CAN A LIBERAL BE IN GOOD FAITH?
Is there such a thing in rerum natura as a Liberal in good faith? In our day it seems almost impossible to reconcile Liberalism with good faith, which is the only thing that can give it the shadow of excuse. It cannot, however, be denied that, absolutely speaking, there may exist under peculiar (80) circumstances an exceptional case, but this will indeed be unique.
In the history of heresy we frequently find some individuals even many who in spite of themselves, are dragged into the torrent of error for no other reason than their supreme ignorance. But it must be admitted that, if ever an error has been deprived of any excuse on this score, that error is Liberalism as it exists today. Most heresies, which have rent the bosom of the Church, have attempted to disguise their errors under an exterior of affected piety. Jansenism, perhaps the most subtle of all heresies, won over a great number of adherents by its cunning simulation of sanctity. Its morals were rigid to the extreme; its dogmas formidable; the exterior conduct of its promoters ascetic and apparently enlightened. It wore the visage of a saint, while at heart it reeked with the corruption of pride. The majority of ancient heresies turned upon every subtle points of doctrine, which only the skilled theologian could discern, and upon which the ignorant multitude could give no judgement save such as they received in confidence from their leaders. By a very natural consequence, when the hierarchy of a diocese fell into error, most of his subordinates, clerics and laity, full of confidence in their pastor, fell with (81) him. This was all the easier owing to the difficulty of communication with Rome in ancient times, when the infallible voice of the Universal Pastor could not readily reach the flock in parts remote from the Chair of Peter. The diffusion of many ancient heresies, which were mostly purely theological, was nearly always due to this cause. Hence we find St. Jerome crying out in the fourth century: Ingemuit universus orbis se esse Arianum: "The whole world groaned to find itself Arian." This also explains how in the midst of great schisms and great heresies, such as the Greek schisms and Anglican heresies, there may be numbers of souls in whom the roots of the true faith are not dead, although in its exterior profession this faith may appear deformed and vicious. Such was the case in England for many years after the rebellion of Henry VIII., and such in some instances is the case in our own times; for the ready acceptance of the true faith by many English converts, of recent years, bears ample witness to the vitality of the faith in souls so grossly betrayed into heresy by apostate guides three centuries ago. Such souls united to the mystical body of the Church by Baptism, to its soul by interior sanctifying grace, are able to gain eternal salvation with ourselves. (82)
Can the same be said of Liberalism? Liberalism first presented itself under a political mask; but since its debut, this mask has become so transparent that blind indeed must be he, who cannot divine the perversity of such a miserable travesty. The veil of hypocrisy and pietism which some of its panegyrists first threw around it has been stripped off. The halo in which it was first depicted has shown itself to be not the soft light of heaven but the lurid glare of hell. It has gathered under its banner all the dregs of society, wherever corruption was its precursor and promoter.
The new doctrines, which it preached and which it wished to substitute for ancient truth, had nothing abstract nor metaphysical; it rejected everything but brutal facts, which betrayed it as the offspring of Satan and the enemy of mankind. The terrors of the French Revolution were the evidence of its origin as sprung from the corruptions of a society that had abandoned God and battened on the bestial results of Voltarian skepticism. No wonder it avoided the abstract and the metaphysical to revel in the atrociousdeeds of a bloody revolution which proclaimed the absolute sovereignty of man against his Creator and the Church.
If such were the horrors of the birth of Liberalism what must be said of its odious (83) development in our own day, when its infernal principles bask in the full light of the world's approbation? Never has an error been more severely castigated by the condemnation of the Church, never more accurately have those condemnations been borne out by the testimony of experience and history. When Protestantism is fast loosing its power, sinking into the abyss out of sheer impotence, Liberalism, even more formidable and more dangerous, fills the ranks of the decaying heresy with enemies still more resourceful, implacable and obstinate. Protestantism is now a dead dog; Liberalism a living lion going about seeking whom he may devour. Its dreadful doctrine is permeating society to the core; it has become the modern political creed and threatens us with a second revolution to turn the world once again over to paganism. Are there any good Catholics who do not believe this? Let them but read the signs of the times, not with the eyes of the world, but by the light of the faith, which Jesus Christ gave to them. "I am the way, the truth and the life," said our Divine Lord, "who follows me shall not walk in darkness." Who follows the Church follows Him, for He Himself said to the Apostles and their successors, "Who hears you, hears me." (84)
What then is the attitude of the Church towards Liberalism? Is not its entire hierarchy considered hostile to Liberalism? Does not Liberalism itself bear witness to this? What does the word Clericalism, with which the Liberals have honored those most energetically opposed to their doctrine, prove, if not that they regard the Church as their most implacable adversary? How do they look upon the Pope, upon the bishops, priests, religious of all kinds, on pious people and practical Catholics? Clericals, clericals always, that is, antiLiberals. How then can we expect to find good faith on the part of a Liberal Catholic when orthodoxy is so distinctly and completely opposed to Liberalism? Those who are capable of comprehending the principles of the question can readily satisfy themselves on its merits by its intrinsic reasons; those who cannot so comprehend have an extrinsic authority more than sufficient to form an accurate judgement for them, such as it should be in every good Christian in matters touching the faith. Light is not wanting; those who will, can see well enough; but alas! Insubordination, illegitimate interests and the desire to take and make things easy are abundantly at hand to prejudice and to blind. The seduction of Liberalism is not of the kind that blinds by a false light, but (85) rather the seduction, which, in sullying the heart, obscures the understanding. We may therefore justly believe, except perhaps with very rare exception, that it requires a very vigorous effort of charity to admit in our day, in accordance with true moral principles, the excuse of good faith in a Catholic who entertains Liberal principles.