If someone told you that Catholicism was a religion of world domination, you might be taken aback, even shocked. But if you were an instructed social Catholic you would, on reflection, see that there is an essential truth in this crudely put statement. You might respond by agreeing, but adding the rider that the Catholic religion seeks to dominate the world not by arms, but by alms; alms not so much for the materially poor as for the spiritually poor.
Now, the key phrase here is instructed social Catholic, because those Catholics who are neither instructed nor social would probably doubt that the Catholic religion does, indeed, want to dominate the world. Such a Catholic might cling to Christ in the way that a survivor of a shipwreck clings to a lifebuoy, but he has no conception or understanding of the idea of helping others to cling to the lifebuoy, thereby saving, not merely their bodies, but their immortal souls. For such a Catholic, the Catholic religion is fundamentally uni-dimensional – me and my God! – and is the quintessential example of the ‘me’ culture which is currently strangling the earth. It is a kind of biblical Judaism run to absurdity: from a Chosen People, we proceed to a Chosen Person who, for all that, is remarkably unremarkable! Indeed, this kind of Catholic is so unremarkable, so contourless, that you would swear that he did not exist! The quality of the evidence for his existence is of the order of the evidence for the existence of the Loch Ness Monster – reports, ‘sightings’, questionable eye-witness accounts and so on, but little concrete evidence that would convince a jury of ‘twelve good men and true’.
And yet, if we listen attentively and if we look closely, we will see not merely that he exists, but that in the Church of the twentieth century he exists in abundance!
How is it that we have come to this point in the historical development of the Church – that Church which is the Mystical Body of Christ and thus a real body, a structure, an organisation – that we can identify plainly two types of Catholic possessing fundamentally contradictory notions of the Faith? On the one hand there is the Catholic who believes that his religion possesses an integral social dimension to its activity, whilst on the other there is the Catholic who believes that his religion is one that is exclusively a He-Christ relationship, and thus by its nature a matter of private concern.
A century or less ago, every Catholic knew in one way or another that the Catholic Faith was social, that it went beyond the individual; though whether or not he acted upon this knowledge is an altogether different matter. Today it is rare to meet anyone who knows that Catholicism is a social creed, let alone acts upon it. A century ago the Catholic who saw no social dimension to his faith would have been called a Protestant, for the hallmark of Protestantism is that it is Christianity with the social element cut out; whilst today the social Catholic is variously regarded as a relic or a fanatic according to the temperament of the knowledge-less critic!
In mitigation of the ‘Private Catholic’, we must say that he has the excuse – particularly if under the age of forty – that he has never been taught that the Catholic Church has a string to its bow called Social Teaching, the teaching that is apostolic and puts the social back into Catholicism. This should not be a cause of surprise for the subject has barely been mentioned in speech or in script since the halcyon days of the Second Vatican Council; this was the Council that wanted us to ‘get with it’, but left us ‘without it’ – without the True Mass, without the old certitudes, without the Social Teaching, the last being but the logical consequence of the first two.
Now it is important to the Social Catholic and to the Private Catholic to understand what the beliefs of the Private Catholic are and why they do not end in union with God, but in the domination of the godless.
For our purposes we can identify two types of Private Catholic, fundamentally different in character and manner, yet producing the same disastrous end. It is as though they both set out in wholly different directions, and yet end up in Jericho, the symbolic city of Hell!
The progressive private Catholic is constantly doing things, but rarely the right things; if he takes any notice of Social Teaching whatsoever, it is only to the degree that the said teaching does not infringe on his ‘autonomy’, his ‘human rights’ or what not. This is hardly surprising because this type of Catholic approaches Catholicism as if it were a deluxe box of ‘Lego’ or ‘Meccano’. You take out the pieces that appeal to you, or catch your eye, or simply look easiest to use, and you proceed to put them together by hook or by crook, with the results that we see all about us. The varieties of ‘Catholicism’ on show as a result of this method approximate, to a greater or lesser extent, to the efforts of a six-year-old let loose on a Lego box. Here and there a piece goes together, but largely it is an uninspired affair that will self-evidently not stand the test of time: and just like the children, the progressive Private Catholics get bored with ‘their creation’, smash it up and begin again. No thought is given by the child or the progressive to the existence of the ‘Instruction Sheet’, or really to the writer of the Instruction Sheet’ who, of course, knows best. In the world of the progressive Private Catholic , ‘creativity’ is a sacred word that is to know no bounds, even when it is the creativity of the ignoramus.
This type of Catholic is relatively harmless, however, in comparison to the conservative Private Catholic, if only because he is an evident amateur. He knows nothing of cookery but proceeds to make an omelette and ends up with egg on his face. He invariably takes himself seriously, but few others do; he cannot even be regarded as a ‘village idiot’ for the reason that at least the village idiot has a role to play and a place in which to carry it out. The progressive Private Catholic is forever seeking a home and, therefore, forever seeking a role.
No, far more destructive of the Catholic religion is the conservative Private Catholic if only because, outwardly at least, he appears to be orthodox in his faith. He is not an evident amateur, he does not provoke the laughing contempt of the non-Catholic and, indeed, he appears to fulfil the religious demand to be charitable, truthful and humble. It is very much akin the the wolf in sheep’s clothing, though frequently this wolf does not seem fully conscious of the fact that he is a ravenous wolf.
The mark of the Private Catholic here is that he somehow regards the social aspect of Catholicism as a kind of optional extra thrown in by mediaeval popes anxious to justify the Papal States or their busy-bodying; and the paradox of this type of Catholic is that they can be very public about their private Catholicism!
Cardinal Ratzinger, for example, believes that the time for Catholic States, for a Catholic world, has passed; that it is no longer feasible. It is, so we are told, a matter of working within the constraints and spirit of the modern world, and doing the best we can in our private lives. Superficially, this looks plausible, but a moment’s serious reflection shows it for what it is: a lie, and a cowardly one at that. When was the world ever truly open to the evangelization of the Gospel? If the limitations of the world had been a relevant criterion for the battle for the Faith, the Catholic church would have died on Calvary with Christ. It is a cowardly lie because it deliberately ignores that the Confirmed of the Church, “the soldiers of Christ”, are there precisely to subdue the world and bring it into submission to Christ. Did not Christ command: “Teach all nations!”? He meant not merely the individuals within the nation, but the collective entity that is the nation: the conversion of the individual, the family, the community, the nation, the State. This for the reason that everything created by the hand of God has an objective duty to submit to the will of God. It is for this reason that when on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus commanded the wind and waves to be calmed, they obeyed! For Cardinal Ratzinger and those like him, who claim that the Catholic State is no longer possible, there is the awful implication that Jesus was not God, for if Jesus commanded the impossible He thereby demonstrated that the nature of God was not in Him.
What the conservative Private Catholic does not grasp is that if Catholicism does not seek to conquer the world something else will, for nature abhors a vacuum, and all the more so is this true of the spiritual sphere. Have such Catholics forgotten who is the Prince of the World? Have they not understood that Christ the King and every memory of Him must be eradicated from the face of the earth before Satan can come into his dominion?
Everywhere we see the stamping out of the Faith in societies and in souls, yet the conservative Private Catholic sees only that there are nearly one billion Catholics on the planet. “We are on the road to victory!”, he says smugly. But the realist asks, “How many of this nearly one billion are Catholic in anything other than name?” How many are ‘pro-choice’ on abortion and contraception? How many are materialists and usurers? How many approve of divorce, women ‘priests’, and consenting perverts? How many believe in the Real Presence? In Christ’s divinity? In the Virgin Birth? In the Resurrection? ….. according to the age-long belief of Holy Church. Can they recite the Creed, understand its implications, and assent to them? Do they recite the rosary? Do they even know what the rosary is?
Open your eyes, Private Catholic! Your indifference, your idleness, your inactivity, your cowardice are crucifying Christ again! Are you really that smug, self-centred and stupid to believe that the world under the domination of Satan is going to allow you to carry on your cosy version of Catholicism for the rest of your life? When Satan has the whip hand, he uses that whip! Ask the Catholic martyrs of the Spanish Civil War! Ask the Cristeros of Mexico! Or are you so private in your faith that you did not even know that they trod the path to Calvary in their thousands to be crucified alongside their Saviour? Then ask yourself this: are you prepared to be beaten, tortured, burned alive, shot, beheaded for your faith? They were; and they suffered this precisely because they followed Christ’s injunction that all nations be taught, and not merely all individuals.
Let us look at Catholic Social Teaching from another angle. It is but the logical development of the commission to convert. Why? Because any individual converted to the Faith is not a mere individual; he is a social creature too and belongs to something wider: a family, a business, a club, a nation. This being so, there can be only two ways of approaching the world: either you say that your faith is the centre of your life and radiates out and influences every other aspect in some way or other; or you say it is purely personal and that it does not/must not have any influence outside its narrow parameters. The first is the Catholic and orthodox position and is a matter of common sense: if the Son of God had to die on the Cross for our sakes, it means that nothing of greater value or merit is conceivable and thus demands a total and committed response. This is the essence of that Good News upon which you lay so little emphasis: Christ died that all men might be saved and thus believers had to spread this Good News to the ends of the earth.
What kind of person is it that does not spread good news? What kind of Catholic is it that does not want the salvation of his friends and neighbours? To be a Private Catholic is a contradiction for it bottles up what should be poured out.
Take the Catholic journalist. In accordance with his faith he tells the truth to his wife, his children, his friends. But if his being Catholic has no bearing on his work for a Capitalist daily newspaper, he becomes indistinguishable from the rest of his colleagues for whom the Incarnation has no practical implication either.
If a banker believed that his religion was his own affair and was unconnected to his wider life, you would find that he would attempt to be scrupulously fair with his wife, his children and his friends. Yet once he is ensconced in his office, he is confronted by the small businessman in trouble in the latest Capitalist recession; by the young family in arrears on their first mortgage; by the farmer on the brink of ruin because of a prolonged drought or the malicious application of a mountain of Ministry regulations. What does he do? Does he see in each of them the image of God? Not likely, religion is a personal thing not a social instrument! There is no sentiment in business, is there? So he enforces the usury that persecutes and kills the individual, the family, the nation. Does he not see that he is akin to the moneylenders in the Temple whom Jesus drove out? Does he not see that justice is an admirable thing based on the injunction: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you?” Does he not see that his justice and kindness to his family and friends will earn a pat on the back from Jesus, and then a whip upon his back for his injustice and cruelty to his fellow men?
It is the purpose of Social Teaching to point out these contradictions of thought, belief and action. It seeks to make the journalist, the banker, the farmer, the artisan, the worker, the bureaucrat and the politician understand that the principles of the Faith are universal, that they apply in every facet of our lives. How could they not? Truth, justice, honour, equity, these ideals are good in themselves, but all the better in their application; just as food is a natural necessity and good, but all the better in being consumed! A world that acknowledges the theoretical claims of truth and justice, but does not grant them practically is one that is godless and, in the trust sense of the word, completely inhuman.
Truth is a universal virtue that knows no border; it is not restricted to the individual but extends to society. To believe that it stops at your front door is not only absurd, it is selfish. To say that its writ will run in your family, but not in your newspaper is to empty the word ‘truth’ of any meaning: and if you claim to be a Catholic such arbitrariness necessarily empties your faith of content, for Christ said that He was “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”
If the banker cannot see that justice is for all people, and not merely for his personal circle, how can he seriously receive what he regards as justice from God? Christ’s whole life testifies to the fact that He was always more inclined to listen to the poor rather than to the rich, to the blind man and the beggar rather than to the banker or the brigand, for the simple reason that the former sought His justice whilst the latter did not.
Christ asked only that people believe in Him, follow His teachings – that is, to be Christ-like and put on the New Man. But the journalist or banker who claims to be Catholic, but limits his attempts to be Christ-like to his private life is really the person who puts on the New Man when it suits him and not otherwise. It is not merely hypocrisy, it is the most terrible mockery of the Incarnation, Passion, Death and Resurrection of Our Lord, since such a Catholic determines where, if and in what proportion Christ’s teachings will be observed.
Such an attitude, Private Catholic, is not on since with Christ it is all or nothing. If you do not want a Catholic society, fair enough, but do not complain if what you do want in the Catholic religion is taken away from you. If you start picking and choosing, others are going to do likewise with the result that nothing will be left. If you decide to pick up the Cross of Christ understand that it is for life, not merely those periods outside working hours. It is as though you are saying that you determine where the merits of Christ’s liberally-spilled blood will be applied. “Oh yes God, a drop of blood here for my family and myself but not there thank you very much as that is likely to interfere with my career, my bank account, my social standing, my freedom, my ambition,” or whatever.
The Saint George Educational Trust, 225 Andover House, George Yard, Andover, Hampshire, SP10 1PB.