NO REALISTIC and unbiased observer can fail to admit that throughout the course of history and especially since the period of intensive technical exploitation of the world's resources which the industrial revolution has made-possible, the Catholic Church has failed lamentably to press home the vital social implications of the Catholic religion. We have witnessed, I am glad to say especially in the Anglican communion, a heartening revival of personal religion, within a recaptured and revitalized framework of traditional Catholic practice. Furthermore, this revival has concerned itself with much more than external manifestations and has extended its roots deep into lives of sacrament and prayer. In addition, this reemergence of an enthusiastic personal and Catholic faith has led to the making of heroic attacks upon the uglier social symptoms within the body of a society which, in its fundamental life, has been growing increasingly nonChristian. The Catholic revival in the Anglican communion has carried the Faith to the slums, to the poor and underprivileged, and to the outcasts of our industrial system. More than this, we cannot overlook the facts that individuals and groups of individuals, organized for special objects, have denounced the structure of a social organization which seems to make poverty, unemployment, and class antagonisms, together with exaggerated nationalisms which lead to war, inevitable characteristics of its very being. Practical steps to combat social evils have here and there been undertaken by groups of Catholics. Certain slum areas have been cleared and model tenements have been built. Trustees of Church endowments and properties, both in parishes and in dioceses, have aroused themselves to a careful examination of the investments from which their incomes are derived, and funds have been withdrawn from enterprises in which Christian ethics tend flagrantly to be transgressed. We also have several societies both in England and America which are attempting to work out principles of reform of our existing social order, or perhaps more correctly, principles of reform for institutions within our present social order, so that a truly Christian life may indeed be possible within them. The Industrial Christian Fellowship and the Church League for Industrial Democracy are examples of this.
However, it can scarcely be denied that the total practical effects of all these activities, which result from an aroused social consciousness within the Catholic Church, have failed signally, up to this time, to keep equal pace with the progress of sociological events within the secular world. The efforts of the Church, ot again, more correctly, of individuals and groups within the Church, have been in a large number of cases in the right direction, but the results achieved make these efforts seem palliative rather than fundamentally corrective. On the other hand, outside the Church, there is a rising and world-wide tide of enthusiasm for revolutionizing the fundamental structure of economic and political society. Now, while it is certainly true that this enthusiasm for revolutionizing society may claim the allegiance of numbers of Churchmen, it is equally true that it does not have its principal sources within the Catholic Church herself. The Bishop of Jarrow has recently remarked (quoted by Fr. Peck in a letter entitled What is Society, Church Times, February 15, 1935) that "it is the Church's task to make man fit for society and not society fit for man." This point of view is so one-sided and so open to misinterpretation that it can almost be pronounced completely false. To make a man fit for a society which is, on a Christian interpretation, a fundamentally evil society, would be to make him a child of Satan rather than a child of God. Indeed, it is the complaint of many clear thinkers, that present day educational institutions and the whole capitalistic environment are succeeding only too well in making men uncomplainingly fit for the social system of human exploitation which may have to continue if Capitalism is to -exist. Nevertheless, this inverted idea of the function of the Church is complacently held by a great many Christians, even by those
who call themselves Catholics. It is the point of view which pagans and unbelievers think is the official or characteristic teaching of the Church. It is a point of view which, I believe, rightly excites their scorn and contempt and which causes Marxian Socialists to dub religion the opiate of the people. Logically such an interpretation of Christianity leads to disasters like that which overtook the Russian Church and which soon may engulf the Church in Mexico.
IF ONE SOUGHT a popular opinion concerning the proper function of the Christian Church, one would very probably receive one of the following answers. First, the Church is a society which is indifferent to the state of the non-Christian world. She is interested only in saving individual souls out of an evil order that they may be safely delivered, sanctified and, as it were, carefully packed for use in Heaven. Second, the Church is a society whose function is that which the Bishop of Jarrow seems to imply in the opinion which 1 have quoted. On this view, the Church is concerned not so much with getting people into Heaven as she is with the nature of the activities of her children within this world. Her function, however, is not primarily to affect the world, but rather to educate and to guide individuals within the world as it is. Using a wisdom which comes partly through revelation, she fortifies and strengthens them with sacramental grace, comforts and consoles them amidst the changes and chances of this mortal life. Christians may thus be made more cheerful, more content and efficient in fulfilling those duties and activities which the world of their environment requires from day to day. In this case also, the organization of secular society seems a matter of indifference. All secular arrangements are equally good--or equally bad--but the theory implies that secular society, no matter how organized, will be good if people are "good" within it, according to Christian standards. For example, the Archbishop of York has said [L. C., December 14, 1935] that commerce is one of the factors that bring nations together, pointing out that "whether in doing so it promotes good will or ill, depends on whether we conduct it rightly or sinfully."
"If you treat as competition for profit what is really cooperation for public service, something is likely to go wrong," he said, "but if we treat it for what it is, a great system of cooperation for the general benefit, it will generate good will. But if we are self centered--which is the source of all sin-- and attend chiefly to our share or interest in it, converting it into competition for private profit, it is bound to go wrong in its working and to promote rivalries and enmities." This reasoning overlooks an obvious difficulty. Unfortunately it is only too evident that unless commerce, as at present organized, is "conducted for private profit," it is precisely then that something is "bound to go wrong." The whole system is so organized that if individuals and groups within it arc "good" in the sense of conducting their businesses entirely from the standpoint of "cooperation," first of all their own businesses and finally, if there arc enough people so minded, the whole system will go to pieces.
It may be that in this case there is a subtle intention to make the much more radical suggestion that "goodness" must sometimes lead to revolutionary change. If not, we have in this suggestion that all will be well when all men arc "good," little more than the ridiculously over-simplified Christianity of the Golden Rule. The function of the Church, then, will be the inculcation of those graces of humility and of resignation which will best enable individuals to suffer the hardships of life without complaint. The Church will also discourage embarrassing efforts to change the organization of the secular world or to remove hardships which, after all, may be bringing comforts to privileged people. This was the Emperor Napoleon's idea of the Church when he wrote (The Corsican, compiled by H. M. Johnston, Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1910, p. 144): "How can a state be well governed without religion? Society cannot exist save with inequality of fortune and inequality of fortune cannot be supported without religion. When a man dies of hunger by the side of another who is gorged, he cannot accept that disparity without some authority that shall say to him: 'God has decreed it thus; there must be rich and poor in the world; but in the hereafter and for all eternity, it will be the other way about.'" "Convinced as I am" he wrote on another occasion, "that it (the Roman Catholic Faith) is the only Faith that can assure real happiness to a well-ordered society, and strengthen the foundations of good government, I assure you that I shall endeavor to protect and defend it. My firm intention is that the Christian religion, Catholic and Roman, shall be maintained."
THESE TWO POINTS of view, although the one is directed chiefly toward the preparation of individuals for Heaven and the other primarily toward their preparation for a happy or, at any rate, docile life in this world, seem concerned principally with the effect of the religion of the Church upon her individual members.
A third idea of the function of the Church conceives of her as a society which is in possession of a divinely revealed moral code. This code, she docs not hesitate to say, should be applied not alone to her own children, who are consciously trying to live as Christians, but it is also applicable to the non-Christian world. This world, so she maintains, would he a better place if her code were followed, regardless of dogmatic belief concerning its source or authority. On this view the Church at once comes into contact with the outside world, because she becomes a moral reformist institution. Whether the outside world is converted to Christianity in any adequate manner or not, the Church seeks to impose her own special moral pattern either by persuasion or cajolery or, failing this, by force. Such would seem to be the attitude of the American Methodist body, if its Board of Temperance and Public Morals is a faithful expression of its belief.
I am convinced that these are all very warped and even perverted ideas concerning the proper functions of the Church, but it is sufficiently clear that we shall get no agreement in this matter until we go behind the functions of the Church and come to some agreement about the nature of the Catholic Church herself--because the activities of the Church in the world depend upon her nature. She is not an institution devised primarily to affect the world, but rather she is a society founded and spiritually endowed by our Lord Himself in order to lead a certain kind of life. It is intended primarily that she should show forth in the world a particular kind of social living, while aiming at a goal which is peculiarly her own. I add at once that the Church both does and must affect the world, but her chief emphasis is not on this practical work. She follows the injuction of her Divine Head: "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness," knowing that all other things will be added unto her if she is true to her primary vocation.
What is this primary vocation? It cannot be more briefly put than by saying that the vocation of the Church is that of working out the principle of the Incarnation in individual and social living. The Incarnation, as the Athanasian Creed has it, consists in a process not of conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but of taking manhood into God. Two thousand years ago the Divine Logos emerged visibly within the historical process of this world, first, in order to show us a way of continuing this very work of incarnation which He then began, this preparation of a manhood which could be incorporated into the divine life process; and second, to provide us with the means of carrying on this activity. And this is a creative activity which corresponds to the deepest instinct of the human soul. Our deepest satisfactions, as human beings, arc found in discovering ways in which we may prepare ourselves as offerings to God. Even in merely human affairs, if there are such things as merely human, affairs, men find their greatest satisfactions in giving something of themselves, in doing something for other people, in throwing themselves into some cause or giving their time in working for some goal which they think worth while, either alone or within a movement which unites many of their fellows. But in religion man will not stop or be content with giving all that is best in him to other human beings or to human causes. He will be content with nothing less than giving himself to God.
THE CATHOLIC LIFE, therefore, might be described as a divinely revealed technique of preparing ourselves, our souls and bodies, both as individuals and corporately together, as offerings worthy in some measure to be presented before the throne of God. In addition, it is also a divinely provided method of continually presenting these offerings, that they may be received by God, in spite of their inevitable un-worthiness, by virtue of an achieved union with the supreme offering of the Life of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
It is the preparation of these offerings that I have just called a creative activity. Individual human beings and the Divine Society of the Church are endowed with the potentiality of building up human personalities into a social whole. And this social whole sets forth within the world systems of human relationships and of spiritual and intellectual values which are in accord with the Divine Mind and which correspond to the living social harmony within the Triune Godhead. This is a creative life-process closely analogous to the life-processes which are discoverable within the natural physical world in the growth of plant and animal organisms. Our Lord Himself used this analogy when He said: "I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. ... I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit" (John 15: 1,5). To continue the analogy, the rose vines of a summer garden, by means of the creative potentiality with which they are endowed as living beings, incorporate into their growing organisms, mineral salts from the soil in which they have their roots, carbon from the carbon dioxide of the air into which they send out their green leaves. They appropriate nitrogen and other compounds from the earth and out of all these unorganized materials, materials which as they exist in the air and earth by themselves have no organic relationship with one another, they form those harmoniously organized wholes which we recognize as living rose bushes. The rose bush, relative to the materials which enter into its physical composition is a new creation, but its newness consists not in actual newness of material content, since the materials were all given in the natural environment at the outset. The created newness consists in newness of arrangement of previously disarranged and unrelated materials into an harmoniously interrelated living whole.
THE ANALOGY of the Church and the growing vine, especially in the light of modern knowledge, can be developed profitably and at considerable length. Here we can only point out the essential principle. Christians, in the creation of their social offering of themselves to God, work within a social organism, the Catholic Church, which is endowed with a divine potentiality for creative organic growth. The raw materials upon which the new society feeds, as it were, the materials from among which it appropriates the elements of its own organic harmony, are all those social relationships and activities which human beings find themselves entering into within the natural world of men. The natural world of human relationships bears a relationship to the Church analogous ro the relationship of the soil and air to the growing rose bush. The Christian organism, by means of a selective activity within the relatively disorganized and unrelated materials of the natural world, appropriates whatever relationships are available for its own use and rejects those which are alien to that use. The materials thus selected are organized into a living social whole agreeable to a revealed divine pattern. Thus, the organism of a supernatural social life, which can be lifted up as an offering to God, is built up out of the materials of the natural world.
This is a process entirely consonant with the sacramental principle and with the Incarnation upon which the Sacraments are based. For the natural and supernatural worlds are not two separate and distinct things, divided the one from the other by a sharp boundary partition which can be transgressed only with the sense of sudden and utter change. Rather, as in the Sacrament of the Altar, natural materials are rearranged into new relationships, are transubstantiated through the action of the divine creative principle, and the supernatural grows in a creative process out of the natural world as does the rose bush from the soil. As Bishop Gore has said, the New Jerusalem will "turn out to be only this world remade," that is, the natural world reorganized according to the living divine pattern.
The purpose of the Church, then, is to create and to present a living social organism through Christ to God; but for this purpose she must work with the materials of the social relationships of the world she finds to hand. She is in no primary sense a reformist institution, that is to say, she is not primarily concerned with imposing changes upon an unredeemed and chaotic natural world of men according to some particular code of moral behavior. The Church, with her eyes focussed upon God, is concerned above all with the perfection of her own supernaturally harmonious life and toward this she presses with every available help and by means of sacrament and prayer. But because she is rooted as a plant within the world and draws upon the world for those very materials which she incorporates into her own organism, she is also concerned, but with a secondary emphasis, with the world, as a plant is concerned with the soil in which it grows.
FOR THE sake of keeping our analogy clear, it ought here to be pointed out that the human gardener works, in case of necessity, directly with the soil in which his rose bushes are planted. God, however, unlike the human gardener, intends to carry out even this environmental work through the agency of His Church, as she grows within her environment. This is not to claim for the Catholic Church a complete monopoly in the carrying out of the Divine Will in the world of men. It is a commonplace of Catholic theology that God is not bound or limited by His own means. The Spirit bloweth where it listeth and within the historic process God works throughout the whole world, as men are able to receive His Spirit, in turning the hearts and minds of all men of good will toward Himself. But in the specific preparation of the worldly environment as good soil for the growth and maintenance of the Church, God works through the Church. Furthermore, it is clear that when she fails Him in this added practical duty, He refuses to intervene directly in the environmental world in order, in some apocalyptic fashion, to save the mystical organism of the Church from the inevitable results of her own dereliction.
On the basis of the foregoing discussion of the nature of the Catholic Church, it will be interesting to proceed to a further investigation. What shall be the practical attitude of the Church toward that natural environmental world within which she grows and seeks to form her own divine perfection?
Part II--The Church's Authority in Secular Affairs
FIRST of all, we are now in a position to exclude outright from our present consideration one attitude which is often suggested. It is said that the ordinary secular relationships of the world are matters of indifference to true religion. "Let the Churches keep to their spiritual work" is the slogan of this attitude. A man's religion is a matter only between his own soul and God and the Churches are quiet, separated places where (if one wishes) these relationships may be cultivated. The strident workaday world is something apart from such religion and should be left to practical people. Above all, the preachers of the Gospel should not interfere in politics or business. They should be careful, indeed, not to say anything which could imply a connection of pure religion with these secular things. We can condemn this view without qualification for the straightforward reason that, from a Catholic standpoint, it is absurd. As I have previously written, the Catholic Church draws upon the world for her materials as does a plant from the soil in which it grows. As long as this world exists with the Church within it, the Church cannot be thought of as anything but rooted and active within it, often with very practical implications. However, this attitude of insulation is one toward which individualistic Protestant Christianity has tended, because Protestantism has lost sight of the organic creative work of the divine social and visible Body. An increasing number of unbiased historians point out that this separate compartment theory of the relationship of an individualistic Christian piety to activity in the actual economic and political world, emerged at the historical period of the beginnings of industrial capitalism when large numbers of men were preparing to base their practical lives upon profit making. It is now clear that this is a principle difficult to reconcile with the Christian orientation toward self-giving and sacrifice. To separate the practical world from personal religion and piety may seem, in some cases, to be the easiest resolution of a difficult conflict. But to call it a correct or complete solution is an obvious rationalization in which the wish is father to the thought.
There remain two possible attitudes of the Church toward her environment consonant with that theory of her being which we have been developing. I hope that we shall presently see that these two attitudes do not differ qualitatively from each other, but that they result only from a difference in emphasis upon an identical activity. They may thus be assumed by various individuals and groups of individuals within the Church, according to their endowments of capacity for cooperation in the Church's creative life.
First of all, in every age a relatively small number of able and sincere Catholics have felt that the environmental materials of human relationships which they have found at hand in the world, are, as far as their own share of creative power goes, unsuitable or, at the least, superfluous and without possibility of use in that organic religious synthesis upon which they find that they can be creatively engaged. This attitude leads these individuals to reject most of the ordinary materials of the world as it is found, since these are too difficult to appropriate for their own highly specialized use. Such people often separate themselves with groups of like-minded individuals and there results what is technically called the contemplative religious life. In order that this attitude may result in a truly creative and fruitful activity, it can be assumed only by those who find that they have a very special vocation for the positive side of that, humanly speaking, isolated work which they are embracing. A mere rejection of the ordinary materials of life as hopeless is defeatism pure and simple. The taking up of the religious life is under such circumstances an attempt to escape from realities with which we are intended to deal. But to leave the working with the bulk of materials provided by the natural world to others, for the good reason that one finds a highly specialized vocation for an important creative work in the organization of the materials of the life of prayer and intercession and sacrifice--this results in an heroic adventure in contributing to the organic life of the Church. And this specialized work ought to command nothing but admiration from the rest of us who are, as far as vocation goes, not similarly endowed.
The second attitude which the Church may take toward her worldly environment is also based upon the theory of creative activity which we have just been developing. I think this ought to be the normal attitude of the great majority of Catholics, whether faithful lay people or members of the so-called active religious orders. It is profoundly in accord with the Catholic emphasis upon the principle of the Incarnation. God the Son, the eternal Logos by whom all things were made, became incarnate and, through His Church, still continues His eternally renewed and extended Incarnation within the historical process. As during His earthly life, His Divine creative power seeks to express itself in an organic pattern and thus seizes upon the materials of the natural world as it is, in order creatively to reorganize them in supernatural patterns conformable to the Divine will and character. Catholics as individuals, within the Church as a potentially perfect supernatural organic structure, working with a special Divine creative endowment under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, grow organically in the world as plants grow in the inorganic environments of soil and water and air from which they draw their nourishment. There emerges in this process the visible organic structure of the Catholic Church, the sacramental and mystical Body of Christ, We may now go on to see that precisely within this dynamic relationship of the organic Divine life-process to the unorganized environment, there arise practical problems of vital and often of controversial interest.
The environmental materials with which we have to work, from which we have to select our materials, vary both from age to age and in different parts of the world at the same historical period. At certain times and places, the materials of everyday natural relationships can be described as relatively tractable. Some historians contend that this may be predicated of the thirteenth century. For our present purpose we do not have to insist on this point. Let us rather assume it in order to illustrate the argument. The normal life of the world, influenced profoundly in that century by universal regard for Christianity and the Church, furnished a body of human relationships which, for incorporation into the divine pattern of the Church's life, needed a comparatively simple selective activity. There was much that needed to be rejected by the conscientious Catholic, but at least it was still possible to make the necessary selections and rejections and to remain alive, living within the world. The Christian life did not necessarily imply profound dislocations of the worldly environment.
In such relatively suitable environments the Church's attention is directed chiefly toward the strengthening and developing of her own spiritual life; with the broadening and deepening of her own relationships with God. I return to the analogy of the rose bush. The world, in this case, is like good soil, well watered and well sunned. The raw materials of the environment have still to be appropriated and organized into the new and living organic structure, but the materials are abundant and of excellent quality. They can be accepted almost as a matter of course. The environment does not have to be touched. Even fertilization may be unnecessary. The whole attention can be directed toward pruning and trimming and training and supporting the rose bush, and toward the development of symmetry and the assuring of a good quality in flower and in fruit.
But these ideal environmental conditions do not always exist. There come periods in world history when the materials of the natural world are so intractable that it is almost impossible to draw anything from them upon which the Christian creative activity can successfully impinge. To develop an individual or social organism out of these is like planting a rose bush in a mixture of dry sand and salt and expecting it to continue its own organic activity. I submit that under such conditions the Church's attention immediately becomes focused upon her environment, rather than upon the perfection of her own life within it. As an example of what I mean, let us suppose that a man finds himself in an environment such that if he, as a shoemaker, makes shoes, he may trade them in for potatoes with some neighboring peasant. This is an excellent activity and one productive of all sorts of human relationships which may be brought within the organized ambit of the Catholic life. This environment, in certain respects at least, needs no change in order that it may be appropriated. It needs only to be brought to the Altar of the Christian Sacrifice and lifted up to God. But let us suppose, on the other hand, that a man finds himself faced with the following dilemma: he may profit at someone else's expense, that is, if he makes a good living, someone else must go without needed things even in a world of plenty; or he may refuse all such profit, however indirect, and quite certainly and literally starve to death. Or let us suppose that if he takes a deeply realistic view of things, he discovers that whatever his chosen activity, he must necessarily cooperate in economic processes which, in spite of all the individual good will in the world, lead inexorably to imperialistic wars. Or again, shall the Church counsel growth in individual holiness and cooperation in the divine life process to one who in his own daily life is faced with unemployment, undernourishment, and a feeling that he is unwanted in the world?
Granted that God, once more unlike the human husbandman with his rose bush, is able to accomplish miracles and is able to bring forth lovely flowers of the divine life as offerings to Himself, out of the most unlikely and arid environments, nevertheless, it seems clear that this kind of demand must not normally be made by the Church. She cannot acquiesce in such conditions with any confidence that her own corporate development will be vigorously maintained. Under such circumstances the Church, through which as we have said God' chooses to work in such matters of the environment as directly concern her, must say in no uncertain voice: "This environment must be altered, no matter what the secular consequences. Because I must see to it that I am supplied with materials for the use of Christians who are endeavoring to follow my creative precepts, who are trying to build up lives which can be incorporated into my own supernatural social life." It is precisely at this point that the Church impinges upon a still unredeemed and unconverted secular society. At certain times, the implications of this impact may be less shattering than at others. Sometimes it may be necessary to call for relatively superficial changes in a limited number of social or economic arrangements. It would therefore be a great mistake to make the unqualified generalization that Catholicism, in respect to the purely secular and natural world, is always a revolutionary religion. That all depends on the state of the world and its availability, as it were, for the creative emergence of the Incarnate Life within existing arrangements. But as I have already intimated, there may arise circumstances in which there does not appear in the natural world the tiniest crumb of nutriment for creating a supernatural organic life, which is untainted with the poison of intractable adverse elements. The Church in the world today is therefore quite within her province, if she examines the present posture of the social and economic structure to see whether changes so profound that they will require a true revolution to bring them about are not required if she is to find the requisite environmental materials for her divinely commissioned creative work.
After making such an investigation, the Church may well come to the conclusion that present secular relationships can be corrected by nothing short of revolution.
Part III--The Church's Task
IN THIS event other questions will immediately arise. If a social revolution within the pagan and unredeemed world of the Church's environment were to come about, what part should the Church take in this change and, in particular, what should be her attitude toward accompanying violence?
These are questions much too large to be more than lightly touched upon in the present paper. I would, however, point out that the Church in no wise imagines that the Divine Will for mankind can be fulfilled through merely changing secular arrangements, however drastically, within secular society itself. The materials with which the Church works, that is to say, the soil in which the divine organism grows, may be immensely improved. But even within an economic or political system well nigh perfect from the point of view of merely human imagining, the organic creation of the divine and supernatural life of Christ's own Body would still remain a thing to be accomplished. This is where the Catholic Church must differ from present day Marxian Communists. It is not that she necessarily disagrees with them in the economic system which, by a revolutionary process, they are attempting to evolve. It is rather that she must insist that this is only a first step, even if an excellent one, toward something vastly move difficult and more glorious. The Soviet Union may even today furnish a worldly environment which could prove a fertile soil for the growth of the Church's supernatural social organism. But as long as Communists insist that the organic supernatural God-regarding life is not something higher, but rather lower than the organized natural man-regarding life which they are developing in the world, the environment which they supply is very intractable toward the Catholic attack. Some Communists today protest that they are of an open mind and that they are willing to be shown that religion makes life better. But I think that Communists now have a lily of their own which will not stand gilding with Catholicism. Indeed, Catholicism can never assume the place of a mere finishing touch to something else. Whatever the Church touches, provided it is appropriate to her use, she must, by her very creative nature, incorporate into her own supernatural organism. In such a process even the best of the natural is profoundly reorganized as it passes into the body of the supernatural. Nevertheless, barring the possibility of a revolution in present-day society under the guidance and auspices of the Church, I myself look upon the Communist State as one of the most hopeful environments which the Church at some future time may appropriate to her own supernatural use.
It ought to be said in passing that it is quite possible that the leadership in bringing about profound social changes in the world today has already passed out of the hands of the Church. The social changes of the post-war years have been swift and great and there are greater and more widespread changes in the making. For our sins, perhaps, the Holy Spirit, in a kind of Divine impatience, seems to be working through men and women who are far from understanding or believing in the Incarnation or even in the existence of God Himself. There are movements abroad in the world which in their practical and world-regarding aspects appear profoundly Christian in aim, while remaining non-Christian or anti-Christian in motive. But already, when Catholics seek to ally themselves or to make "united front" with such movements, they are accused of "climbing onto the band wagon." They are suspected of wishing to save their own skins ill the inevitable crash ahead. Our immediate problem, then, may not in any sense be that of taking the lead in changing secular society. These vast changes we may almost think of as unrolling themselves under our very noses and without a "by your leave" to us and whether we wish them or no. Our task may then be to see how we may carry through, while these great changes go on practically in spite of us within the ranks of the unchurched and Godless masses of mankind. Very possibly we ought already to be seeking to plant some obscure seeds, to sink some tiny deeply hidden roots of Catholic Christianity, which may live deep down and out of sight while the tempests of economic revolution and the bleak winters of social chaos destroy and blight out of existence large portions of the Church as it is now visible in the world. The faithful remnant of the Church must be prepared against the time when the great body of nominal Christians will fall away. The branches of the vine above the ground, overgrown and run to leaves instead of flowers, will be destroyed. The roots must be preserved and strengthened against the time when they may send out fresh shoots and bloom again, informing with a new glory the revolutionized environment of a future age.
If this moment for a descent into modern catacombs comes, the relatively small portion of the Church which really counts will know how to act. But in the meantime it would be a great mistake to make this an absolute prophecy and a still greater mistake to assume a merely passive attitude in the present upon the assumption of such a future. It seems probable that the Church ought now to advocate a revolution in present day capitalistic society, because, as things stand, she can find practically no relationships which go to the heart of secular life, with which she can work. They are unfit for her use. She has to reject the world and instead of being analogous to a rose vine, whose life, as I have said, is true to the sacramental principle, she is in danger of becoming analogous to an orchid, an air plant, devoid of roots. Under such circumstances, instead of drawing the materials of the still unredeemed world into the organism of her own divine life, she readily becomes --indeed, when one considers the vast material hostages she has placed in the hands of the world, one has to say she has become--a prey to that chaotic world itself. She tends, as is only too evident, to content herself with palliative activity within a world which she is powerless to appropriate in her redeeming activity. This is nothing less than a renunciation of her divine vocation and through lack of use, she permits her divine creative power, always potentially present, to atrophy. The Church becomes moribund if she permits herself to be relegated to the place of a more or less efficient spiritual Red Cross organization, caring only for the wounded behind the lines of unChristian and secular conflicts in which, with splendid neutrality, she helplessly acquiesces.
THE CHURCH ought to begin by educating her own children, not to contentment or resignation, but to a divine discontent with the worldly relationships in which they now find themselves. She ought to be instant in season and out of season, in pointing out how the activities which the world forces upon would-be Catholics are of such a nature that, through no personal fault of individuals, these activities cannot possibly be brought into the Church's organic life and offered as acceptable sacrifices upon her altars. This has happened at other times, notably in the Roman period, when sacrifices of incense to the Emperor as a god were refused with a refusal which carried treasonable and subversive implications only too clear to the secular authorities of that time.
The Church, true to the character of her Divine Head, can never advocate the use of violence or physical force for the purpose of bringing about those changes which, nonetheless, she insists are necessary and peremptory. In this she again differs from Marxists, to whom positive violence is merely a practical matter. It is sometimes regrettable, but it never has any moral or immoral quality. Violence for the Church, then, begins not from her side but from that of the world. She prays and hopefully works toward bringing about changes by reasonable persuasion and by more extensive conversion of pagans. It seems inevitable, however, and prophecy and experience bear this out, that the Church, if she is determinedly intent upon what she wishes, must goad the world into madness. Our Lord said: "I came not to bring peace upon earth, but a sword" (Matthew 10:24). This is not a sanction or advocacy of violence in attaining the ends of His Kingdom here on earth. But it is a prophecy of what would take place and a prophecy which has been abundantly justified. The world will not suffer peacefully the children of the Church even to refrain from certain worldly relationships if, by this refraining, they seem to threaten the security or established order of the secular world. The violent battle will be joined. Prof. Berdyaev also makes it very clear that "it is a mistake, wilful or innocent, to believe that those who defend the status quo are not by that very fact using violence and that only those who fight Capitalism are guilty of criminal subversion." To acquiesce in the maintenance of a system which is supported by repressive violence is to become a party to the secular violence itself. From this it is also clear that under certain environmental conditions, unless the world does actually resort to violence against the Church, this may be taken as an indication that she is playing traitor to her own vocation and is ceasing to organize her own divine life.
Then, what is the nature of the forces which Catholics may employ when they realize that the time for force has actually arrived? We are a Church Militant. We are said to march against the foe, terrible as an army. St. John the Divine does not hesitate to say that there was war in Heaven. We must not expect to escape war upon earth. The Catholic fights, when it is necessary; but his weapon is not the sword but the Cross. Wherever the Cross is found, there is found violence and at least the attempted application of force and often bloodshed. Sometimes the Cross of Christians is a spiritual one, made up of pain and sorrow, of long vigils kept in prayer, of shame and calumny and of misunderstanding. But in the world of today, when we face the inevitable violent issues of our own futures, the Cross may once again become physical. We must be ready for this kind of warfare. If the Church comes to the conclusion that great and revolutionary changes are necessary in order to have a world tolerable to live in, she must, for example, be ready to place her income and all her property in jeopardy. This statement, by the way, does not mean that the Church will waste her energies or her substance in grandiose or futile gestures. For the moment she lives in the world as it is and she will not wield her weapons of renunciation and sacrifice until the time comes that these can be effective. This would be merely playing into the hands of her enemies. She must be wise as a serpent while she awaits the violence of the world. Until that time she is justified in using whatever means of the world she has at her disposal toward the downfall of that very world, in this she follows the example of our Lord, who, while living in a world whose standards and values He denounced, refused on many a dangerous occasion to sacrifice Himself, to throw away His life, because, as the evangelists often tell us, His hour was not yet come.
BUT THE faithful children of the Church, when her hour is come, will be ready to jeopardize the whole material welfare of themselves and of their families. If the Divine life of the Church and the fundamental activities of the State are found utterly incompatible, the Church must risk being called a traitor to the established State. We have not yet come to physical persecution. We may well do so. The Church must embrace this when it comes. The Church may have to say the quite terrific thing that the whole secular organization must he rooted up, that our present economic system is so enmeshed in evil that nothing short of revolution must take place if wars and other miseries are to have an end. If the Church really does this, soberly and with insistence, I venture to say that 90 per cent of her nominal membership will drop away. Her faithful priests will be persecuted by almost every authority, secular, lay, and ecclesiastical. Her income will drop, her endowments, her beautiful buildings and ornaments will vanish in those very changes which she herself advocates. This will be Christian violence. This will be Catholic force in action. This will be militant Christianity. This will be warfare with the weapon of the Cross. Pray God we may be strong enough for this far from pleasant task. It will be a strange warfare from a worldly point of view. There will be no bands to play or banners to fly upon our march. "Behold, we go up to Jerusalem," said our Blessed Lord. When the time comes we embrace the violence of the world as did our Lord Himself. We do not run away from violence. We do not cry "peace, peace" when there is no peace. But our way of meeting violence has this strange and magnificent peculiarity. The Church will always take good care that, when the blows fall, she herself shall be on the under side of the nails. The world will drive these nails home, as two thousand years ago it drove home other nails, to its own undoing. Therefore the Church goes up to Jerusalem, because at Jerusalem there stands the Cross.