Initiative Today Lies With The Enemies Of The Church
By STANLEY B. JAMES
IT is not always made clear that, when Our LOrd described His Church as a Rock 4gainst which the gates of Hell
should plating not firm agains
not prevail, He was contemonly its institutional character, all assault, but also the fact
that it was fto be itself an attacking force. In the reference to the gates of Hell it is the power of evil which is viewed as acting on the defensive; the initiative lies with the Churc ; it is that Church which
is the ggressor. "Do not think," said the same Speaker, " that I came to se4 peace upon earth; I came not to send peac,e, but the sword." The Church is regarded fi as actually provoking strife: N ed of Aggression
This con eption is implicit in the fact of the Inca nation, which wrested the Mitiative tron those in revolt against the Kingdom o1 God. It is seen in the character of Chri Cs ministry where, it may be observed.
He was iever content with answering His critics' iuestions but always ended by carrying the war into the enemy's camp. In the raid On the Temple money-changers we see Chrir as a disturber of the peace; breaking in on traditional customs.
Again, mething could be more directly opposed to the proverb that it is best to " le sleeping dogs lie" than the missionary
activities of Paul's enco Ephesus has the Church. The story of St. nter with the silversmiths of been repeated in every sphere of those activities.
Pagan iristitutions, errant philosophies and commercial interests, deeming themselves secure, have been startled to find their dom iliS invaded by the aggressive agents of he Prince of Peace.
This truth is often obscured by the use made of such terms as " counter-reforma
tion " and " counter-revolution." The movement represented by SS. John Fisher and Thomas More, for instance, had got into its stride before the storm of the Reformation broke over this country. Had they been allowed to continue their labours there can be no doubt that a real reform of the Church, including a revitalising of its social and cultural mission, would have given Catholicism, without the incentive provided by schism and heresy, a new lease of life. The so-called counter-reformation in Europe, as a matter of fact, originated in Spain, which was less directly effected by Luther than any other part of Christendom.
Nevertheless, it has to be admitted that the renewal of spiritual life in the Church has been due frequently to the fact that the faithful have been stung into action by persecution. They have been found sleeping, forgetting their missionary mandate and lulled into a sense of false security by long tenure of power, and the awakening has taken the form of a reaction to the action of their enemies rather than that of a spontaneous movement originating in their own consciousness of the urgent need to consolidate and extend the realm of "Christ the King."
Sleep that Proceedeth Dawn
It has needed the prodding of antagonistic propaganda and of anti-clerical legislation to create the necessary revival. It would be easy to give examples of this from recent history. May we not, indeed, acknowledge that, generally speaking, the dying down of the attack from militant Protestantism and a deceptive tolerance has misled us?
From the dream of security begotten by these conditions we have been awakened by a fiercely aggressive Communism and a ruthless Totalitarianism.
These forces were first in the field. A detached observer might have come to the conclusion that the Church was unprepared to meet the new and more drastic antagonisms they embodied.
Catholicism, though it pulled itself together and reacted with spirit, had lost the initiative. However inspiring the efforts made to overcome the attack, they were of the nature of counter-revolutions rather than of that spiritual revolution which was due. It was not so much Catholic Action we saw as Catholic Reaction to an opposition that had already opened its campaign. Dislike it as we may, we have to confess that over a considerable portion of the world the initiative today lies with the enemies of the Church. Counter-revolutions have to seek to remedy a situation which ought never to have occurred.
Lack of Foresight The fact that they are proving successful and that on the political plane the initiative is passing to those nations which, on the whole, have adhered to Christian traditions does not atone for the terrible losses suffered. If the disease had been taken in time there would have been no need for these surgical operations.
That is why we may so heartily welcome the announcement that the Hierarchy in this country under the wise leadership of the Archbishop of Westminster will shortly issue the marching orders for Catholic Action. We have an opportunity here for a form of Catholic Action which is not merely Reaction. Happily we still enjoy a large measure of toleration.
The current unbelief has not yet become militant and organised itself under conspicuous leadership. There is at present no Popular Front to contest the field. It is possible to create a powerful initiative which would have all the better chance for the reason that it would not have to contend at the start with strong and militant anti-Catholic forces on a national scale
Division Without Compromise
And there is this further advantage, Reactions of the kind described are apt to merit that interpretation of the term which it bears in common parlance. When the newspaper writer speaks of "a reactionary movement " he means something of a defeatist character. He associates it with a blind and bigoted traditionalism in retreat from the modern world, obscurantist and opposed to social action. And it is a fact that the Church has been forced sometimes by persecution into the position of a beleaguered garrison. It has become the centre of a conservative opposition, shrinking from cultural expansion because of a pagan renaissance, refusing to make explicit the social implications of its teaching lest they should be confused with a godless humanitarianism. It is from this hampering condition we are happily free. For the moment at least, we arc at liberty to deploy in the open. We can take our measures calmly and assert our claim to carry our Catholicism into every sphere of life. It is a magnificent opportunity.
But it will not last. The era of laissezfaire Liberalism is over. Into the agnostic vacuum which it created will rush, unless forestalled, forces of an unequivocal anti-Catholic character.
The world is dividing into two camps and there will be no room for our typical English compromise. The lead promised by the Hierarchy affords an opportunity which will not recur. If that opportunity is neglected the clock will be put back for generations. We must seize the initiative while the chance remains, taking full advantage of the special conditions provided by contemporary English life. Let us have Catholic Action while we can; otherwise We shall have to put up with Catholic Reaction.