Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
The Unending Conflict
Legionário, 15 October 1939, N. 370, p. 3
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 reduced, deep down, to only one: the conflict between the Catholic Church and her enemies.
Here is the most interesting aspect of the present time: no one realizes the nature of the great struggle that is being fought in all the nations of Europe, and partially in America and Asia.
From on all sides you will hear that this is a fight between communism and what is conventionally called "fascism." Those who are quick to say this claim there is a feud between a traditional old world and a brand-new world that arises. Others, with a narrower vision, call it "a struggle between certain races or nations," something that is not true because it is a universal movement; still others believe that all we have is a war between rich and poor.
All these explanations about what is happening are imperfect to some degree, when not outright absurd. What we are actually witnessing is a conflict between the Catholic Church and her enemies.
We are headed for chaos
Most of those who take this fight more seriously and more intelligently certainly do not recognize this truth, which nevertheless is the central truth of this whole issue. One does not recognize this because we generally encounter indirect results and fail to perceive early causes, since every event of a social nature originates from profound, underlying causes that are not easy to make out. Now unless we understand that the modern conflict revolves around the Faith and is yet another example of the struggle between the Faith and the world, which is unfolding through the ages, we will not comprehend the nature of the danger threatening the Earth. Because the threat that weighs on the modern world is not the possibility of falling into the clutches of this or that race, this or that philosophy, but the danger of losing that which created our civilization.
Faith is what built our civilization, and to the degree that we lose this creative force, our civilization will crumble more and more. If this force is completely lost, our whole civilization will be lost with it: we will move toward chaos.
A few questions to Dr. Inge
English writer Dr. William Ralph Inge (1860-1954), an Anglican professor of theology at Cambridge has just written an extraordinary phrase. He stated 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, and the words he said certainly expressed the truth.
However, Dr. Inge failed to add the single supplementary clause that would have given full meaning to his thought. He did not say that a single institution has preserved an uninterrupted tradition of that Divine teaching which he rightly considers the only and most necessary remedy for modern evils. And he did not say it 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 perplexed if pressed to explain who else in the entire world can lay claim to that title but the Church, according to her own definition: One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic.
Consider any of the many main themes that have currently led men to war, for those already fighting or about to fight. State these themes in the form of questions: “What is the right doctrine about private property, emanated from the authority of Christ?" Or, "What is the right doctrine on marriage?" Or yet, "What is the right doctrine on war?" From the authority of the Church you will obtain answers about these and all other questions you may ask. Outside the Church, you will obtain a bunch of contradictory assertions. No one can point out a final authority here or there except for us Catholics when we state what we accept as the healthy philosophy of life.
The Church’s Answer
Note also that on every capital question whose answer is indispensable to guide humanity, the answer the Church gives is based on several principles that give her support and prevent both the falsehood of exaggeration and the falsehood 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,” but affirms that property is a moral institution both in relation to consumer products and to means of production. The Church also affirms that every human being has the right to live according to human norms; that every human being is entitled to what the Church calls "human bread." Moreover, human dignity must remain unharmed. When economic pressure becomes as oppressive as to produce what the reigning pope has described as a situation “akin to slavery,” it is immoral.
There is still more: Faith presupposes a stable social organization; therefore, it does not allow for unfettered or unrestrained competition. Church doctrine on private property rests on a whole network of propositions related to each other, which, if applied in their entirety, would be able to produce a stable and happy society.
The Family and the State
Let us take another analogous point. Does the individual exist for the State or the State for the individual? The whole conflict between despotism and freedom revolves around this issue. Also to this, the Church has a multiple but perfectly clear answer.
The State exists for the family, and the State exists to improve both the physical and the spiritual life of the individual, and above all the latter. But the State has the right to demand from its citizens to defend against aggression and to obey reasonable laws. Civil authority emanates from God, but not the abuse of that authority. When it conflicts with the law of God, that authority loses all its validity.
In her long history, the Church has never produced or inspired a society subject to tyranny as a 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 education lies her clear doctrine on the family, but the family created for the salvation of the individual.
The tragic danger of our time lies in false remedies lacking effective authority, remedies based on insufficient principles, remedies derived from extremisms that propose to heal the mortal suffering that afflicts us. Under industrial capitalism, man is said to be a victim of injustice. As a solution, anyone in conflict with the Faith exclaims, “Let us end private ownership of the means of production and injustice will disappear!" Yet 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 goes through tragic and almost unbearable trials. Anyone in conflict with the Faith exclaims, “Let us put an end to marriage through fast track divorce and the evils of marriage will vanish." Abolishing marriage will only give rise to far worse and inhumane evils, because it will destroy the basic cell or unity of social life, which means that society itself will soon be annihilated.