VIEWED from the standpoint of the Vatican's religious and ecclesiastical interests the present alignment of the European belligerents is very different from what it was in 1914. Indeed the former situation has been almost reversed.
When the war began in 1914 France had just been the scene of a long religious conflict; she had just adopted the principle of separation between Church and State and had broken off diplomatic relations with the Holy See. England, a Protestant country, was engrossed with the Irish question, involving large Catholic interests and carrying a strong romantic appeal to the Catholic conscience. Tsarist Russia, the ally of England and France, was the champion of Eastern Orthodoxy and the oppressor of Catholic Poland. An Anglo-French victory in Western Europe therefore did not promise any advantage for the Catholic Church; and as for a Russian victory in the East, that would have sealed the fate of Poland and would have closed the Balkans to further Catholic expansion. On the other side stood Germany, a Protestant country to be sure, but with a large Catholic minority. The German Catholics numbered over twenty millions; they formed a solid and strongly organized religious bloc, and the Center Party, largely controlled by Catholics, held the balance of power in the Reichstag. Most important, Germany's ally was the Hapsburg Empire, the bulwark of Catholicism in Central Europe.
By the beginning of the present war all this had changed. There no longer is any conflict between France and the Holy See. Under the régime of separation, modified by an agreement with the Vatican, French Catholicism has made a new start unhindered by state fetters. The old anti-clerical laws have become a dead letter; diplomatic relations with the Vatican have been reëstablished. In England the Catholic Church has been steadily gaining ground and today exercises a political influence which is perhaps underestimated abroad. The main Irish question has been settled and the Catholic hierarchy seems to have no sympathy with the agitations of the
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