WHAT is behind Herr Hitler's remarkable and repeated attacks on certain British statesmen?
These attacks, let it be clear, have justification. The hardest thing in the world is to see ourselves as others see us. No secret is made of the fact that most Englishmen and Frenchmen would like to see the dictatorships destroyed, while a large number think it imperative to reduce Germany's increasing military and economic power. Labour spokesmen openly proclaim their desire to change Germany's constitution (though they carefully refrain from expressing any desire to do the same to holy Russia) and Conservative spokesmen equally openly regret that the opportunity to reduce Germany to her knees over the Czech question was not taken. Both at the same time (together with the greater part of the British press, especially the so-called "independents") bridle with righteous indignation when Herr Hitler says anything that could be interpreted as interference with the democracies. The hypocrisy of it all !
But, allowing for much justification on Herr Hitler's part, why should he take so much trouble to underline the matter? It is true that sonic of these mischief-makers may be in power at some future date, but when they are in power they will change their tune. We do not see our brave Labour leaders imposing on their now docile followers conscription, rearmament until it hurts, and war. Even the dog which fears to bite can bark loudly enough from a safe distance.
And meanwhile the Fiihrer's behaviour is freely interpreted as an attack of persecution-mania, a feeling of insecurity in regard to the devotion of his own people, and a sign that he himself is not in earnest when he asks for peace and trade. His words make it harder for responsible English and French statesmen to maintain their authority.
Moreover, what the Fiihrer himself says in comparatively polite language is taken up by his henchmen in the form of the grossest attacks and plain incitements to violence among the rabble of the Nazis. Nothing could be more fantastic than the accusations in Goebbels's Angriff where a connection is more than suggested between a recent Jewish crime in Paris and British and French public figures. Nothing could be viler than the plain demand, in the same paper, that more Jews should be made to suffer, to which are added the names of Berlin streets where there are many Jewish houses or shops.
All this is sub-human behaviour and it must revolt decent Germans as much as it revolts plain Englishmen.
Hitler the persecutor of Christians, Hitler the Jew-baiter looms like a dark and malignant shadow behind Hitler the statesman, rightly complaining of the behaviour of his enemies. If that shadow could gradually fade away the task of intelligent and peace-loving Englishmen and Frenchmen would be made far easier—and the security of the Hitler regime notably strengthened. despite the fact that certain innovations in It were more likely to seem hazardous to those whose very profession it was to defend unchanging Catholicity than to the naturally more adventurous and less responsible layman. But the clergy put from the first their fullest trust in this lay venture, a trust of which we shall always do all we can to be worthy. In the second place, any reader opening any issue of this paper will see for himself to what extent we are indebted to the pen of priests who have put their scholarship and their experience at our disposal in the most unstinted way. But, having said and meant all this, we sincerely think that this paper would be running away from a duty as an independent Catholic paper if it made the rule that it would never print criticism of the clergy in its work. The clergy does not expect to he exempted from criticism," a priest has just written to us in the course of a letter drawing our attention to a concrete example where a CATHOLIC HERALD correspondent was in the wrong over a question of fact. No one with any sense of history, any understanding of the Church, or any knowledge of human nature would deny that the clergy can and does perform its duties with varying degrees of fidelity, efficiency and intelligence. If then the clergy is to be immune from criticism, how can it know what people honestly think about the way in which its work is being done? Must it rely solely upon the venom of the persecutors of the Church or even the bitterness of that small band of anti-clerical Catholics (happily hardly known in this country)? Surely it will on the contrary welcome that sort of sincere criticism which is really a help and an act of friendly charity in cooperation for a common end and which comes from good Catholics who are the first to acknowledge its high position, its authority and its normal heroism? In other words the matter all boils down to the kind of criticism and the kind of people from whom it comes. And here we may leave others to judge of this paper from its general tenour and the work it is obviously trying to do. Mistakes in this matter, as in others, we can hardly hope to avoid altogether; but when we make them we are the first to acknowledge them. Actually the observant reader will notice that nearly all the criticism appears in our correspondence page, for we ourselves, to tell the truth, find very little which we feel should be publicly criticised in regard to our English clergy, particularly when we bear in mind the grave financial worries with which they have to contend and the shortage of priests. And as to what appears upon the correspondence page we have to ask ourselves whether it is, after all, best that things should be said about the clergy behind their backs or in the open where, if necessary, they can defend themselves or see that the circumstances and difficulties are made clear. We know well the deep respect with which English Catholics in general regard their clergy and the danger lest scandal should be given through unnecessary or unhelpful criticism. But we know too the dangers, especially in these outspoken and pagan days, of shutting our own eyes to every defect and leaving the field of criticism to those who have no end but to profit themselves by it. These two considerations guide us, and, though mistakes must occasionally be made—we welcome criticism too,—we can assure readers that our conscious end is the same as that of the clergy : the glory of God, the salvation of souls and the conversion of our country.