Questions of the u -eek
by Michael de la Bedo yere
THE new and unexpected Papal encyclical, Humani Generis, is evidently a document of the first importance, not only to Catholics but to Christians and
the world generally. Any full, intelligent comment on the Pope's teaching will evidently have to be postponed until there is time for the very careful study in theological terms of the full text.
We say " in theological terms" because an important encyclical dealing with doctrine is a technical theological document that is extremely easily misunderstood by the unqualified It is necessary that it should be a document of this kind because it is written to endure. What the Pope has to say is destined to form an important part of the magisterium or authorised Divinely guided teaching of the Church for the future, and the language used is all of a piece with the massive body of doctrine which has come to be expressed through the centuries and is the one unchanging teaching of the Church continuously worked out and applied to the needs of the changing world. One recalls the enormous amount of misunderstanding which followed the publication more than forty years ago of the encyclical Pascendi in which Modernism was condemned. Untrained commentators, both Catholic and non-Catholic, professed themselves horrified by phrases taken out of their theological context and expressions in the rather grandiloquent Latin style which, translated literally, seemed to the Anglo-Saxon to mean more than was intended.
In the following years Pascendi was the subject of prolonged theological studies, both in regard to its precise meaning and thc exact degree of authority to be accorded to its different parts, with the result that its teaching which at first seemed so severe and negative was peacefully and construotively absorbed into the daily life of the Church. The errors condemned died out within the ('hurch, and Catholic scholars were left all the freer to pursue their studies Of) a stable ground with the result that in the years since the publication of the
encyclical the Church has been
armed to meet the attacks on Divine truth and to carry the battle for it right into the ranks of the nonCatholic modernists and agnostics. Through these years she has flourished in holiness, in learning, in authority. and she has acquired new prestige in the eyes of the world. All this has to be said today because it ix certain that many nonCatholics will comment on the new Papal document with a like superficiality, while a number of Catholics may well be disturbed for a period, unless forewarned. by such comments as well as by undigested and ill-translated extracts from a teaching which has to be understood as a whole and in its whole theological and traditional context.
Preventive Measure HAVING said so much, we may perhaps venture to point to the Pope's own warning that the purpose of the Encyclical is to " nip in the bud" the possible beginnings of movements of thought and action which, if carried to logical conclusions. could become dangerous to the Faith.
" We prefer to make a stand at the very beginnings rather than to administer the medicine after the
disease has taken its hold." the Pope writes.
In this, we may well be thankful for the Pope's foresight. and consequently we need not take too negative a view of the encyclical, as though the stirring of the waters within the Mystical Body of Christ were in itself to be condemned.
Inevitably in critical times like these when truth and spiritual values are challenged across the face of the globe and a now barbarism raises its head. there are millions who feel strongly concerned to think out again the best, the most spiritual, the most truly Divine, mode of resistance to the gravest of threats.
Evidently this is all to the good; but it must have its more perilous side.
Individual thinkers and writers,
following the clues and feelings that for the highest reasons appeal most to themselves. are ever in danger of carrying too far their own lines of solution. It is at this point that the Church. to which is entrusted the wisdom and knowledge that have endured through numberless other assaults against the truth, reminds us all of the impregnable frontiers which divide truth from error and of the fallacy of supposing that any crossing of such frontiers can prove helpful to the world in the long run.
nF the various points which the Pope stresses. the one which probably has most relevance in this country is that which concerns relations between Catholics and Christians of other Communions. We shall be very surprised if arty extended study of the document brings to light anything on this subject in the document which has not already been made very well known by the Church in other ways. Equally, we have little doubt that the Encyclical will do no more than give the highestauthority to the rules and practices which were clarified by the Holy Office as recently as last March. We trust therefore that our separated brethren, misled perheps by uninformed comments or themselves insufficiently aware of the Church's teaching and traditions, will not take fright and imagine that the Encyclical (following so soon on the Assumption announcement, but not necessarily with any direct connection with it) is bringing a kind of spiritual "iron curtain on the progress made in this vitally important subject or in any other. In this connection it will be of some interest to quote the Pope's own words to the Par Romarta at present meeting in Amsterdam ; " Yet, it would surely be impossible for the sons of the Church to abstain from research and study just at the time when wrong applications of science and the enchantment of relativism in philosophy shake the most fundamental principles and the most essential values in minds which are weak and anxious.. . Even more urgently the pressing human problems with which the present generation is faced are an appeal to all sincere and upright minds to join in a common effort of mutual understanding. Students of different countries, Catholic intellectuals of all professions, increase among yourselves and with those around you these fruitful interchanges of ideas and these contacts which contribute to the cause of peace."
Youth in Prague nIFFERENT points, of course, strike different people. To our mind few reports have brought more fully home the peculiar disease which threatens the whole world today than the account in the Sunday Times of the proceedings at the congress of the Communist-dominated International Union of Students in Prague where the British delegation of the National Union of Students attempted with spirit to resist the overwhelming Communist mental pressure.
Here is an extract from the Sunday Times account:
" Any attempt to preserve the International Union as a non-political student body was doomed from the start. Although its avowed aims are • peace , national independence and democratic education,' the Czech Minister of Education put the majority attitude very clearly ' When we say "Long live peace " we mean "Down with capitalism ".'
" Almost every speech from colonial, East European and Asiatic countries has brought hysterical acclamations of 'Stalin! Stalin! ' Cheers for the delegate from North Korea lasted 24S minutes. The delegate was chaired around the room and feted with flowers."
This is manifestly a case of irrational mass hysteria among a representative mass of young students (presumably the elite of the different countries) from the Soviet-dominated world.
Those youths have been conditioned by every kind of mental and emotional pressure and, at the end, by the clever staging and propaganda atmosphere to behave in a manner definitely below the level of any sense or reason.
Such mass hysteria is not, of course, a new phenomenon. It is as old as the world, for man, as part of the herd, usually falls below his own norm of rationality. What is new is the deliberate and carefully !planned exploitation of the weaknesses in the spirit of man in the interest of barbarism. The technique was brought to a level of high perfection by the Nazis and the Fascists who, however, scarcely bothered to pretend to be doing mare than recreate in better form the old naked war machine in nationalist interests. In Prague we have an example of • exactly the same technique so skilfully used as to deceive—and probably genuinely deceive—the flower of countries' youths into the conviction that they are fighting for democracy, peace and a higher civilisation.
This ghastly travesty is terribly ominous for the whole world. It may. in fact, prove possible—indeed it is even now doubtless proving
possible -to condition immense bodies of human beings into the subjectively-sincere pursuit. for what seem to them the very highest motives, of ends that are simply and plainly diabolic. Against such an appalling danger where can the answer be found ? Certainly not in military force alone —short at least of the utter destruction of half the world. Certainly not in any mere feeding of the democratic maxims and views, since these clearly serve as nothing better than fuel to fan the flames of Satanic madness.
In the end there can be only one
answer: it is the combination of
sanity, reason and the Divine Spirit for which the Church of God stands and for which it alone, in absolute balance and fullness, stands today.
IAJE need to view an Encyclical like Honiara Generis against such a background of diabolically perverted fanaticism. There is every sort of room for every effort of charity and understanding and economic and social help on the part of all of us in order to make inroads against this mass perversion with which the world is faced. There is room for far more spiritual and social effort than has been attempted so far, just as there is need for a carefully planned material defence which, however, should he kept all the time subsidiary to the prior needs of charity and understanding. But behind all this there is a crying need in the world for something else, something rooted, something ancient something eternal, something that corresponds to and fully expresses the age-long, true spirit of man which is also the mark of the Divine in man.
This is the Catholic Church, founded by Christ Himself, to spread throughout the world and endure through all time, ever preserving mankind from the delusions to which the world, the flesh and the devil tempt; ever holding mankind in the relation of grace and spiritual fruitfulness with its Creator and Redeemer; and thus ever keeping mankind true to itself, to its nature, to the purpose of its creation. The Encyclical Humani Generis, we may be sure, does no more at this critical moment in history than reaffirm in all solemnity the doctrinal and moral conditions of mankind's preservation from the snares of the devil.
If it but be understood, the world, instead of criticising and sneering, would be grateful indeed for the strongest, in the end the only, defence against the newest and most potent of all barbarisms.