A Day Of Pryer And Thought
Catholics Might Have Averted Crisis
AT the bidding of His Majesty the King next Sunday is to be a day of special prayer, and our Bishops have urged us to pray that the cause of God may prevail and that Christian civilisation may be saved through a just, honourable and lasting peace.
We may well devote part of this day to meditation and selfexamination, for though (as has been well said) the cause of Western Christendom has chosen us as its champions even if we have not chosen it, it is surely our duty to ask ourselves how far we Christians share in the responsibility for the disasters that have come upon us.
To this end we devote this column this week to a series of extracts from Papal Encyclicals in the last sixty years, and we suggest that these should be carefully read with one question in mind. How far have any of us Catholics really bothered to live our lives, as citizens, as patriots, as men of business, in the light of this Papal teaching? During these sixty years Europe, excluding Russia and Turkey, has probably had an actual majority of baptised Catholics in its population. What influence on the development of European history have these millions upon millions of Catholics— many of them personally devout and faithful—had? And yet all the time the Popes have been counselling, admonishing, warning, exhorting to ears apparently deaf to any teaching that goes beyond the actual field of Christian worship and Christian education. Had their words been heard and acted upon Europe could never have reached its present state. But, whatever may happen to Europe now, there is still time to learn the lesson that any sort of recovery in the future will primarily depend upon one thing : the willingness of the great Catholic community to stand for the Christian teaching of the Popes, even to the shedding of its blood. Let us then attend to that teaching.
THE NEW LIBERTY " Whatever, therefore, in human things is in any way sacred ; whatever pertains to the salvation of souls or to the worship of God, either in its own nature, or by reason of the end to which it is referred ; all this is subject to the power and judgment of the Church." . . . " That fatal and deplorable passion for innovation which was aroused in the sixteenth century first threw the Christian religion into confusion, and then, by natural sequence, passed on to philosophy, and thence pervaded all ranks of society. From this source, as it were, issued those later maxims of unbridled liberty which, in the midst of the terrible disturbances of the last century, were excogitated and proclaimed as the principles and foundations of that new jurisprudence, previously unknown, which, in many points, is out of harmony, not only with the Christian law, but with the natural law also." . . . " The authority of God is passed over in silence, as if either there were no God, or He cared nothing for human society; as if men, either as individuals or in society, owed nothing to God : or as if there could be a government of which the whole cause, and power, and authority, do not reside in God Himself."
" Modern theories of political power have already been the cause of great evils, and it is to be feared lest in the future these evils should reach the worst extremes. For indeed, to refuse to refer to God, as to its source, the right to rule men, is in effect to deprive public power of all its dignity and all its vigour. To make it depend upon the will of the people is, first, to commit an error of principle; and, further, to set authority upon a foundation both fragile and inconsistent. Such opinions are a perpetual irritant to popular passions, which will be seen daily growing in boldness, and preparing the public ruin by fraying a way for secret conspiracies or overt sedition." (Diuturnum Mud).
" From this it is manifest that the eternal law of God is the sole standard and rule of human liberty, not only in each individual man, but also in the community and civil society which men constitute when united. Therefore, the true liberty of human society does not consist in every man doing what he pleases, for this would simply end in turmoil and confusion, and bring on the overthrow of the State ; but rather in this, that through the injunction of the civil law all may more easily conform to the prescriptions of the eternal law. Likewise, the liberty of those who are in authority does not consist in the power to lay unreasonable and capricious commands upon their subjects, which would equally be criminal and would lead to the ruin of the commonwealth ; but the binding force of human laws is in this, that they are to be regarded as applications of the eternal law, and incapable of sanctioning anything which is not contained in the eternal law, as in the principle of all law. . . ."
(Libertas Praestantissimum). BASIC ERRORS " If the laws of the State are manifestly at variance with the Divine law, if they do injury to the Church or are in conflict with the duties of religion or violate in the person of the Supreme Pontiff the authority of Jesus Christ, then truly it is a duty to resist, a crime to obey." (Sapientiae Christianae). " That which is not permissible in private life is not allowable in public affairs." (Longinqua Oceani). " The Gospel has not one law of charity for individuals and another for States and nations, which are indeed but a collection of individuals. . . . There can be no stable peace or lasting treaties, though made after long and difficult negotiations and duly signed, unless there be a return of mutual charity to appease hate and banish enmity." (Pacem Dei Munus).
" Every positive law, from whatever lawgiver it may come, can he examined as to its moral implications, and consequently as to its moral authority to bind in conscience, in the light of the commandments of the natural law. . . . Cut loose from this principle of morality, that principle [What helps the people is right] would mean, in international life, a perpetual state of war between the different nations. In political life within the State, since it confuses considerations of utility with those of right, it mistakes the basic fact that man as a person possesses God-given rights, which must be preserved from all attacks aimed at denying, suppressing, or disre garding them." (Mit brennender Sorge).
FOUNDATION OF MORALITY DESTROYED " The denial of the fundamentals of morality had its origin iII Europe, in the abandonment of that Christian teaching of which the Chair of Peter is the depository and exponent. That teaching had once given spiritual cohesion to a Europe which, educated, ennobled and civilised by the Cross, had reached such a degree of civil progress as to become the teacher of other peoples, of other continents." . . . " The first of these pernicious errors, widespread to-day, is the forgetfulness of that law of human solidarity and charity which is dictated and imposed by our common origin and by the equality of rational nature in all men, to whatever people they belong, and by the redeeming sacrifice offered by Jesus Christ on the Altar of the Cross to His Heavenly Father on behalf of sinful mankind." . . " But there is yet another error no less pernicious to the well-being of the nations and to the prosperity of that great human society which gathers together and embraces within its confines all races. It is the error contained in those ideas which do not hesitate to divorce civil authority from every kind of dependence upon the Supreme Being—First Cause and Absolute Master of man and of society—and from every restraint of a higher law derived from God as from its first source. Thus they accord the civil authority an unrestricted field of action that is at the mercy of the changeful tide of human will, or of the dictates of casual historical claims, and of the interests of a few." (Summi Pontific,atus).
CALL TO CHRISTIANS SUCH quotations are but a random sample of Papal teaching, direction and prophecy, publicly and solemnly proclaimed to the whole world. Forced to fight for the citadel of religious freedom, freedom of worship and religious education, in the midst of a secularist State, the Church has unwillingly accepted in concordats practical limitations to her indirect temporal authority, but she has never abated one jot of her claims, and she has persistently looked to her children to fight her battle for spiritual and moral unity by being Christian citizens and soldiers of Christ's Kingdom. Had this call been responded to, Europe to-day would not be a battleground of exaggerated Nationalisms and false ideologies.
And never was the call to this mission more clearly made than when Pius XI instituted the Feast of the Kingdom of Christ, writing in his Encyclical Quas Primas: " It would be a grave error to say that Christ has no authority whatever in civil affairs, since by virtue of the absolute empire over all creatures committed to Him by the Father, all things are committed to His power. . . . To use the words of our immortal predecessor, Leo XIII, His empire includes not only Catholic nations, not only baptised peoples who, though of right belonging to the Church, have been led astray by error, or have been cut off by actual schism, but also those who are outside the Christian faith : so that truly the whole of mankind is subject to the power of Jesus Christ.' Nor is there any difference in this matter between the individual, the family or the State; for all men, whether collectively or individually, are under the dominion of Christ."