Given from the Catholic Broadcasting Station 2SM Sydney Australia
Choose a topic from Vol 1:
Let me lay this ghost once and for all. The assertion implicit in such a question ignores the facts of history. A few centuries ago Spain was the dominant nation, and it rose to power as a Catholic nation. On your principles, pagan Romans could have argued that their paganism was true, pointing with scorn to Druid-ridden England, and its lack of culture. Italy, under Mussolini, is to-day leaping to the front and disturbing politicians of other countries; and its rapid advance has not demanded the relinquishing of Catholicity. As for enlightenment, Protestant artists and architects go to study the great masters and the architectural gems in Catholic countries, and are inspired by Catholic culture! Temporal progress is a fluctuating thing, dependent on political, geographical, racial, economic, and personal factors, and that quite independently of religion. I have mentioned that the assertion violates logic from the Christian point of view, since Christ did not promise temporal welfare. And it is absurd, on the face of it. For it is like arguing, "Jones is a millionaire; his religion must be true. Jones has become a bankrupt; the same religion must be false!" Finally, if Protestantism is justified by the present temporal prosperity of Protestant nations, it will be falsified by the future collapse of those nations. You can be quite sure that the present relative position of the nations of this world is not going to remain unchanged until the end of the world. That would be against all the laws of history and of the mutability of men. Alexander the Great longed for more worlds to conquer—his empire has crumbled and gone. The Roman Empire has crumbled and gone. The British Empire will crumble and go—yielding to further political changes and regimes, ever fluctuating and variable. Protestantism is changing daily, and will go even as the religions of the Greek and Roman Empires. The Catholic Church alone is changeless, and will last through all political and national upheavals, as she has done through all the changes of the last two thousand years. Talk about the relative temporal enlightenment and progress of various countries impresses no thinking man in the matter of religion. It is a phase which neither proves nor disproves the truth of a religion, but is simply irrelevant.
Yes, look at them, but with open eyes. The temporal administration of these countries is not in the hands of the Church. And, in any case, as I have said, Spain had the Catholic religion when she was the first power in Europe. Meantime, remember that the Catholic Church is the mother of civilization. She preserved literature, and but for the transcriptions of her monks, you would have scarcely a single classical author of ancient times. The Catholic faith has inspired the loftiest works of art, architecture, and music. The economic fluctuations are simply irrelevant.
They have done so, and they do. And what do you mean by Catholic countries being thus burdened? The women of Jerusalem wept, in their health and strength, as they saw Jesus carrying His cross. But instead of accepting their compassion, He said, "Weep not over me, but over yourselves and your children." Catholics, too, say to you, "Weep not over us. Have your progress in worldly advantages, comforts, and pleasures. Christ promised happiness in self-renunciation and generosity. The comfort lover does not know what these things mean." The Catholic Church is mainly interested in progress in holiness and virtue; and that is the only progress worth while in the end. The nations that have progressed in worldly goods have religiously progressed into indifference. As with individuals, the more these nations have, the less they want God. But this is not the fault of progress as such. It is the unhappy result of a Protestantism which came into being just as the swing towards scientific progress came upon the world. That swing would have come in any case. It did not come because of Protestantism; but Protestantism was unable to hold the religious allegiance of men in the midst of temporal prosperity. And in their luxuries, men are forgetting God.
They are not. Certain countries, whose inhabitants happen to be mainly Catholics, are characterized by frequent political upheavals, but that is a very different matter. Temperament accounts for this in some degree. Descendants of the Latin races have not the same calm self-possession of the colder and more phlegmatic northern Europeans. Again, economic prosperity in the northern peoples gave less cause for turbulence, though internal disputes are rapidly becoming a feature amongst these people also. But the Catholic religion as such is not involved in this question. Italy is at present advancing, whilst steadily restoring Catholicism after its disfavor since the revolution of 1870, a revolution produced not by Catholic but by anti-Catholic influences. Catholicism and progress are here going hand in hand. Another Catholic country could easily be on the decline. Holland has declined since it became Protestant, but no Catholic dreams of blaming Protestantism for this. We must look to natural factors to explain the natural swing of the pendulum in national and political matters. We can no more connect the rise and fall of nations with religion as such than we can judge an individual's religion by his material well-being. Catholicism, if accepted, will result even in the temporal well-being both of individuals and of nations. If Catholicism does not seem to do so, it is because it is not being put into practice sincerely by those professing it. But we are not justified in arguing back to religion from all types of temporal well-being and progress.
The whole populace does not. Political revolutionaries and anti-religious minorities take advantage of the lack of political organization of Catholics at times. In Russia, the attack on the Church is due to anti-religious forces, and to anti-Christian Communists. In Mexico, anti-religious forces are also responsible, even though some of the revolutionaries against the Church are nominally Catholic. In Spain, whilst the country was involved in political changes, an anti-religious minority, backed by foreigners and supplies from Russian and other Communists, attacked and looted religious institutions and churches. No well-informed Christians of any denomination rejoice over these anti-religious movements. They do not proceed from any desire of a purer religion, but work for the destruction of all religion.
Atheists and bad Catholics may rebel against the Catholic Church, which condemns their vices. But why should anyone rebel against the Protestant Churches? Protestantism is most obliging as a rule, and instead of going against the grain, and ordering its adherents to renounce their evil inclinations, either remains discreetly silent, or breaks down Christian principles to suit the desires of men. How often we notice Protestant leaders first studying what men want, and then interpreting Christianity accordingly! The Catholic Church first asks what Christ wants, and then tells men that, even though it be uncomfortable, they must live up to it. Protestant Churches sanction divorce, birth-control, and almost any heretical doctrine about Christ and His teachings, impose no strict obligation of Sunday worship, and are so harmless generally that no one would think of being up in arms against them. If a man does not like them, he just ignores them. The Catholic Church, however, is known to be a really vital force, and men find that they cannot ignore her. Enemies of Christianity are not concerned much with Protestantism. It is in Catholicism that they recognize the deadly enemy of atheism, materialism, and Communism.
It is not from want of ability. Nor is it because the Church has robbed the people. It is because England drained the country dry, confiscating property from Irishmen and bestowing it upon Englishmen, and taxing the people to fill the English exchequer. This has been one of the chief causes of the dissatisfaction in Ireland through the centuries. On the other hand, money has been poured into Northern Ireland from England. Thus English policy has bought the love of the Protestant North, and driven the Catholic South to poverty and distress. I have not one drop of Irish blood in my veins, but I cannot shut my eyes to the facts of history. Any old stick will do, of course, with which to beat the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church is there to be the object of our contempt and hatred. And it is all the more inviting when it enables us to load the wretch with our own iniquities, and so divert attention from ourselves. But let us be honest. We Englishmen are dishonest when we suggest that the effects of our own injustice are really due to the blighting influence of the Catholic Church.
Many of them have not advanced from a worldly point of view, and none of them has advanced in Christian holiness and virtue. Those Protestant countries which have shown material progress do not owe it to their adoption of Protestantism. I admit, of course, that Protestantism has allowed men to divert their attention from spiritual to material interests. Undivided attention to worldly pursuits would make for additional progress in such affairs. But, in the main, scientific and temporal progress would have come in any case. The Reformation arrived almost simultaneously with an era of discoveries, which were the cumulative result of preceding Catholic genius. In the new industrial era, too, the northern European countries, which happened to be Protestant, had the necessary coal and iron. But the coal and iron would have been there just the same had they remained Catholic.
Were that so, which I do not grant, Luther would have had the wrong influence from a Christian point of view. Christianity is to make people better, not to make them mightier. Catholicism tends to the material well-being of nations as of individuals by conferring peace and contentment, not by conferring might and luxury. And the fruit of German might was the Great War, in which Protestant Germany failed. Christianity, of course, was not responsible for that war. Abandonment of true Christianity by those who still nominally professed that religion, was the cause.
England is not a Protestant country, except nominally. The irreligious easily outnumber the religious in England. Her material prosperity has been accompanied by frightful spiritual loss. Her subjects have drifted from God, and agnosticism, materialism, and atheism have swept through the masses. And that does not look much like a blessing of God. But, as I have said, you are on the wrong lines. Christ came to make men unworldly, holy, and spiritual. And His religion must be tested by these results. If prosperity and earthly might are to be the tests, then give up Christianity, as England, alas, is doing. For Christ died between two despised thieves, and predicted suffering for His followers. He said, "Blessed are the poor," not, "Blessed are the rich"; "Fear not little flock," not, "Fear not, ye mightiest of the land"; "He that exalts himself shall be humbled"; not, "He that exalts himself certainly has My true religion." His religion is not of this world, and He solemnly warns us that it is of little profit to gain the whole world at the expense of one's soul. If you base your religion on the political greatness of nations which profess it, the swing of the political pendulum will destroy your religion in no time.
You are wasting your prayers. The Catholic Church, even if our country became entirely Catholic, would not wish to assume purely civil government. Free and easy divorce laws would be repealed; the sale of birth-control requirements would be prohibited; and various other un-Christian liberties would be withdrawn. But where legislation did not conflict with God's laws, it would be unaffected by the predominance of the Catholic religion.