restricted access Catholicism and International Order
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534 ] Catholicism and International Order1 I assume that we are all of one mind about the deplorable consequences of the schisms of Christianity, and are convinced of the vital importance of the reunion of Christendom. We are also aware that if Christendom were re-united to-morrow it would be far from coextensive with even the European world. Against it would be not only that considerable body of influence which is positively anti-Christian, but all the forces which we denominate Liberal, embracing all people who believe that the public affairs of this world and those of the next have nothing to do with each other; who believe that in a perfect world those who like golf could play golf, and those who like religion could go to church. We, on the other hand, feel convinced, however darkly, that our spiritual faith should give us some guidance in temporal matters; that if it does not, the fault is our own; that morality rests upon religious sanction, and that the social organization of the world rests upon moral sanction; that we can only judge of temporal values in the light of eternal values; we are committed to what in the eyes of the world must be a desperate belief, that a Christian worldorder , the Christian world-order, is ultimately the only one which, from any point of view, will work. So far, in fact, as we individually concern ourselves with present social, political, economic problems, we as Catholics are committed to a much more searching analysis both of the problems and of every solution put forward, than the ordinary member of the public, or even the ordinary specialist, feels called upon to make. It is not merely that we exact of any system, before we give it our adherence, that it shall perform functions to which the ordinary system maker is indifferent: that, for instance, it shall recognize the place of ecclesiastical authority. The relation between the natural and the supernatural is not to be settled by a Concordat. What I have in mind is that only the Christian thinker is compelled to examine all his premisses, and try to start from the fundamental terms and propositions . I am unqualified2† to discuss either political science or economics; and the latter science is to me distinctly more incomprehensible than mathematics. Nevertheless, I cannot help believing that the majority of actual practitioners of both political and economic science, in their very [ 535 Catholicism and International Order effort to be scientific, to limit precisely, that is, the field of their activity, make assumptions which they are not only entitled to make, but which they are not always conscious of making. All one’s views and theories, of course, have some ultimate relation to the kind of man one is. But only the Catholic, in practice, is under the manifest obligation to find out what sort of man he is − because he is under the obligation to improve that man according to definite ideals and standards. The non-Catholic, certainly the non-Christian philosopher, feeling no obligation to alter himself, and therefore no cogent need to understand himself, is apt to be under the sway of his prejudices, his social background, his individual tastes. So, I dare say, are we: but we at least, I hope, admit our duty to try to subdue them. This assertion may appear extremely presumptuous. But I speak not so much from my knowledge of economics, which is less than sketchy, but from my occasional acquaintance with economists. I feel, then, no confidence in any proposal for putting the world in order until the proposer has answered satisfactorily the question: what is the good life? Very often, I fear, he can give no better answer than pointing to the kind of life that he, as a natural man and a separated individual, happens to like. Very few people, indeed, want to be better than they are; or, to put it in more consecrated terms, hunger and thirst after righteousness. And what we happen to like as individuals outside of the main current, which is the Catholic tradition, is apt to be what our own sort of people, within a narrow limit of place and time, have been happening to like. We are likely to assume as eternal truths things that in fact have only been taken for granted by a small body of people or for a very short period of time. Instead of bringing to bear the whole history...


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