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"Says Spiritual Life Is Basis of Nation Catholic Congress Warned Freedom Must Be Based on Spiritual Soil; 1,500 Attend Congress Mass"

From The Living Church, Vol. XCIX, No. 17, October 26, 1938.

Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Diocese of New York, 2012

EVANSTON, ILL.—Declaring the "kingdom of heaven is a totalitarian State," the Rev. Dr. William H. Dunphy, professor of systematic divinity, Philadelphia divinity school, warned the Church that freedom cannot survive in America unless it digs its roots deep into spiritual soil. He was speaking before the seventh Catholic Congress under the auspices of the American Church Union at St. Luke's pro-cathedral here.

The congress was a success in every respect, according to the Rev. Frank Damrosch, Jr., chairman of the congress committee. With 1,500 in attendance at the congress Mass, and nearly 500 present at each of the general sessions, Fr. Damrosch expressed complete satisfaction with the results.

Speaking on The Catholic Faith and the Totalitarian State, Fr. Dunphy said in part:

"The problem of the totalitarian State and the Christian attitude toward it is very complicated. The kingdom of heaven is a totalitarian State; so is the kingdom of hell. But one thing is clear; freedom cannot survive unless it digs its roots into spiritual soil; unless it is based on religious and moral grounds; unless it has some purpose, for which men may use their freedom. We must answer the question: Free for what? That is the great weakness of democracy today; it seems to have no answer to that question.

"Communism and Fascism have an answer. With them the State is practically a Church; it is sacred; it gives divine honors to a chosen class (as in Russia) or a chosen race (as in Germany). But it ignores the divine image in man and the totalitarian claims of God over the whole man and the whole of human society. Between a Godless, plutocratic democracy and a Godless dictatorship there is not much choice. God's sovereignty must be proclaimed and realized in the political, social, and economic order. We need therefore an authoritarian Christian State. In particular we must insist that education is one of the things that are God's, not Caesar's. We must recapture education for Christ and His Church; otherwise neither Church nor nation can survive."


Tendencies in modern science which will lead to acceptance of the Catholic life are seen by Prof. Hoxie Neale Fairchild of Columbia university. He spoke on The Intellectual Approach to the Catholic Religion.

[The text of Professor Fairchild's address appears in this week's issue of The Living Church.]

"Two animals were lost in the woods and were very cold," said the Rev. Otis R. Rice in beginning his paper on Psychology and the Catholic Faith.

"They came together for warmth but found that when they were in close proximity they suffered great pain. Eventually they managed to arrive at the best distance apart for their mutual comfort. The animals were porcupines."

The clergy and the workers in the field of psychology and psychiatry are much in the position of the two porcupines, according to Fr. Rice. "Most priests realize that they are not psychiatrists but unfortunately most psychiatrists have not yet realized that they are not priests."

Taking the accepted criteria of mental maturity as developed by leading psychologists, Fr. Rice showed that the Catholic faith holds up substantially the same tests for the spiritual maturity of Church members. He urged a closer cooperation between the clergy and psychologists and a greater application of tested psychological methods in the Church.

Bishop Gray of Northern Indiana, president of the province of the Midwest, pontificated at the Solemn High Mass on the second day of the congress. The Rev. Canon Winfred Douglas was celebrant.


The sermon by the Rev. Granville Mercer Williams, SSJE, rector of the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, New York, was a strong plea for Catholic action. Fr. Williams reviewed the growth of the Catholic movement in the Episcopal Church recalling the courage of the pioneers of the movement against apparently insuperable odds. The same spirit is needed today, he said, in arousing the whole Church to its responsibilities and in facing all of its problems on a foundation of Catholic faith. Fr. Williams also made an urgent plea for Christian unity, pointing out that unity is one of the essential marks of Catholicity. He urged his hearers to remember that their first loyalty is not to the Episcopal Church or the Anglican communion but to the one holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church. In heaven, he said, there are no Anglicans or Roman Catholics, no Presbyterians or Methodists, but only members of the Catholic Church which is the divine society of all the faithful. So it should be on earth, he said, warning that Anglicanism will eventually cease to exist as a separate entity, its values being merged in the universal Catholic Church of the future.


Speaking on The Catholic Family, the Rev. Joseph F. Fletcher, director of the Graduate School of Applied Religion, Cincinnati, warned the Church that if she does not provide a solid footing for the family unit of society, Communistic and Fascistic ideas from abroad will compete with Christian ideals.

Breakdown in family life in this country, said Fr. Fletcher, is due to the breakdown in the economic structure and urbanization. Nearly 50% of the young married people between the ages of 16 and 24 are forced by present conditions to live with parents or relatives. This is not conducive to happy family life, he stated. Divorce is five times as high in the cities as in the rural areas; the birth rate is almost five times as low.

"We hear a lot about the Communistic and Fascistic ideas of the family," Fr. Fletcher concluded. "There is no such thing, at least not in this country. But if we do not hurry up and do something about our present situation and try to form a different basis of family life within our present system, then in a short time we will have to compete with other theories of the family. As long as the Church complains about the indifference of men of high ideals toward family life without doing anything about the elements which destroy such high ideals, she is simply an ivory tower organization, completely unrelated to the realities of history. Religion must have more than ethics. It has to put its ethics into sociology. In other words, if the Church does not translate her social principles into a social program, she will prove to be unprincipled and will be lost."

The Rev. Daniel E. Corrigan of Oconomowoc, Wis., speaking on the Catholic Family, laid stress upon the necessity for parents to teach their children sound Catholic faith and practice and to make theirs a truly Christian home.


One of the important phases of the congress was the youth section. Speaking on The Church and the Young People, the Rev. William Scott Chalmers, OHC, warned that the Church must provide youth with a program or lose him.

"Today youth is sick because there is no worthy task for him. He is disillusioned. He sees the enterprises and institutions of previous generations as rackets. All the heroes of the past have been debunked and shorn of their greatness. These symptoms and others have marked the close of the reign of humanism.

"A new start is needed. Youth—unhappy, bewildered, hurt—is on the move, demanding something worthy of his powers of self-sacrifice and some leader worthy of his legions. If the Church cannot provide youth with a plan of action, he will turn to others, just as he has done in Germany and Italy. This creates a situation full of danger but also full of opportunity. The Catholic Church and the Catholic life provide a full answer to the needs of youth. For the Catholic, Christ is the supreme leader. His way of self-sacrifice and discipline appeals to the highest in human nature. His life can point us to a glorious future."

A most impressive feature of the congress was the address by Prof. Howard Patch of Smith college, at the congress banquet. He spoke of the evils and weaknesses of the times, presenting conditions in the world allegorically; then the possibilities of a vital, realistic religion in the same fashion. His presentation won the plaudits of the entire crowd present.


A call to all Churchmen to be missionaries for the Church by the giving of selves was sounded by the Rev. Alan Whittemore, Superior of the Order of the Holy Cross, at the closing session of the congress. Fr. Whittemore spoke of motives, methods, and means of missions.

He told of 10 years' missionary work in Africa; of the terrible diseases he observed there; particularly of the scourge called yaws. It eats away the flesh, much like leprosy. But there is a wonderful cure for the disease and thousands flock to the Church's missionary hospital for this cure.

Methods in missions have changed greatly in the past half century, Fr. Whittemore pointed out. The methods of 50 years ago now seem narrow and bigoted. They were based on the ideas that the ways and beliefs of the people being served were all wrong; that Western ways must be substituted. Today, missionaries go into a country, study what God has done for the peoples through their ancient religions, and then show God as the Christian knows Him to be the climax of all life.

"We are the means of missions," Fr. Whittemore concluded. "God allows us to be fellow workers with Him. All can help. Our Lord came to redeem the world and gave His life in so doing. We can die daily for His sake and thus fulfil our parts in bringing about His kingdom."

Following the missionary mass meeting the congress closed with Solemn Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament in which the celebrant was Bishop Ivins of Milwaukee.


EVANSTON, ILL.—Bishop Stewart of Chicago received a tremendous ovation from the Catholic Congress when he gave a brief address of welcome to the congress the afternoon of October 12th. This was the Bishop's first public appearance since he was taken ill June 6th. He appeared well and apparently experienced no ill effects from the exertion.

Bishop Stewart was also present during part of the congress Mass in St. Luke's pro-cathedral, sitting in a passageway just outside the sanctuary. He heard a part of the sermon by Fr. Williams and commended it highly.

OCTOBER 11TH, 1938

FROM DIVINE MIND to divine Personality; thence to the revelation of that Personality in our Blessed Lord; finally to the Church as the mystical body of Christ at work in the world forever. You and I are already convinced that this path is the path of right reason. On such an occasion as the present our real concern is how to convince others of that fact. From certain viewpoints the times are ripe for undertaking this task. The spectacle of the utter madness of the world begins to stimulate a craving for sanity. An increasing number of intelligent people are weary of saying that they must live rationally but that there is no such thing as reason; weary of asserting in the same breath their complete mental freedom and their complete mental slavery; weary of supposing that the highest wisdom lies in never accepting an axiom and never reaching a conclusion. There is a growing revulsion against the aimless muddle of modern thought, and in some quarters a growing willingness to recognize the rationality of principles without which reason proves to be impossible.

Under such circumstances the Catholic religion powerfully appeals to minds in search of clarity, peace, and order. One cannot say that Protestantism exerts the same appeal. There are Protestant thinkers who can argue brilliantly for their personal views, but there is no firm intellectual position which can be defined and examined as the position of Protestantism. Protestantism is itself a part of the modern flux which man is now struggling to transcend. At best, it preaches certain elements of the Catholic faith which it has exaggerated at the expense of other elements. At worst, it is simply a form of sentimental deism employing a certain amount of Christian terminology. Between these extremes there are many degrees of deliquescence, but no point of rest. The Catholic religion, on the other hand, stands for a definite theology, ecclesiastical organization, mode of worship, and way of life. It is at the same time a faith and a philosophy and a society. From the doctrine of the Trinity to the last refinement of ceremonial, it is one seamless robe of thought. Holy Church can be approached because all men may know where she stands. She can be approached through the intellect because she is a magnificent intellectual structure.

But for many outsiders the intellectual order of Catholicism creates a gap between the Church and the intellectual disorder of present-day society. When the Church addresses such men in the firm tones of Catholic conviction, she uses a language which they have forgotten how to speak. If we are to convince them that our position is rational, we must take our stand in the modern world and grapple with the human mind as it now actually exists. Scholastic philosophy, which some of us are trying to revive, is the philosophy of an age of faith and order, not of an age of doubt and confusion. If we expect any large number of modern intellectuals to read St. Thomas before they become Catholics, we are greatly mistaken. For a few severely logical minds the Summa may prove to be the end of the road, but it cannot be a very useful means of approaching Catholicism in times which have fulfilled the prophecy of Alexander Pope:

"Philosophy, that leaned on heav'n before,
Shrinks to her second cause, and is no more."

Modern man terribly needs a philosophy which will give his life a firm center, integrating and imparting significance to the whirling fragments of his experience. Yet the pragmatic philosophy by which he is chiefly dominated is so completely centrifugal that it does nothing to hold his life together.

THE ATTITUDE of Catholics toward pragmatism is not at present very consistent. We detest the idea of a plural and relative truth which man makes up for himself as he goes along. On the other hand we constantly make use of an essentially pragmatic viewpoint. Few of us would deny the contention of William James that we must choose between belief and disbelief, and that in the absence of evidence to the contrary we are entitled to accept the hypothesis which is the more favorable to human existence. Most of us, indeed, would go even further, saying that since it is impossible to be religious without having a religion, we are entitled to make the religious hypothesis a real force in human life by giving it a definite form. We do not shrink from the pragmatic note which is often struck in the Scriptures: "Come and see." "Draw nigh unto God, and He will draw nigh unto you." "O taste and see how gracious the Lord is." In accordance with such texts we have tested the faith in the realm of the spirit and have found that it works—works so compellingly that to doubt its truth would be the act of a madman. Often we recommend the same method to questioning outsiders. "Accept these truths as working hypotheses," we say; "test them in the laboratory of living, and then see what happens to your mind and spirit." The appeal to the workability of Christianity as against other religions, and of Catholicism as against Protestantism, is too potent and too valid to be cast aside.

Instead of reviling pragmatism in one breath and advocating it in the next, we might absorb this characteristically modern philosophy and redeem it for Catholic uses. In the long run, I do not discover instrumental truth merely by consulting my own impulses. That way of life creates an illusion which will soon become disillusion. If I wish to discover what is lastingly workable for me as a member of the human race I must consult the experience of the race—in the present of course, but also in the past. I must measure my own thought and feeling against the totality of mankind's thought and feeling. Of course I shall find no unanimity of opinion on any matter of importance; nevertheless I shall find a body of instrumental but more than merely personal evidence for believing that certain things must be true for me because they are true for man. Why then do not all men recognize these truths? Because they have never really looked at them or tried to live with them.

TO THINK along these lines is to pass beyond the conception of plural and relative truths to the conception of single and absolute truth. Although the latter conception is rejected by the official leaders of pragmatism, it can be justified on strictly pragmatic grounds, for without it mental experience becomes an impossible mess in which nothing can ever be said to be really true or really false. In religion, the only genuine pragmatism is absolutism. Apparently it is man's fate to live surrounded by an absolute truth about which he is compelled to make more or less effective instrumental guesses. But there is no reason to suppose that his guesses are wholly unrelated to reality. A universe in which the realm of the One and the realm of the Many were completely sundered would be too ironically malicious for rational purposes. In that case there would indeed be a God, but He would be a devil. It is saner and less melodramatic to suppose that something like the absolute truth of things filters through to us in forms that we can grasp and use. The more impersonal, tested, large-scale, long-distance instrumental truth these forms can be shown to possess, the more we are justified in regarding them as reliable symbols of absolute truth. From a rigorously skeptical viewpoint this of course is a mere faith, but it is a faith which man can never relinquish as long as he possesses the will to exist.

This type of pragmatism uses a modern way of thinking as a means of resolving the modern chaos. On the other hand it entitles us to emphasize the workability of Catholicism without the slightest disloyalty to our belief in absolute and eternal truth. In a rather unexpected way it harmonizes pragmatism with that Platonism which has always been one of the chief supports of our faith. From such a pragmatism no Catholic need shrink. Jesus is the perfect bond between the One and the Many. "For who can know the mind of the Lord, that He may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ." Thanks to Holy Church, the extension of the Incarnation, we have that mind at work among us in Evanston today as in Galilee centuries ago:

"King of kings, yet born of Mary, as of old on earth He stood;
Lord of lords, in human vesture—in the Body and the Blood—
He will give to all the faithful His own Self for heavenly food."

From a philosophical viewpoint, the tremendous potency of the Holy Eucharist lies in the fact that in this sacrament there is simply no difference between absolute truth and instrumental truth.

Modern religious thought must of course take account of modern science. I doubt whether we can construct a valid intellectual approach to Catholicism in these days unless we abandon our obviously futile efforts to keep man apart from nature. If we accept the fact that we are natural organisms nothing whatever happens to us, but a great deal happens to nature. Let us include in the natural world not only those elements of our being which can be observed and weighed and measured, but all those imponderable mental and spiritual qualities which distinguish our species. At once nature becomes the system which produced, let us say, Fr. Huntington —not merely his digestive processes, but his mind and spirit. Now try to explain Fr. Huntington, or Beethoven, or Dante, or your own mother, using the materialistic hypothesis. The difficulties are considerable, are they not? Then try to explain such people using the hypothesis that nature is itself the unfolding thought of a divine mind. The difficulties are still considerable, and we must not pretend otherwise. But at least the latter hypothesis will bear the weight of man as he moves over the abyss of his ignorance, while the former will not.

Once we take our place in nature boldly and firmly, we can behave like somewhat cantankerous members of a club which we have decided to transform from within in preference to resigning from it. Every natural organism is irresistibly impelled to function like a member of its own species. As natural organisms, we claim the same right. This means that we claim the right to think, for thinking is part of the normal behavior of the species to which we belong. Now if human mind is just a rare disease of matter, a sort of cancer in the wholesome unconsciousness of nature, then man does not really belong to the club at all. He is the only organism whose impulse to function on a certain evolutionary level is frustrated by the universe. Other animals are impelled by real drives toward real ends; man is impelled by illusion toward illusion. The only things of real importance to him are of no importance to the universe. The process of organic evolution culminates in an elaborately ironic joke. This is not the clean, impersonal thought of a scientist, but the neurotic dream of some decadent novelist. No, let us insist on our rights as members of the club. If the universe permits a dog to behave like a dog, it should permit a man to behave like a man. In a matter-over-mind universe man is an inexplicable outcast; in a mind-over-matter universe all animals, including man, may behave like what they are. In the long run the latter hypothesis seems as necessary to science as to religion.

I am not competent to discuss the findings of the new mathematical physics as they relate to this subject. It is quite impossible for a busy student of literature to keep up with the brand new universes which appear every week or so. It is interesting to observe, however, that just as metaphysics seemed about to abdicate in favor of physics, physics obligingly became a branch of metaphysics. If we are to believe the modern scientific philosophers, reality can be explained only in terms of the operations of mind. Since the work of science takes place wholly within the mind, this conclusion is hardly surprising. The question is whether the human mind is related, however remotely, to the creative force of the universe. If so, man has a comprehensible place in nature; if not, his particular kind of functioning is inexplicable, aimless, and irrelevant.

ONE MAY also say that the new science, by emphasizing the huge difference between the way things look and the way they really are, has contributed to a conception of reality which is friendly to religion. The old twofold classification of real, material things and unreal, immaterial things has collapsed. There is no longer any reason to deny actuality to those intangible fruits of thought which men call values. I shall dwell no longer on this point lest you remind me that my subject is not religion, but Catholic religion. But although the new science does not preach Catholicism, it may remove prejudices which have hindered many people from accepting the faith. We have all heard intelligent unbelievers say that they would be Catholics if they could be religious at all. They usually mean that Catholicism is the most consistent, beautiful, and potent expression of ideas which depend upon an unscientific belief in the reality of spirit. Its dialectic is logical, but its basic premises are fallacious. If such persons discovered that 20th century science by no means denies the religious hypothesis and in some respects is positively favorable to it, their approach to Catholicism might be completed at a single step. Once get mind firmly at the center of things, and the road to Holy Church lies smooth and clear.

Twentieth century man does not think much about the mind of God, but he thinks a great deal about his own. He is so absorbedly interested in his mental quirks that some consideration of psychology must enter into any present-day approach to Catholic religion. The Church cannot admire the efforts of psychologists to take human personality apart, but she can support their more recent efforts to put human personality together again. A few essential parts seem to be missing, but eventually they will be found. There is a growing respect for the phenomena of religious experience as facts which must be considered in any scientific study of the mind. At least it is widely recognized that man is an incurably religious animal, and that if he does not get a good religion out of God he will get a bad one out of Marx or Hitler.

If there is a loving God who desires to draw all men to Him, we must suppose that His spirit is most fully at work in that form of religion which agrees most closely with the nature of the human mind. In this respect the preeminence of Catholicism can hardly be questioned. Consider the Church's realistic but inspiring view of human nature, avoiding both the gloom of puritanism and the feeble illusions of sentimentalism; her constant emphasis on the Incarnation as the great religious fact; her teachings on the relation between faith and works in the process of salvation; her appeal to man's esthetic emotions, and in general her emphasis on outwardness as an aid to inwardness; her grasp of the principles of habit-formation; her idea of mediation; her use of the confessional; above all, her sacramental system. Everywhere we turn we find evidence that her power to transform us arises from her God-given understanding of us.

To the non-Catholic mind, the psychological realism of the Church is almost shocking, but for my part it seems only common sense to believe that the religion which knows the most about me is also the religion which knows the most about God. In descending so close to my humanity, the Church is continuing the work of the God who made Himself like me in order that I might be made like Him. Here is superhuman truth perfectly adapted to my human nature. If modern man wants psychology, then, let us point to Holy Church as the supreme psychologist. Knowing the mind of man to its depths, she can raise it to the heights. In contrast, Protestantism does not seem to know enough of the truth about man to be able to tell man the whole truth about God.

Modern man is deeply though vaguely conscious of himself as the product of historical forces. He usually interprets the past by taking the spirit of the modern flux and projecting it back through the centuries. But as he grows increasingly weary of muddle and discord he may be glad to find a principle of wisdom and peace and order descending to him from the past in a tradition which constantly develops yet never loses touch with its source. At a time when historians are increasingly ready to treat the Church with fairness and respect, the appeal to history should play a large part in our intellectual approach. Catholicism is the religion of historical-minded people. History bears witness to the validity of Catholicism, as it bears witness to the inadequacy of Protestantism. Conversely, Catholicism lends meaning to history, moving like a bright calm river of truth through the wilderness of unreason and sin.

Since I am one of those who would firmly distinguish between the great desirability of Catholic unity and the great undesirability of a penitent return to Rome on Roman terms, I would also point out the usefulness of history in validating the Catholicism of our Anglican communion. In this as in other respects we Anglicans have special opportunities for constructing an intellectual approach to the Catholic religion because the Catholicism to which we would lead mankind does not deny its own ideal of intellectual freedom. I trust that these opportunities may never be surrendered in favor of a conception of authority which would make it very difficult for intelligent outsiders to think their way into the Church.

BUT THESE are days of urgent political, social, and economic problems. Thinking men will not have much respect for the august historical continuity of Catholicism unless that tradition can be applied to these immediate concerns. Protestant individualism has begotten a highly competitive Capitalistic civilization. The evils engendered by that civilization have begotten Communism. The dread of Communism has begotten Fascism. Capitalism, Communism, and Fascism—each is destructive, immoral, irreligious. How is one to escape from this predicament? I want to be myself, but I do not want to be myself at the expense of others. I want the strength and peace that come from being part of a group, but I do not want the group to crush me. Assertion of my individual right to strive and thrive associates me with the definitely unChristian standards of Capitalism. On the other hand, acceptance of the equally unChristian totalitarian standard robs me of that liberty which is essential to me as a man. Where then shall I turn? A satisfying answer to this problem is provided by the Catholic ideal, under which the individual achieves the fullest possible self-development as part of a well-ordered universal society of love, justice, and cooperation —a society which, to borrow a phrase from Al Smith, is communionistic rather than Communistic. Here there is no selfishness, for whatever man does is part of his contribution to the welfare of the City of God. Here there is no stamping out of personality, for the highest aim of the City of God is to bring peace, joy, and freedom to the individual. As time goes on we may expect more and more intelligent people to approach Catholic religion through Catholic sociology.

Of course there is no real line of division between the two, for the Catholic society is a universal society uniting the souls of the faithful living and the souls of the faithful departed. Here is no YMCA gospel of sentimental humanitarianism, but that perfect harmony of natural and supernatural life which is the sole remedy for the sick heart of modern man. The social mission of the Church is the spiritual mission of the Church—in the words of St. Paul, "the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ."

There is indeed a chasm between this ideal and the ways of the modern world. Nevertheless the chasm can be bridged. Even from the present muddle may be drawn the materials of an intellectual approach to the Catholic religion. Man is immersed in pragmatism, science, psychology, history, sociological perplexities. At present these are not Catholic, but they can all be bent in a Catholic direction. Modern intellect may yet turn from a pragmatism of the Many to a pragmatism of the One; from a science which denies mind to a science which gives it primacy as the creative force; from a psychology of disintegration to a psychology of integration; from a history of human confusion to a history of spiritual continuity; from a sociology of hating and grabbing to a sociology of loving and giving. And man will not advance very far along this homeward road before his Father will see him coming a great way off, and run to meet him.


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