A YEAR-END QUESTION
Irhat Is Our Job As Christian Men Of The World
Collaboration, Compromise Or Revolution
H1 year 1938, with its crises, its eiersecutions, and its propa ganda, has been making clear to the reflective Catholic the nature of the central problem which is ever more insistently calling for an answer. It is not easy to state the problem in simple terms. It conies to this : " What part should I, as a Catholic, play in the public life of modern European society and in the life of the State to which I belong?"
Strangely enough, this question is very rarely put.
We often ask ourselves what part the Church should play in the life of society, and, as a result, distinguish clearly between Church and State. We often ask ourselves, too, how best we can make our religion contribute to the general good of society? But We very rarely ask ourselves where our practical duty lies, not merely as members of the Church, but as Catholic citizens whose Catholicity is not confined to the religious aspect of life, but covers also its cultural and temporal aspect/ In other words, because we are Catholics, we are not less men of the world than others, but rather more so, since our Catholicity provides us with a clue as to the true significance of the ordinary temporal things of life, such as politics, economics, culture, recreation. Given that we, as Catholics, are also citizens and men of the world, with a anified outlook in our minds that covers both religious and temporal affairs, how should we behave under the modern conditions of life?
THREE NEW BOOKS
When Europe was theoretically Christian, as in the Middle Ages, this question was easy to answer. Temporal life was already Catholic in outlook, and the Catholic, in taking part in it, was automatically exercising his Catholicity. Church and State were divided as to function—and they often quarrelled as to the respective limits of their functions—but both recognised that they were working together towards a final common end.
After the Reformation a working but radically false solution was found through dividing, as it were, each Catholic person into two halves, a religious half and a secular half. The religious half went to church and kept the commandments, the secular half followed the lead of the secular world and accepted its standard in politics, economics and culture.
Many Catholics still do this, but every year makes it more evident, even to the least thoughtful Catholic, that secular standards have ceased to be morally neutral, as they were for so long after the Reformation, and have become explicitly anti-Christian. Every year that passes forces on us ever more insistently that problem of what we shall do with the temporal side of our Catholicity. In the course of the last few weeks three important books have appeared which will help us to answer this all-important question. They are Politics and Morality by Don Sturzo, Personalist Manifesto by Emmanuel Moonier, and a twopenny C.S.G. pamphlet by Father Lewis Watt, called The State.
We shall not delay over Father Watt's crystal-clear little work, because it has no pretension to be more than a formal statement of the distinction between Church and State, as that distinction chiefly affects the Catholic in his ordinary life. But it provides a terminus a quo for any answer's to the above question, since it lays down very clearly exactly where and when a Catholic' citizen, however much a man of the world, may not accept the authority and standards of the world. There are still many Catholics who may be leading excellent religious lives, and yet fail to realise how completely they are accepting the standards of the world in such departments of life as politics and business, which they wrongly believe to he entirely cut off from their Catholicity. Such Catholics are the heirs of that post-Reformation division of personality into the Catholic-religious and the worldlysecular. But the instructed Catholic who knows and accepts all that Father Watt has made so clear, will soon be faced with the problem of positively Catholicising his temporal life in the conditions of the modern world. (It is most important to realise that " Catholicising " in this context does not mean " ecelesiasticising," but rather ordering, putting temporal affairs into that order which throughout remains a temporal order and yet subserves man's ultimate spiritual end.)
Don Sturzo does not state the problem in its fulness, but in the course of a series of papers, each one of which deals with some aspect or other of the practical conflict between polities and morality, he does face a large number of the concrete issues which the modern world sets before the reflective Catholic. For the clues to his answers Don Sturzo can search into his own unique experience of having been priest and politician. There have been other priest politicians, but he alone aet himself the task of founding a political party which, without labelling it see r Catholic, was solely directed by the idea of applying Catholicity ill its fulness and its integrity to the temporal affairs of his country. His experience was all the more important in that, to do this, he deliberately cut himself off from Catholic Action. " In order to give myself up to Catholic Action," he writes, " in the social and administrative field, I resigned my chair of philosophy; now, after twenty-five years so spent, I was leaving Catholic Act on to give myself up exclusively to politics. I saw the peril before me and I wept. Don Sturzo's experiment was, of course, made under exceptional conditions. The country was Catholic, but its regime was secularist and anti-clerical. It is hard to think any country to-day in which die experiment could be repeated. In authoritarian countries it is evidently impossible, while the greater democracies have been so secularised that the formation of a powerful new party to restore the organic and ethical ceneeption of person, family, corporation, within the State, would be too alien and revolutionary to have any chance of success. Even so-called Catholic parties in Catholic democracies have tended to accept secularist standards, while maintaining a Catholic label. Only perhaps in Ireland does there exist an opportunity of creating a popular party which could Catholicise the secular part of the country through democratic means.
Thus Don Sturzo, having tried for the highest and failed through circumstances beyond his control, finds it difficult to give any clear answer to the practical difficulties which face Catholics in secularist countries. His well-known aversion for totalitarianism, an aversion which he ably defends on entirely moral grounds in the present work, has led ,people to believe that he is blind to the faults of modern democracy. This is totally untrue. He powerfully indicts modern democracy on the grounds that it has lost the organic and ethical nature of society through the individualisation of property, the sovereignty of the people individualistically conceived, the centralisation of power, and the elimination of the Church. On the other band, he would seem to maintain that where there is some degree of freedom there is some degree of hope. Where there exists some degree of freedom he refuses to allow the Catholic to " remain isolated and alien from the life of the modern state." And he goes on : " If the Catholic remains aloof, he assumes grave responsibilities before God and his neighbour, for too often this means abandoning the common weal •)f those who do not recognise the laws of Christianinorality. In uniting with non-Catholics, a Catholic, if he will not co-operate in evil, must not countenance either an anti-religious policy, or immoral method, or exclusively material ends. . . . It is essential that Catholics should always preserve their own moral personality and religious character, in order to withstand the egotistic tendencies of nation, party, class, trade, or professional group, and this not only in the name of religion, but also in the name of their social and political convictions."
CHRISTIAN REVOLUTION Very different in spirit, either from Don Sturzo's own attempt to create a party that shall be really Catholic, even though it does not bear the Catholic name, and from his almost painfully argued-out ethics of political collaboration in the secularist world of to-day, is Emmanuel Mounier's approach in Personalist Manifesto. Don Sturzo may be said still to see hope of the restoration of some degree of Catholicity in the modern world through the carefully-limited secular activities of Catholics within it. Mounier, on the other hand, is a Christian revolutionary. " Historically," he writes, " the crisis that presses upon us is more than a simple political crisis, or even than a profound economic crisis. 1Ve are witnessing the. cave-in of a whole area of civilisation, One, namel Y, that was born towards the end of the Middle Ages, was consolidated, and at the same time, threatened by the industrial age, is capitalistic in, its structure, liberal in its ideology, bourgeois in its ethics." The world in which we live is in process of, creating a new civilisation, of which the successful manifestations at the present moment are Fascism and Marxism. For a Catholic there can be only one task : the task of building a Christian civilisation in an age of opportunities, a civilisation which :hall be anti-Fascist and antiMarxist, and which must, of course, be anti-capitalist or bourgeois in that it is founded on the ruins of these philosophies. Christian civilisation he calls " Personalist," iu that it affirms the primacy of the human person over material necessities, over the whole complex of implements man needs for the development of his work. Looked at from the point of view of society, he calls it " Cominunitarian," a society " in which each person would at all times he able to achieve his fruitful vocation in the totality, and in which the communion of all in the totality would be the living outcome of the efforts of each one."
There is, at bottom, little essential difference between Don Sturzo's ideal of an organic and ethical State and Mounier's personalist cornnitarianism.
But the two thinkers differ fundamentally in their views as to how t his should be brought about. Don Sturzo, seeing nothing practical 1■01 It-mu modern democracy and totalitarianism, considers the first nearer to the Christian ideal than the second, and bids Christians support—within limits—democracy, in the hope that through it "a personalisnt. based on human and religious values, will assert itself." Moonier will have none of this. He demands " a complete break with the structural institutions of our present disorder." Just as he has gone very much further in working out how personalism is in opposition to every aspect of modern society—political, economic and cultural—so he demands, on behalf of Christianity, a radicalness of reform that is not only theoretically revolutionary, but actually envisages violence : " 1 f, when the new forms are sufficiently mature to replace those of the diseased order, it becomes evident that the change can be brought about only by 'violence., as will be probable, then there can he no valid reason for refusing to use violence."
WHAT WE CAN CONTRIBUTE
In bringing to readers' notice these two extremely important I:ooks, we are not attempting to analyse or to criticise them. Both deserve far closer study than we have been able to give them, and far more space in which to discuss their points. We have referred to them solely as contemporary illustrations of the only too rare tackling of this problem, which must to-day be at the back of all our minds.
In a world that. :s rapidly becoming more disorientated and secularist, and yet Nvhich, at the sane time, is growing less and less satisfied with itself, what should the full and best contribution of our Catholicity be?
We all know that we can contribute dogma and moral teaching. More and inure of us are beginning to know how that Christian dogma and moral teaching covers whole realms of the life of society hitherto believed, even by Catholics, to be the preserve of the State or public opinion. But there remains something else. We are Catholic persons, men of the world, as well as Catholic church-goers. In a disordered world our Catholieity must demand of us that we shall work to restore Order in temporal effairs and do so as men of the world, not, as it were, as religious. How can we most effectively do so?
The problem, we have said, is at the back of all our minds, but it has, as yet, been scarcely formulated in our thinking and our writing. Meanwhile, as year follows year, they seem to number the days of the secularist. society into which we have been born.
The Stoic. By Lewis Watt, S.J. (U.S.C., 2d.) PfiliticN and Morality. By Don Sturzo. (B.O.W., 7s. 6d.) Personalist Manifesto. By Emmanuel Mounier. ( I am gm au s, 7s. 6d.)