Page 6, 25th June 1937

25th June 1937
Page 6
Page 6, 25th June 1937 — THE FAITH—AND PARTY POLITICS Word Of Help To The Lost Liberal

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Locations: Surrey


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SIR,—The case of " Indicator " (whose!

letter appeared on June 11) was interesting, because probably typical of other Catholics who give a wavering allegiance to the Church's long-date, thought-out, world-wide Social Policy. Catholics, 1 mean, who mysteriously prefer some very local, provincialism and its party spokesman to the universally-applicable temporal wisdom which the experienced Church has based on God, the springs of society, the nature of man, the rights of personality and the soul, and the proper ends of all effort.

There are quite a lot of such in Britain today—Conservative, Liberal and Socialist.

Some have not got as far as " Indicator "; for they tacitly avoid or dismiss the Encyclicals, which would at least make a breach in their closed minds and prove a liberal education. They are content to live politically in the groove they were born in

(" What did Gladstone say in '87?" etc.), and take from party headquarters the handto-mouth " programmes " put together. often in haste a few months before a General Election.

Whatever transient party a British Catholic belongs to (and all secular parties are

temporary affairs—where are " the King's men," the Whigs, the old Tories, the Liberal Imperialists, the Chartists, the Fenians, the Fourth Party, the Nationalists?) he ought to be far deeper and wider than they, simply by virtue of intelligent membership of an Organisation which has seen not merely parties but kingdoms rise and fall, and has seen revolutions and regimes and heresies without number put to bed. He ought to be able intellectually to be a member of these momentary expedients called parties, as he might be on the committee of a Hospital, a Housing Scheme, or a Flower Show, with a sense of humorous detachment, good will and vision beyond them. They are only human devices for putting a certain selection of measures on the island's Statute Book. Regularly they expire or merge when their work is done; another younger party arises and steals their thunder. English parties even change r6les! Ever so many " Liberals " arc on the Conservative benches: and in Labour there are scores of stiff unbending Conservatives who swear by precedent and Keir Hardie. Earl Baldwin has just been claimed as a Liberal by a Liberal paper. The late Lord Grey was more Tory than even Whig.

So why, Oh " Indicator," take your Gladstonian I.iberalism with such strained gravity? Chesterton was a Liberal: not a continental sceptical liberal, not a Benthamite utilitarian Liberal (how he danced on their shrivelled bodies and desiccated creed!). but a warm human Liberal. whose tolerance was really Christian charity, and whose humility was a readiness to learn from mistakes of another. Against such Liberalism there is no law. That isn't so much a party as a leaven all parties need: an attitude to life—letting the heart speak as well as the head. It consists with laughter, love, Chaucer, Rabelais, Dickens—on all of which G. K. was an authority. It is more amusing and true than Gladstone's Liberalism.

And note this well, "Indicator ": Gladstone himself was quite a believer in Authority, in Church Authority, according to his High Anglican lights. Apart from Homer, his great subject was the Apostolic Succession, the Sacraments, Orders, and the supremacy of Religion in political affairs. He would have been more shocked at the secularisms of today than many of us are, than many in the Carlton and Constitutional Clubs. He wore lay clothes; but his mind was a Bishop's. He would sooner have dropped his party than his church membership. He would have disapproved " Indicator " preferring his Liberalism to authoritative Christian pronouncements on man's temporal and eternal well-being. That is what made Gladstone so much bigger than the Radicalism he took under his wing: Liberalism lived for forty years afterwards on his name! It was odd to see how he was worshipped by nonconformists for whose sects he had nothing but stern private disapproval, and by young zealot reformers whom he would condemn as unChristian and shallow,

Even he has left no Party today to represent him—so " Indicator " has nothing to join. Unless it is the non-party Catholic Social Guild for study and understanding, and the Distributist League. They should fill the bill. Let him try them.

Superfluous fuss is made, in current talk, about "democratic " government or other

wise. What is interesting is not " democratic or " centralised " or other government, but good government. Government based on true first principles, Christian and permanent: government suited to the time, place, people and conditions: government tuned to the real ends of man—virtue, justice, a full life. What matter parties or labels if the Good Life is delivered? As for " freedom" to differ from that, what sane person wants freedom to differ from the true and good? The wish is just a modern neurosis, a form of restlessness which makes the rich word " obedience " a bugbear. Huxley, the scientist, once said that so scant was his regard for the cant about Dick's, Tom's and Harry's " liberty " to believe and do what they liked (without any training or expertness) that if he had one prayer, it would be —to be shown the right and true and be forced by destiny to conform his life to them; and so avoid waste, friction, disaster and mistake. The remark caused a flutter among old-fashioned rationalists (a slogan

ridden race): but it was genuinely rational.

Thinking Catholics feel that way also about life and thought, with their myriad opportunities of going wrong. To be right is an even greater boon than to be free— guidance than license: men need true leadership and loyalty even more than liberty. The Church makes much of Freewill, which none may coerce; and precisely therefore accurate teaching becomes

of prime importance. Half the world's disasters are due to ignorance and halfknowledge, rather than to malice: and events punish mistakes (have you noticed?) as regularly as they punish sin.

Sadly we will admit, finally, to your correspondent that there are here and there " illiberal " Catholics. These have usually allowed the illiberalism of opponents to get on their nerves: a very human failing, though ineffectual toward curing or con verting others. " Indicator must try to forgive: remembering that people who prize something dear as life—orthodox truth. social order, family decencies, unity, morality, chastity—are pardonably apt to take alarm at the many threats to these things. Good Liberals know that their Liberalism acts best in peaceful times and settled states: in danger and moral crisis, men instinctively fall back on the defence of essentials.

Democrats like Cobbett, and Liberals like Macaulay, saw wherein lay the strength of the Church and her service to mankind. Some of our best brains are Conservative, Liberal, Labour in turn—or a selection from the three platforms: according to current needs and circumstances. These are only little cross-sections of truth. The fascinating pamphlets sold for a few pence by the Catholic Social Guild (which should be a boast of every wide-awake Catholic) and by the C.T.S. take all our parties in their easy stride—and go round and beyond them. All the shrewd, deep things about national and corporate behaviour were said by the medieval thinkers, by St. Thomas More, by modern Social Guild writers; and who, after reading them, and Tawney's " Acquisitive State " and " Religion and the Rise of Capitalism" could mistake his small improvised party for the voice of the Teaching Church? or get very heated in dispute and canvassing?

By all means let more Catholics enter Parliament, County and City Councils and permeate them with Creed-derived commonsense. A healthy difference would soon be seen in the morality of our legislation. But it is a tragedy of stupidity when a British Catholic is party roan first, and Encyclicalreader a bad second. It is to put the parish pump view before the City of God—local tactics before eternal principles. The irony and mortification is that the secular groups and creeds continually alter aims as expediency dictates. and different schools of thought within each party contend for control—not least in " Indicator's " party, alas, which got sadly mixed up with 19th century utilitarian economics which .1. M. Keynes, a Liberal, has just denounced as " the most dreadful heresy which has ever gained the car of a civilised people."

Really there are only two Parties the world over—those who believe first place belongs to God, to Man and his soul; and those who assume that what matters is the cash-nexus, the financial machine, production for dividends, lai.s.ser faire and physical comfort. Samples of both are found in most so-called " parties."

The unique value of the Catholic political philosophy is that it gives complete and logical articulation to the former, in a practical, applicable form. It substitutes a valid compass for hour-to-hour fumbling. It quietly shows the reactionary and extreme progressive alike where they are wrong.— Yours, etc.,


Royal Farm, Elstead, Surrey.

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