By MICHAEL TRAPPES-LOMAX [The Editor wishes it to be understood that the views expressed in these articles are purely personal and have not necessarily been adopted by the Catholic Herald.] IT has long seemed to me that one of the chief dangers in England is the growth of what may for convenience be described as intellectual slip-slop. It is difficult to define; but its nature is clear from its many manifestations. It may be seen at work in the " sob " pages of the Sunday Press; in such books as Cry Havoc!; in attempts to improve marriage by destroying its nature; in the hysterical sympathy often given to perpetrators of crimes of violence. This danger, though great, will not necessarily prove fatal to the English polity: for it is known; and it is to a large extent discounted.
More serious is the fact that this mental liquefaction has spread to the Catholic body in this country and is combined with what is frequently more than an undercurrent of anti-English sentiment.
The danger here is not to England, which has long had the power of tolerating minorities and being unimpaired by them. The danger here is to the Catholic body itself. If we exempt the sphere of dogma, which is the envy of many, the Catholics of this country are not in wholly good repute. We are a minority in a democratic country. Our voting power, in the majority of constituencies, is negligible. We can only appeal to justice and the English sense of fair play. These we almost invariably receive. But it should be remembered that justice and fair play must be earned.
Our publicists, by which I mean both those who are our acknowledged leaders and those whose importance is great enough to make it worth while to obtain their signatures to letters to the Press, have many duties. One of them has tended to be overlooked: it is that of helping us to improve our repute in the eyes of our fellow citizens. This neither implies currying favour with authority, nor any weakening of Catholic principle. It implies helping us to achieve, to maintain, and to improve that repute which, as Catholics, should be ours: the repute of being loyal and of being just.
This leads to two further points.
First. the carelessness (to many, I fear, it must seem disingenuousness) of all those who express their personal views knowing that their ecclesiastical position will give their words, whether from the platform or in letters to the Press, an enhanced authority. This could be avoided (but so far as I know never is) by the inclusion of a disclaimer in their utterances.
Secondly, there is the anti-national character of the utterances of many of our publicists. This appears to be a deeply rooted evil.
It is manifested in various directions.
It is hard to name; for it is more a state of mind than a policy, a state of mind that seems incapable both of reciprocating the fair play received and of an exact observation of facts, It is shown in the habitual running-down of this country, its political institutions and methods, and the contrasting them unfavourably with the blessings of the Totalitarian—or more accurately Tyrannical—State. Whereas the plain truth—a truth apparently too unpalatable for some of our publicists either to see or to tell— is that the inhabitants of this country, and in particular the Catholics, are freer and better governed than in at least the majority of other countries.
It is shown, too, in the niggling attacks on the financial system of this country. Admittedly this system is not perfect. Admittedly grievous hardships are endured by many.
Admittedly, too, our Catholic economists, both priests and laymen, are fired solely by desire for the welfare of their fellow men.
But there seems to be, in the majority, a blindness to facts. The facts—they are not the only facts, but ones which deserve consideration—are that the condition of the poor in this country is, though hard, better than perhaps anywhere else; that this condition is only maintained by the financial stability of this country, which again is almost unique; that this stability is due to the existing system.
There are circumstances in which the saying may have force, that the best is the enemy of the good. Before weakening the vitality of the good, it would be well to ensure that the best is sufficiently rooted in reality to take its place. It would be well in this case, too, for the sake of the Catholic poor, to ensure that a sweeping change in our financial system would lessen the rate of interest paid on the money borrowed for building out churches and schools.
Criticising at all Costs
It is shown in the perpetual carping criticism of our foreign policy. The object of this policy is the maintenance of peace; and peace, in circumstances of great difficulty, has been maintained.
Yet apparently because lip-service is no longer given to a dangerous figment of the imagination called collective security, it is attacked. A good example of both aspects of this state of mind is the support given by many Catholics to an obvious piece of political jugglery put forward under the name of the Peace Ballot. Its purpose was to discredit the Government of this country. Its result was so to lessen our prestige that it is now necessary for us to spend a sum of money which most supporters of the Ballot would probably find difficulty in memorising in order to achieve a position approaching safety. The bill is a heavy one. But there is another possible bill to be considered: the bill paid by minorities which gratuitously bring upon theaaselves disrepute.