This article was written at the beginning of World War II in the face of the impending crisis. Although the world situation has changed since then and even worsened, the same “unending conflict” between the Church and Her enemies continues.
Taken from the newspaper, Legionário, October 15, 1939
“The Unending Conflict” is the title of an essay by Hilaire Belloc, a well-known English Catholic writer and intimate friend of the late Chesterton, published in the London journal The Universe. Belloc demonstrates that all controversies in these hectic times are basically reduced to only one: the conflict between the Catholic Church and Her enemies.
One most interesting aspect about our present times is that no one realizes the nature of the great struggle now involving all the nations of Europe, and some countries in America and Asia.
Everywhere you will hear that this is a fight between communism and what is commonly called “fascism.” Those same people who are quick to make this claim will say that the struggle is between a traditional old world and a rising brand-new world. Others, with a narrower vision, call it “a struggle between certain races or nations.” This latter claim is false since the struggle involves a universal movement. Still, others believe that it is merely a war between rich and poor.
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All these explanations are imperfect to some degree, when not outright absurd. What we are witnessing is a conflict between the Catholic Church and Her enemies.
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Most of the more serious and intelligent observers of this fight certainly do not recognize this truth. However, it is the central truth of this whole struggle. People do not perceive this because they generally look at the indirect effects of events. Since any social event originates from profound, underlying causes, they fail to see the first causes, because they are not easy to perceive.
We must understand that the present modern conflict revolves around the Faith. Our fight is is yet another example of the struggle between the Faith and the world that has unfolded throughout the ages. Without understanding this, we will never comprehend the nature of the danger threatening the Earth. This is because the threat that weighs on the modern world is not the possibility of falling into the clutches of this or that race, or this or that philosophy. It is the danger of losing that which created our civilization.
Faith built our civilization. To the degree we lose the creative force of our Faith, our civilization will increasingly crumble. If this force is completely lost, our whole civilization will be lost, and we will move toward chaos.
A few Questions to Dr. Inge
English writer Dr. William Ralph Inge, an Anglican professor of theology at Cambridge, has written an extraordinary statement. He wrote that unless the world submits once again to the teachings of Our Lord, it is doomed to perish. “Nothing can save us,” Dr. Inge said, “but the laws and doctrines of Christ.” As everyone knows, he is a very intelligent person, and almost as importantly, an extremely cultured man. He got very close to the truth since his words certainly expressed truth.
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However, Dr. Inge failed to add the one extra clause that would have given full meaning to his thought. He did not say that a particular institution has preserved an uninterrupted tradition of that Divine teaching which he rightly considers the only and most necessary remedy for modern evils. He did not say this because he does not believe it. Dr. Inge does not believe that the Catholic Church speaks with the voice of Christ or that She is the one who possesses the whole tradition of Christ. Yet, like any other man, Dr. Inge would be hard-pressed to explain who else in the entire world can lay claim to this title. It is only the Church that can do this, which according to Her own definition is One, Holy, Roman, Catholic and Apostolic.
Consider any of the principal themes that have led men to war, past, present or future. State these themes in the form of questions: “What is the true doctrine about private property, based on the authority of Christ?” Or, “What is the true doctrine on marriage?” Or yet, “What is the true doctrine on war?” From the authority of the Church, we find answers to these and all other questions we may ask. Outside the Church, we will obtain an assortment of contradictory assertions. No one can cite a final authority anywhere, except for Catholics when we state what we accept as a sound philosophy of life.
The Church’s Answer
Note also, that on every capital question in which an answer is indispensable to guide humanity, the Church’s response is based on several principles that support Her position, and prevent both the falsehood of exaggeration or the fallacy of treating universal matters as if they were isolated subjects. Thus, for example, in relation to private property, the Church affirms the right of ownership. She does not say, like the Communists: “The ownership of the means of production is immoral.” Rather, She affirms that property is a moral institution both in relation to consumer goods and means of production. The Church also affirms that every human being has the right to live according to human norms. Every human being is entitled to what the Church calls “human bread.” That is to say, that human dignity must always be maintained. When economic pressure becomes oppressive, producing a situation “akin to slavery,” it is immoral.
The Church teaches yet more: Faith presupposes a stable society; therefore, it does not allow for unfettered or unrestrained competition. Church doctrine on private property rests on a whole network of interrelated propositions, which if applied entirely, produces a stable and happy society.
The Family and the State
Let us look at another analogous point of contention. Does the individual exist for the State or the State for the individual? The conflict between tyranny and freedom revolves around this issue. The Church offers a perfectly clear answer.
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The State exists for the family and to improve both the physical and especially the spiritual life of the individual. However, the State has the right to demand that citizens defend the nation from aggression and obey reasonable laws. Civil authority comes from God. The abuse of authority does not come from God. Indeed, when authority acts contrary to the law of God, it loses all its validity.
In Her long history, the Church has never produced or inspired a society that supported tyranny as a ruling principle, nor has She produced a society in which the authority of civil magistrates was denied.
At the root of the Church’s entire policy and social teaching lies Her clear doctrine on the family, an institution created for the salvation of the individual.
The tragic danger of our time lies in false solutions lacking effective authority to implement them. It also lies in false solutions based on insufficient principles, or false solutions springing from extremism that proposes to heal the mortal suffering that afflicts us all.
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Thus, for example, some might say that man under industrial capitalism, is allegedly a victim of injustice. As a solution, those opposed to the Faith exclaim, “Let us end private ownership of the means of production, and this injustice will disappear!” However, this will only cause worse suffering; for slavery is the only possible alternative to private property as a social institution.
Married life always has some tribulations, and sometimes couples suffer tragic and almost unbearable trials. Those contrary to the Faith will exclaim, “Let us put an end to marriage through fast-track divorce, and then the evils of marriage will vanish.” Abolishing marriage will only give rise to far worse, inhumane evils because it will destroy the basic cell or unit of social life. This will soon result in the annihilation of society itself.