Given from the Catholic Broadcasting Station 2SM Sydney Australia
Choose a topic from Vol 2:
That question is far too vague, and takes altogether too much for granted. I must ask you to state precisely which countries you have in mind. It is possible that there is a country in which "Roman Catholicism" predominates, yet which is not socially and economically decadent. It is possible that there are countries which are socially and economically decadent, but in which non-Catholic forms of religion predominate. And it is even possible that there are socially and economically decadent countries which know no other form of Christianity in the main save Roman Catholicism, but in which that religion has ceased to have any predominating influence in their administration. You see how impossible it is to answer a question which gives rise to so many possibilities.But it is only fair to warn you now, before you submit more precise questions, that the line of thought prompting your inquiry will lead you nowhere. For you are associating two ideas which have no necessary bearing one upon the other. Firstly, "if" a Catholic country were decadent, it would not be "because" the people professed the Catholic religion. Secondly, and quite apart from the question of cause and effect, the truth, or otherwise, of a religion is not to be discerned from the alternating material prosperity and adversity of individuals or nations. For these reasons, I say that your line of thought will lead nowhere as an effort to solve any question as to the truth of Catholicism.
No one can know that; for Catholic countries have not really deteriorated. They have, perhaps, been at a standstill from certain points of view, whilst some Protestant countries have forged ahead in those specific directions.The judgment upon which the question is based is erroneous, because too sweeping.Men invariably tend to think their own nation superior to others; and even if they are superior in some things, they are apt to claim superiority in all things. We make our test of comparison the thing in which we happen perhaps to excel. An American will boast that his country possesses the mighty dollar in abundance and undoubtedly leads the world. If Australia produces more wheat and wool we tend to make those the test of greatness. Did we produce more battleships, battleships would be the test. But it is a fallacy to see our good points and overlook the good points others possess and which we do not possess. In Spain, the trains are slower than in England, but national proficiency in music is far higher. In material and industrial progress, apart from its disastrous consequences, England and Germany had the coal and iron. The Southern countries had not. The age of inventions was bound to benefit more the better adapted countries from a geographical and geological point of view. The Reformation, above all, helped in England. The confiscation of Church lands and property enriched the few, and had Capitalists ready to finance the great industrial enterprises. In Catholic countries the wealth was more evenly distributed and no group of individuals was in the position of the wealthy of England.But the swing of the pendulum is altering things under our very eyes. Industrialism and Capitalism are failing. Italy is rising, still remaining Catholic. England is falling. No one could maintain that she holds the dominant place amongst the powers she once held. And her internal miseries are much greater than many suspect, with the poverty of the masses, vast unemployment, and indescribable slums in all her greater cities. I am just facing facts impartially. The material and industrial progress of Northern European Protestant countries was due chiefly to geographical, political, and racial factors. If religion had any influence at all, it was because Protestantism not only made men lose faith in the supernatural claims of the Catholic Church, but tended to unbelief in the supernatural altogether. Protestantism has certainly tended to make men lose sight of spiritual things, diverting their attention to natural and material things as being more important. I confine this to material and industrial progress. In other matters, there has been retrogression and a deterioration not found in Catholic countries, above all in domestic and social ethical standards. I have no time to give you more, but I have indicated something of the vastness of the question.This matter, of course, has no bearing on the truth or otherwise of the Catholic religion. We can't have the Catholic religion true when Spain was dominant in the sixteenth century, and the same religion false when England happened to be dominant in the nineteenth century. I am sure you see that. Catholicism must be judged on its own merits as a religion, not from the material fluctuations of nations in things mutable of their very nature.