By ROSEMARY SHEED
IN the last of a very interesting series of articles on "Exploring the Red Empire" in the "Observer", Nora Beloff describes how, all over the Soviet world, nationalist feeling is being replaced by loyalty to the Communist state and party, and how religion is being replaced by a Communist credo.
Though she noticed many church-goers in Bukhara, for instance, a party-member pointed out that it did not matter since they were all over forty-five, and
were not accompanied by their children.
The new credo is made up of "a belief in collective bliss, and quasi-mystical confidence that Communism is the force of the
future and — or ourselves — a dying remnant of the past". But. she goes on to say, "It is of course a bigoted religion that apparently needs to be whipped along, not only by an admirable and often dedicated sense of public service, but also by frenzies of hatred. Totalitarian control over all sources of information permits an insanely distorted picture of the world, starkly divided into devils and angels".
THE FIRST REACTION
ONE'S first reaction is that such dishonest tactics are only what one would expect to find when the beliefs in question are so false. Yet, if we stop to think, we can find evidence of these same tactics being , used in our own newspapers. We too live in a world of 'goodies" and "baddies", though the distortion of fact is nothing like so glaring in our case, our tendency is to assume that whatever we do must be right, whatever "they" do being wrong.
This is bad enough; but what is even more terrible is to find the same attitude where religious differences are concerned.
In the early days of the Catholic Evidence Guild there were large numbers of hecklers whose only "belief" was that the Catholic Church was wrong and evil — of positive faith they had none. But even where it is not quite so total as this, we find many religious people whose own positive beliefs go hand in hand with a naive conviction that the others are not only wrong, but bad, And Catholics are no exception.
CHILDREN coming out of Catholic schools are surprised to find how many good and moral people who not merely are not Catholics, but have moral reasons for disapproving of the Church. To many of them it is news that any pope was ever less than perfect, that atrocities were committed in the name of true religion in the Spanish Inquisition, or that there is anything at all to he said for Elizabeth Tudor.
Two major evils can result from this. The shock of discovery
may lead to a loss of faith; "If so many things I thought to be true are not, how can I believe any of it?" Once the protective cocoon is left behind, the voting person simply has not the strength of positive religious life and knowledge to withstand the assaults of the world outside the cocoon.
Or else, the discovery may never be made, and the young Catholic, instead of understanding the minds of those he would like to help towards the Church, wilt be setting up his own Aunt Sally to hurl objections at, and never be able to make contact with real people outside the Church at all.
BEST AND WORST
Iorder to educate children as intelligent Catholics, I am convinced that they should not only he taught Catholic teaching as well as it can be taught, but that they should also be told the worst that can be said about the Church. and as the editor of this paper pointed out recently, taught something about the excellence of nonCatholic social and religious movements,
If this were done, we would have more justification for pitying the people behind the Lyon Curtain for the distortions they are fed with in the name of truth.
WHEN on holiday in Scotland, we met a delightful priest in the highlands who told us a story of that wild part of the world Ei century and a half ago, There was a disagreement over the marriage of one of his ancestors, in which the priests of the two parishes concerned, bordering on each other, violently quarrelled. In the end the marriage look place on the border, with the couple standing in their parish, and the officieting priest in his—so that the couple's parish priest could object neither that they had left their parish without his permission, nor that the other priest had come into his parish to marry them without ft.
Apparently there is a splendid collection of piously acrimonious correspondence, and accounts of the various enquiries that surrounded the episode, How differently things are done in the average parish today!