Survivals and New Arrivals: The Old and New Enemies of the Catholic Church/Chapter III
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Chapter III. The Main Opposition
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Between the forms of attack on, or resistance to, the Faith which are retiring exhausted—Survivals—and new forms not yet fully developed but only beginning to appear—New Arrivals—stand, at any one moment in history, the Main Opponents of the day.
This Main Opposition of the moment has, as I pointed out on an earlier page, varied astonishingly in character from one age to another; so much so that we find it hard to realize what that world must have been like in which the terrifying conqueror of Christians was the Mahommedan, or in which, some centuries later, an enthusiasm for general damnation and for a Moloch-God led to so intense an offensive against the Catholic Church because she defended beauty and joy. These Main Oppositions in the past have all arisen as New Arrivals, all passed at last through the state of becoming Survivals and on to a later stage of oblivion. But each in its moment was supreme.
The Main Opposition of any movement is characterized by its confidence. It doubts not of its victory, for it takes its truth for granted and therefore its strength. The Survivals are conscious of defeat, the New Arrivals are still timid, but the Main Opposition is hearty in attack. It feels its own success to be part of the nature of things, and, to the certitude of the Catholic (which is Faith) it opposes an equal counter-certitude often so fixed and habitual that it is hardly aware of its own limited character.
Thus in the old days when the Bible Christian was a Main Opponent he produced his creed and its conclusions with a simplicity born of complete confidence, "Your Confessional is an absurd and degrading excrescence. It is a fraud—for I find no Confessional boxes in my family Bible. Your doctrine of Purgatory and of an applicable fund of merit is nonsense. It is not in my family Bible: to support it you have had to drag in Maccabees: which I see is not in my Pukka Bible but only part of my Apocrypha." It was no good telling him that we didn't accept his premises; that we did not admit the authority of a literally interpreted text of his own choosing. He did not believe us. He thought it impossible that to any man this Bible of his, as read by himself, should not be the final Court of Appeal. Today that attitude looks comic. But it was no more comic in the time of its power than Nationalism is comic today.
We saw the same thing with Scientific Negation in the hour of its greatest strength. It was quite unquestionable to it that Metric Truth alone was true. It was the same thing with the old dead Deism in its day and with that older Protestant doctrine the Divine Right of Kings. It was the same thing with reference of all things to an imaginary Primitive Church.
This test of confidence in success applies today to those great forces which between them make up the Main Opposition of our time. There are three: Nationalism, Anti-Clericalism and what I will call (for so it calls itself) the "Modern Mind." It is these three, singly or in combination, which occupy the energies of Catholicism today in its battle for continuance and triumph.
It is to be remarked that none of these three is a doctrinal opponent—no, not even anti-clericalism. None of them prepares in set terms—as did the Materialist, the Scientific Monist, the Anti-Catholic Historian—a thesis which clashes with the Thesis of the Catholic Church. None of them has a direct preoccupation with her dogma. The mark of today's Main Opposition, differentiating it from nearly all the perils of our Christian past, is that it propounds no explicit heresy. Its conflict with the Faith is a conflict of mood; it is a conflict following on a certain mentality, not on any body of propositions. In the case of all the old heresies a definite series of propositions came at the origin of the affair; a conflict of moods followed. An anti-Catholic habit of mind was produced, with all its consequences in a myriad social customs and in all the atmosphere of a society, but at the root lay perfectly clear doctrinal postulates which could be discussed in the abstract and accepted or denied without reference to their possible indirect effects.
We all know what Calvinism is in the concrete, what is meant by a Puritan tradition in any society, and we instinctively reject it with disgust as we reject a repellent taste or smell. But the doctrines of Calvinism were not vague ideas slowly distilled from such a society in long process of years. They were formulated before the concrete Puritan came into existence and they were the cause of him. They were laid down in black and white—the denial of Free-will, the consequent valuelessness of works, the foundation of Church government in popular election, the denial of sacerdotal powers, the contempt for holy poverty and the laudable pursuit of wealth, etc.
With each section of the Main Opposition today it is the other way about. You may by prolonged analysis extract from its moods its ultimate principles, but the moods do not start from those principles. Their victims are not conscious of any such principles. When presented with them, they will often, and honestly, deny them to be held.
The Main Opposition to Catholicism in our time, then, is not of like kind with ourselves. We need it as an obstacle rather than as enemy fire. It is not an armed body, recognizable by its uniform and having for its direct object our destruction. It is rather a difficulty of terrain. It is a number of mental states, affections, policies, ignorances under which Catholicism is indirectly menaced, or stifled, or deflected or weakened in its action on human society.
Even Anti-Clericalism is not a doctrinal attack. It is a political thing and does not of itself challenge any dogma. It professes—and in such of its adherents as are sincere, sincerely professes—to do no more than delimit the line beyond which the Catholic hierarchy exceeds its functions and invades a civil field where it has no right to act.
So with Nationalism. The ardent patriot does not challenge any doctrine of the Church, nor, qua patriot, feel opposed to Her. On the contrary, when the Faith is the national religion—particularly of an opposed nationality—it is most ardently supported and even treated sometimes as a test of civic devotion. While as for the poor "Modern Mind," though anti-Catholic in essence, it has not the intellectual power to frame the simplest creed. It does but meander on, often quite ignorant of the Church's whereabouts, and when it blunders into us its first feelings are a mixture of grievance at our having bumped it and of apology for having got in the way.
Individuals attached to one or more of these three moods, Nationalism, Anti-Clericalism and the Modern Mind, are often led into direct and personal hatred of the Catholic Church because that organization has clashed with the object of their devotion. Such often end with a special preoccupation of hatred which takes the place of their older allegiance, and they become more concerned with the destruction of Catholicism than with the preservation of their country or the defense of lay rights or their delight in that repose of not-thinking, which is the Modern Mind's especial lure and value for weary man. But the three moods themselves are not specifically and consciously anti-Catholic; they are not so by definition nor to their own knowledge. They appear so only indirectly and usually by reaction against Catholic effort or advance. Lastly let it be noted that our Main Opposition today powerfully affects Catholics themselves. Coloring all our time, it cannot but tinge the Catholic body therein present.
It has always been so. If in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when that doctrine of devotion to one's Prince (now forgotten) was of the Main Opposition, you challenged a Catholic and said, "Yes or No—Do you repudiate your sovereign's authority because it is in such and such a point opposed to the Church?" that man, though holy and even zealous, would shift uneasily. He was often at a loss to reply. He would do all in his power to reconcile the two opposing powers of Crown and Church. Prelates as admirable as Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, soldiers as admirable as Bayard, the noblest Catholic knight of his time, came down on the wrong side of the hedge. So also Jansenism, though working within the Church, was a wave from the mighty tide set flowing by the dark genius of Calvin.
This affecting of Catholics today by the spirits of Nationalism, yes, and of Anti-Clericalism itself, even (to their shame!) by something so much beneath their level as the "Modern Mind," I shall deal with under each of these heads. It is a principal cause of weakness in our position throughout the world.
I take first of the three elements in our modern Main Opposition—Nationalism.
I do so because it is common to the Catholic and Protestant cultures, is everywhere apparent, and can everywhere be understood. Further, I take it first because of the three it is—as yet—the least overtly at issue with the Faith. Finally, I take it first because it will probably, at long last, be the first to yield. Anticlericalism will fight fiercely in all the coming battles, and is so much a necessary by-product of Catholic society that the more the Faith grows, the stronger grows this peril. As for the "Modern Mind," nothing can deal with it but dissolution. It is like a huge heap of mud which can only be got rid of by slow washing away. It will be the last of the three to remain as a Survival.
But Nationalism, in the sense in which I use the term here the intense Nationalism of our day, though it has yet some margin for increase, cannot maintain its present energies for more than a couple of lifetimes at the most, and probably hardly for so long.
This Nationalism is an exaggerated and extreme mood from which all the white world suffers today.
It has all the marks of a religion. Not of a full religion in the sense of a creed accompanied by a ritual and a developed ethical doctrine; but of a religion in the aesthetic sense: in the sense of that which in a religion exalts the emotions, prompts to sacrifice, ensures enthusiastic support: of a religion in the sense of devotion to an object of worship—worship passionate to the point of men's sacrificing all they have, all else they love, and life itself, without question, to the thing adored.
In this it is that conflict exists potentially, always and everywhere, between Nationalism and the Catholic Church. In this it is that conflict has already arisen, and may in the near future arise much more strongly.
For there is no room for two religions in any man's mind. Of any two loyalties one must take precedence over the other. And religion—that is, the recognition of the ultimate reality, the adoration of that for which everything else must be sacrificed—is a mood of affection such that it will bear no equal rival.
There can be no doubt that today Nationalism has acquired this strength of a religion, and of a religion which, in the minds of nearly all men, rivals, and in the minds of perhaps most men, quite eclipses, the religion called Catholic.
But before we go further it is important to define exactly in what sense we are using our words and what exactly is this "Nationalism" which is today so different from anything Christendom has known in the past, and why it is part of what today most vitally opposes the religion of our race.
There is here an ambiguity into which it is easy to fall, and which one must beware of. Patriotism has always existed, and always will, so long as men are bound in societies. One may feel that emotion of loyalty towards a tribe or a town, a tiny district, a feudal group and lord, a large nation or a whole vast culture; but it is always present, and always must be present. For if it were not, society could not hold together. Now, men must live in society; and therefore by every law of man's nature (that of self-preservation, that of the organ arising to supply the need, etc.), devotion to what the Greeks call "the City" must be present.
One may go much further and say that in sound morals, patriotism must not only be present in every society, but should be strong; because the absence of it is inhuman and unnatural, and even the weakness of it a degradation to the individual: a dereliction in the duty which he owes to himself and to that which made him—for we are the products each of his own country.
But the essence of Nationalism, in its present form as a menace to religion, lies in this: that the nation is made an end in itself: When that mood appears, there is present, in the strictly technical sense of the word, Heresy: there is present false doctrine, and all the dangers of spreading and ramifying evil which spring from false doctrine as from one poisonous seed.
Now, this making of the nation an end in itself is a heresy rampant throughout our European culture and its plantations overseas in the New World. It has all that flaming enthusiasm which marks the spring of such upheavals. It is as violently alive as was Islam in its first charge, or the fury of the early Reformation. Only, men are so used to it that they do not perceive its enormity.
Let us take a few tests and judge by them the quality of the thing.
Here is one. Modern men boast that they do not persecute opinion. That is, they do not seek out mere expression of opinion and punish it when it disagrees with the official opinion. They make that boast in connection especially with varieties of transcendental doctrine. The boast is vain. Because they do not punish an opinion which operates to the denial or perversion of our ancestral religion. They proceed to the unreasonable and untenable idea of Universal Toleration and assure you that they chastise no expression of thought—let alone silence it. Which is as much as to say that they hold nothing sacred.
They malign themselves. Men still have the idea of sanctity, though misplaced. And here is a test.
Go to a public park on two successive Sundays. On the first, stand upon a chair and declaim at length against the discipline of religion. Ridicule the doctrine of the Trinity, the Incarnation, the right of a Christian society to enforce the practice of Christian ritual. Nothing will happen to you.
On the second Sunday get up on a chair and declaim at equal length and with equal zeal against the country and its conduct in the late war. Praise enthusiastically some more specially unpopular foreigners—enemies for choice—laugh at the heroism of the troops, call them cowards and go on to denounce with vigor the obedience rendered to their officers and soldiers and sailors. A great number of things will happen to you. Even after the police have rescued you from the hands of the mob, the State will proceed to deal with you in a fashion which will enlighten you for good upon the limits of toleration.
Again, when the nation is in active peril, as in time of a really dangerous war, men who lessen the power of national resistance by denouncing the war, however rationally, are severely punished. That is quite right. But if there be any doubt as to which of the two religions is predominant, we have but to note the complete immunity of those who similarly denounce Christian effort as evil and who support its opponents.
The distinction is apparent in many other ways. Thus, when men have lost faith, they are never weary of denouncing the frauds which may arise from zeal in religion. They are particularly insistent upon the stark necessity for exact and invariable truth on all occasions. They never weary of denouncing the Casuists who have examined on what rare occasions it may be possible to conceal the truth without sin. But let a modern nation be at war, and the most honorable of men will stoop unhesitatingly to the most flagrant falsehoods in the pursuit of what is called "propaganda." Under the effect of Nationalism a chivalric and sensitive man will tell any lie or assume any disguise. He will act in the capacity of a spy; he will lure the enemy's agents to their death; he will disseminate the most enormous myths upon enemy actions—and all this without suffering a sense of dishonor.
This novel religion of Nationalism, this making of the nation an end in itself, has had among other lamentable results the splitting up of our common cultural tradition, our general quality as Europeans, into a number of isolated fragments which do not lament their division as an accident to be remedied, but glory in it as a thing to be increased by all means in their power.
The situation is grotesque to any man with a sense, or even a mere knowledge, of the past. It is tragic—a sort of murder of Christendom. Our various tongues are not bridged as they once were by a common use of Latin. And the divisions between them are not a negative force. Their divergence is actively emphasized by every device. The national language is imposed by force upon minorities. In the same spirit transport and commerce are everywhere impeded by frontier walls. An army of men are lost to production, and wasted in checking and taking toll of all movements between State and State in what once was Christendom; and (perhaps the worst effect of all) that very conception of Christendom—upon which the continuance of our civilization depends—is effaced. Your politician, when he talks in terms of nations, thinks of Japan as he would of Italy—one rigid unit in an uncoordinated mechanical jumble of separate isolated peoples.
But how (it may be asked) does all this come into conflict with Catholicism? That it is inimical to the general culture which Europe has inherited from the Catholic Church, is obvious. But that is an effect only indirectly hostile to the Faith. Where can direct hostility come in?
There are two main ways in which such a conflict is developed, or perhaps (by a sub-division of the second way) three.
First, it interferes with the universality of Catholicism.
Secondly, it lends to national ends functions which are essentially religious, such as the teaching of morals, the presentation of true history and geography (a department of morals), the choice of literature and above all the general education of the young. In this last department, the general education of the young, the conflict is so serious that, as I have said, the thing might properly be made a separate third example of the conflict between Nationalism and the Church.
In the first of these, the interference of Nationalism with Catholic Universality, the evil is not clearly apparent upon the surface.
The nations have for the most part hesitated to thrust their divisions into the framework of the Church.
It is true that each nation has a national clergy and hierarchy—a principle not too Catholic—and also that each exercises some slight pressure—greater in societies of Catholic culture than of Protestant—upon the appointment of the church's ministry—particularly of bishops. It is also true that in the relations of each nation to foreign Catholic religions—that is, monks and nuns—in its midst there still remains a good deal of give and take. Even during the war there was some measure of exception made for the universal, or (as it was called) the "international" quality of the Church. It is also true that Nationalism has, as yet, produced no formidable schism; as yet no excess of national feeling has broken the discipline of unity within the official body of the Church, and it may even be fairly surmised that Nationalism will never be strong enough—in our time—to create a situation so disastrous. For we have had before our eyes during now so many generations, such a lesson in what follows upon the loss of unity, that the most enthusiastic of Catholic Nationalists fight shy of establishing new independent national Churches. But it remains true that Nationalism has divided the Church today into very sharply defined regions. For instance, one can point to territories which changed hands after the last war, and in which, as a result, the local hierarchy was at once changed, as though it were a part of national officialdom. Yet, I repeat, on the surface the evil of excessive Nationalism as affecting the universality of the Church has not strikingly appeared. Its effects have been slight—so far.
In the second department, that of letters and of the official attitude towards history and geography, contemporary and of the past, and especially the education of the young, it is another matter. There the effect of Nationalism comes in very strongly indeed, and there are already districts in which a clash between it and the very minimum required by the Faith has taken place.
Nationalism has, among other evils, bred that of a powerful bureaucracy in each state: a rigid centralization, and a deplorable uniformity within each frontier exactly corresponding to the violent contrast between either side of that frontier.
The worship of the nation has been able to make men tolerate under its authority what they could never have tolerated from princes: a submission to rule, which, through sumptuary laws on food and drink, through conscription, through a cast-iron system of compulsory instruction for all on State-ordered lines, and through a State examination at the gate of every profession, has almost killed the citizen's power to react upon that which controls him, and has almost destroyed that variety which is the mark of life.
In the field of compulsory state instruction especially has Nationalism come in conflict with Catholicism.
The phenomenon can be studied with greater clearness in a nation of Catholic culture than in a nation of non-Catholic. Thus in England the Protestantism which has been the homogeneous culture of the nation for over two hundred years so permeates the national literature, history and attitude towards all political problems, that it has become difficult to distinguish it from citizenship. I have seen historical textbooks which are little more than anti-Catholic propaganda—the late Mr. Bright's, for instance, and Mr. Trevelyan's—used currently in Catholic schools. The national Protestant legend is paramount. In Italy and France it is not so. There is there a very clear-cut distinction between the tendency which subordinates all education towards a national ideal and that which puts the religious ideal first. There is not only a distinction—there is conflict.
This religion of Nationalism is supplemented by the character of modern governments, and we discover that, throughout Europe, governments (whether Parliamentary, and therefore oligarchic and plutocratic, as in France and England, or monarchical, and therefore popular, as in Poland, Spain and Italy) are either anti-Catholic at the worst, or, when they are sympathetic with the Church, quite external to Her and capable on any occasion of hostility.
Now, these governments—or those behind them who speak through them—have the executive in their hands: the police and the courts of law.
It is therefore essential in any study of the political circumstance in which the Church stands today to admit a consideration of the attitude of the various governments towards it.
We have all observed since the War the effect produced by the releasing of some Catholic peoples, notably the Poles and the Irish, and the increase of power in others—notably Italy. On that side the Church has been greatly strengthened. But governments are not the same things as peoples. Governments are, under a dictatorship, the instruments of popular feeling, and even in Parliamentary countries they are, though really the servants of the wealthy, nominally the spokesmen of the populace, however weak their title to such spokesmanship may be. But in neither case are they the people. And however Catholic a people, it will hardly, today, have a Catholic government.
Further, the strength of governments is still considerable. It is no longer as great as the strength of finance, and it is more efficacious in one country than in another. For instance, government is far stronger and of more effect on the national fate in Italy than in France, for the Italians admire and support their highly personal form of government, and obey it. The French despise their Parliamentarians, and obey them as little as possible. But everywhere government makes a great difference, and the attitude of government, for or against the Catholic Church, is of first-class political moment.
To a great many people the mere suggestion that a modern government may be "for" or "against" the Catholic Church sounds nonsense. The forms of modern government mask its character, and the fashion of our day is in favor of a pretended neutrality in the matter of religion. Moreover, it is perfectly true that (until the fashion changes) you will have neither overt persecution of the Church nor, for that matter, overt establishment of it. Thus, the Masonic Government at Prague, in its most anti-Catholic moment, strongly supported an attempted schism within the body of the Church in Bohemia, but it dared not, in its desire to conform with its own "liberal" formula, actually attack the Church as such; it could not forbid her services or the practice of the Faithful. The only government so to act has been that of Mexico; and even there some sort of pretext was advanced, not religious, but political. On the other hand, Poland, as we have seen, when upon the point of declaring Catholicism the established religion of the country, also felt the influence of our current irreligious conventions, avoided the issue, and did not confirm that establishment.
But though there is no overt declaration of hostility, the governments of the world can nonetheless be classed as upon the whole opposed to the influence of the Catholic Church. This character can be seen more in their indirect effects than in any other fashion. The hostility is hardly ever, save in such extreme cases as Mexico, to be discovered in the active suppression of the Faith. It is to be seen in the discountenancing of Catholic immigration, in the spirit wherewith educational laws are administered and even in the diplomatic treatment of foreign nations. Thus there is no doubt that the political sympathy in England and America with Prussia after the war, the saving at Versailles by the English and American delegates of the unnatural rule of Prussia over the Catholic West of Germany, the dismemberment of Austria, the denial to the Hungarians of their natural prince—all these were the products of religious sympathy and antipathy. The outcry against the occupation of the Ruhr and against the establishment of a Rhenish state were other examples.
But that point in the world where you see the thing under the strongest light is Paris. It is the attitude of a French Government towards the Catholic Church, which is of most effect at the present moment upon the political side of that Church's fortunes. This is because the French people are themselves so strongly divided between clerical and anti-clerical; because the organization of the State in France is so military and mechanical; and because national feeling is perhaps more intense among the French, in spite of their divisions, than among any other people.
Two factors are of especial prominence in lending to the attitude of the French Government towards the Church such high importance today. The first is the French influence upon the whole world through a mixture of lucidity and energy in thought, phrase and action. The second is the central physical position held by France. This last is but a geographical factor and therefore only a material one, but it has its weight. When you read a good French newspaper upon the affairs of Europe, you feel as though you were standing upon a hilltop and looking down upon a plain all about you. Paris is equally interested in London, Berlin, Rome, Prague, Warsaw, Vienna, Madrid and New York, and the lines radiating from that central point to the others are lines of moral communication, the patterns of which upon the map are a symbol of that central station, with all its influence of centrality.
French government has been opposed to Catholicism for fifty years. There have been moments when the opposition has been more intense, there have been moments when it has been relaxed, but government upon the whole favorable to Catholic influence has not been present in the Republic since the fall of MacMahon in 1877. A highly organized clique, largely masonic, then captured the electoral machine and has kept it ever since.
It has often been said, and quite truly, that this state of affairs does not reflect the French people. The French Government is, less than that of any other people, the expression of national feeling. The system by which professional politicians whom everyone despises share in rotation the perquisites of their trade is disgusting to the nation at large; but it is so fluid a system that it is most difficult to destroy. It was nearly destroyed in the later 'eighties of the last century. Had the Great War been short and successful, it would have been destroyed at once. It was all but destroyed in the July of 1926 when mobs began gathering to throw the professional politicians of the Parliament House into the street. But the thing has never come off; and meanwhile the clique in power remains still anti-Catholic in tone and direction. There is an extreme case.
In Belgium, in Italy, in Spain, the tendency is other. But it still remains true that even in the Catholic culture (and as a matter of course in the Protestant), governments are, as supplements to Nationalism, out of step with the spirit of the Church. This material strength of governments, coupled with and supporting the far more important effect of Nationalism as a spiritual power, forms everywhere an obstacle to full Catholic life.
It remains to discuss whether this exceptional contemporary force of Nationalism, of the State as an object of worship to the exclusion of, or at any rate, far superior to, any other object of worship, is long to remain.
May we say that there are forces already apparent tending to its decline? Can we reasonably forecast the coming of a decline in Nationalism during the near future? Of course, in the long run such forces must appear, because all human moods are mortal, Nationalism like the rest. But are the tendencies present today so that we can watch them? And are there, besides these, contemporary conditions which point to a future hostility to Nationalism?
I think there are. Besides the Catholic Church there are at least two great international forces (not to quote more) which are already clearly apparent. One is that of Finance, the other is that of the protest of the Proletariat against Capitalism; a protest which in its most lucid and most logical form is called Communism. Both these act as solvents to that religion of nationality which was universal before the Great War.
These two forces, International Finance and International Socialism, act after fashions often unexpected, and the more drastic. For instance, the big newspapers (and nearly all the Press of large circulation is purely Capitalist—a mere propagandist agent for Capitalism) bang the Nationalist drum as hard as they can—even to deafening and to weariness. But that exaggerated Nationalism of theirs more and more loses its effect through a manifest insincerity due to their unconcealable anxiety for Big Business. They have to bawl Nationalism at the top of their vulgar voices because circulation demands that theme, but they are compelled, in the interest of their millionaire owners, to preach goodwill for Capitalist enterprises interlocked throughout the world. They may, for instance, demand a special British policy in the matter of oil, but they will not oppose the interest of American oil or Dutch. They may roar for reparations—but they won't roar against the ultimate transfer of reparations to the international bond holder.
As for the banks, they are almost openly international today. One can no longer speak of any country as having a national financial policy. Some are more particularist than others—notably France and Italy—but all respond to the pull of New York, and here, in England, the banking system is but a branch of New York's, to which it is voluntarily but also necessarily bound.
But the wave of Nationalism will rise higher before it declines, for there is one element which tends to preserve it, and that is the nobility of the ideal presented.
Here we have a situation quite different from that which applies to our other enemies, such as anti-Clericalism and the rest. They excite no enthusiasm; they prey upon the baser part of man, and actually warn the isolated and the ignorant against an elevation of spirit. But Nationalism has running through it the ardent character of devotion. That is its glory, and that is also what renders it a peril.
The effect of Socialism (logically, Communism) as a solvent of Nationalism is far less strong. Partly because it is an inhuman ideal not possible in practice (as everyone knows at heart—even those who proclaim its ideal loudest) and more because it is sporadic and partial. It can only flourish where there is an industrial proletariat. It cannot convert the bulk even of this, and even should it succeed in doing so, these industrial proletariats are patchy. If you were to take a map and set down on it the industrial areas of the world, you would have something like a rather disjointed rash: nothing homogeneous; while of single nations, England, which is by temperament the least inclined to communism, is the only completely industrialized of them all. Communism will increase. It will increase greatly. It will not affect national separateness as finance will affect it. But the combined effect of proletariat and banker will be formidable.
I come in this section to a factor in the Main Opposition which has a character of its own, markedly different from all others—the factor of Anti-Clericalism.
It is of special importance to emphasize, to define and to explain it to an audience of English and American readers because it does not come into their daily lives: they have no direct experience of it. It is important to emphasize it lest an essential part of the Church's conflict today should be overlooked, to define it because it is perpetually confused with anti-Catholicism in general, with wholesale rancor against religion and with the spirit of persecution at large: to explain it because until we understand its nature, we cannot follow the process whereby its votaries have become allied to the mass of moods combined against the Catholic Church, and have by now almost dissolved into that mass—no longer maintaining their original character. Anti-Clericalism may, in the near future, indirectly affect the condition of Catholics even where they are in a minority amid Protestant surroundings, and it is well to be ready with an understanding of it before that happens.
The subject, I say, must be emphasized because of its unfamiliarity outside the nations of Catholic tradition. The ancient Catholic culture reacts towards the Church and the Church towards it in a very different fashion from that which we find in the area of Protestantism.
Nothing is more startling, or, indeed, less comprehensible, to the average Catholic who has lived all his life as the citizen of an essentially Protestant State and under the surrounding atmosphere of the Protestant culture, than this principal phenomenon in the nations of Catholic culture.
It is not too much to say that the Catholic belonging to a nation of Protestant culture feels this form of the quarrel between the Church and the world—Anti-Clericalism—to be more alien to him than any other product of any social spirit foreign to his own. As a rule he does not know what it is all about; it either seems to him mere blind hate which no explanation can make intelligible; or he confuses it with that general hostility to Catholicism in his own world of which all are in some degree aware, and many, especially converts, have experienced very gravely.
If this be the reason for emphasizing Anti-Clericalism as a modern force, how shall it be defined?
Anti-clericalism may be defined as the spirit which is goaded into activity by the invasion of the civil province by clerical agency.
That is the minimum definition; that is the definition of the thing in its origin and before it entered into alliance with the enemies of the Faith. St. Louis can be quoted as anti-clerical when he refused the French Bishops the right to seize the goods of excommunicated people. The Irish leaders can be quoted as anti-clerical when they refused to be restrained in their land policy and political programme by certain of the hierarchy and even by the advice of the Pope. Their picturesque phrase: "We will take our religion from Rome but our politics from Hell" is anti-clerical.
In this minimum sense Anti-Clericalism is always potentially present in the mass of a Catholic civilization and may be excited at any moment without reference to doctrine or to the general acceptance of Catholic ideas and morals as a whole.
The more legitimate protests which preceded the Reformation were essentially anti-clerical—and a good example of the peril that spirit involves. The irritation caused in England by excessive Church taxation, the exasperation of pre-Reformation London in particular with mortuary dues and their irrational incidence, are examples of Anti-Clericalism in action. The great upheaval which followed in Germany started essentially as an Anti-Clerical thing which preceded and provoked the subsequent doctrinal chaos.
Anti-Clericalism then, may appear at any moment in any place where the Church fills society, and is as probable a feature of the future as of the past.
But the Anti-Clericalism of which we speak today is something far exceeding this minimum definition. It has risen to be a chief force antagonistic to Catholicism as a whole and it is with that force we are here concerned.
That force is universally present in the societies which maintained or recovered the Faith after the great storm of the sixteenth century. It varies in degree with time and place. Governments now support it, now oppose it. But it is everywhere present, in Belgium, in Spain, in France, in Portugal, in Italy; it might at any moment acquire a renewed power in any one of these countries, as for that matter in Poland itself, or even in Ireland.
In what was for long the leader of the Catholic culture, in France, it is particularly powerful and has held the levers of the governmental machine for nearly a lifetime, with effects of the most profound sort, which are only today beginning to show their final fruit. It was all-powerful in Italy until quite recently; it dominated Belgium until half a lifetime ago, and may at any moment now recover a majority there at the elections. It has had bouts of revolutionary power in Spain, and just before the war provoked something like a revolution, with difficulty suppressed, in Catalonia.
What is this contemporary hostile force in the concrete today? What is this social and political agent now called "Anticlericalism," so absent from the nations of Protestant culture that they cannot conceive its nature? So familiar to the nations of the old Catholic culture that they take it for granted, and that its opponents, while fighting it to the death, comprehend it as familiarly as they do their own position—feeling profoundly in themselves the emotions from which it has proceeded? We must explain it to understand it.
Anti-Clericalism of this present kind derives no longer from a protest against extravagant clerical action, but from a conflict between two incompatible theories of the State—the Catholic and the Neutral, or Lay. It is essentially a product of the universality of the Church and of its admitted power in a Catholic country, coupled with the recognition of the truth (so unpalatable to most men today, and especially to those of the Protestant culture), that the Catholic Church must either rule society or be ruled in Her own despite.
It is not because the Catholic discipline is so strong; it is not because the Catholic scheme has developed for so many centuries into so highly organized a thing, that the present Anticlericalism has arisen. These elements of strength in the Catholic position act, of course, as irritants to the opponents of the Faith; but they are not the main roots of that Anti-clericalism. Such Anti-Clericalism proceeds, I repeat, from a recognition in the Catholic quite as much as in his opponent, that Catholic life is not normal to a society unless Catholic morals and doctrine be supreme therein. Unless the morals of the Faith appear fully in the laws of that society, unless it be the established and authoritative religion of that society, the Church is ill at ease.
In other words, and to put it as plainly as possible, the Catholic Church is not a sect, and will never be able to regard itself as a sect, or to accept what is to Her the fiction, yet to others in non-Catholic countries a truism, that She is a sect.
The fiction that the Catholic Church is a sect, like any of the various bodies around it in nations of Protestant culture, that She is a sect, like the Mormons, or the Baptists, or the Quakers, is nourished by a score of conventions; by that false phrase, "the Churches"; by the offensive adjunct, "Roman" as though the Faith were but one fashion in a hundred Catholicisms, or as if Catholicism were a thing split into numerous factions, of Rome, Canterbury, Boston and Timbuctoo! Yet the falsehood is so firmly fixed and so long established here that it has recently begun to affect the Catholic body itself. The position is half accepted by them, though in their hearts they know that it is a lie. For the line of cleavage does not fall between the various groups, Catholic, Agnostic, Evangelical, or what not, but between the Catholic Church and all else. She is unique, and at issue with the world.
She proposes to take in men's minds even more than the place taken by patriotism; to influence the whole of society, not a part of it, and to influence it even more thoroughly than a common language. Where She is confronted by any agency inimical to Her claim, though that agency be not directly hostile, She cannot but oppose it. She denounces such laws as impose universal instruction upon Catholic children by force and forbid that instruction to be explicitly Catholic; as permit divorce; as license foul art; as favor contraception or the mutilation of the deficient. She does not admit the thesis that legislation and executive action, in Her eyes immoral, is no concern of Hers: that in this Christendom which She made She is to tolerate by silence and acquiescence what is damnable.
Hence the prodigious quarrel! Hence the fact—for it is a fact—that She lies suspect throughout the Protestant culture, and that throughout the whole area of Catholic culture are present in varying degrees the elements of a religious war.
Remark the inevitable effect of the Church's claim to authority (through an absolute possession of the truth) upon two kinds of men in such a society of Catholic culture: first, upon those who are in personal practice Catholic but who have become attached to the idea of State neutrality; second, upon those who, starting with no special hostility against Catholicism, are yet not Catholics in belief or practice.
The first sort admit the claims of the Church in a homogeneous Catholic society. If all were Catholic they would have no objection to the establishment of the Church, to her control of Education, and so forth. Such a society is their ideal. But as it is not achieved; as large bodies, even in nations of the Catholic culture, are, by this time, indifferent or hostile to Catholicism, they are led into the solution of neutrality. They regard the effort (for instance) of the Church to obtain State Catholic teaching for Catholic children as an invasion of State rights. They became anti-clerical.
Many such have I known in Catholic countries, especially among the wealthier classes which had caught the Liberal air of the nineteenth century from University and Press.
With the second sort, those who are not Catholic in their private lives, the effect is far stronger.
Judge the effect of the Church's claim upon a group of citizens who do not admit those claims, and who are numerous or powerful enough to withstand them.
It needs, at the outset, no special malice upon their part, nor, originally, any conscious hatred of the Faith, to arouse them at once to action against demands which cannot seem to them abominably extravagant.
"Think what you like," they say, "and even within certain limits act as you like; but allow others who are not of your kind a similar freedom. Be content with a common system of morals applied in common law; and for the rest, treat your particular doctrines as the private affair of your individual members Do not propose to identify yourself with the State, or to demand the support of the State, as of right, not only for your protection, but against the efforts of others, your opponents."
What could be more reasonable, or more natural, or more obvious, to men steeped in the idea that religion is a matter of opinion, and that all men are now so hopelessly divided upon it that unity is neither possible nor desirable?
To which the Church replies:
"The fallacy in your contention, the flaw in its logic, lies in your presumption of a common system of morals applied in a common law. There is no such thing. There is no common system of morals. There is System A, System B, System C, and so on, indefinitely. The Catholic system of morals is the only one by which mankind can live as it should live; it is the only one under which men are normal and, so far as the word can apply to a fallen race, reasonably happy. It is the system by which your society was made and to which it owes allegiance. Your laws will be founded upon your morals, and where those morals are not Catholic they will be anti-Catholic. It is inevitable.
"You say that part of your 'common morals' is monogamy. You got that from me. You cannot pretend that it is universal to the human race. And observe that, as you abandon me, you are becoming more changeable upon it. The more you depart from my own special standard therein, the more you break up that tradition of society by which we have all hitherto lived.
"It is the same with the doctrine of property. It is the same with the doctrine of future reward and punishment for good and evil deeds done on earth. It is the same with the institution of the family, with the authority of parents over their children and of the older over the younger generation. Where my authoritative voice is not supreme, there you are in conflict with myself; with me, who made Christendom."
Such is the Church's reply: and to the anti-Catholic it is monstrous.
Starting from this original contradiction the antagonism between the two positions becomes rapidly embittered.
The Anti-Clerical says:
"Since you will not live at peace with your neighbors, we must dominate you. You shall accept our schools. We guarantee they shall in no way offend your particular tenets, but on the other hand we will give these no countenance nor even mention them. The children shall not be told that the Presence in the Sacrament is a fairy-tale, nor given lessons on the beauty of divorce, nor even warned against the evils of your own intolerance, but on the other hand we will not teach an item of your doctrines. We will teach reading, writing and arithmetic; history in terms of Humanity and Patriotism—doctrines on which all are agreed. In private you may add to that as much as you will, but that is all we shall do. Our system of State morals, our laws of the moment, we will impose upon you. If you do not like them, so much the worse for your rebellion. If we change them more and more in a direction opposed to your views, that is our affair, and you must submit."
The Catholic Church answers again:
"With every step you take you show yourself more clearly hostile. In the name of neutrality you leave even the mention of God out of your system of education; you are already destroying marriage; tomorrow you will probably begin to destroy property—not as fools think, to the advantage of the many, but to the advantage of a few rich and to the enslavement of the rest. In acting thus you are destroying society itself. I intend to oppose you tenaciously, with all My power, and at the first opportunity to counter-attack and reverse your slow murder of Christendom."
Here you have a situation which could never arise save in a society the great mass of which still preserved Catholic tradition, and in which the claim of the Catholic Church to impose its influence was still so much a matter of practical politics that resistance to such a claim was felt to be defense against an active peril. Here you have the issue between Anti-Clericalism as we know it today and the Church.
I will examine the consequences which have come of this and have made of Anti-Clericalism so dangerous an opponent today.
The battle being set between the two irreconcilable policies—the one which presupposes a universal Catholic scheme; the other which presupposes a neutral or lay State, with the Catholic Church relegated to the position of a private corporation—certain consequences follow which the original authors of Anti-Clericalism never intended.
The first of these concerns the institution of Monasticism.
In theory the Anti-Clerical should leave the religious orders of men and women to go their own way. I do not say that the anti-Catholic should do so in theory. He, of course, by his every principle is led to the destruction of an institution which is so essential a support of Catholicism. The Anti-Clerical soon becomes the anti-Catholic? No doubt. It is a process I will later describe. But for the moment I point out that in theory, by his own declaration, the Anti-Clerical in his liberalism and in his passion for the neutral State should leave monks and nuns alone. If he likes them, it will be his pleasant duty to do so; if he dislikes them, his painful duty; but, either way, his duty. The religious are members of private corporations, acting privately after their own fashion, and so long as they don't force anyone to join them or constrain their members by violence, the State has no concern with them one way or another.
But the religious orders which teach influence a great body of the growing generation and form the minds of these into a mold different from that which the State is imposing through its schools. Their zeal extends the area of their educational action. Their corporate wealth and devotion, their self-sacrifice and independence of financial reward, create a conquering competition against the Neutral State schools. If the process continues, the State will be paralyzed, its effort to dominate the Church will be turned in flank. The teaching religious orders are suppressed.
But when you suppress a religious order, you have the opportunity to loot its property. Under the oligarchic Parliamentary system (strangely called "democracy!") the loot will go into the pockets of the politicians, the lawyers, and the hangers-on of both. This first taste of loot breeds an increasing appetite. Religious orders which had nothing to do with teaching, which were merely contemplative, are driven out; the Carthusians, for instance, from their mountain home; and some hundreds of thousands of pounds more are poured into the pockets of the Parliamentarians, their relatives, their legal connections and other hangers-on. At last you get an established principle that monasteries and convents are to be looted wholesale. Their property taken from them and their members dispersed or, if they will not disperse, exiled. Monks and nuns are put out of the common law. They may not own with the same security as other men and women. They may not associate.
That is how the thing ends: a gross violation of the most fundamental principle in which the "Liberalism" of the Anti-Clerical was, at first, rooted.
More follows. A tendency to forbid the public employment of men avowedly Catholic increases. It begins with a complaint against this man or that. The principle is stated that public money should not go to those who will accept the State system; under the guise of neutrality, individual persecution appears and grows. But there is much more to come. Within the State are not only the original authors of protest against Catholic claims to authority, the original sincere theorists who acted without malice or hatred upon what seemed to them an obviously just and simple conception of civic rights; but numbers who are by tradition positively and even violently hostile to the Faith, and who desire to destroy it.
Such are men who have come to associate Catholicism with opposition to some cherished ideal, as of republicanism, or of the nation. The French republicans remember their quarrel with the clergy in the moment of royalist invasion a century ago, the Italian patriots the sympathy of priests with Austria.
Such are, in one nation, some large minority of dissidents, who have suffered from disabilities in the past when the Church was supported by the civil authority, who have retained great wealth, and who are ready to destroy that which they have always opposed to the best of their ability. The French Huguenots are of this kind—hardly a twentieth of the nation, but controlling perhaps a third of its available liquid capital.
Again, an organization ready to hand—the Masonic organization, for instance—is organized like an army against the Church.
And here I may digress to remark that, in point of fact, the Masonic body is throughout the world an enemy of the Catholic Church and active in seeking Her destruction; nor is there any difference in its activity between one country and another, save that it is naturally more in evidence in a country where Catholicism is strong than in a country where it is weak. It is beside the mark to plead that it has no connection, hostile or other, with the Faith, that its elaborate Jewish ritual nowhere contradicts a Catholic doctrine, that its inculcation of good fellowship and its many charities, its arrangements for mutual aid among its members, are indeed consonant with the Catholic idea of charity. All that has nothing to do with plain fact which stares us all in the face throughout the world, that Masonry acts as an enemy of Catholicism. Where Catholicism is very weak, as in England, the hostility is negligible. But exactly the same lodges are far from negligible in Ireland, and in the United States that hostility is prominent in almost exact proportion to the local strength of the Church. Where She is very strong it is rampant. Where the Catholic body is weak it is less noticeable. Where Catholics are negligible in numbers it disappears. In the Catholic nations—France, Italy, Belgium and Spain—the hostility of Freemasonry is a commonplace, and the programmes for the destruction of the Church, drawn up in the lodges, are available for all to read. I have heard it advanced that the origin of the quarrel lies not with Masonry, but with the Church itself, which, in denouncing on principle all secret societies, has put itself voluntarily in conflict with the powerful corporation of Masonry and must face the consequence. That is debatable. But the fact of universal hostility cannot be doubted. So much for this digression on a most important side issue. Let us resume our examination of the Anti-Clerical.
Anti-Clericals find themselves inevitably allied with all forms of antagonism to the Catholic Church: with opposing religions and corporations, with all those to whom the Faith is an offense.
Meanwhile, from a theoretical attitude of neutrality, sincere enough in its original holders, there is bred in them and their descendants, through the exasperation of the quarrel, a definitely hostile attitude towards the Church which brings them nearer to her avowed enemies.
At last you have two armies opposed one to the other (among the directing classes at least); the first avowedly and definedly Catholic, having attached to them not a few who, from sympathy with tradition, support the Faith politically, although they do not accept it in their hearts; the second, men determined by every means in their power—subject to safeguarding some remnants of consistency with their old doctrine of neutrality—to destroy the Catholic Church root and branch.
When that state of affairs has been arrived at, it is win or lose. It is a clear battle between the Church and her enemies: and that is the situation today. Anti-Clericalism means today the fruit of Anti-Clericalism: its maturity. And, as such, there is a duel to the death between Her and that evil fruit.
One unforeseen consequence of this final black-and-white contrast is the disappearance of that once large body of men who attempted to reconcile the fashionable Liberalism of their day with the claims of that Church to which they are so truly attached.
These men had said for years that the elementary school (for instance), though neutral and avoiding even the mention of our Creator, was not thereby definitely hostile and might well be accepted.
They have continued to say—it sounded reasonable to them—that though the Prelates of the Catholic Church were not admitted to official ceremonies, yet that was but a point of civic procedure; that the great thing was to convert society again to a universal Catholic spirit and not to trouble about details of etiquette.
But the facts have become too strong for them. A battle is by this time engaged, which a man must be upon one side or the other. And when in the last development of Anti-clericalism the movement becomes explicitly one for the destruction of the Faith, they will divide. Some will rally to reality, begin to forget the empty formulas of political theory, and consider and serve the Faith alone. The rest will be as frankly opposed to the Faith, root and branch, as any other of its avowed enemies.
There, put as briefly as I can put it, is the development of Anti-Clericalism, and we must never forget that it is present, and will be present for a long time to come, wherever the Catholic Church was maintained as the dominant religion of the people after the great catastrophe of the Reformation.
The struggle has had universal effects on the life of Europe and the world.
Twenty years ago it turned the world upside down over the Dreyfus business, destroyed the intelligence department of the French army (which was transferred to the police), gave us, as an ultimate result, the Great War, and, in consequence, the perilous economic condition of England today.
After the Great War it presided at the portioning of the world.
There was a moment when it hung by a thread whether Bavaria should not be joined with Austria to form a Danube State. But Clemenceau cried, "What—Another Catholic State in Europe? No, thank you! Poland is quite enough!" And Prussia gained the prize.
Certainly, most certainly, Anti-Clericalism concerns us all, even those who live in sheltered Catholic minorities under the protection of Protestant Governments and who are to the raging battle between the Church and the world as boats in harbor are to the wild sea outside.
But that battle is not yet won by one or other side. The story is not concluded. What we have to remember is, in all our inquiry into the position of the Church today, that throughout the nations of Catholic culture the Church is thus imperiled with risks quite different from her dangers in the non-Catholic culture. There is internecine war. For in the nations of Catholic culture the Church will never accept a position of inferiority or the fiction that she is but a tolerated fragment. If she goes down she will go down still fighting for a Catholic society and Catholic laws.
So far the process has led to a very disparate result. In France, Anti-Clericalism holds the field, triumphantly and yet precariously. It is done by preventing the women from voting, by rejecting the family vote, of course, and through the anti-clerical grasp of all State machinery; administration by anti-Catholic officials; the imposition of the anti-Catholic spirit by State teachers in a compulsory educational system; filling of posts in the higher education with anti-Catholics and the provision of anti-Catholic history; with the same doctrine governing all public examinations; the checking of promotion of Catholics in as many of the professions as can be influenced directly or indirectly by the State.
But the political cliques which act thus stand for only a minority of the nation, and not a very secure minority. Their preoccupation with attack upon the Church has weakened them further. They have created, wantonly, the Alsatian trouble. They came within an ace of ruining the currency. The basis upon which they and the French Parliamentary faction reposes weakens from day to day. It is confusedly at issue with the average man. At any moment, so far, the whole structure might crumble. But its directors rely upon the slow and persistent effects of anti-Catholic education in the elementary schools and upon the economic policy of starving the Church through lack of endowment, coupled with a vigilant repression of that main organism for the propagation of the Faith, the Religious Teaching Orders.
There is something in their contention. There is ground for anxiety lest—and that soon—they prove right in their conjecture that victory will ultimately be theirs and the Faith reduced in France to a fragment of the people unable to give tone to the whole.
After so many years of their action over education and political reward the anti-Catholic effort is beginning to be felt throughout the nation at large. It is apparent to the wise in its remote effects upon art, letters, building, all the externals of a civilization in jeopardy. It is apparent in the national temper and manners. It is also apparent already in a more obvious form, the loss of practice. I have seen districts in France which might be called "de-Catholicized." At any rate, they were districts where the ordinary practices of religion had so far declined as to be familiar to but a very small minority: and the sight suggests a coming generation in which, throughout considerable spaces of the countrysides, that tradition upon which all their civilization is based will be lost.
Herein lies both the interest and peril of the situation. Parliamentary government will always be detested by the French because the French cannot bear oligarchy, even in an aristocratic form, let alone in a form which has no social sanction and has become frankly ridiculous as well as odious. But Parliaments in France may well continue, and if they continue the official forces adverse to the survival of the Faith will grow; for the official machine wills it so.
The apologetic for religion is, I fancy, better carried on in France than in any other modern country. There is active opposition to the official anti-Catholic stuff in history, for instance, such as you get nowhere else; and there is an increasing volume of powerful literature which is in sympathy with, and based upon, the Catholic traditions of the country. All this means that the intelligence of the nation tends to return towards Catholicism. But how far does this tendency affect the mass of the people? Undoubtedly it affects the towns more than the country. But how far does it effect even the towns? That is the essential question, and it is one not easy to answer. We shall be better able to answer it at the end of another twenty years. So far the position is still doubtful, but it is menacing and disquieting. If after this critical passage and balance between political anti-Catholicism in France and the solid culture of the nation, the weight begins to fall to the Catholic side, the effect upon the political fortunes of Catholicism throughout the world will be very great. If it falls upon the other side and the Faith sinks in France to be a separated minority of the people, the effect of that will not be confined to France either. It will be felt throughout the world.
For it is an invariable rule in the history of our race that the spiritual direction of the Gauls should be an index of general movements outside of their boundaries. They determine the triumph of the Trinitarians. They enlarge the Papacy. They gave Calvinism to the world and with it the core of dissension. In the struggle of the Reformation they were at one moment far nearer losing tradition than was Britain. Their recovery of the Faith determined—humanly speaking—the survival of religion. Their enthusiasm for the revolutionary trend transformed all Europe. Their effect on thought and action remains. Though it be negative and an example of decline, that decline will color all our world. Therein lies the intense, the perilous interests of the French scene. France determines, or at least chiefly influences; and so far France lies in the balance.
But a survey of the Catholic culture as a whole very strongly supports the repeated epigram of the last years, that "the tide has turned in Europe."
In Spain and Italy, with vigorous efforts, the Anti-Clerical advance has been checked, and by this time reversed. The thing was done first long ago in Spain, and was more directly religious there. If the happy destruction of the Parliamentary oligarchy in that country has confirmed the good tendency, we may be fairly certain that whatever military struggles a monarchic system brings in its train, the politicians at least will not trouble Spain again, and with that sort absent Anti-Clericalism droops; for a Parliamentary clique is its necessary agent.
As all the world knows, the thing has been done even more thoroughly in Italy. It is there rather connected with a general civil policy than with any special preoccupation with religion, but reaction towards religion is strong and fully supported. It is particularly to be noted that the Masonic Corporation is, for the first time in history, subjected to the general law against secret societies and prevented from acting as one. As a consequence, Anti-Clericalism, the very note of all official action between the creation of modern Italy and the Great War, is stricken with the palsy.
It does not follow that new and difficult perils may not there arise for the Faith. But they will hardly arise from the old Anti-Clerical side. It seems to be finally and definitely defeated.
Spain and Italy stand in our day both of them emancipated from one great evil of their past; in both those countries the reaction against Anti-Clericalism is successful and established.
In Poland Anti-Clericalism has not gathered momentum; to the traveler it is hardly apparent, though it is potentially present and a few powerful individuals are certainly sympathetic with it. The past of the country, its crucifixion at the hands of Prussia and Russia (in each case with hatred of the Catholic Church for a main motive), has identified the religion, so far, with the nation, and that effect remains.
It is perhaps the same with Anti-Clericalism in Ireland. Though there, of course, there is a much larger anti-Catholic body than in Poland. Anti-Clericalism proper would seem not yet to have attained any corporate being. As in Poland, the forces of nationalism and the effect of recently past history strongly support the Faith. The citizens of both those recently emancipated countries would, I think, in general proclaim the impossibility of any strong Anti-Clericalism among them in the near future—but beyond that judgment a foreigner cannot go.
(iii) The Modern Mind
The third and far the most formidable element of Main Opposition to the Faith today, is what I propose to call by its own self-appointed and most misleading title: "The Modern Mind." How misleading and false that title is, I will discuss in a moment, premising here, that I adopt it only because terms are necessary to discussion, and this is the admitted and well-known term ready to hand. Were I to invent a new one, I should hamper my argument, for it would be unfamiliar.
We note that it acts in a fashion wholly negative. It is not an attack, but a resistance. It does not, like Anti-Clericalism, exercise an active effect opposed to religion, nor, like Nationalism, substitute a strong counter-emotion which tends to supplant religion. It rather renders religion unintelligible. Its effect on religion is like that of an opiate on the power of analysis. It dulls the faculty of appreciation, and blocks the entry of the Faith. Hence its power.
We further note that it is of far more effect in the Protestant than in the Catholic culture, though common to both. In the former it is discovered higher up in the intellectual and social scale than in the latter, and is very widespread. In the latter it is more restricted in area and less accepted by the educated classes.
But everywhere it is of the same character, and everywhere so far as its influence extends, it fills with despair those who attempt to deal with its fearful incapacities.... And even before they can deal with it at all, they are brought up against the absence of a language to effect their end.
For, indeed, we are met at the outset of this, perhaps the most important section of our enquiry, by a difficulty which was not known in any other time than ours: that difficulty to which I have alluded, that this chief adverse condition we have to examine has no suitable name. There is no fixed term or definition for that major factor in our present difficulties, the spirit which is everywhere a main adversary of the Catholic Church, and peculiar to our generation. Many a name has been attempted none has been found satisfactory; and there is legitimate complaint against all those which have hitherto been loosely used for the thing in question.
That mood running through the lower masses of the modern world, of wide influence, therefore, in Europe and America, and rapidly spreading to the traveled or westernized in the Mahommedan and pagan cultures, is baffling to label.
That name which its own victims use (and which I here adopt), the "Modern Mind" (or "Modern Thought"), is a misnomer, because it ignorantly begs the question of universality. It presupposes that those suffering from the disease are the mass of our contemporaries and those free from it a negligible exception.
Of course, it is not so. Most modern men do not feel this spirit. No Catholic feels it—at least, no Catholic who cares to remain orthodox. The greater part of really cultivated men outside the Catholic Church despise it; and everything traditional and solid in our civilization, notably, the peasantry of agricultural countries, leaves it to one side.
Nevertheless, as it is the word its own votaries use, I will here call it by that name—but in inverted commas. I will speak of it as the "Modern Mind," but emphasizing continually as I do so the falsity of the term.
If we call it (as some do) "realism," we are confused by the use of that term with a precise and profound meaning in true philosophy (where it signifies the Reality of Ideas—as opposed to Nominalism); we are also confronted by the disturbing fact that, even in the conversational sense of the word, the spirit of which I speak is the very opposite of recognizing the real world. It is a spirit all print and tags, all soaked in ready-made phrases which have been swallowed whole, without the least examination, by minds incapable of criticism.
Were we to call it "Modernism," we should be nearer the mark, but unfortunately that word has already been assigned to a definite theological school of error, whereas the spirit of which I speak is something far more extended, vaguer and, indeed, of more effect; for Modernism in the technical sense of the word is pretty well dead, but the spirit of which I speak is very much with us.
We all know the thing. It is the spirit which tells us, on hearing any affirmation or hypothesis not within its own limited experience, that the affirmation or hypothesis must be false. It is the spirit especially prone to take for granted the falsity of an unfamiliar idea if that idea is known to have been familiar in the past. It is the spirit which confuses development in complexity with the growth of good and the process of time with a process of betterment. It is the spirit which appeals, as to a final authority, to whatever has last been said in a matter: "the latest authority." It is the spirit which has lost acquaintance with logical form and is too supine to reason. It is the spirit which lives on bad science and worse history at third hand. It is the spirit, not of the populace or of the scholars, but of the half-educated.
What may be the causes of this philosophical disease—and it is an appalling one—which is affecting such large numbers in our time, I shall consider later. Here I propose first to analyze its character.
Upon dissecting it we discover the "Modern Mind" to contain three main ingredients and to combine them through the force of one principle. Its three ingredients are pride, ignorance, and intellectual sloth; their unifying principle is a blind acceptance of authority not based on reason.
Pride causes those who suffer from this disease to regard whatever they think they have learned, whatever they have absorbed, through no matter how absurd a channel, as absolute and sufficient.
Ignorance forbids them to know with any thoroughness what men have discovered about these things in the past, and how certainly.
Intellectual sloth forbids them to examine an argument, or even to appreciate the implications of their own assertions.
With most men who are thus afflicted the thing is not so much a mixture of these vices as the mere following of a fashion; but these vices lie at the root of the mental process in question.
As to the principle of blindly accepting an authority not based on reason, it runs through the whole base affair and binds it into one: Fashion, Print, Iteration, are the commanders abjectly obeyed and trusted.
Let us take a leading test: the attitude taken by the "Modern Mind" towards the supernatural—the shrine, the inhabiting spirit, and, particularly, towards miracle.
Witness has been borne to a certain marvel, a thing outside ordinary experience. The spirit of which I speak will deny, not the actual occurrence upon this or that good intellectual ground (as of insufficient evidence, or what not), but the very possibility of the marvel. And it will repose that denial upon something presumed with regard to the physical universe, which presumption it accepts as intelligently as a fetish worshipper will accept his African idol. It will tell you that a mumbo jumbo which it calls "Science" has achieved in the knowledge of reality—or whatever lies behind the phenomena of matter—a final apprehension which in fact Physical Science never has achieved, and never can; because such apprehension cannot be attained by man's measurements and observations of the phenomena alone. And note that this spirit is removed by depths from that old and grander, now disappearing thing, the true "Scientific Negation" of a lifetime ago. That proceeded from men who abused knowledge, but who had knowledge and who possessed a philosophical method. This proceeds from mere assertion based on something hurriedly read or heard.
Again, this spirit, this "Modern Mind," will refer to all transcendental belief in terms which imply the inferiority of the past to the present—that is, of other people's epochs to the vain man's own epoch. It will call such faith "reactionary," or "medieval," or "exploded"; it will tell you that the Creed belongs to "an uncritical age," and in saying so it will show its own ignorance of all that vast mass of intellectual work with which the past of Europe was filled, and of the almost equal mass of high modern work in defense of supernatural experience.
The color in which the whole of the "Modern Mind" is dyed is essentially stupidity: it will not think—and that is a very strange weakness for anything which calls itself a "mind"!
If it were an active enemy, its lack of reason would be a weakness: being (alas!) not active, but a passive obstacle, like a bog, it is none the weaker for being thus irrational.
I have said that its unifying principle was the acceptation of false authority: blind faith divorced from reason. The "Modern Mind" takes for granted without examination a number of first principles—as, for instance, that there is a regular progress from worse to better in the centuries of human experience, or that parliamentary oligarchies are democratic, or that democracy is obviously the best form of human government, or that the object of human effort is money and that the word "success" means the accumulation of wealth. Having taken these things for granted, without examination, it goes ahead cheerfully under the illusion that its opponents have the same ideas. What is more, it betrays that extraordinary ability for disbelieving the evidence of one's own senses which is the mark of unintelligent fanaticism. It will gaze upon that most hideous of human prospects, the industrial town, and compare it favorably with a medieval city—Huddersfield with Siena. It will call a society wealthy when a great part of its inhabitants are half starving; it will believe any new hypothesis in physical science to be ascertained fact, though it has assisted at the destruction of half-a-dozen other such hypotheses within the last fifty years.
I have said that this odd habit of preferring long words picked up in the newspapers to the evidence of one's own senses is essentially fanatical, and indeed the hold of this mood may be seen in the singular phenomenon that the certitudes of the "Modern Mind" seem to vary in inverse proportion to the direct sensible evidence available.
For instance, its victims will be far more sure of the existence of vitamins than they are of a nasty taste in chemical beer. They will be far more sure of electrons than of fresh eggs; and when the electron or the vitamin bursts in its turn, tomorrow or the day after, and is supplanted by the What-not, they will accept the What-not with equal simplicity and fervor.
Why is this mood so dangerous to the Catholic Church? That patently it is so, we see. It inhibits men from so much as understanding what the Faith may be, and bars the action of a true authority by the unquestioned acceptation of false; we can see it doing that every day before our eyes.
But in what, we may ask, is it a peril? It is a peril because true faith is based upon reason, and whatever denies or avoids reason imperils Catholicism. There is nothing more inimical to the Faith than this abandonment of thought, this dependence upon a great number of fixed postulates which men have not examined, but have accepted upon mere printed affirmation, and by the brute effect of repetition.
Well, then, the "Modern Mind" is essentially opposed to Catholic action because it is unreasoning: but why so powerful? Why should this spirit, however strong to move the indignation of the wise or the impatience of the commonsense populace, have also such special weight with the more shallow of our time?
I think the explanation lies in the fact that the dupes of this fashion believe it to be based upon evident proof which the least capable could, if he chose, test for himself.
Here I must introduce the last consideration which may complete our understanding of the unpleasant thing: I mean, a consideration of its origins.
The "Modern Mind" is the dregs of certain much nobler forces of the past, some of which still drag on as Survivals, others of which are dead. It is the base product of a better ancestry.
By one line it descends as a degraded bastard from that high Scientific Negation of a generation now passing: the Survival we have already examined. By another, it derives, ludicrously enough, from the clear-headed Skeptical Rationalists. By another from the great republicans of the eighteenth century. In its puerile metaphysic it is but misunderstanding the strong scientific agnostics of the past.
The "Modern Mind" is confirmed in its folly by the fixed idea that someone or other somewhere "proved" its errors to be truths and that the proof was final and obvious.
This attitude of the "Modern Mind" is due to that great advance in those forms of knowledge which are based, as we saw in the matter of the old "Scientific Negation," on exact measurement; the physical sciences and the close examination of documents.
Of such measurements we make today many thousands where our fathers not a hundred years ago made but a score. The practice has given us a novel and astonishing collection of powers over the physical universe, and not a few (though much more doubtful) discoveries upon the nature and origin of classical and medieval texts. At the same time, abused, it can without a doubt paralyze intelligence, and the "Modern Mind" is the poor product of its abuse; or rather, the confused memory of an abuse committed by greater men, immensely superior to it. So the "Modern Mind," when it undertakes any activity—which is not often—confines itself to Physical Science.
Anyone can measure accurately over and over again; anyone can catalogue points in a document or carry on a series of experiments. It needs no effort of the intelligence. So, when the results are reaped, the fallacy is easily entertained that because so much can be done without the use of the reason, therefore the reason may be despised. At the same time, the habit of proof by minute and exact measurement deadens the sense of proof by other methods, and, as we are unhappily aware when we look around us, it paralyzes the sense of beauty.
In themselves the habits necessary to an expansion in physical science are admirable, for they are instruments in the noble search after truth, and in that discovery of reality which is the chief business of mankind. But when they are isolated and take a false place of their own to the exclusion of the higher powers of the soul, they may inflict mortal injury.
Such injury has been inflicted in the class of which I speak. A stratum neither of the people nor of the humanists, but somewhere in between, has come, especially in our chaotic industrial towns, to believe that repeated and certain experiment producing proof of regular material sequence applies not only (as it does) to physical science, but to all things. They are the heirs of the high scientific despair of older days; but the unworthy and illiterate heirs. They make no reservations. They attempt no coordinated system. They simply believe.
They have further come to hold, vaguely but firmly, that sundry men whose names they hear quoted are infallible authorities, because they are said to have "discovered" this, that, and the other. Hence is it today that whether you are discussing the authenticity of a Gospel or Greek poem, the excellence of a picture, or the greatness of a nation, you find yourself presented by such men, at best, with statistics commonly irrelevant, or, at the worst, with the mere name of some man competent in his own sphere, but in the sphere under debate quite incompetent.
To all this the "Modern Mind" has added an ethic of whose origin it never heard, but which has for its author Comte. It is the worship of Humanity, and of Humanity mortal. That is good which makes men happier here—or looks as though it might; and happier, not mainly through the satisfaction of justice nor even by a search for beauty, but in seeking things much more tangible and perishable; mainly of the body. And this worship of ourselves in the place of God is heavily reinforced by Nationalism on the one hand, by the Communist cry for economic equality on the other.
Much else enters into the formation of the "Modern Mind"...It is the dregs of that too simple creed launched or confirmed by the French philosophers of the Encyclopedia. It is the dregs of that German Monism and that German Pantheism which so much affected the nineteenth century. It is the dregs of fatigue in an over-complex civilization; and it suffers the organized propagation of myth, especially in the matter of man's unknown origins. But in the main the source of this modern disease is the false application of mechanical methods, inapplicable to higher spheres of thought, which it couples with that ethic of Positivism, the worship of Humanity.
Such are the sources. But the "Modern Mind" is far from its sources and settled into something much lower than the dead or dying ideas from which it drew its own lack of ideas; much less than the philosophies on which it bases its lack of philosophy.
Note in connection with the "Modern Mind" its inability to state its own position.
The old-fashioned Agnostic laid down definitely a dogma, and a dogma worth listening to. He said: "There may be Something. On the whole I think there is Something; but we cannot know what it is. The organs by which alone we can know anything tell us nothing about that Something, so let us, like honest men, proclaim our ignorance of that Something."
The pure skeptic had a somewhat different position, and on the whole, a better one. He said: "How do we know anything? We cannot even affirm our own selves; for personality it is a variable thing, a function of time and memory, mysteries no man can sound. Let us not pretend to know anything at all."
The day of such honest men is past, or they are dwindled to a little band. Those who oppose the Faith today as devotees of "The Modern Mind" cannot tell us what they themselves believe. After we have made every allowance for the natural desire to shirk the consequences of unbelief, or not to lose income, it remains a wonder that they cannot tell us what they believe.
And this applies not to them alone, but also to the better minds who stoop to flatter them. Read this:
"The real trend of religion among the younger generation is away from dogmatic and institutional Christianity, and towards an individual and personal faith resting not on authority but on experience....The new Protestantism is not relativist in the objects of its faith; it believes that truth is absolute, and that God is unchanging. But it accepts the necessity of growth and change in our beliefs. . .We must sit very loose to tradition, and keep our minds open. Our anchor is what used to be called the testimony of the Holy Spirit, which assures us of the reality and primacy of those eternal values which Christ came to reveal. This is the true Christianity, and we need not be discouraged about its prospects of victory if we look for them in the fruits of the spirit, and not in institutional statistics or successes of organization."
Was ever such a mass of verbiage! There is no rhyme or reason in it. Not one definite statement of doctrine, save that God is unchanging—followed by the necessity of change in our beliefs: therefore, of course, a change in our belief that God is unchanging. Strange rigmarole!
What are "the Eternal values that Christ came to reveal?" No answer! What is "sitting loose to tradition?" In what degree, where arid how may traditions be a guide? No answer! What is that "experience" which, though an "experience," has no authority? No answer! What has he to say against a personal experience of the value of authority? No answer! What is "Christianity"? No answer! How does it carry on without institutions? No answer!
Yet it is from the pen of Dean Inge, a man whose whole public standing is that of one criticizing religious doctrine from the superior plane of our modern advance in knowledge, and that pen when it deals with any other matter than religion is as precise as any now writing and as clear.
I would not accuse such an intelligence as his from suffering the collapse of the "Modern Mind" but he panders to it. He has an eye on the readers of his journalism.
There stands the "Modern Mind," a morass.
The great difficulty of the intelligent in dealing with this thing, whether they be Catholic or skeptical, is the lack of hold. It is like fighting smoke. It affords a commentary on the famous tag that with stupidity the gods themselves will wrestle in vain.
What are you to do with a man who always argues in a circle? Who tells you that some political arrangement is good because it is "democratic," and when you ask
- (a) whether it is as a fact democratic,
- (b) why democracy is an evident good, answers you by saying that you are sinning against democracy and its holy name.
What are you to do with a man who does not recognize his own first principles? Who tells you that he believes a thing on the authority of a name or a bit of print, and who, when you ask him the grounds of his confidence in such, answers you by giving another name and another bit of print?
What are you to do with a man who uses the same word in different senses during the same discussion? As, for instance, who says he "believes in Evolution," meaning growth (which all men believe in), and in the same sentence make it mean:
- (a) The bestial origin of man's body—which is probable enough,
- (b) Darwin's theory of Mechanical Natural Selection, which is as dead as a door-nail.
What are you to do with a man who puts it forth as a foundation for debate that the human reason is no guide, and who then proceeds to reason through hundreds of pages on that basis?
Yet all that, and hundreds of derivatives therefrom, make up the horrible welter of the "Modern Mind."
Well, we must hope that intelligence will resume its rights, even against such; but the prospect is not cheerful. Meanwhile the monstrous apparition of the "Modern Mind" has produced one good among many evils; it has produced a belated Brotherhood of the Intelligent. We of the Faith and the cultured Pagans have a common opponent. A common donkey blocking the car, and needing to be shouldered off the lane into the ditch, breeds fellow-feeling between the Catholic and the clear-minded skeptic. Each feels a peculiar disgust with the "Modern Mind." So we have, at last, allies.
The "Modern Mind" feeds. The animal is nourished or it could not live. All moods must thus receive regular sustenance or perish. What is the food which aliments the "Modern Mind"? It absorbs two forms of nutrition—one from the imposed elementary school, one from the popular press. Between them they secure the continuity and permanence of the "Modern Mind." These two instruments were unknown to the past; they are of strong effect on the present. They are of effect throughout the whole of the modern European and American world, and their effect is increasing. I will state them in their order.
The first thing to be said about universal compulsory instruction as it is now arranged, is that it is necessarily at issue with the Catholic conception of society because it sets out upon a first principle which the Catholic conception of society denies. That is not a judgment agreeable to modern fashion, but it is true; and before we consider the particular way in which this institution sustains the "Modern Mind, we must appreciate how and why it necessarily clashes with that Faith to which the "Modern Mind" is now the principal obstacle.
This first principle upon which universal compulsory instruction is based is the idea that a certain minimum of instruction in a certain category of learning is the first essential to right living. Other things come after; but a knowledge of these, at least, is indispensable to man and society, and must therefore be imposed on all by force. This category includes letters, that is, reading and writing, elementary arithmetic, by which ordinary civic occupations are carried on, some very general knowledge of the past and of contemporary nations, their geography and character, the whole tinctured with the (today) inevitable religion of Nationalism and a vague general ethic, humanitarian and therefore (unwittingly) positivist.
These having been imposed upon every child of the community by force, whether the parents are willing or unwilling, its other activities, such as religion, seem subsidiary. They may or may not be engaged in, and whether they are engaged in or not is indifferent to society and therefore to the State.
The Catholic conception of human nature is actively at issue with this. According to it, the first, the most necessary thing, is the teaching of the children, affirmatively, as a divine truth necessary not only to the conduct of its own life, but also to that of all society, the doctrines and the particular, defined, morals of the Catholic Church.
In comparison with instruction in that one prime essential, nothing else counts. It is good to be able to read and write and cast up simple sums; it is better still to know something of the past of one's people, and to have a true idea of the world around one. But these are nothing compared with the Faith.
Here is the first point of conflict between the Church and her enemies in the matter of this new instrument which is beginning to be of such prodigious effect throughout our imperiled civilization. Next let it be noted that there is another issue perhaps even graver, and that is, the issue between the Family and the State and between the full multiple life of free will in action and the uniform restricted death-in-life of things done by constraint and on a mechanical model.
As between the Family and the State, Catholic doctrine is fixed. The family is the unit. The parent is the natural authority (auctoritas auctoris). The State is secondary to the family, and especially in the matter of forming a child's character by education. Now here the State of today flatly contradicts Catholic doctrine. It says to the parent, "What you will for your child must yield to what I will. If our wills are coincident, well and good. If not, yours must suffer. I am master." At least, so the State speaks to the poorer parent; to the richer it is more polite.
Many Catholics are afraid to say so, but that is, in Catholic terms, abominably bad morals: the morals of tyranny.
The issue between free will and constraint is less direct—but it is very real. It is not without significance that the claim to interfere by force not only in the all-important character of early instruction, but in a score of other domestic things, has gone side by side with the spread of fatalism in the world and with the inhuman concept of unalterable mechanical laws. It is not insignificant that the Church in the rare places and times when She had power to do so, did not compel the mind. During all that intense intellectual life of the thirteenth century, instruction was by choice: endowed—so that the poorest could reach the highest inspiration, but at the choice of the individual or family will, to be taken or left.
Compulsory universal instruction, then, clashes with every canon of Catholic social ethics, even in its compulsion, even in its universality, but especially in its choice of what it calls essentials.
Although these things are so, one may hear from the "Modem Mind" a plea which it is so confused as to hold applicable. It advances this argument: "I do not say that the things imposed by force upon the mass of young minds are the most ultimately important. All I say is that they are what none will differ about and what all will agree to be necessary to life in society. As to other, perhaps more important, but debated things, I keep neutral." Yet it should be evident that how things are taught, even things which have no direct relation with religious teaching, makes all the difference to the effect of an education. The teaching as a whole must be Catholic or non-Catholic. You cannot make a school which shall not be the one or the other, any more than you can make a home which shall not be the one or the other.
It is one of the sure tests of stupidity in those who discuss this matter when they put forward the plea that religion cannot i come into the teaching of arithmetic; the very same people . would violently object to having their own children taught arithmetic by one of whose morals and outlook they disapproved.
But arithmetic is not the only thing taught. Some kind of morals must be taught. And here a violent issue arises, which is an issue between diverse orders; for the order in which you teach morals makes all the difference.
Are you going to teach children that the excessive consumption of liquor is the prime evil of human life? Are you going to teach them that consideration for others is the highest duty of man? Are you going to teach them that kindness to animals is among the highest of virtues?
No one denies that drunkenness is a bad thing, or that cruelty to animals is a bad thing, or that the service of one's neighbor is a good thing; but the point is, in what order are you going to teach them, what relative importance are you going to give them? Everything turns on that. With one set of proportions you produce one type of character, with another, another. In one order you have Catholic morals, in another Protestant, in another Pagan.
Truth lies in proportion. It is proportion which differentiates a caress from a blow, a sneer from a smile. It is the sequence and the relative weight of doctrines, not the bald statement, that makes the contrast between what damns and what saves. Let a child experience through the working day and through most days of the year that this or that is emphasized in its teaching, and what is so emphasized becomes, for it, and for all its life, the essential.
Apart from this consideration—which applies to all subjects—there is a multitude of subjects in which the effect of teaching makes for truth or falsehood according to religious atmosphere. Take a single example from elementary geography. It relates to Holland, a country the origin of whose religious opinions was mentioned on an earlier page.
A little while ago the Dutch authorities protested against a textbook used in our English (Protestant) elementary schools describing Holland as a wholly Protestant country—with sundry other remarks upon the virtues which presumably follow from such a character. The remark that Holland is a country wholly Protestant, and that the whole point of Holland is its Protestantism, would seem so obvious to nine out of ten modern Englishmen that they must have marveled at any protest being made: yet it is, of course, a completely false statement, and the falsehood is highly characteristic of the way in which a religious atmosphere affects teaching.
Holland is a country largely divided between the two religions; rather more than half its people are Protestant, rather less than half are Catholic. The whole point of the Dutch example to a man trained in true history is the way in which a State which was, in its origins, artificially created by a revolt against taxation, next strengthened by a violently anti-Catholic temper, maintained for generations by an exclusion of Catholics from power, has come now to something like a balance of the two cultures. Yet it is almost inevitable that such a textbook statement should be imposed upon our elementary schools, which have to accept what our official historians—brought up on stuff like Motley—themselves so naively believe.
There is a case taken from elementary geography. With history, of course, the thing is patent. If you are teaching the official nationalist history of our day, you are teaching anti-Catholic history, and there is no way out of it. The whole business from A to Z is anti-Catholic propaganda.
Now this instrument of universal compulsory education must obviously be of vast effect, but of how vast an effect it may be, what changes in society may be effected by the manipulation of it, people have hardly yet realized.
It originated in the French Revolution, and the first man to give form to one of its constituents was Danton, when he said that, after bread, the first need of the populace was instruction. The seed was sown. It was—to the reformers of the eighteenth century a truism that all would be well with men if they had "light." Ignorance in terrestrial matters they thought the parent of all ill. Since this was so, to make elementary instruction, at least, in such matters, universal, seemed an unmixed good. But how could one ensure its being universal unless one made it compulsory?
Such was the chain of policy: the enormous result was not intended. The sole intention was to give citizens what the limited views of its authors thought an obvious advantage.
The idea was carried out in the course of the nineteenth century more or less thoroughly, according as the organizations of the various nations and the degree of their servility to the State made compulsion easier or harder to apply, and according to the degree in which opinion accepted this new doctrine that elementary instruction was all-important.
In England, with a population more and more urban as time went on, and more thoroughly controlled than any other by a very numerous and highly organized police, the system reached perfection. For a lifetime past hardly a family (below a certain high level of income) has escaped the huge machine. It has stamped its mold upon the whole nation and changed it profoundly.
But if this new force has been most thoroughly applied in England, it is almost as effective in other western countries, and is now the strongest political instrument of our time.
It is strange how long it took people to wake up to the situation. Even now the most of men have not begun to speculate on its possible use for certain definite ends of propaganda. But the great religious quarrel in France, the change worked by the elementary school in Britain, the recurrent agitations in the United States against public grants for the schools of a religious minority, have begun to make the latent power of the system apparent.
The wisest observers now clearly perceive that if compulsory elementary universal instruction be captured and used to a certain end, it can completely transform the character of all society. When we remember that the system is supported and confirmed by the ever-increasing network of public examinations, all taking the same history, geography and philosophy for granted, the formidable character of this new thing should be sufficiently apparent.
Therefore, the inevitable conflict between the Catholic and the non-Catholic conceptions of human nature, life and destiny, cannot but make the elementary school their battlefield.
There are those who think the problem can be solved by the compromise of tolerating the existence of Catholic schools, side by side with those of the common kind—schools with Catholic teachers and the right to teach Catholic doctrine at odd hours.
Such a subjection has never passed current in countries of Catholic culture; but in the Prussian Reich it has worked easily for a long lifetime, and in Britain for as long.
The only peril (it is claimed) lies in sundry individual anti-Catholic false statements in historical textbooks, or, in morals, specific assertions opposed to the Catholic Faith. Let the Catholic object to such and such particulars in the textbooks; if these are eliminated, all will be well.
It is not so. These Catholic tolerated schools are supported with State money as State institutions only so long as they conform to State standards of instruction, and therefore to State doctrines in the thing taught. No solution can be reached on such lines.
Such a compromise presupposes a common body of truth in morals, a common standard of philosophy, a common attitude towards the past, the external world and the nature of man. It presupposes this common attitude to be the one important thing, the foundation upon which the less important differences in beliefs and morals arise.
The presupposition is false. There is no such thing as a primal neutral core of truth with various particular accretions around it of Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, or Mahommedan feeling. Any one philosophy strongly held permeates the whole body of ideas and actions, and, inevitably, if you have a single system of textbooks, of inspection and regulation, of examinations, and an official curriculum of teaching, all these will have one general philosophy running through them. The universal machine imposed upon all in the years when the character is formed, will imprint its own philosophy, both directly and still more by indirect influence. If you doubt this, look around you.
Such a philosophy may well be that of the majority, but can never be that of all. Any philosophy not of the machine must suffer, and in the case of so distinctive an entity as the Catholic Church—a thing distinct from all the rest of the world, understanding and penetrating, yet separate from the world—the hostile character of such a machine should be self-evident.
I am proposing no solution, I am making no prophecy; but I am stating an issue which none, I think, can, upon consideration, deny. The elementary school, mastered by the lay State, and imposing its instruction by compulsion, is of its nature hostile to the Faith, whether hostile intention be present or no.
How hostile we can see by observing that it has produced and continues to nourish the "Modern Mind."
But how has it done so? How is this novel and gigantic instrument of policy accountable for this particular disease? To answer that question consider the affinities between the two and the way in which they will naturally act and react the one on the other till each is cause and effect at once.
A universal and compulsory system of instruction has for its first and main effect uniformity. It produces to a pattern. It fills the millions of a nation (at the age when the mind is being fixed) with one set of ideas to the exclusion of others. No mere limited freedom of choice in textbooks and teachers can prevent this effect, when the whole system is subject to State regulation, supervision, examination and test. Indeed, it can be verified by experience that there is sometimes even more diversity of result in a centralized system of education than in one where local authorities and various religious bodies have power of selecting books and instructors. Thus in France it is a frequent complaint, on the part of those with a passion for national unity, that the elementary school does not provide it, while in England, where the system is theoretically far less rigid, no one can or does complain of stray differences in its results, for there are little or no differences apparent. It is not the particular form of the system, it is its universal character which is of this effect. On reflection we see that it must be so. A body of national teachers will come into being and will be informed with a corporate spirit. They will be trained all in much the same fashion to the same fixed "standards" and with the same ends in view. They will teach under the shadow of a vast bureaucracy and to ends set them by an army of inspectors, examiners and departmental officials.
You have, therefore, here one essential condition of the "Modern Mind"; its lack of diversity; its mechanical deadness. This, when it is achieved, reacts in turn upon the elementary school, and each, the agent and the object, the school and the scholar, increases the sterility of the other. Uniformity acquired by the second makes easier the action of the first, and both conform to a common fixedness.
Indirectly but more strongly still this mechanical uniformity tends to exclusion of ideas. That which is not taught at all to a child, or is taught as something subsidiary, falls out of his consciousness or is diminished therein. For the most part what is not emphasized is not believed to exist. Often, from its unfamiliarity, that which is a stranger to education in childhood, is thought incredible by the grown man.
Were there multiple, individual diversity as there was when education was voluntary, men would be acquainted in early life with its presence even when they did not experience it themselves. But, where all is the same, the very possibility of difference ceases to be accepted. Now the ideas excluded under our system of universal compulsory State instruction are necessarily those the absence of which produce the "Modern Mind" as readily as the absence of certain elements in food scrofula.
Here is an example: the attitude of the "Modern Mind" to illiteracy. The chief subjects of elementary instruction are reading and writing. Therefore a weakness or incapacity in these two departments becomes the test of inferiority. One nation may build, sing, paint, fight, better than another; but if it has a larger proportion unable to read, it is branded as the lesser of the two. A Spaniard of Estremadura may carve stone images as living as those of the thirteenth century, but if he cannot read, the "Modern Mind" puts him far below the loafer picking out racing tips in his paper. In the same connection we all know how the restriction of writing to a comparatively small class in the past is put forward as an example of our progress. That writing was then an art, that its materials were expensive, that to draw up a letter in, say, the eleventh century needed as much special training and expense as it does today to engrave a brass tablet—all that is missed. The "Modern Mind" notes that there was less writing, and is satisfied that such a lack was inexcusable.
And here let us note in passing a practical effect of Universal Compulsory Instruction which is at first not logically apparent but the reason of which can be discovered; I mean its fostering of that illusion of "Progress" which is so intimate a part of the "Modern Mind." The elementary school does, in practice, make the less intelligent believe that they are better than their fathers and better off as well; materially in advance of them and morally in advance of them. It might be thought that this folly of vain glory was but an accident of our time. The stupid opinion of our time is all for "Progress" as an inevitable succession from worse to better—Wednesday better than Tuesday, and Tuesday, than Monday. This illusion, bred of Pride and Ignorance, appears (it may be said) in our official instruction, because it happens to be the fashion. Let the mood change, let some succession of catastrophes awaken in men a sense of decline, and vulgar opinion will renounce the illusion of Progress, will praise the past at the expense of the present, and the new mood will reflect itself in all institutions, including that of the educational bureau.
This is an error. Compulsory Universal Instruction will always make for the illusion of Progress, because it must justify itself by affirming improvement. It would stultify itself if it did not regard itself as a progressive good, and a proof of continued advance from a time in which it was unknown.
Universal Compulsory Instruction contains also on its compulsory side, as well as in the matter of its universality, a force making for the creation of the "Modern Mind." Compulsion, long continued, breeds acceptance; and the acceptance without question of such authority as it meets—especially that of print—"blind faith" we have said, "divorced from reason" is a very mark of the "Modern Mind."
This atmosphere of compulsion pervades the whole affair. It is not the presence of compulsion affirmed in the laws (upon which Elementary State Instruction is based today) which counts here, it is the daily practice of it by millions—by all. The Parent does not choose his child's instructor nor the nature of his teaching, both are imposed by the Civil Authority. The child goes daily to and from that institution, has its whole life colored by it, knows that its attendance is not an order of its parents but a public command enforced by the Police.
All teaching is dogmatic. Dogma, indeed, means only "a thing taught," and teaching not dogmatic would cease to be teaching and would become discussion and doubt. But this new sort of teaching by force has an added effect, beyond that found in any other kind of teaching. It is at once teaching and law, and those subjected to it are inoculated from its earliest years with a paralysis in the faculty of distinction—of clarity in thought through analysis. Look around you and note the incapacity for strict argument, the impatience with exact definition, the aversion to controversy (mother of all truth) and the facility in mere affirmation. Herein lies their root.
The second great new instrument nourishing the "Modern Mind" is the popular Press. Here, happily, there is not such an issue as in the case of compulsory education.
In the field of compulsory education the issue is absolute and inevitable. A universal and homogeneous system of compulsory instruction imposed by the State upon the family cannot fit in with the Catholic Church. Even with a society homogeneously Catholic it could not fit, for automatically the Catholic spirit would dissolve its compulsory quality and its mechanical uniformity of universal action. The Catholic spirit automatically restores diversity of mind and freedom.
But with the Press it is otherwise. The popular Press is often represented as a solvent of religion, and in particular a solvent of Catholicism; but there is nothing in its nature to make it so.
It happens to have arisen in a world where the false conception that religion was a private affair had taken root. Therefore it does not spread the atmosphere of religion, it does not concern itself with life in the order which true religion demands. It presents as matters of chief importance things not even important in natural religion, let alone in the eyes of the Church.
It tends, for instance, to substitute notoriety for fame, and to base notoriety upon ridiculous accidents of wealth or adventure. Again, it presents as objects for admiration a bundle of things incongruous: a few of some moment, the great part trivial. Above all it grossly distorts.
Its chief force as a sustainer of the "Modern Mind" lies in its power to intensify any disease prevalent in the masses, and especially in the human dust of our great towns. Thus the "Modern Mind" dislikes thinking: the popular Press increases that sloth by providing sensational substitutes. Disliking thought, the "Modern Mind" dislikes close attention, and indeed any sustained effort; the popular Press increases the debility by an orgy of pictures and headlines. The "Modern Mind" ascribes a false authority to reiteration; the popular Press serves it with ceaseless iteration. The "Modern Mind" has accepted a mythology of the prehistoric and loves to hear both of marvels in connection with prehistory and of its own superiority to its remote ancestry: the popular Press crams it with food for such an appetite. It will give countless millions of years to a bit of bone of which no mortal knows the age; it will provide at call the most horrible beasts for our forbears, adding to them a peculiar vileness in morals to spice the dish—though beasts can do no wrong.
In all these ways and twenty others the popular Press as we have it today thrusts the "Modern Mind" lower than it would otherwise have fallen, swells its imbecility and confirms it in its incapacity for civilization and therefore for the Faith.
But the popular Press does not act thus from a sort of conspiracy against truth and religion and our high, inherited Catholic culture; it acts thus because the society in which and by which it lives has not yet recovered its religion; if, indeed, it shall ever do so. In a society restored to unity of religion and to devotion to it, the popular Press would recover and reflect that general mood.
There are, molding a popular newspaper, three forces: the advertisement subsidy by which it lives, the particular desires of its owner, and the appetite of the public for that particular sheet. Of these the third is much the most important. The first, advertisement revenue, is mainly dependent upon public demand for the paper. The effect of the proprietor lies chiefly in his power of private blackmail (especially, in parliamentary countries, of blackmail exercised against politicians) and in his power (when he acts in combination with his few fellows) to suppress a truth of public interest. But the owner of a widely read newspaper, even when, by some accident, he happens to be a man of intelligence, hardly ever imposes an idea.
It may be said with justice that a popular Press in our day will always tend to be demagogic, and therefore somewhat offensive in moral tone. In some countries, notably in England, it has submerged the old cultivated and educated press of a generation ago. It is, therefore, commonly ridiculous; but it does not follow that it is a negative force against the power of the Catholic Church in the modern world.
For all its vulgarity it may indirectly be of service to the Faith, for the discussion of religion today has a high interest value, and thus the popular Press has certain rough uses as an arena for that most profitable form of debate.
It would be hopeless, I think, to expect just now in any country the advent of a popular paper which should act, however indirectly, as an instrument for actually spreading the Faith. But I doubt whether the judgment should be passed that in any country the popular Press will, in the main, become an instrument against the spreading of the Faith: it will reflect, very roughly and coarsely, the main currents of popular opinion in this matter as in others.
It will, for instance, reflect the modern religion of Nationalism until that religion begins to wane. It will reflect the desire which the mob has always had for spectacles of wealth, violence and peril. It will exaggerate the popularity of what is popular and the unpopularity of what is unpopular.
In itself it is not our enemy, but, then, neither can it be used by us in favor of the truth, save in its character of an arena for debate. There it may in the future become (it has not yet so become) an instrument of real value.
The reason it has not yet become such is the still prevailing ignorance on the elements of theological discussion, coupled with the fatigue and decay of intelligence in a period where words have grown meaningless or contradictory (for instance, the word "Temperance") and have been turned into a kind of false currency to take the place of thought.
Meanwhile the novel power of the popular Press is having one curious effect, which is, I think, to be deplored, in connection with the situation of the Church in the modern world. It is this:
The specialization of Catholic journalism in all countries today, or nearly all countries (Ireland is largely an exception), excludes a Press secular in interest but Catholic in tone. Your widely read newspaper makes a point of what it regards as religious neutrality (aiming as it does at the largest possible circulation); therefore the Catholic writer can only put forth his arguments in publications which are (a) confined to specifically clerical activities, (b) read only by his co-religionists. They tell you much of the clergy; they discuss pilgrimages, centenaries, new ecclesiastical foundations; they have controversies upon individuals or doctrines when such are attacked. They do not reach the non-Catholic masses.
But of all that I will write when we come, at the close of this book, to consider our modern opportunities of recovery.
With this I end the analysis of those main forces of opposition which the Church has to meet at the moment, and turn to those interesting young strangers, the New Arrivals: they that are to be our main opponents of tomorrow.
5. Gardiner wrote to the continental reformers enthusiastically supporting Henry VIII's supremacy over the Church of England, and Bayard said one could do very well as a Catholic without the Papacy.
6. See for instance with what difficulty the nineteenth century schoolboy, brought up on the official history of his time, could appreciate in manhood the idea that our exclusive patriotism was a modern thing! See how he read it, when he became a man, into the medieval history of his country!