English-speaking Protestant world. It is safeguarded in different ways and in different degrees in different places. Thus in England it enjoys public revenue. In the United States it does not enjoy that revenue, but it is allowed every opportunity for voluntary extension. But all is under the supreme worship of Caesar.

The truth I here emphasize is unpalatable. Most of us are only half aware (and are becoming less aware with every added decade), that the air we breathe is anti-Catholic; that the history we are taught, the moral ideas behind the legal system we obey, the restrictions imposed on us, the political conceptions embodied in every public act, the general attitude toward foreign countries, are all the products of that Nationalism which their non-Catholic fellow-citizens regard as the sacred emotion. We cannot but be ourselves filled with that emotion. But it is spiritually at issue with the Faith.

So far I have dealt mainly, as being our chief concern, with the situation of the Catholic Church in the English-speaking world as a preparation for judging its reception of both decaying and growing antagonisms.

To appreciate the effect of these as a whole, let us glance at the situation in the countries of ancient Catholic culture, such as France, Spain and Italy, where there reign conditions very different from our own; for that purpose, let us consider the origins; since we shall not fully understand this important dual character attaching to the present political position of the Catholic Church in the world unless we appreciate how it came about through the past.

The great battle of the Reformation ended without victory for either side, legitimate or rebel. The opposing armies arrived at no decision, but retired from the field and divided Europe between them. Nearly three hundred years ago, at the Peace of Westphalia, the main struggle was concluded; even the last act in the tragedy, the English Revolution, is now already nearly two and a half centuries old.

The nations which came out of that conflict with their national traditions saved, and the Church still giving the tone of society, kept all their principal institutions closely bound up with the Catholic Church—notably, of course, their national dynasties; and those national dynasties were for the most part absolute monarchies: that is, Governments in which the whole nation was ruled from one center, supporting the weak against the strong and curbing the influence of riches.

Further, in these nations, the general order of society was based upon the same hierarchic conception as is to be found in the hieratic organization of the Catholic Church. Power came in regular descent, and there was an exact order.

It must further be remembered that all the principal acts of the State were interwoven closely with the official life of the Church.

The union was a much more real and living a thing than the connection to be found between governments and established churches elsewhere.

The bishops were great political figures and of real weight in administration; the king was crowned and anointed in a function essentially Catholic, and dating back for far more than a thousand years; the administration of justice was everywhere in touch with the Catholic doctrine and opinion. The Crucifix stood in the Courts, the morals and social ideas of Catholicism governed their procedure.

Moreover, these Catholic States imposed the official religion, and had the great majority of the people at their back in so imposing it. In the various Italian States, in the Spanish Netherlands (which today we call Belgium), in France and Spain, the principal appointments went only to those of the national religion. The educational system of the country was as deeply impregnated with the same spirit.

It is difficult for a man living under modern English or American conditions to visualize such a state of affairs. Even if modern England were what it most certainly is not, co-extensive with the Established Church of England, and if that Church had a large body of definite doctrine and a mass of uniformed detailed observance as well, then there would be some parallel. In modern conditions in America one can discover no parallel at all.

Well, this state of affairs came to an end actually in France, potentially in other Catholic countries, by the action of the French Revolution.

Long before the French Revolution a wide intellectual movement of skepticism, which was actively hostile to the Church, had run through all Catholic society, particularly in France, but the official structure remained the same until the Revolution.

After the Revolution that structure crashed. There was torn a rent in the hitherto inextricable close web of the Church and political society. The theory was promulgated and acted upon that civil society alone could hold legitimate power and that the Faith was no more than the opinion of individual citizens who, even if they were very numerous, even if they were the bulk of the nation, had no right to make their private religion the note of institutions which concerned all men, non-Catholic as well as Catholic.

Thus a definite quarrel was set between the old official position of the Church, including its old wealth and its old political power, on the one side, and on the other a theory that the Church was not the business of the State and no more than a set of people who happened to use devotions which did not concern the Government or the institutions of the nation.

Now the essential point to seize in the nations of Ancient Catholic Culture, the nations which withstood the storm of the Reformation and maintained their traditions intact, is that this quarrel has never yet been decided. The old security and unquestioned position of the official church which remained standing for five lifetimes after the Reformation while all its moral invisible supports were silently crumbling, was never the same after 1791. The French Revolutionary armies carried on the new lay conception of the State into Belgium, into Spain, into Italy, into Catholic Germany. Literature and teaching continued their effect. The idea of the Lay State (though nowhere perfectly realized and everywhere combated) overspread all Catholic Europe.

But neither the official Church nor the Catholic conscience ever admitted this lay theory of the State. The Church continued to claim her political place as part of her theory of Catholic society; and all Catholics—in every case the bulk of the nations concerned—felt that it was Her right.

To take a test instance, the Church claimed a special position in education. She called it essential to society that the elementary schools should teach Catholic doctrine to the children and the Catholic philosophy should permeate the universities. The lay conception of the State fought, and continues to fight, this claim as a tyranny and an anomaly.

And the main thing to grasp, if we are to understand this mighty political problem of "Laicism" (which is so little known outside the nations of the Catholic culture), is the fact already emphasized: that the struggle is still proceeding. The conception of the laical state which looked like winning hands down fifty years ago has not even achieved an uncertain victory; the Catholic ideal, though more sympathetic to the new strong and healthy movements in Italy and Spain, is not supreme in those states over the Laic. The two parties are still standing on their positions.

The laical ideal in education still appeals to the logic of the man who thinks of religion as a private opinion, and usually as an illusion at that. But to the average parent in a Catholic country, the so-called neutrality of the lay school and university is still felt to be a sham. Its neutrality is not in his eyes a real neutrality, it is a form of persecution and, still more, a policy designed to uproot the Faith.

There is no reconciliation between the two positions, because they start from different first principles, which run through every function of civic life; not only education, but administration, justice and everything else.

The Catholic Position starts with the first principle that a homogeneous Catholic society with Church and State closely bound up together is the ideal; and that ideal, remember, is not something vague to be aimed at in the future, it is a living historical memory of recent date, even in some districts a thing experienced within living memory and to others half restored.

For instance, it is only half a lifetime ago that the Crucifix was taken away from the Courts of Justice in France; and in Italy, as we know, it has recently been put back. In Spain, after more than one interlude of the laical state, the union of Church and State has been established. In Poland the proposal to make Catholicism the established State Religion was defeated only with difficulty. It will be renewed.

Take, then, the Catholic culture as a whole, and you see present in it a political situation not comparable to that in England or America. You see a political situation of conflict not yet decided, with a strict, wide, strongly historical claim on the Catholic side to establishment and State recognition; a claim, expectant only in some countries, partly realized in others, but everywhere vigorously alive.

This brief introductory sketch of the Catholic position in Catholic societies it was necessary to add to that of the Church in the Protestant culture before approaching an analysis of the older and newer forces arrayed against the Faith today, because those forces differ in character according to the culture in which they act.

To them will I now proceed, and I will open with the Survivals, beginning with the more venerable of the group, those which are in "articulo mortis" and yielding up the ghost before our eyes, and going on in order through the less moribund to the most active.