CATHOLICS generally—and this paper in particular— will welcomethe appointment oi. Lord Pakenham to the office of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, for this nominal title at present gives its holder responsibility, under the Cabinet, for the fate and welfare of the human beings who live in the British zones of Germany and Austria.
Lord Pakenham is a convert to the Catholic faith, and those who know him best will agree that his outlook is governed by his religious Views—that. if we may so put it, he is " a Catholic in the Market-Place."
This phrase, which seems now to have gained a certain currency, does not mean the simpliste insistence that we must go about insisting on the imposition of a full Catholic philosophy and conduct in the affairs of the world where we happen to enjoy a measure of responsibility for them. Still less does it mean that we should substitute for hard thinking and shrewd action such personal fervouras we may
possess in our religious life. It means, rather, that, while our whole outlook, whether it be in religious or secular affairs, is governed by our Catholic faith and values, we also accept and understand the world as it is and use our experience and intelligence in such a way as to ensure that we leave whatever we touch the better for our attempt to handle it courageously and without compromise in the light of our Catholic principles.
None of us are free to behave in the world as though we were all breathing a Catholic air, and the graver our worldly responsibilities the less likely is it that we shall enjoy any such freedom. Indeed, we cannot too often recall the truth that religion as such possesses no commission directly to govern and decide purely secular affairs. To hold that it does is tantamount to demanding an inevitably tyrannic theocracy of the kind which Communism or Nazism proclaims in the interest of their pseudo-religious mysticisms. It is the glory of Christianity that. it ;bas kept the authority of the Church and of the State distinct, and in doing so has established the most fundamental guarantee of true human liberty. Against the one unchanging spiritual background there are many legitimate choices of political and social behaviour.
Thus, in • this country, where there still survives a considerable degree of Christian moral background, Catholics are free to choose between all the parties or to choose none, except where the one party which has formally repudiated the very meaning of true religion and bound itself to destroy it sooner or later is concerned. Lord Pakenham himself, for example, after joining the Conservatives, came to the cone elusion through his actual experience that his own political and
social ideals were much more likely to be furthered in and through the Labour Party, and it is in this party that he has risen to his present high office.
We have no doubt that he feels that the ideals of his religion, as they apply to these secular cities Lions, are best fulfilled in this particular way, just as many of his Conservative Catholic friends feel the opposite. Both are free. for this is a matter where the individual Catholic conscience, working in a set of individual, concrete experiences towards a definite concrete aim, must decide for itself. And so it is with us in the greater part of our secular activity. It is not that the Church is indifferent or that spiritual considerations are irrelevant—to take this view is the error of those who split their personalities between religion and ordinary life—but that it is for us to make up our own minds as to how best we, with our given tastes, talents, experiences, can further in the world the teaching of Christ. At the same time. it cannot be denied that the field of free choice for the true Catholic is steadily being narrowed.
This is not the fault of the Church ; it is the fault of the world.
The modern secularism which is gradually ousting the Christian spiritual and moral background is a very positive thing. It imposes on contemporary societies its own standard of spiritual and moral values and claims an absolute right to pursue these values by any and every means. In both its aims and in its use of means it is largely in opposition to Christianity. We sec the fullest expression of this positive pseudo-religious secularism in the extreme totalitarianism of the Left and of the Right, but Christian positivism is becoming more and more marked in all modern politics and sociology.
Obviously, Catholics are not free to accept what is in effect the claim of a false religion, and they must find themselves united in opposition to it.
That is why the position of a Catholic statesman or politician is nowadays a very difficult one. Thus we, for our part, would feel that on the Continent there have been cases where eminent Catholic statesmen have, no doubt with the best intentions, come very near compromising religion for the sake of maintaining a Catholic political power. We cannot think that temporary advantages so gained prove in the long run to be worth while.
Lord Pakenham to-day finds himself in charge—under the Cabinet, we repeat, for his personal responsibility and freedom are heavily limited—of a department whose measures and policies have caused considerable concern to .many Catholics. While it is recognised that the treatment of the Germans, whether by way of enabling them to live as human beings or by way of guiding them back to a constructive sense of social responsibility for their own country and for the world, is largely the result of policies taken in the past, policies which we believe to be bad and wrong, there is, we believe, room for a far more marked progress towards rehabilitation along the right lines. Informed critics, like Mr. Stokes or Mr. Gollancz, both members of the same party as Lord Pakenham, have done much to show the way.
We recall, too. the facts aho tt the German resistance to Nazism and how it was that a firmly-held Christian conviction proved in effect the strongest buttress against both the blandishments and the threats of the Nazi rulers. That fact has not so far been taken sufficiently into consideration in our policy of guiding the Germans back to a civilised way of social life.
We should do the new Chan cellos of the Duchy of Lancaster no good by urging him to attend to such points because he is aCatholic, and it would be presumptuous on our part to do so, since we know well what great importance he already attaches to them. And we repeat again how foolish it would be for Catholics generally to expect that a Catholic in high office should be able to wave a kind of Catholic wand and change the world from being largely secularist and wrongheaded to being Catholic and excellent.
Rather, we are glad to know that a wise and shrewd Catholic, to whom religion is everything, has been entrusted at this time with a responsibility at once so grave and so difficult. We may feel confident that he will do all that can be done to further in this vital job an ideal which, as we most sincerely believe, is not only a truly Christian one, but one calculated to enhance the prestige of our country and restore to Europe and the world some measure of peace and prosperity.
E have already pointed out in these pages that the late Dr. Tiso should not be regarded as a priest persecuted and martyred for his religious faith. Because of this his case is not in any way comparable with that of the Archbishop of Zagreb. Dr: Tiso's public life was political, though this fact is not to be held in any way against him. In many parts of Europe ecclesiastics find themselves pushed into politics because the cause of their Catholic people needs to be protected, and there are not a sufficient number of laymen educated to the job. Happily, this state of affairs is passing away, for it is not in itself very desirable. However excellent the motives of the cleric concerned, he risks his spiritual office being contaminated, at least in public esteem, by the relatively low standards of political life, and the higher he rises in the political world, the harder it may become to distinguish the priest from the politician.
Dr. Tiso, so far as we are aware, always remained an exemplary priest, but he came to find himself responsible for the fate of his fellow Slovakians in terrible times. Through these times he did his duty to his people as he saw it.
In a way not dissimilar from that of an Irish leader in relation to the British, he strove to protect the religion, culture and national autonomy of Slovakia as against the Czechs whose public outlook was dominated by very different values.
Such is the path of treason in the eyes of one side and of heroic patriotism in the eyes of the other. And few who tread this hard road can look back on their lives and deny having made mistakes.
In the long run history will always vindicate the sincere patriot as against the utilitarian judgment of those who condemn him on a legalistic interpretation of treason.
In each case the career of such a man is a challenge to those called upon to judge him. Are they big enough to look with the eyes of history and to seek reconciliation and understanding by the great gesture? Or are they small men who cannot see beyond the legalisms and their wounded vanity?
In the face of this test, Dr. Benes and the rulers of Czechoslovakia have dismally failed. They have had to judge a good man, a priest, a great and courageous patriot, and all they have been able to do is to raise a martyr for Slovakia.
This small-minded folly is only too typical of the men whom the fortunes of war have favoured. Instead of trying to realise unity on the basis of victory, these little men are -as busy as they can be indulging their feelings by carving ever deeper the channels which divide man from man and nation from nation.