CATHOLIC LIBERALISM OR LIBERAL CATHOLICISMPeace in war is an incongruity. Foes in the midst of battle cannot well be friends. Where the pressure of conflicting forces is intensest there is little opportunity of reconciliation. Yet this absurdity and contradiction we find in the odious and repulsive attempt to unite Liberalism with Catholicism. The monstrosity resulting is what is known as the Liberal Catholic or the (36) Catholic Liberal. Strange as it may seem, Catholics with good intentions have paid tribute to this absurdity and indulged the vain hope of peace with the eternal enemy.
This fatal error has its source in the vain and exaggerated desire of reconciling and harmonizing in peace doctrines utterly incompatible and hostile by their very nature.
Liberalism is the dogmatic affirmation of the absolute independence of the individual and of the social reason. Catholicity is the dogma of the absolute subjection of the individual and of the social order to the revealed law of God. One doctrine is the exact antithesis of the other. They are opposites in direct conflict. How is it possible to reconcile them? Opposition here necessarily means conflict, and the two can no more harmonize than the square can be made one with the circle.
To the promoters of Catholic Liberalism the thing appears easy enough. "It is admirable," they say, "for the individual reason to be subject to the law of God if it so wishes, but we must distinguish between the public and the private reason, especially in an age like ours. The modern State does not recognize God or the Church. In the conflict of different religious creeds the public reason must stand neutral and impartial. Hence the necessary independence (37) of the public reason. The State as State can have no religion. Let the simple citizen if he wishes, submit to the revelation of Jesus Christ, but the statesman and the man in public life must comport himself as if no revelation existed." Now all this means civil or social atheism. It means that society is independent of God, its Author; that while individuals may recognize their dependence on the divine law, civil society should not; a distinction whose sophism is founded on an intolerable contradiction.
It is clear that if the individual reason is obliged to submit to the law of God, the public and the social reason cannot logically escape the same duty without falling into an extravagant dualism, by virtue of which men would be forced to submit to the law of two contrary and opposed consciences. Privately men would have to be Christian, publicly men would have to be free to be atheistic. Furthermore the road is open to an odious tyranny; for if the public conscience were independent of the Christian law and ignored it, there would be no public recognition of the obligation to protect the Church by the civil arm in the exercise of her rights. Nay, more; the civil power would readily become the means of persecution, the rulers hostile to the Church, condemning divine law, could actually, under (38) cover of authority, legislate against Christianity. Nor is this a fanciful picture, for France and Italy, legislating today on the basis of the sovereign independence of the social and public reason have enacted odious laws which hold the Church in those countries in distressful legal bondage. And the Holy Father himself is now a prisoner within the walls of the Vatican on account of the violent usurpation of his domains by an atheist government. But the results of the fatal distinction does not stop with the functions of legislation and administration subjecting the Church to social and civil persecution; in modern times it has gone further still and extends its baneful influence to the school room, propagating itself by placing the education of youth under its dominating influence. It forms the conscience of youth not according to the divine law which acknowledges the will of God, but upon a premeditated and careful ignorance of that law. It is as secular education that it seizes upon the future and breeds atheism in the hearts of the coming generations.
The Catholic Liberalist or the Liberal Catholic admitting the fatal distinction between the private and the public reason, thus throws open the gates to the enemies of the faith, and, posing as a man of (39) intellect with generous and liberal views, stultifies reason by his gross offense against the principle of contradiction. He is thus both a traitor and a fool. Seeking to please the enemies of the faith he has betrayed his trust, the faith itself; imagining he is upholding the rights of reason, he surrenders it in the most abject way to the spirit of denial, the spirit of untruth. He has not the courage to withstand the derision of his cunning foe. To be called intolerant, illiberal, narrow, Ultramontane, reactionist, is gall and wormwood to his little soul. Under this epithetical fire he gives way and surrenders his birthright of faith and reason for a mess of Liberal pottage.