Page 4, 23rd July 1948

23rd July 1948
Page 4
Page 4, 23rd July 1948 — France's Fall From Greatness
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Locations: COVENTRY, York, Moscow, Dalian

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France's Fall From Greatness

By Michael de la Bedoyere

IN British eyes the post-war French politicians cannot but be regarded as behaving with an incredible degree ot irresponsibility. While France on the one hand insists on running half out of step with Western Europe and America, owing to the so-called special exigencies of her position. her own political. social and economic troubles make her a contint1 ousl y 1111predictable factor. The present moment is the most critical in the post-war perioda moment when any mistake or mistiming may have disastrous consequences, not least for France terself. Yet it is chosen by the Socialists to break up the centre Government which represents perhaps the last hope for French democracy and some kind of representative leadership of the main masses of Frenchmen. By an act of almost supreme irony, this French Government falls on the nominal question of paying for the defence of France at the very moment when the world stands on the brink of war ! Such an event must powerfully confirm the Russian belief that Europe to-day can never stand up to her. What is it that prevents that once great country, still to this day inhabited by the most individually intelligent of peoples, from achieving effective national and political expression of itself ? It is as though seine astonishing distortion and disproportion haunted the outlook of modern France. Intelligent as Frenchmen are, they seem unable to grasp facts, as they arc, in their constant search for something that cannot be. Their long period of political weakness led to their military defeat. This is a fact they cannot accept. So instead of rebuilding on the realities of the past -and any glance at the man of Europe reseals the inevitable place of France as the heart of Western Europe-and working towards the fulfilling of their immense and proud responsibilities, Frenchmen pretend that they were never defeated and allow their minds to dwell on all kinds of dangerous unrealities, whether they be Communism or Gaullism in the political order or an impossible reading of their own strength in the international or experiments and extravagances in the economic. Yet in the solid centre of bourgeois, industrial and peasant France, in France's Christian tradition, in that "Third Force" which could reIced the workers of Europe, there exists the raw material which could re-establish France in her proper position in the leadership of Europe.

Fortresses Cannot Save Us

This French crisis, alas, is a syrnptom of something which we are in great danger of forgetting at the present critical moment: the still enduring desperate weakness of Eur ope the vanguard of the world's resistance to the Soviet Communism threat. When American Super-Fortresses fly to Britain as a gesture of defiance to Russia, Europe heaves a sigh of relief. There from across the Atlantic comes the answer. But it is not an answer at alt. American arms and industry may, if it comes to war, defea t the forces at the disposal of Stalin and Molotov. American dollars may keep Europe going for a year or two. But if there is-to be a future for Europe-if the thing we call civilisation is to win through, then it can only be done by Europe itself. of which so large a part, both in tradition, character and brain and in actual geographical importance, belongs to France. Britain is still on the other side of a vital Channel, and she may yet save herself without saving Europe. Germany is crushed, occupied and divided, and France even in this hour fails to see the crying need for Franco-German recovery. Italy is far from having recovered from deep wounds-yet she ha,s made more relative progress in this direction than more fortunate France. Spain has been ostracised, and not least through the narrow ideals of certain French Catholic leaders. It seems unbelievable that France, providentially saved from the 'consequences of defeat, should not have learnt the lesson of the past, and assumed the world leadership of that central, balanced tradition, whether in the field of international solidarity or industrial relations, which is the only lasting answer to the raw barbarities which have emerged from the twentieth century. Instead, at the critical hour for Europe the news from France is the fall of the Schuman Government and all the uncertainties, bargainings, meartnesses of another French political crisis. What a fall from the call to greatness !

THE ATTEMPT ON TOGLIATTI

THE attempt to assassinate Togs

liatti revealed both the continuing instability of post-war Italy and the growing competence of the de Gasperi administration to handle an extremely dangerous situation.

At one time it looked as though this act of an irresponsible individual would prove the occasion for the Communist revolution that everyone had thought to be possible before the Elections. However the hand of Moscow was hardly in it. Revolutions prepared from the Kremlin are carefully planned and timed, and they have a way of proceeding only too smoothly. This attempted revolution went off of itself, and its failure cannot but weaken still further the Communist power and organisation in Italy. But de Gasperi has a long way to go before Italy can feel safe. The unemployment figures remain desperately high. The inequality of wealth is a scandal to visitors, let alone Italians themselves. The revival of Fascist or near-Fascist trouble-makers, of which the attempted assassination may be an indirect effect, proceeds. The economic troubles of a poor country with a rising population denied an outlet overseas are extremely difficult, indeed impossible, to solve, except by temporary foreign aid which the volatile Dalian is apt to squander. All the more reason then for courageous leadership in equalising the shares of the common burden and building for the future. The Church has been accused of taking too close a part in the recent electoral battle. However that be, no one will attempt to indict the religious leaders and clergy of Italy for giving their fullest moral aid and active co-operation in a courageous and even ruthless attempt on the part of the present Centre government to clean up the country, politically and economically. To achieve this would prove another vital factor in the recovery of Europe along the one path whiclr makes genuine recovery possible.

INQUIRY INTO CHURCH ATTENDANCE

MR. B. Seebohm Rowntree is a

social investigator whose work in the past has proved him to be a careful and reliable judge. His findings contrast with those of Gallup Polls in that he concentrates on one place, studying the position, as it were, in depth, instead of obtaining a more superficial picture on a national scale, based on a selective system of inquiry. However, findings in the matter of churchgoing in York which he has reported in the Observer present some curious features. He tells us that in 1899 35.5 per cent of the adult population went to church. The figure had dropped to 17.7 per cent. by 1935. He expects it to be as low as 10 per cent. when the figures for last year are completed.

Among other things he says that there is a decline among Catholics, even though it is the smallest. Actually two new Catholic churches have been opened in York since 1899 and five churches altogether, three with three or more Sunday Masses, are available. It would be interesting to know on what grounds he bases his view of even a small Catholic decline.

Actually if he is right about church-attendance now being confined to some 10 per cent., we must be reaching near the point where church-attendance becomes a Catholic monopoly. Mr. Rowntree may of course mean that among a growing Catholic population in York he has found an increasing number of defaulters. This is pessible, and if so it would be another piece of evidence about the seriousness of the Catholic " leakage."

Discussing the remedies, Mr. Rowntree is sounder than many when he says that a nation can live for a time on its religious capital, but "neglect to renew the religious capital will end in spiritual disaster." If by "religious capital " we mean the springs of spiritual life, these words are as applicable to ourselves as to members of other Communions.

COVENTRY, prosperous Mid

' land city where thousands of good pagans make a lot of money and believe in nothing at all, is a cold, draughty place where many a tall building has been plastered to street level by German bombs, When Lady Godiva performed her famous stunt she must have caught an awful cold. Mrs. Emma Morton, who is 99, can remember a lot of things, but unfortunately not that.

For instance, she had heard of the famosts Fr. Gentili, of Italy, who was very indignant at the pagan Godiva processions, and who announced in Coventry's one and only Catholic church: "You have had your procession of your lady; now we shall have one of Our Lady." So he and his handful of Catholics started there and then to carry a statue of Our Lady around the precincts of the church. I'm told that's how our May processions originated, as a protest to the crude Godiva shows Protestant Coventry put up in place of the pre-Reformation Blessed Sacrament processions on the Sunday after Corpus Christi. Mrs. Morton, the happiest soul this side of a Heaven she surely hasn't got long to wait for, lives in one tiny cottage room with an eternal fire and an eternal black kettle boiling on it. With old-world politeness she rises from her ancient chair to greet you, laughing in a fascinating childlike way, and saying " God is very good to me. It's so nice to be respected. They get me on the pictures. Whatever are they going to do with me next e" SHE was recently received by Princess Elizabeth, and when she goes to market people come and carry her basket for her, and sometimes decline to take her money. "I remember when they used to roast sheep and oxen in the centre of the city," she says, " and in those days when there was no electricity it was so cold that the gas-lamp men used to call at my door and ask for a cupful of broth to warm themselves up." Her husband-God rest his soul-was the man who put up the first electric street lamp in Coventry. She's a bit. deaf, and her sight ia failing, but Mrs. Morton is prepared to go on talking and reminiscing till the angel calls her to go and tell her final story before the Judgement Seat. When she stops her cheery laugh and a shadow spreads across her wrinkles it is because you get up and say I really must go now," In the interval between the departure of one's contemporaries and meeting them again in the next world one Is apt to be lonely. Very proudly she showed me her certificate of enrolment in the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament at St, Osburg's, Coventry, in 1882; that would be about the time that Fr. Ullathorne (later Bishop), then Rector, and the saintly Mother Margaret Hallahan had succeeded in forming a -loyal tradition of devotion to the Holy Eucharist among parishioners, which was to go on till the present day. Indeed, it is said that Mother Margaret, who, of C01116; had died shortly before Mrs. Morton's birth in 1848, had ins.sted, while she resided in the parish, that a lamp be kept lit before the tabernacle, a thing unheard of then. That must have been the first lamp so lit, in a public chapel, since the Reformation.

WHILE Coventry crqmbled about

her poor cottage in the tragic days of blitzing, Mrs. Morton remained resigned to God's Will, and was touched by the goodness of Fr. Simpson, then Rector of St. Osburg's, who would himself bring her coal and wood and light her fare for her. Her present parish priest, twin brother to the Cardinal and a Benedictine, as are $t. Osburg's priests, came to her the other day to show her " the Jog-book "with the entries a her baptism and marriage at the age of 21. In a husky voice Mrs. Morton to'd me she considered Fr. Griffin to be " very nice," and that God couldn't be more good to her. When Mrs. Morton was born close on 100 years ago Coventry had only one Catholic church; now there are seven, and the population increases yearly with the influx of Irish and North Country workers.




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