L4ST week there appeared in the Spectator a note which is well worth reproducing. Here it is : The pastoral letter issued by Cardinal Griffin and read in all Roman Catholic Churches last Sunday has a significant bearing on the vigorous and highly-organised demand for more public money for Roman Catholic schools. The Cardinal's declaration is as explicit as words can make it. " We Catholics," it states, "believe that our Church is the one true Church founded by Jesus Christ, whose Vicar on earth, His Holiness the Pope, speaks with an infallible voice when defining doctrines. , . A, call for reunion means an invitation to all non-Catholics to join the one true Church. It means, in other words, submission to the authority of the Holy See." This, of course, is totalitarianism pure and simple.
Since the appearance of that note, readers of the Spectator may have learnt of the increasing tension in Pohlad, where the Communist Government is preparing the grouad very rapidly for the full persecution of the Catholic people. The Polish Bishops are being openly called to order and told that they must not recognise the authority of the Holy See except within a "religious " limit, to be defined by a Government which proclaims that there is one faith only, the Godless, slave faith of Communism.
The experience of Russia itself, and subsequently of all Communist countries, notably the largely Catholic Hungary and Czechoslovekia, warns the world that we are now on the eve of another Communist attempt to destroy not merely Catholicity, not even Christianity, but religion itself, in a great country of Europe. This destruction of religion, with the personal freedom, judgment and responsibility which is of its essence, is logically forced on the Communists, and they are quite unable to avoid it.
Nothing but this logical necessity of destroying all freedom could be driving the rulers of Catholic Poland today to defy the religion of the Polish people, as they have defied the religion of Hungary and Czechoslovakia. They have to take the enormous, probably suicidal, risk of fundamentally alienating their Catholic subjects, with all the trouble, at home and abroad, which this entails, on the very long chance of being able simply to cow a population into a terrorised outward obedience.
NOW the interest of all this, in relation to last week's note in the Spectator, is as follows : Why is it that in these counties of the East we never hear the end of the religious persecution ? Why is it that the more they try to blot religion out of Hungary and Czechoslovakia, the more we hear of religious resistance? Why is it that Communism in Europe is doomed to fail, and fail precisely because it cannot drive religion out of the hearts of the people? Why is it that the Editor of the Spectator among others can confidently look forward to an ultimate victory for freedom in Eastern Europe and consequently in the world?
It is because the ordinary Catholic people of those persecuted lands believe precisely in that thing which he so lightly and superficially calls "totalitarianism.'
We do not wish to underestimate the degree of resistance to political totalitarianism which has been shown by non-Catholic Christians and idealist liberals in recent years. But an honest ob
server will be forced to admit that the mass, solid, uncompromising resistance has come from the ordinary Catholic people in predominantly Catholic countries.
These Catholics are not particularly well-educated, not particularly cultured and sophisticated, not even particularly spiritual. Indeed they are like most of us, plain ordinary people.
But because they absolutely believe in the existence and primacy of God, and in the Incarnation of Christ who founded one true Church, ruled by Christ's Vicar with, in the last resort, an infallible authority, they know that they dare not, whatever the cost, compromise with those who deny the existence of God and try to destroy God's Church.
The Editor of the Spectator, who makes merry about the Catholic position and knowingly uses the word " totalitarian" in two senses in order to confuse the issue and score a point against his Catholic fellow-citizens, is at the present time having his future, as a free person, secured precisely because of the resistance of far less cultured and intelligent people than himself who believe and fight back because .of the strength they derive from the doctrine he mocks.
IN doing this, he reveals the truly astonishing 'provincialism of the supposedly best type of mind in this country.
But, given such narrowness, it only underlines once ag tin how important it is for Cathcnics in this country always most carefully to dot the i's and cross the t's of full Catholic teaching, ever interpreting it with all the Christian understanding and charity for which the Holy Spirit calls.
A letter in Time and Tide last week by Father Henry St. Jahn, 0.P., is very well worth studying in this connection.
Father St. John stresses, as every Catholic does with a full heart and conviction, the truth expressed by the Cardinal which the Spectator quoted and deliberately misunderstood. But he also reminds us that so far from this being a " totalitarian " doctrine, it is utterly compatible with the most delicate regard for spiritual liberty.
"There are many baptised Christians who share the supernatural life of the Church in virtue (at least) of their baptism and a formulated Faith derived from Holy Scripture interpreted by a tradition not wholly erroneous," writes Father St. John.
And beyond these sharers of the supernatural, there are, of course, millions upon millions who in following their own consciences developed in a naturally good life will as truly come to salvation as any Catholic.
Moreover, the Holy Office has just spoken of the " grace of God" in the souls of nonCatholics.
But these truths, taught by the Church and based precisely on the primacy of conscience and therefore properly-used freedom, cannot for a second relieve the Church from proclaiming and obeying the right and full way revealed by God and instituted by Christ.
If ever we needed confirmation of the need of that way, we have it at the present time when the simple people of Eastern Europe, who would otherwise succumb, are safeguarding, in their Catholic heroism, the right to the Editor of the Spectator safely to expound and expose his own ignorance and narrowness.