Page 2, 20th June 1941

20th June 1941
Page 2
Page 2, 20th June 1941 — THE GREAT REACTION Task of English Catholics

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Locations: Halifax, Santiago, Barcelona


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THE GREAT REACTION Task of English Catholics

silt,— In old-fashioned warfare, when the line of battle was shattered by assault, the scattered warriors would strive to re-form around the King's banner, if it still was flying.

That is a symbol of what happens in times of national demoralisation, or great danger. If there is health left in the nation. it gathers around the symbols of authority, tradition and order; it seeks to be disciplined anew and commanded with strength and a single purpose.

After the last war Europe seemed in danger of complete moral and racial ruin; but memories of its nobler past saved it. What are called Rightist movements set in everywhere. and prevailed. The Left made a stand in Spain, and forced that Christian land through an agony of fire and blood and shame before the principle of order pre

vailed. A year ago, when France was humiliated so piteously, the Right came into power there, too, as the staggering nation groped its way towerds what remained of discipline and authority.

Englishmen ought to realise the reason in this matter; for it is an almost unbroken rule with them, in all times of depression or danger, to vote the Tories into power, not because the electorate wants the whole Tory ideal, but because that party is recognised to stand for King and Country, as the slogan has it. A vote for Tory rule is considered a gesture, asking for strong rule in place of relaxation.

Most non-Catholics think that Catholics are, so to speak, born Tories. They connect Catholicism with Toryism, reaction and the ancien regime. This rises from the fact that Catholicism always is on the side of the Natural Law, and Catholics always sympathise with the instinct of natural virtue when nations try to re-assert patriotism. So, although it is not true that Catholics are reactionaries, or committed to all Tory ideals, still it was inevitable that the bulk of Catholics in Continental lands threw their strength on the side of the Right movement.

The disasters which have befallen English policy in the last ten years are all traceable to an ill-advised opposition to the Continental movement towards the Right. To those lands it was a matter of life and death to reform their national existence by such a movement. Therefore English policy was pitting itself not against other national policies so much as against a natural force —a terrific instinctive effort by Nature to find its way back from the bog of demoralisation.

I will take only one example. Spain in 1936 had to choose between the destruction of her religion, her traditions, her unity, aye, and even of fundamental natural things like the family itself, on the one hand, and a return to discipline, under soldierly rule, on the other. It was an affair of life and death, fought out with thousands of martyrdoms for Faith and Country—Santiago y cierra Espanol—and the Right won. Yet English policy was against the Right. In Barcelona Major Attlee gave the sign of the Clenched Fist. I was told, on high English Catholic authority, that most of Mr. Chamberlain's Government desired General Franco's victory, but was not able to assert its will against the Left forces of anti-Catholic prejudice, and against that new, base, alien Left Press which is wielding so great and corrupt an influence in England now. Whatever the cause, British policy kept the Left in the field until tire beginning of 1939, when Mr. Chamberlain at last withdrew that fatal support, and Barcelona fell.

What was the consequence of that antiFranco policy? This: that the new Spain. when it prevailed, and looked upon its burnt cities and packed graveyards, was implacably resentful against those whom it blamed for the long Left resistance. The new Spain has favoured the Axis simply and solely because of what happened between 1936 and 1939. Had England unselfishly welcomed Spain's resurrection, giving no moral or material aid to the Red forces; had she promised a settlement of the Gibraltar question on a basis just to all nations, the new Spain would have been no foe, and the Axis domination of the Mediterranean would have been remote. The same failure to understand the tremendous and uncritical reaction to the Right in Germany, Italy and France has prevented England from fulfilling her real mission of tempering the movement.

What the movement means for the nations time will tell. What it means for Britain is isolation. What it means for all Catholics is the danger of an anti-Christian Nazification of Governments and schools, of literature and life.

How is that danger to he resisted? Certainly not by Viscount Halifax's pathetic proposals to restore the Versailles division of Europe and to intensify it vain dream! The New Order never will be replaced by the Old Disorder, though it might fall into something else, It can be changed for the better only by the uprise of a higher ideal: a system of unity not resting on the hegemony of one race, nor divorced from the spiritual past of Christendom. The spiritual past is a very different thing from mere "democracy." Such an ideal ought to find its exponents among English Catholics, called of old Flores martyrum; for they, with us, their Irish neighbours, know what it is to hold fast to tradition and spiritual things through an age of material denial. To this end the letter-writers who are infuriated by Catholic clear-thinking, in place of Cromwellian clap-trap, are no help; but the policy preached editorially in this paper is the adumbration of what is needed.

England's fortunes would change if Catholic counsels returned to high places. The House of Commons, at the last General Election, received fewer Catholic votes than at any time since Emancipation--evidence of the progressive paganising of public life by the demoralisation of two decades, Now behold the result in the work of that paganised House! Yet the heroism of English airmen, and of the civil population, show that England deserves better than the House that has pursued a policy so fruitful in

disaster. Furthermore. Britain has certain ancient institutions which are bonds of tradition, such as the new Continental 'gentles well may envy. Leadership should be sought in those institutions, so that the voice of tradition shall be heard before every decision. The support of the Left in Spain, and the impatient quarrel with France, never would have happened if the Crown's had been the deciding voice instead of some politician who is here to-day and gone to-morrow. • Like that shattered line of battle that I began with, England needs to reform around what is ancient and dignified, traditional and wise. Then it can act its part again effectively in the making of Europe and, perhaps, renew its eouth as in the days of Oswald and Alfred and that sainted King, round whose shrine at Westminster the fires have raged.



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