ON our letter page, two subjects of very great importance are being discussed at the moment. One is the prejudice against the Catholic Church in this country; the other is the terrifying leakage of Catholics themselves from that Faith, especially among young people between the ages of 15 and 21.
As to this second subject, we know of nothing that should be of greater concern to Catholics at the present time. What is the point of spending millions of pounds on Catholic education if those who receive it lapse in great masses, temporarily or permanently, after leaving school?
Figures of up to 90 per cent. leakage after school leaving age sound fantastic. But we have assured ourselves that in industrial parts of London's sprawling mass the figures are correct. We are informed that there is some hope of making a fairly wide fresh survey of the position which should give us a more reliable figure than the present guesswork of priests immediately concerned with the problem.
The present correspondence on this subject, which we hope will continue and to which we are only too ready to give space where it is a case of informed letters, has been started with a view to encouraging support for Catholic youth clubs of a character which, it is believed, could stem this disastrous tide.
This effort should be widely supported, but we for our part would hesitate to suggest that it could be more than a medicine. The root cure of the evil demands, we suggest, treatment at a far deeper level.
rr HAT is why we have referred, -Iin connection with this discussion, to the letters about the prejudice against Catholicism in this country.
Sir Henry Slesser has suggested in his letter this week that the root cause of this prejudice is simply that in a spiritually drifting, secularist world, Catholics possess a solid, unchanging, spiritual Faith whose standards and obligations are repugnant to the present generation.
But, alas, the leakage figures are tending to show that Catholic youth today is abandoning that Faith and drifting into the heedless way of the secularist world.
• Moreover, there are two points which, we believe, are being widely overlooked. The first is that, despite the widespread loss of religious faith, millions of ordinary people in this country try to live decent, respectable lives. The second is that there exists a subconscious longing for ideals that are worthy of man. Too much importance need not be attributed to the success of a Billy Graham or to the work of Moral Rearma
ment. But these are, at any rate, pointers to the fact that many are ready to see their suppressed idealism converted into a religious outlook which moves them.
We believe that the massive indifference today to the tragedy of the international situation, of which Dr. Schweitzer has just written, as well as to the smallnesses of the political and industrial scene, is largely due to the inability of people to find any link between the would be spiritual idealism within them and the sense of oppression caused by world and national affairs.
All this spills over even into the Catholic mind, causing indirectly a drift from the Faith among the weak—and the young are weekend a kind of wooden, external observance of religion among too many. And this mere externality of Catholic worship, in its turn, causes prejudice and disinterest in the Church as the answer to the problem.
0NE letter published this week states that religion is love, and in an article printed alongside this column the writer, commemorating St. Augustine's centenary, tells us that the secret of his life was that "he was a man in love."
It may seem a superficial, sentimental answer — but it happens also to be the answer of the Gospel. The revelation of Christ turns on love—love of the Father, love of the Son, Whose love saved mankind, and the Divine love within us which through the love between the Father and the Son is the Holy Spirit of God.
Every human being, St. Augustine showed, is moved by love of some kind. Our generation, as we know too well, is not exempted from this law. Its drift is an attraction by wayward and unstable loves, from the present instability of married love and therefore of the home, to love of success, m one y, security, and pleasures and distractions of all kinds to be obtained at any cost.
Why should Catholics, whose own religious training has not been founded on a deep, personal love of God inevitably expressing itself in love of men and of the Divine pattern in God's creation, be exempt from the temptation to love the things their fellow-men today love? The vital certainties of our Faith will check the mature mind. Will they, unless taught and expressed in love, check the stillunformed mind?
Only in the home, above all, but also in the parish and the school, as well, so to say, in the Catholic environment of conversation, teaching, confessional, sermon, behaviour generally, can the all-pervading religious essence of love manifest itself. Only if it does can we expect to see our younger Catholic generation formed with a decisive and unshakable grip on the true Faith.