CAN CATHOLICS AND LIBERALS EVER UNITE?A question very pertinent to our times and our surroundings is, should Catholics (155) combine with the more moderate Liberals for the common end of resisting the advance of the revolutionists or extreme Liberals? With some this is a golden dream, with others a perfidious snare by means of which they seek to paralyze our powers and divide us.
What should we think of these wouldbeunionists, we who wish, above all things, the wellbeing of our holy religion? In general we should think such unions are neither good nor commendable. Liberalism, let its form be as moderated, as wheedling as possible, is by its very essence in direct and radical opposition to Catholicity. Liberals are bornenemies of Catholics, and it is only accidentally that both can have interests truly common.
It is possible, however, in very rare cases that union on the part of Catholics with a Liberal group against the Radicals may prove useful under given conditions. Where such a union is really opportune, it must be established on the following basis:
1. The bond of union should never be neutrality or the conciliation of interests and principles essentially opposed, such as are the interests and principles of Catholics and Liberals. This neutrality or conciliation has been condemned by the Syllabus, (156) and is, consequently, a false basis. Such a union would be a betrayal, an abandonment of the Catholic camp by those who are bound to defend it. An instance would be to compromise Catholic education with Secularism by banishing religious instruction and influences from the school room. The basis of such conciliation is false, as it necessarily sacrifices Catholic interests and principles. It concedes to Secularism what is essential to the integrity of Catholic education, viz., the formation of the Catholic character in children, and admits the validity of the principle of neutrality. It can never be said, "Let us abstract from our differences of doctrine, etc." Such a loose abdication of principle can never obtain in the Catholic estimation. It would be the same as to say: "In spite of the radical and essential opposition of principles between us, we can after all agree in the practical application of these principles." This is simply an intolerable contradiction.
2. Much less could we accord to the Liberal group, with whom a temporary and accidental alliance is formed, the honor of enrolling ourselves under its banner. Let each party keep distinct its own proper device, or let the Liberals in question range themselves under our ensign, if they wish (157) to fight with us against a common enemy. We can never assume their emblem under any circumstances. In other words let them unite themselves to us; we can never unite ourselves to them. Accustomed as they are to a varying and motley ensign, it cannot be difficult for them to accept our colors. For us there can be but one flag, the one emblem of the one unvarying faith which we ever profess.
3. We must never consider this alliance constant and normal. It can never be any thing else than a fortuitous and transient condition, passing away the moment the immediate exigency of its existence ceases. There can be no constant and normal union except between homogeneous elements. For people of convictions radically opposed to harmonize for any length of time would require continual acts of heroic virtue on the part of both sides. Now heroism is no ordinary thing nor of daily exercise. Such radical incompatibility would simply be to expose the undertaking to lamentable failure, and to build upon contradictory opinions, whose only accord is accidental. For a transitory act of common defense or attack, such an attempt at a coalition of forces is permissible, and even praiseworthy and extremely useful, provided, however, that we never forget the (158) conditions or rules we have already laid down as governing the exceptional circumstances obtaining in a given case; these rules are an imprescriptible necessity. Outside of these conditions, not only should we hold that such union with any group for any enterprise whatever, would be unfavorable to Catholics, but actually detrimental. Instead of augmenting our forces, as would be the case in the union of homogeneous elements, it would paralyze and nullify the vigor of those, who would be able , if alone, to do something for the defense of the truth. Without doubt, as the proverb runs, "Unhappy the one who walks alone." But there is another proverb equally true which says: "Better seek solitude than bad company." It was St. Thomas, we believe, who said: Bona est unio sed potior est unitas: "Union is good, but unity is better." If we have to sacrifice true unity for the sake of an artificial and forced union not only is nothing gained, but much is lost.
Experience has always shown that the result of such unions, outside of the conditions just laid down, is barren. Their results always renders the strife even more bitter and rancorous. There is not a single example of such a coalition which served either to edify or consolidate. (159)