Courtesy Reuters

The Roman Church and Political Action

CATHOLIC dynasties have disappeared in Central and Western Europe; new democratic orders have been tried in the countries where those dynasties ruled; and after a short lapse of time they too have collapsed. The Center Party in Germany, the Popular Party in Italy are remembrances of the past; the Church herself consecrated their destruction. Yet the Catholic Church is so strong that she is able to make fanatical and all-pervasive dictatorships recognize her universal corporate entity. In representing Catholics who are subject to dictatorial rule she enjoys the privilege of collective bargaining, which is denied to every other national or international group. The ease with which she gives up old policies, the cool manner in which she leaves accumulated experiences and hard-won advantages to destruction when the fight appears hopeless, the capacity to "negotiate with the devil," as Pius XI put it -- all this is a tremendous lesson to those inclined to identify a Catholic policy with the Catholic policy.

It is difficult to define the Catholic policy, especially in view of the enormous distance between the maximum and the minimum programs of Catholic political aspirations. Since the Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church has lost her character of a major propulsive force in international activity, and has been forced to adjust her dogmatism pragmatically, leaving the defense, the preservation, the expansion of Catholic interests to a careful weighing of historical and national circumstances. Between the minimum program of bare self defense and the maximum program of curialism there is room for so many shades, for so many replacements of the mobile barriers between religion and politics, that to discuss the Catholic policy as a whole seems a hopeless task. For example, in many parts of the wide Catholic world, and especially in certain non-Catholic countries, the faithful can live and die in the earnest belief that Catholicism is congenial to liberalism or to socialism. The Catholic Church offers its adherents a variety of plans for constructing the various national churches

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