Page 5, 3rd September 1937

3rd September 1937
Page 5
Page 5, 3rd September 1937 — THE CONVERSION OF ENGLAND

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(VIII) A Banner To Be Unfurled


IF we must employ military metaphors, there is one we can adopt that expresses our ultimate aims: not bombs to blow the enemy to bits, but a Banner to be displayed, so as to rally to our side all who love the truth, know their need of grace, are concerned for justice, and care for peace.

Because of the prevailing confusion and contradictions of our times, there tends to develop a fatal division between those who love God and those who try to love their neighbour; between those who say, " Lord, Lord," arid those who declare that they are more concerned to do the things which He said; between complacent religionists

and scrupulous humanitarians. Catholics, at any rate, know that these things cannot be divided; at least, without fatal loss to sincerity on one side and success on the other; while a state of war develops between those who should be brethren, friends, allies: a war in which only the devil stands to win.

It is the hour to try to make clear to all

that the Catholic Church is the one rallying point for all save those who are "enemies of the Cross of Christ "; that is, opponents of Redemption, and so of man's hopes as well as God's will. The time has come, therefore, to unfurl the one true standard, the real Crusaders' banner, which has precisely these quarterings: TRUTH, GRACE. JUSTICE, PEACE. The trouble is that sometimes the standard gets so blown about by the winds of controversy and the storms of prejudice that some of its emblazonings are obscured in the folds. Oh, for a holy breath of the Spirit of God to make all clear, to us and to all men; for it is a critical, nay, a decisive hour.

* * * *

Knowing our countrymen, we had better begin at the practical end first; for they will test things by deeds rather than words, by works rather than faith, by fruit rather

than leaves. It is a method which has something to be said for it; it will operate exclusively on the Day of Judgment; and to begin thus may help all to see the fundamental need of grace and truth.

PEACE: What have we to say about that at this hour when the world was never so wounded and divided, so alarmed and threatened by war? All that some " padfists " know about us, and all that " bellifists " seem to care, is that we proclaim that there can be such a thing as a just, that is, a purely defensive, war. The pacifist complains that this is what fatally and finally chains the world to the way of war; for those in power will quickly persuade the rest that any war is just, while military experts will argue that aggression is the best defence. There we are, and there we seem likely to remain.

No one, however, can deny that a man has a natural right to defend himself, his wife and children, his friends, his liberty, his goods. To allow that much is not only beyond argument, but it provides a starting point of agreement for the greatest possible number. It is not, however, the whole truth; neither does it solve our problem. At the other end of the scale stands a corollary of the Christian revelation: that the world will never be saved by natural right, but only by supernatural charity. For it can be argued that this has a bearing upon war as upon all else. It may be admitted that it is difficult to see how nations can walk this way; and it is certain that no one can be compelled to. Within these extreme limits, however, it can be legitimately advocated, at any instance or actual circumstance, that resistance, rebellion, or even aggression, must be undertaken in order to defend faith, liberty or culture. At the same time it can be maintained that there is always a higher way: more heroic because entirely sacrificial: the way Christ Himself took. Further, what may seem a more practical question ought to be considered, namely, whether the way of war will actually defend anyone, or rather not expose almost everyone to physical peril, and those engaged in that defence to greater moral danger; whether culture or liberty will really be saved or served; and whether this way of defending the faith will not rather confuse and obscure it. if, as seems likely, war is fast moving out of the international, and even out of the economic sphere, to the political and even the religious realm, and at last, as some predict, and some seem even to desire, the battle will soon be set between the Catholic Faith and all who are opposed to it, what certainty will there then be of victory, and precisely what will be the value of that victory to the faith? We may conquer, but we shall not have converted our enemies; we shall have slain, not saved them.

If the way of salvation lies at the other end of the scale, we shall have to recognise that it may involve humiliation, slavery, and death. We may have to go to greater lengths than any man is called upon to do, and be prepared to lay down our life, not for our friends, but for our enemies. This will require divine charity. No one can be forced to go thus far, nor can it be naturally expected of arty nation. There have always been some. however. who have held that the world will never be saved from the power and delusion of war until sonic persons, groups, communities, and, at last, a nation, and a great nation, takes

this way. Nevertheless, it is under this banner of peace that we may enrol all who realise these are the two ends between which all else may be discussed and must be decided; and here there might be found a way of release, escape and advance. Otherwise we are divided, blocked, doomed.

Some who realise clearly the deadlock in which humanity seems to be caught prefer to raise a previous question. They declare that we shall never solve the problem of war until we have splved that of social jus

tice. It is from a sense of injustice as between nations that war arises. It has therefore been attempted to set up courts to decide these questions of justice, and so obviate the recourse to war. We know now that nations will not surrender their sovereignty, or submit questions of honour; signatories will not keep their promises; minorities will not accept the status quo, and issues are still decided by the " great" nations because only they have the power to enforce them. Suspicions, complications, plots and intrigues have brought one more dream of peace to an end.

The menace of war is, however, fast moving beyond national concerns; the threat of the " class-war " is cutting across all other divisions; and a deeper question is arising which will test all our sincerities. If there is no other way of getting, not now political liberty, but economic justice, save for the proletariat to rise and seize power, who will allow they have the right to rebel, and who will not wish that they at least had become pacifists? Everywhere it is merely a question of when they can get the army on their side. We may 'cotnfort ourselves that we shall never go to these extremes in England. If we arc sure of ourselves we certainly cannot be sure of anyone else; plot and counter-plot are preparing everywhere. Here, then, is the place and the time to unfurl our banner so that the motto Justice shows forth full and clear.

Then, however, arises the danger that we shall only create further confusion, start a wordy warfare, rouse party cries, and divide our own ranks. For who really knows how to secure justice in our modern world? Yet here the Englishman's alleged love of compromise may be more favourably interpreted as recognising the need of combination, or preferring half a loaf to no bread. And surely we Catholics are realist enough, and are prevented front being wholly partisan, so that we can see that what the historic parties proclaim and the various systems promise as panaceas, are each possibly applicable to some things,

but not to others. About some things we must be Conservatives; about others Liberals. State ownership may be neces sary for one thing. State control best for another; co-operativism or group owner ship for others. About some things we must be collectivist; about others dis tributivist. About some things we must even be Communist : about air and water, for instance; and some will prefer to remain anarchist; for instance, no one shall dictate the music we like or the ties we wear, and we may want to change both. It is really no place for passion or prejudice

or party cries; for economics is simply a matter of expediency: which system works best for man's temporal good; in this country, at this time, for this particular thing.

For Catholics, the economic application of the Faith has been thus clarified that it is agreed three things arc necessary to social justice. The first is private property. At the very mention of this, extreme Socialists go quite demented, and protest that it is the insistence upon private property that chains the world to economic injustice; while, at the same point, many Catholics seem to go stone deaf or fast asleep. •We cannot yield to any scheme of absolute collectivism. Man, being the creature he is, needs some private property for his protection and fulfilment, something beside his body which he can call his own.

But it is at this point that there are other things to be remembered. Private property does not mean private property in other people's private property; that would be improperty. Neither does the principle of private property mean there must be nothing but private property. It may be a heresy to say that all private property is sin; but it is no part of the faith to hold that any public property is sin. Further, private property has to be kept in its place. It is, after all, a concession to a man's weakness due to the Fall, and will have no place in Heaven. And it can only be kept in its place by the two other fundamental principles: the just price and no usury. What the precise application of those principles in our age may be, it must be left to others

more competent than the writer to decide; but he might be allowed to suggest that they are some kind of managed currency; and, no interest in perpetuity on long used-up capital.

We have the great Papal Encyclicals on the social question and now our own Hier

archy's recent Pastoral. To many outsiders these seem too negative and vague; since, while they condemn some systems clearly enough, they indicate no positive programme of a definite and practical nature. It needs to be explained to these outsiders that, from the very nature of ecclesiastical authority, it is only possible to condemn what clearly conflicts with natural law, defined doctrine, or the demands of Christian morality. To go further and to outline the true system would be to prejudge an issue which needs differentiation, according to changing needs. On the other hand, it is not only allowed, it is expected, that economic experts in various countries should outline and commend a definite policy and programme.

Here seems the place for our Catholic Social Guild, unfortunately, in proportion to its importance, the worst supported of all our societies. Without pledging all its members to any one policy or system, could it not gather a committee of experts who would, first of all, present us with an agreed picture of the ideal which our faith and hope might regard as attainable for God's

children here on earth? Then let those who are adherents to various systems or who advocate various schemes, set forth how they regard them as contributing most, surest, and soonest to such an ideal. And finally, perhaps they might even agree as to what was the one thing to be done next to set us on the path to social justice.

It has been blamed upon us that we simply tell the poor to be content with their poverty. But if by " poverty " there is meant only a condition in which people are content to live by their labour and do not try to hoard beyond what is natural and necessary, then to proclaim that we all ought to be content with poverty seems to be the ideal of the Gospels, and, indeed, of the Scriptures as a whole. Great riches can rarely be accumulated justly and without spiritual peril to the owner. Probably the same is true about communities. Despite the comparisons between the material prosperity of nations, which have often been (Continued on page 7).

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