8 - The Nadir of Triumphalism (1870-1975)
On 20 October 1939, Eugenio Pacelli, who had become Pope Pius xii six months earlier, published his first encyclical, Summi Pontificalus. The Second World War had just begun. Hitler had completed the conquest of Poland, which he and his temporary ally Stalin had now dismembered and extinguished. The prospects for humanity looked infinitely somber, and the theme of the letter, which supplied its English title, was 'Darkness over the Earth'. Yet its tone was not shocked or indignant; it was, rather, reproachful. Pius xii was a triumphalist aristocrat, born into the 'black nobility' of Rome and destined almost from birth to occupy the throne of St Peter. Slightly built, austere, autocratic, single-minded to the point of obsession, confident in his own powers and superbly sure of the rights of his Church and office, he identified himself wholly with the divine wisdom. Surveying a tragic and violent world from the serene, uncontaminated walls of the papal fortress, he judged that the Catholic Church had been absolutely right to reject modern civilization and to retire within its citadel.
The horrors of 1939, wrote Pius, were not fortuitous or unexpected. They arose inevitably from mankind's decision to reject the truth as expounded by an infallible papacy: '... the reason why the principles of morality in general have long since been set aside in Europe is the defection of so many minds from Christian doctrine of which Blessed Peter's See is the appointed guardian and teacher.' In the earliest medieval times the nations of Europe 'had been welded together by that doctrine, and it was the Christian spirit which formed them'. In turn, they could pass it on to others. Then came the Reformation, the beginning of tragedy, 'when many of the Christian family separated themselves from the infallible teaching of the church'.
This opened the way to the "general deterioration and decline of the religious idea'. Christianity, 'the truth that sets us free', had been exchanged for 'the lie that makes slaves of us'. By rejecting Christ, men had been 'handing themselves over to a capricious ruler, the feeble and groveling wisdom of man. They boasted of progress, when they were in fact relapsing into decadence; they conceived they were reaching heights of achievement when they were miserably forfeiting their human dignity; they claimed that this century of ours was bringing maturity and completion with it, when they were being reduced to a pitiable form of slavery.' In medieval Christian Europe there had been quarrels and wars, but at least 'men had a clear consciousness of what was right and what was wrong, what was allowable and what was forbidden.' Now there was total moral confusion, 'which allows all the canons of private and public honesty and decency to be overthrown'. There had never been an age like the present when 'men's spirits are broken by despair' and they searched in vain to provide 'any remedy for their disorders'. In fact the remedy had been there all along, and was available still: the return to Christianity under papal guidance. Pius would continue to proclaim it: 'To bear witness of the truth is the highest debt we owe to the office we hold and the times we live in.'
This had been the theme of papal triumphalism for some seventy years, since Pius ix had issued his Syllabus of Errors; in a sense, it was a theme inherent in the whole of Augustinian Christianity. Gregory VII and Innocent in had called on the world to align itself with the policies and precepts of the imperial
papacy, and had anathematized those of its rulers who declined to do so. When the world refused to obey him, the Pope looked on it with sorrow, and predicted doom. It was a natural and traditional pontifical attitude. But of course there was another form of Christianity in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries - Protestant triumphalism, which we have seen proclaiming itself at the Edinburgh world mission conference in 1910. It identified Christianity with modern progress and democracy, and the burgeoning success of the American ideal and system with its Protestant ethics. One rejected the modern world; the other not only accepted it but to some extent claimed paternity.
Both of these Christian theories were based on the assumption that the acceptance or rejection of Christianity was the only real formative element in society, and the criterion by which it should be judged. Both evolved against a cultural background in which Christianity inevitably dominated any discussion of truth and falsehood, right or wrong, good and evil. It was the moral air in which all- powerful western man lived, and adjusted his perspectives. Should Christians fight the modern world and by a supreme spiritual effort wrench it from its disastrous course? Or should they take advantage of the boundless opportunities offered by modernity to deliver the Christian message afresh? These questions were regarded not merely as relevant but as absolutely essential to the whole future of human society. The history of twentieth-century Christianity is the history of the attempt to answer them but equally of the effort to prevent them from seeming academic.
In October 1939, Pius xii delivered his admonition from his citadel on the assumption, in which he profoundly believed, that Christianity in general, and pontifical Christianity in particular, were ideologically, and indeed institutionally detached from the horrors of the modern world. But here he was deceived by analogy. Immediately after the declaration of papal infallibility in 1870, the Italian crown had seized Rome and the papal territories had been incorporated in the new Italian State. Successive popes had refused to accept this situation, inevitable though it was, and had remained entrenched in the Vatican, refusing to recognize the Italian regime, or its government and parliament, or to set foot in the usurped eternal city. The fortress image had. as it were, become an actual one - of the defiant 'prisoner in the Vatican'; and it remained vivid even after papacy and State were reconciled in the Lateran Treaty of 1929. The Pope, reduced to the Vatican redoubt, was cut off from the world outside and in no way responsible for it. Yet the image was false because incomplete; for beyond the Vatican lay the whole of Catholic Christianity, which not only dealt with the world but to a great extent was the world: and the Pope, as its leader, was necessarily and continually involved in the shaping of that world. Like any other power, it had done its utmost to advance its policies and extend its influence. There had, in fact, been no renunciation: the papacy too had helped to make the modern world what it was.
Indeed, from 1870 onwards, the papacy, acting in conjunction with the hierarchies and Catholic lay organizations throughout the world, had been as busy as at any time in its history, and had certainly wielded more effective power than it had done since the sixteenth century. Populist triumphalism never fulfilled all its expectations, but it often won battles and sometimes whole campaigns. Indeed, the papacy was the only institution to inflict a defeat, if a qualified one, on Bismarck's Germany. For Bismarck, who was anxious to subordinate every element in German society to the control of the State, gave covert backing to the Independent Catholic Church which came into existence after the Vatican decree of 1870. It was mainly an academic group, which had little chance of capturing a mass following among German Catholics, but he was anxious to keep it in play; hence in 1871 he forbade Catholic bishops to remove Old Catholic professors and lecturers from their jobs. This quickly widened into a conflict with the papacy and official Catholicism in Germany over the whole field of education, and the influence international Catholicism exerted on German national culture. Bismarck called it a Kulturkampf or culture-war; he was not going to submit to another Canossa, and he said so publicly. A law forbade clergymen to discuss matters of state from the pulpit, and in 1872 a programme was launched to bring all schools under the State. The Jesuits were expelled, and diplomatic relations with the papacy were broken off. As a result of Bismarck's penal laws, several bishops and hundreds of priests were imprisoned, seminaries were closed and Catholic newspapers suspended.
The Kulturkampf was a product of the last years and decline of Pius ix. Pius died in 1878 and was succeeded by Luigi Pecci, a former Bishop of Perugia, as Leo xiii. Leo was as conservative as his predecessor, but he was more of a realist, and he believed in making minor adjustments to the world if it was to the Church's advantage. He was quite happy to do a deal with Bismarck if only the anti-Catholics laws were withdrawn. In 1874 Bismarck had said that to do so would mean a papal triumph and 'we non- Catholics must either become Catholics or emigrate or our property would be confiscated, as is usual with heretics.' But by 1887 he was tired of the struggle and looking for allies; Leo xiii persuaded some of the Catholic Centre party to support Bismarck in the Reichstag, and got as his reward the withdrawal of the laws. Bismarck, who had put them through to preserve national unity from papal interference now said: 'What do I care whether the appointment of a Catholic priest is notified to the state or not Germany must be united' a reversal of position which marked his discomfiture.
The truth is that, in practice, the papacy did not so much turn its back on the world as seek to nudge it in a conservative direction. It did not object to the modern state so long as it had a traditionalist posture. Leo, one of the few modern popes to write elegant Latin, spent a great deal of time publishing encyclicals which purported to lay down Catholic principles, but nearly all of them reflected the views of a conservative empiricist. In Italy, he refused to recognise the regime and forbade Catholics to take any part in it - they were to be 'neither electors nor elected'; on the other hand he encouraged the systematic creation of a network of Catholic clubs, associations and congresses, which the Church could control much more easily than Catholic deputies, and which could exert almost as much pressure behind the scenes. In 1885 his encyclical Immortale Dei was a move towards recognizing popularly-elected governments where there was really no alternative: he laid down that 'the greater or less participation of the people in government has nothing blamable in itself. This document set out his political philosophy, such as it was. Both Church and State have their authority from God. The Church has power of judgment over all that relates to the salvation of souls and the worship of God, and of course there can be only one true Church. He denounced the 'rage for innovation'. Freedom of thought and publication was 'the fountain-head of many evils'. It was 'not lawful for the state ... to hold in equal favour different kinds of religion'; on the other hand 'no one should be forced to embrace the Catholic faith against his will', a retreat from the papal position held at least until the 1820s, when toleration had been again condemned as 'madness'.
Leo had attacked socialism as long ago as 1878, in his Quod apostolici muneris, and he denied the right of any state, whatever its composition, to dissolve Christian marriage (Arcanum 1880). The right to rule came from God: civil power did not come from men as such (Diuturnum illud 1881). But in Sapientiae Christianae (1890) he conceded that the Church did not oppose any particular system of government, provided it promoted justice, and did nothing to harm religion or moral discipline. In 1888, noting that Brazil had finally abolished slavery, he aligned the Church with what was now the conventional wisdom: In plurimis declared the Church 'wholly opposed to that which was originally ordained by God and nature', thus neatly reconciling the Church's new alignment with majority opinion with her failure to condemn slavery before. In general, Leo wanted systems of government and policies which conformed as closely as possible to the ideals of the Middle Ages and the practical sagacity of Thomas Aquinas, a pundit he admired almost to the point of idolatry. In Rerum novarum (1891), which dealt with the working classes, he accepted authorized trades unions and arbitration boards to fix wages, but lamented the disappearance of the old medieval guilds. Both socialism and usury were wrong; private property was essential to freedom and the 'classless society' was against human nature. Workers should never resort to violence. Employers should adopt a paternal attitude to their labourers, pay them a just wage, guard them from occasions of sin, and use any wealth 'left over from maintaining their standing' to promote 'the perfection of their own natures' and act as stewards 'of God's providence for the benefit of others'. He said it was the Church's desire that 'the poor should rise above poverty and wretchedness and better their condition in life' - even to own property. He thought that 'Christian morality, when adequately and completely practised, leads of itself to temporal prosperity'; hence the State's duty was 'to see to the provision of those material and external helps, the use of which is necessary to virtuous action' - it must 'safeguard private property' but also regulate conditions of labour; and employers must pay wages adequate for 'a frugal and well-behaved wage-earner, wife and children'.
The power of the papacy lay in the degree to which such guidelines were in fact followed by Catholic populations in the chief states, and the extent, therefore, to which their governments heeded or feared papal pressure. The papacy used the bargaining power of a national Catholic pressure group to strike a good bargain with its government; but sometimes it ignored the pressure-group to do a deal. Leo found it convenient to adopt a slightly more liberal line in France than the French ultramontanists wished; he could afford to do so - they had nowhere else to go. Thus, having authorized Lavigerie to persuade his fellow-bishops to recognize the Third Republic, he published Inter innumeras solicitudines (1892) which enjoined French legitimists to drop their opposition, and join in the fight to get anti-religious laws repealed. This was more easily advised than accepted. It was typical of French Catholics that, having switched from Gallicanism to Ultramontanism they should become more papalist than the Pope, almost to the point of embarrassment. This, in turn, led to a reaction on the Republican side, in the form of anti- clericalism -in some ways more bitter than during the Revolution since it was aimed at clerics as such rather than as privileged enemies of the State. Archbishops of Paris were murdered in 1848 and again in 1857. Napoleon ill's 'bawdy house blessed by bishops' led to a fresh wave of anti-clericalism in the 1860s under Peyrat's slogan: 'Clericalism - there's the enemy'; and when the Commune took power in Paris, Mgr Darboys, the comparatively liberal archbishop, was dragged before Raoul Rigaud at the Prefecture of Police. His remonstrance: 'What are you thinking of, my children?' was answered by 'There are no children here, only magistrates.' Darboys, too, was murdered; and the Catholic Right took its revenge, when the Commune collapsed, by mass shootings without trial. The republic and Catholicism thus seemed natural enemies. 'My aim', said Jules Ferry, speaking for the republic, 'is to organize humanity without God and without kings.' His Catholic opponent, Count Albert de Mun, accepted the dichotomy: 'The church and the revolution are irreconcilable. Either the church must kill the revolution, or the revolution will kill the church.'
In an age of mass electorates, when even a pope was driven to advise Catholics to accept a republic, Catholicism had to be identified with popular issues: that was what the new triumphalism was about. It possessed its own machinery for evangelizing the workers. In 1845 the ultra-Catholic Pere d'Alzon had founded the Assumptionist order specifically to work among the lower classes. They had their own publishing house and printing-presses and took a rabid right-wing populist line. There were other Catholic extremist papers, like L'Autorite, run by Paul de Cassagnac, which proclaimed that it did not matter whether the country were run by a legitimist king or a Napoleonic emperor 'provided the bastard [republicanism] is crushed'. But the Assumptionists' La Croix, a daily from 1883, became the most powerful, its circulation boosted by salesmen called 'Les Chevaliers de la Croix', and its leaders written by Pere Vincent de Paul Bailly under the pseudonym 'Le Moine'. It was not the only Catholic publishing house in France but it was the only one to make money, and this gave it a good deal of freedom from the hierarchy. * In the 1880s the .anti-republicans, searching for a popular issue, began to whip up anti- semitism. The tone was set by Edouard Drumont's La France Juive, which concluded: 'At the end of this history, what do you see? I myself see but one thing, the figure of Christ, insulted, covered with opprobrium, torn by the thorns, and crucified. Nothing has changed in 1800 years. It is the same lie, the same hate, and the same people.' The Jews were behind the Republic, its financial scandals, the betrayal of the army at Sedan, the success of Jew-controlled Germany, and of course behind the campaign against the Church. La Croix took up the theme with energy, and the truth seemed miraculously confirmed when, in October 1894, the only Jew ever to have been on the general staff of the army, Captain Dreyfus, was arrested for high treason and spying for Germany.
* The most meritorious of the Catholic publishing houses was the one set up by the Abbe J. P. Migne to provide scholars with cheap editions of the Greek and Latin Fathers of the Church. His workshop did its own type-founding, stereotype, satinage, brochure, reluire and everything except paper-making. Between 1844-64, Migne published 217 volumes plus four volumes of indices of his Patrologia Latina, plus two series of Patrologia Graeca in 161 volumes, making 382 volumes in all. This stupendous undertaking left Migne practically bankrupt and got him into trouble with the Archbishop of Paris and Rome. Edmond and Jules de Goncourt noted in their Journal, 21 August 1864: 'A queer figure is the Abbe Migne, this manufacturer of Catholic books He has started a printing works at Vaugirard, crammed full with priests who are under interdict, unfrocked rascals, devil- dodgers, fellows lost to all grace. If ever a police-officer appears, there is a stampede for the door' See the Appendix in G, G. Coulton, Fourscore Years (Cambridge, 1945).
In fact the Dreyfus case proved a disaster for the French Catholic Church. The activities of the Assumptionists identified Catholics as a body with the worst aspects of the anti-semitic campaign. Le Moine wrote at the time of the Zola trial: Thus it is free thought, defender as it is of Jews, protestants and all the enemies of the church, that is at the bar with Zola, and the army is forced, despite itself, to go over to the attack.' The Jesuit La Civilta Catholica commented in 1898: 'If a judicial error has indeed been committed, the Assembly of 1791 was responsible when it accorded French nationality to Jews.' The Jesuit intervention was particularly unfortunate since it led to accusations of an elitist anti- republican conspiracy, particularly in the army, where many of the senior officers were practising Catholics. Attention centered on the Jesuit Pere du Lac, headmaster of the Society's leading Paris school, who had converted Edouard Drumont, and was the confessor of Albert de Mun and General de Boisdeffre, chief of the army general staff. Joseph Reinarch, the most impressive of the Dreyfusard propagandists, described his study and its central importance in the campaign to deny Dreyfus justice: The orders of the day emanate from Pere du Lac's simple cell. In it, there is a crucifix on the wall, and on the writing table an annotated copy of the Army List:
The Church's problems were compounded by the fact that some of the most vociferous and embarrassing anti-semites were not themselves Catholics but were, rather, authoritarian ideologues in the de Maistre tradition who regarded Rome as a natural defence against the Left. Thus Jules Le Maitre, prominent in the anti-Dreyfus League of Patriots, wrote: 'We want to make love of the fatherland a kind of religion ... the equivalent of the denominational faith which Frenchmen no longer hold.' Again, Charles Maurras, who founded the anti-Dreyfus Action Francaise in 1898, was an agnostic, but virtually all his followers in the movement were passionate Catholics, and its so-called Institute had a professorial chair endowed in honour of the Syllabus of Errors. Maurras had no scruples in taking the supposedly Jesuitical line that the end justified the means. He had nothing but praise for Major Henry, whose anti-Dreyfus forgery was exposed and who committed suicide on the eve of arrest, and only regretted that his crime had been unsuccessful: 'Colonel, there is not a drop of your precious blood that does not cry out wherever the heart of the nation beats.' And L'Action francaise added: 'We need money to buy all the tools we require and to provide the necessary bribes. We must buy women and consciences, and we must buy disloyalty.' This was just what the anti-clericals wanted to hear.
The tragedy was that a number of young, thoughtful Catholics were strongly pro-Dreyfus. Charles Peguy wrote that, so long as Dreyfus remained condemned unjustly, France was 'living in a state of mortal sin'. How could Catholics, of all people, and the Church, of all institutions, deny justice in the name of patriotism? He argued powerfully that the Church, in its anti-Dreyfus posture, was being un- Catholic, since it was denying its own mystical spirit: ' ... the political forces in the church have always been against what is mystical, and particularly what is mystical in a Christian sense.' Leo xiii was also upset by the French Church's anti-Dreyfus posture, but for a more realistic reason: he thought they were backing a loser, since the facts were bound to prevail in the end. In an interview with the pro-Dreyfus Figaro in March 1899, he made the point that, since it was now obvious Dreyfus was innocent, it was the institutions of the republic, rather than the Jew, which were on trial; and he added: 'Happy is the victim whom God recognizes as sufficiently just to confound his cause with that of his own son who was sacrificed.' Coming from anyone else, the remark would have been denounced as blasphemous, since in effect it compared Devil's Island with Golgotha and Dreyfus with Christ. But Leo was now ninety, and French Catholics too embattled and angry to take much notice of him.
In any case, the papal intervention, such as it was, did not alter the fact that the bulk of identifiable Catholic opinion was anti-Dreyfus. When the right-wing League for the French Fatherland was formed in 1899, as a response to the Dreyfusard League of the Rights of Man, the prominent Catholic members of the Academic Francaise joined it en bloc. Hardly any well-known Catholics supported Dreyfus; the bishops kept silent with one exception - and he championed the discredited army. Hence, when the Dreyfusard politicians triumphed under Emile Combes, in 1902, the machinery of the State was turned against the Church as in the 1790s. Combes was a former Catholic teacher who had lost his faith - though he was more of a heretic than a renegade. When Theodore Ribot said to him: 'You cannot confine the policy of a great country to a mere struggle against the religious orders', he replied: 'I took office solely for that purpose.' As Paul Deschanel put it, the idea of a neutral state was dropped: 'They look upon Catholicism as error. ... They turn upon the principle announced by Bossuet when he said "The prince must use his authority to destroy false religions."' The grip of the French Church on education was broken, never to be restored; the concordat was ended, Church and State separated; and the ideologies and strategies of the Dreyfus affair became models for other anti-clerical regimes, in Portugal and Spain, and throughout Latin America.
The danger of European Catholics becoming locked in a struggle against a republican form of government was that it imperiled the position of Catholics in the United States who, thanks to emigration, were becoming one of the largest (and certainly by far the richest) Catholic communities in the world. Leo xiii, in his special encyclical to the United States, Longinqua oceani, (1895), tried hard to straddle the horns of the dilemma:'... it would be very erroneous to draw the conclusion that in America is to be sought the hope of the most desirable status of the church, or that it would be universally lawful or expedient for state and church to be, as in America, dissevered and divorced ... [the church] would bring forth more abundant fruits if, in addition to liberty, she enjoyed the favour of the laws and the patronage of public authority.' He added that 'unless forced by necessity to do otherwise. Catholics ought to prefer to associate with Catholics.' This effusion struck anti-republicans in Europe as feeble and compromising, but it infuriated Americans and made the position of the Catholic hierarchy there very difficult. They had always emphasized that the republic and the Church were virtually soul-mates.
As the most influential of them, John Ireland, Archbishop of St Paul, put it: 'There is no conflict between the Catholic church and America. I could not utter one syllable that would belie, however remotely, either the church or the republic, and when I assert, as I now solemnly do, that the principles of the church are in thorough harmony with the interests of the republic, I know in the depths of my soul that I speak the truth.' But many Americans did not accept this assurance. How could they, when there was so manifest a gulf between Protestant triumphalism, and the triumphalism of the Vatican? The feeling was established, and it persisted for more than half a century, that no Catholic must be allowed to become President of the Republic. What was, perhaps, more important, was the effect on American Catholics. At times they feared that the papacy would simply condemn 'Americanism' as a modern 'error', and thus quarantine the Catholics within American society. The American bishops were constantly obliged to head off the Vatican from this direction, and though they were successful, the concession was bought at the price of servile conformity on virtually everything else. Thus American Catholics did not play the progressive role within the Church which their membership of the millennial society made natural.
A Vatican assault on American ideology came very near when the ninety-three-year-old Leo xiii was succeeded by Guiseppe Sarto, as Pius x, in 1903. Pius x was remarkable in a number of ways. He came from a very poor family: his father had belonged to the lowest and most despised grade of the municipal civil service, a process-server and debt-collector. There had been popes from poor backgrounds in the Middle Ages, but none in recent centuries, virtually all coming from aristocratic families. Pius was also the first pope for many generations to have had pastoral experience as an ordinary priest. He was, finally, the first pope to achieve canonization since Pius v, the Dominican monk who had excommunicated Queen Elizabeth I in 1570. Pius x's election might be said to have completed the revolution which, in the nineteenth century, raised the parish priest to collective importance (at the expense of episcopal independence) in a church dominated by populist triumphalism. But Pius had no particular sympathy with the poor. The background of his father's work had given him a low opinion of their merits, and his seventeen years of parish work did not dispose him to sympathize with the political aspirations of the masses.
What he shared with the poor was an intense superstition. He convinced himself, and others, that he possessed second sight and other supernatural powers; and it was reports of such miracles which ensured him posthumous honours. Pius was a big, handsome man, with a fine presence and enormous feet (his giant papal slippers can still be seen in Rome). He used to lend his red pontifical socks to sufferers from foot complaints, and the device sometimes worked; though Pius could not cure his own uricaemia. Pius had a passionate devotion to the cult of saints and relics, and other aspects of mechanical Christianity, and a corresponding distrust of more intellectual approaches to religion. He saw the universe in black and white terms. The Tridentine papacy and the Church it represented was white; the rest was black, and in the rest he mingled democracy, republicanism, science, modern biblical exegesis, communism, atheism, free thought and any form of Christianity which was not clerical-directed. He believed Protestantism to be a mere staging-post on an inevitable progression to atheism. His career had been embattled. As Bishop of Mantua he had been involved in a bitter dogfight with municipal socialists and freemasons. Appointed Patriarch of Venice, he had been prevented from taking up his post for three years by the Italian government, which refused to issue its exequator.
Pius was elected pope after a protracted political struggle. The favourite at the Conclave had been Cardinal Rampolla, Secretary of State since 1887, who exhibited mildly liberal tendencies. The French Foreign Minister asked the French cardinals who, as usual, voted en bloc, to give their votes to him, and they apparently did so; at the first ballot Rampolla emerged clearly the leader with twenty-nine votes out of sixty-two. But Rampolla, as the French choice, was unacceptable to the central powers, and before the second ballot, Cardinal Puzyna, Archbishop of Cracow, on behalf of the Habsburg emperor, exercised the 'Aulic Exclusiva', the veto on a papal candidate which traditionally belonged to Austria as the residual legatee of the Holy Roman Empire. The Conclave did not formally accept the validity of the veto, but its secretary, Archbishop Merry del Vai, who managed the ballot, ensured that in fact it did so. Rampolla's vote rose to thirty on the fourth ballot, but thereafter fell; and Sarto passed the two-thirds majority required on the seventh.
Pius x's appointment of Merry del Vai as his Secretary of State, at the very early age of thirty-eight was not so much a reward for services rendered as a complementary alliance between an elderly self-made reactionary and a conservative intellectual aristocrat. Del Vai was the wealthy son of a Spanish diplomat and an English lady, a well-known figure in European society and a staunch and resourceful defender of
the ancien regime. This combination at the Vatican reversed the accommodationist policies of Leo xiii and Rampolla - unadventurous though they had been - and introduced a reign of terror against liberalism in the Church. Pius believed in right-wing fireworks. His first consistorial allocution, in November 1903, appeared to be a gloss extending the infallibility decree: '...the Sovereign Pontiff, invested by Almighty God with the supreme magistrature, has no right to remove political affairs from the sphere of faith and morals' - and this was followed by a reassertion of the cuius regio, eius religio principle, or at any rate a genuflexion to de Maistre: 'People are what their governments wish them to be.' Pius was soon embroiled with the Combes government. In 1903 the liberal Bishop of Dijon, Mgr Le Nordez, had been shown consorting with freemasons in a compromising photograph published by the scurrilous antiDreyfus paper, La Libre Parole.
Most of the diocesan clergy and seminarians boycotted him, and the Pope, after a perfunctory investigation, ordered his removal. But this was a breach of the concordat, the French government rushed to the bishop's defence, the photograph was shown to be a forgery (as the less excitable had already guessed) and it was the uproar over this issue which led to the end of the concordat and the separation of Church and State in France. However, the Combes government, too, overreached itself. It was defeated in 1904 when it emerged that the War Ministry maintained a card-index of officers divided into two categories: 'Corinth' and 'Carthage'. This was based on information supplied by the Secretary to the Grand Orient, the most influential of the French freemasons' organizations. 'Corinthians' were freemasons and atheists in good standing; 'Carthaginians' were officers whose children attended religious schools and whose wives went to mass - and who were to be denied promotion accordingly.
The card-index affair persuaded the more militant triumphalists in the Vatican that there was in existence a huge international conspiracy to destroy the Roman Catholic Church. It was the piece of evidence for which they had been waiting. Moreover, they believed that the most important part of the conspiracy was within the Church, masquerading as progressive or liberal Catholicism, but in reality linked to freemasonry and atheism. They termed the conspiracy 'modernism' and they linked it in particular to the efforts by Catholic scholars to catch up with the German Protestant historians and scriptural exegesists who had dominated biblical and ecclesiastical studies since the end of the eighteenth century. In all essentials, the new campaign was a resumption of the warfare waged by the orthodox scholastic theologians against the Renaissance textual scholars of the Erasmian age, warfare which had eventually degenerated into a witch-hunt. 'Modernism' was associated with the study of history which (as we have seen) was really a more dangerous enemy of orthodoxy and triumphalism than science as such.
The orthodox had long had their eye on the historians. It was the German ecclesiastical historians, especially those from the Catholic faculty at Tubingen University who, with one exception (he was made a cardinal) condemned the infallibility decree; it was Lord Acton, the English historian, who had tried to organize international opposition to the decree; and it was the five French Catholic Institutes, founded in 1875, with their emphasis on historical studies, which harboured the more adventurous Catholic academics. Of course biblical studies had always been dangerous. Heresies arising from them were as old as Marcion, older indeed than the canon. Many of the most distinguished Renaissance biblical scholars, from Erasmus down, had subsequently had works condemned in Tridentine times. On the other hand, the Catholic Church could not simply abandon biblical studies to the Protestants - that would be to betray the orthodox tradition stretching back to Papias and including all the great doctors of the Church.
In 1893, in his encyclical Providentissimus Dei, Leo xiii had issued a severe warning to the more enterprising scholars. 'All those books,' he insisted, 'and those books in their entirety, which the church regards as sacred and canonical were written with all their parts under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Now, far from admitting the coexistence of error, Divine inspiration by itself excludes all error, and that also of necessity, since God, the Supreme Truth, must be incapable of teaching error.' Taken literally, this astonishing statement virtually imposed a veto on scholarship, since it asserted as dogmatic fact what historical scholarship had already in 1893 demonstrated to be in great part a matter of argument and speculation. The truth is that very few people of importance in the Vatican (or, often, in national hierarchies) knew enough to understand the premises and methodology of modern biblical exegesis and its related disciplines. Like the theologians Erasmus despised, they condemned from ignorance. Those few who did understand were already - eo ipso, as it were - suspect. Cardinal Meigan summed it up neatly in correspondence with the Abbe Alfred Loisy of the Paris Catholic Institute: 'Rome has never understood anything about these questions. The whole of the Catholic clergy are profoundly ignorant about the matter. In trying to draw them out of their ignorance one runs grave risks, for our theologians are ferocious.' The words might have been uttered by Erasmus himself; in this respect Rome seemed to have learned nothing in 400 years.
Leo had not followed up his 1893 warning by systematic persecution. Pius x did. There were many victims, great and small. Indeed virtually everyone engaged in biblical studies, unless they were purely mechanical, came under suspicion during this pontificate. One victim was Albert Lagrange, the Dominican founder of the Biblical Study Centre in Jerusalem. He was forced to make a full submission to Pius. Another was Louis Duchesne, whose History of the Early Church was condemned; he, too, was driven to abject submission. More combative was Loisy, a Hebrew and Assyrian scholar. His Gospel and the Church (a reply to What is Christianity? by the great Protestant church historian Adolph von Harnack) led to no less than five of his works being placed on the Index in 1903; unwilling to recant, he was excommunicated by Pius in 1908. Pius was determined to prevent the Catholic clergy from being contaminated by the errors, as he saw them, of the historical and physical sciences. In his very first enyclical, E Supremi Apostolatus Cathedra, he promised: 'We will take the greatest care to safeguard our clergy from being caught up in the snares of modern scientific thought - a science which does not breathe the truths of Christ, but by its cunning and subtle arguments defiles the mind of the people with the errors of Rationalism and semi-Rationalism.' Hence the hunt did not stop at the biblical scholars: the net was spread pretty wide. Father George Tyrrell, an Irish convert, Jesuit and Thomist scholar, was attacked because he upheld 'the right of each age to adjust the historico-philosophical expression of Christianity to contemporary certainties, and thus to put an end to this utterly needless conflict between faith and science which is a mere theological bogey'. Tyrrell was pushed out of the Jesuits in 1906 and suspended from the sacraments the next year; he was given extreme unction on his deathbed (1909) but denied burial in a Catholic-cemetery. His was one of many tragic cases.
In 1907 Pius formalised the campaign by publishing the decree Lamentabili. which distinguished sixty- five propositions of what was termed the 'Modernist Heresy'. The United States Catholic hierarchy were mightily relieved to discover that 'Americanism' was not one of them. Broadly speaking, modernism, as Pius conceived it, was the attempt to illuminate the history and teaching of Christianity (and of Judaism) by the objective use of academic disciplines which had been developed during and since the Enlightenment. By denying objectivity in study, it inhibited the pursuit of truth wherever it might lead, and thus appeared to draw a distinction between faith and truth which is the very essence of the Pauline message. Whether Lamentabili was itself heretical was, therefore, a matter of argument; but it was not an argument which could be put at the time. Indeed, the decree was followed, two months later, by the encyclical Pascendi dominici gregis which imposed a compulsory anti-modernist oath on all Catholic bishops, priests and teachers. It was this which began the anti-modernist terror, conducted with venom at many Catholic teaching establishments, and especially seminaries. There were large numbers of victims, who had their ecclesiastical careers wrecked; and many 'suspects', whose future appointments were affected, were totally unaware of the charges against them, held on the files of the Holy Office. One such was Angelo Roncalli, then at the Bergamo seminary, who did not find out about the information lodged against him until he became pope in 1958 and demanded to see his Holy Office file.
Pius x and others may have believed there was an actual modernist conspiracy, emanating from France. Every day, Merry del Vai read a digest of the French press, equipped with a 'commentary' prepared by a rabid Assumptionist, Pere Salvien; the conspiracy theory was well documented by 'information' carried in Action francaise and La Libre Parole. In fact no evidence of such a conspiracy has ever been found. What did emerge, however, when the Germany army intelligence captured a cache of ecclesiastical documents in Belgium in 1915, was the existence of an anti-modernist secret society in the Vatican, with offshoots elsewhere in Europe. Ostensibly it was a devotional group known as the Sodalitium Pianum (nicknamed la sapiniere, the fir-tree plantation); in fact it was a pressure-group to further the careers of 'reliable' clerics in the Church bureaucracy, and an information network which gathered damaging material about 'unreliable' clerics and then delated them to the Holy Office. Its organizer was Mgr Umberto Benigni, a former Professor of Diplomatic Style at the Pontifical Academy for Noble Ecclesiastics, which provided the bulk of the Vatican diplomatic service, and of which Del Vai was an alumnus. It is not clear how far Del Vai was privy to its activities. It communicated with its agents in code: thus, Pius was 'Michael', Del Vai was 'George' and so on, methods used in the age of Philip n - indeed, the whole organization had the flavour of the late sixteenth century. On the other hand it had its own publication, La Correspondence de Rome, which tended to give part of the game away. Del Vai broke up the group, at least above the surface, when it drew hostile attention to itself in 1913; and of course there was a row when the Germans published their discoveries. But the Sodalitium was not formally dissolved until 1921. Some years later, Pius xi sent Father Salvien to end his days in a punishment monastery. There is no evidence that Holy Office files were ever cleansed of information supplied by the group, and indeed this is most unlikely. The anti-modernist terror as such was only halted when Benedict xv succeeded Pius x in 1914.
Pius x's campaign against Catholic scholarship was accompanied by a series of political moves, organized by Del Vai, to extinguish any spirit of independence among the progressive-minded Catholic laity, and in particular to curb the development of a Christian democrat movement. In Italy this had taken the form of the Opera dei Congressi, a nationwide series of clubs, societies, charities and unions,
organized by laymen to provide a machine for Catholic penetration of the political system the moment the papacy ended the non-expedit policy and allowed Catholics to participate in the public life of the state. On 28 July 1904, without warning, but with Pius's approval, Del Vai sent out letters dissolving the Opera, and transferring all their activities to the diocesan bishops. The movement was replaced by a Vatican-organized right-wing pressure group, Azione Cattolica. Much the same procedure was followed in France, where Christian democracy was being organized around a group called Le Sillon ('the furrow'), founded by Marc Sagnier in 1898. This too was primarily a lay organization, and outside the control of the bishops. By 1908, ten archbishops and twenty-six bishops had forbidden their clergy to join it, and Pius gave it sentence of death by condemning it in its existing form, and ordering it to be reorganized by the bishops at a diocesan level. What made the attack on Le Sillon, which was doctrinally quite orthodox, more reprehensible was that an extraordinary tolerance was shown to its extreme right-wing rival, Action Francaise.
Though controlled by an atheist, and wildly eccentric in its teaching, the movement enjoyed the protection of the Vatican, and continued to recruit French Catholics, including clergy. Pius called Maurras 'a doughty defender of the church and the Holy See'. When his books were delated to the Holy Office, it had no alternative (within its own terms of reference) but to condemn them as heretical. But Pius vetoed a public condemnation, saying they were 'Damnabilis, non damnandus' - worthy of condemnation but not to be condemned; and he forbade any action against the movement. In technical terms, the condemnation was drawn up in 1914. but suspended by the Pope's wish. A few years later, all the papers relating to the case were discovered to have been 'lost' by the Holy Office, and it may be that Pius and Del Vai ordered them to be destroyed. The conclusion which many drew from these unseemly proceedings was that, to the Vatican. orthodoxy in doctrine was less important that orthodoxy in politics, and that the object of crushing both biblical scholarship and the Christian democrat movement was not so much a concern for the purity of Christian truth as a hatred of any challenge to the existing order of society, and the imposition of authority from above. As one French prelate put it, in attacking Le Sillon. ' ... membership ... quickly engenders, especially among the young, a critical. disrespectful and undisciplined spirit'.
The drift of the populist papacy to the right necessarily widened the gulf between Catholics and Protestants. In the United States, the Catholic hierarchy, thankful at least that the Pope had not asked them to subscribe to a condemnation of the American way of life, avoided any kind of controversy, and any kind of contact with other Christians. In Germany, the more independent-minded Catholics had been driven back into regimented orthodoxy by the ravages of the Kulturkampf. In Britain, the 'second Spring' of Catholicism, which some thought was beginning with the conversion of Newman and Manning, passed straight into Autumn; there was no mass-movement of Anglicans to Rome, and the conversion of the elite dwindled to a trickle. Instead there were attempts in the 1890s to bring the two churches together, but these were quickly crushed by the disdainful posture of the Vatican, and by the open and avowed hostility of the English restored Catholic hierarchy, led by Cardinal Vaughan, who duplicated Anglican sees and would, therefore, have been eliminated in the event of reunion.
The attempts, sponsored by a pious High Church layman, Lord Halifax, came to grief over the question of Anglican orders, the validity of which Rome had challenged on both historical and theological grounds. In 1894, Vaughan publicly announced that Anglican bishops and clergy 'can only be considered as so many laymen'; privately, he begged Leo xiii to pronounce definitively against Anglican orders. Leo was divided in his mind. As usually, he was searching for the advantageous empirical solution. But he was persuaded by Vaughan's plea that Rome's acknowledgement of a validly-ordained Anglican clergy would make his own shadow-hierarchy look ridiculous; and he also seems to have believed Vaughan's assurance that outright condemnation would bring a flood of Anglican converts to Rome. Hence in 1895 he issued an encyclical to the English, Ad Anglos, which simply invited the English, collectively, or individually, to make their submission to 'the Church', and followed it a year later with the bull Apostolicae Curae, which called Anglican orders 'absolutely null and utterly void'. The tone and implications of these two documents could not have been more insulting to and condemnatory of Anglicanism and, by inference, a huge spectrum of Protestantism throughout the world. And the breach was further widened, and envenomed, by the anti-modernist terror under Pius x.
The Church of England had its modernists, too, and its anti-modernists; and it was deeply divided by the question-marks modern Protestant scholars had placed against the Virgin Birth, the miracles of the New Testament, and even the resurrection itself. These included The Miracles of the New Testament (1911) by J. M. Thompson, Dean of Divinity at Magdalen, Foundations (1912), a book of clerical essays edited by Canon Streeter, and Canon Hensley Benson's The Creed in the Pulpit (1912). The response of the Vatican, in dealing with its modernists, had been simply to invoke discipline. A huge number of books were condemned, and Catholic scholarship in this field virtually halted. Some Anglicans, too, wanted action against the liberals (Thompson actually had his licence withdrawn by his bishop). But Archbishop Randall Davidson of Canterbury contrived to reach a sensible compromise. At a meeting of Convocation in 1914 he accepted the dictum of Archbishop Temple, 'If the conclusions are prescribed, the study is precluded'. Truth had to come first. 'I would say to every honest student in these matters: "Follow the truth, do your utmost to find it, and let it be your guide, whithersoever it may lead you. ... Do not let your study be hampered by a single thought about what the consequences of this or that conclusion may be to you or to others. If it be true, go forward to that truth."' At the same time, he insisted that Anglican clergymen, as accredited spokesmen of the Christian faith, had to subscribe to certain beliefs; and he persuaded Convocation to pass unanimously a resolution which 'places on record its conviction that the historical facts stated in the Creeds are an essential part of the faith of the Church'.
The Anglican solution placed the onus on the individual, and remained faithful to the teaching of St Paul. A scholar was to pursue the truth; but it might lead him to a stage at which he passed the bounds of Christianity, which had defined limits. If so, it was better to face the fact, in the light of his own mind and conscience, rather than try to suppress it, since Christianity itself was identical with truth. The implication of this line of argument was that ultimately the problem would be resolved by scholarship, which would reconcile historical truth and scripture - or that Christianity would disappear, having been shown to be untrue. The implication of the papal attitude was that man was too frail a vessel to be left to wrestle with truth individually; he needed the collective guidance of the Church, which was divinely directed, and which he must follow even against the apparent evidence of his senses and conscience. The controversy thus served to demonstrate that nothing essential had changed in the Catholic-Protestant argument since the sixteenth century.
In 1914, then, Christians still could not reach a consensus about how their creed was to absorb the new knowledge pouring in from all directions, or even about how Christians were to acquire it. This depressing conclusion ran counter to the spiritual euphoria of the times. There were still plenty of triumphalists in 1914. The papalists assumed an eventual submission of all Christians to Rome, followed by a redirection of the world under papal guidance; a return, as it were, to Innocent HI'S thirteenth century, but with steamships, radio and aircraft. The Protestant triumphalists looked forward to the evangelization of the world along the lines of American voluntaryism. Their rival future projections were thus very different. But they rested on similar assumptions. The paramountcy of the West - intellectual, economic, military and political - would be maintained. Indeed, it would be fortified. And Christianity would continue to be the beneficiary of western strength. The West still rested on an essentially Christian framework of beliefs and ethics. And Westerners, as individuals, were overwhelmingly Christian in their outlook and expectations.
The historical process begun by the First World War has demonstrated the fragility of all these certitudes. If 1914 was a watershed in the history of monarchy and legitimacy, of privilege and liberal capitalism, of western imperialism and the domination .of the white race - if it foreshadowed the destruction of all these institutions - it was also a devastating blow to Christianity. In one respect it demonstrated the futility of the type of rearguard action conducted by Pius x, since the march of change was seen to be less the work of conscientious scholars than of huge implacable forces beyond the control of any pontiff or Holy Office. More damagingly, though, the war also drew attention to the superficial hold Christianity appeared to possess over the passions of multitudes or the actions of their governments. European Christianity, supposedly based on a common moral foundation, proved no more able than the network of marriage relationships among the royal families to prevent Armageddon, or to stop it degenerating into mutual genocide. The doctrinal and ecclesiastical divisions of Christianity, so rich in history, so stridently debated and defended, proved equally, if not more, irrelevant. All the participants claimed they were killing in the name of moral principle. All in fact pursued purely secular aims. Religious beliefs and affiliations played no part whatever in the alignments. On one side were ranged Protestant Germany, Catholic Austria, Orthodox Bulgaria and Moslem Turkey. On the other were Protestant Britain, Catholic France and Italy, and Orthodox Russia.
Thus divided, the Christian churches could, and did, play no part in transcending the struggle and bringing about reconciliation. Clergymen were unable, and for the most part unwilling, to place Christian faith before nationality. Most took the easy way out and equated Christianity with patriotism. Christian soldiers of all denominations were exhorted to kill each other in the name of their Saviour. Some clergy went further. The provision in canon law forbidding priests to bear arms, or shed blood, was in effect suspended, and about 79,000 Catholic priests and nuns were mobilized. Of these, 45,000 came from France alone, and over 5,000 French priests were killed in action. In Britain, clergy were exempt but served the war effort in any capacity they could. Hensley Henson, future Bishop of Durham, noted of the outbreak of war: 'We hastened back to Durham, and were soon immersed in the excitements and activities of bellicose preparations' - in his case a tour of the county with the Lord Lieutenant to raise recruits for the Durham Light Infantry. Dr Garbett, later Archbishop of York, rejoiced that three out of six of his curates, serving as chaplains at the Front, had won the Military Cross (one with bar). The Anglicans organized a 'National Mission of Repentance and Hope', which William Temple, later
Archbishop of Canterbury, termed 'hardly an adequate way of meeting the end of a world'.
The Mission enlisted the support of Horatio Bottomley, the commercial fraud and rabble-rouser, who specialized in recruiting campaigns; he took tea with the Bishop of London, but afterwards wrote in John Bull that British troops at the Front had no need of 'hope and repentance', since they were all 'heroes and saints'. Clergy who revealed themselves unenthusiastic for the war were victimized. Cosmo Gordon Lang, Archbishop of York, quite inadvertently fell into this category. Lang was an incorrigible snob, and in a recruiting address in the Empire Music Hall at York, he could not resist dropping the name of the Kaiser, whom, he said, he had last seen kneeling and weeping at Queen Victoria's deathbed - the sight, he said, was a 'sacred memory', and he 'resented extremely the coarse and vulgar way in which the Emperor of Germany had been treated in some of the newspapers and so-called comic illustrations'. This was interpreted as a pro-German remark; Lang received thousands of abusive letters (plus twenty-four Iron Crosses), was cut in the Yorkshire Club and, 'worst of all', detected 'a coolness at Windsor and Balmoral'. The incident pursued him for the rest of his days. More deliberately, Benedict xv invoked hatred by working through diplomatic means to try to prevent the conflict from spreading. His unsuccessful efforts to keep Italy out earned him the hostility of the French Catholics, who termed him 'the boche pope'. In August 1917, his proposal for a truce was denounced by a leading Dominican, Pere Sertillange, from the fashionable Paris pulpit of the Madelaine: 'Like the apparent rebel in the Gospel, we are sons who reply "No, no!" ' (At the time, Sertillange was supported by his archbishop, Cardinal Amette; after the war, the Vatican took its revenge, and the friar was kept a prisoner in religious houses in Palestine, Italy and Holland, regaining his freedom of expression only just before the Second World War.)
It was, not surprisingly, America, as the millenarian Christian state, which made the bravest, or at least the loudest, attempts to identify its national cause with religious principle. As a neutral, the United States had failed to detect any moral distinction between the belligerents. Indeed, President Wilson had noted privately that for America to join the Allies 'would mean that we should lose our heads along with the rest and stop weighing right and wrong'. His attitude changed immediately the war was joined. 'We entered the war', he declared publicly, 'as the disinterested champion of right.' Christian pulpit rhetoric supplied the colourful details, as it had during the Civil War. 'It is God who has summoned us to this war,' said the Reverend Randolph H. McKim in his Washington church. 'This conflict is indeed a crusade. The greatest in history. The holiest. It is in the profoundest and truest sense a Holy War. ... Yes, it is Christ, the king of righteousness, who calls us to grapple in deadly strife with this unholy and blasphemous power.' The Reverend Courtland Meyers preached in Boston: 'If the Kaiser is a Christian, the devil in Hell is a Christian, and I am an atheist.' Newell Dwight Hillis, minister of the Brooklyn Plymouth church, advocated a plan for 'exterminating the German people ... the sterilisation of 10 million German soldiers and the segregation of the women'. Henry B. Wright, the evangelical YMCA director, and former Professor of Divinity at Yale, assured soldiers with qualms about bayonet drill that he could 'see Jesus himself sighting down a gun-barrel and running a bayonet through an enemy's body'. Albert C. Dieffenbach, Unitarian, also thought Christ would 'do the work of deadliness against that which is the most deadly enemy of his Father's Kingdom in a thousand years'. Shailer Mathews, of the Chicago Divinity School, thought a conscientious objector should be spared persecution, 'provided he does not speak with a German accent', but added that 'for an American to refuse his share in the present
war ... is not Christian'.
Organized Christianity in America did at least attempt to retrieve some ethical results from the debacle by demanding peace terms which conformed to Christian principles. In his book Christian Ethics in the World War (1918), W. Douglas MacKenzie, of the Hartford Seminary Foundation, 'Christianized' the conflict as a campaign against German militarism, and argued that a Christian outcome would be the replacement of the nation state by the League of Nations. The League, indeed, was the way out of the dilemma which the war posed for Christians. Christianity had been powerless to stop the war, or to shorten it, or to mitigate the 'frightfulness', or to prevent both sides - with scarcely a dissenting clerical voice - from invoking the aid of the same God. But at least Christianity could be identified with the peace-solution. This was the spirit in which Woodrow Wilson came to Versailles, as John Maynard Keynes noted at the time: ' ... if the President was not the philosopher-king, what was he? ... The clue, once found, was illuminating. The President was like a Nonconformist minister. ... His thought and his temperament were essentially theological. ... He had no plan, no scheme, no constructive ideas whatever for clothing with the flesh of life the commandments he had thundered from the White House. He could have preached a sermon on any of them, or have addressed a stately prayer to the Almighty for their fulfilment, but he could not frame their concrete application to the actual state of Europe.' Nor, as it turned out, could Christian leadership deliver American policy. The righteous Wilson wanted the League; and official religious opinion in America was overwhelmingly in favour of American participation. It greeted the Senate rejection with dismay, but was unable to reverse it. Thus Christian impotence in war was confirmed by Christian impotence in peace.
The First World War, a civil war among the Christian sects, opened a period of tragedy and shame for Christianity. The war, and the peace that followed, demonstrated the weakness of the churches; but at least none of them positively identified themselves with evil. That was to come. During the 1920s a mood of pessimism and discouragement set in among Christian leaders. Triumphalism was quietly laid on one side. Ostensibly, there was no decline - at least no dramatic decline - in Christian numbers. But visions of a Christianized world faded, and a defensive posture was adopted. Rome set the tone. As always, in periods of uncertainty, it looked for reliable, conservative allies. In 1922, Achille Ratti, a middle-class archivist, was elected pope as Pius xi. Unlike his predecessor, Benedict xv, he was narrow- minded, unimaginative and reactionary. He feared communism and socialism and saw Soviet Russia as the supreme enemy. He did not want the Church to get itself mixed up in workers' movements. Hence he would have nothing to do with Christian Democracy. In France he was reluctantly persuaded to condemn Action Francaise in 1927, but only after Maurras's provocative atheism had made such a step inevitable. He gave no corresponding encouragement to Catholic social movements. In Italy, Don Sturzo's mass party of Christian Workers, the Partito Populare, had received the help and blessing of Pope Benedict; Pius reversed the policy, and instead backed Mussolini, with the object of settling the 'Roman Question'. This was achieved with the signing of the Lateran Treaty in 1929 which, Pius said, had 'given Italy back to God'. Mussolini, in return, called the Pope 'a good Italian'. In the meantime, Sturzo had been forced into exile, his successor Alcide de Gasperi imprisoned, and the Christian Democrats broken up. In Germany, Pius backed the con-servative forces of the right, and gave no countenance to Christian socialists, whom he refused to distinguish from Marxists. *
* In Spain Civil War was made possible by the failure of a Christian Democrat party to emerge. Gil Robles's Catholic Accion Popular was a right-wing party which did not oppose the fascist overthrow of the Republic, the nearest approach to a Christian Democrat leader was Aguirre, the Basque; the Catholic authorities classified him along with 'Jews, Masons and Communists'. See Xavier Tusell, Historia de la Democracia Cristiana en Espana (Madrid, 1975).
If the papacy, while discouraging Christian democracy, had been completely consistent and held itself aloof from all political contacts, it would have been in a position simply to uphold and expound Christian principles and identify those who broke them. But it did not do this. While in theory denouncing the whole of the modern world, and remaining within its fortress, in practice it came to terms with established authority. It acted thus out of very deep reflexes, which in fact went back to the alliance with the Roman imperial power. Augustinian Christianity was based on the assumption that the Church was in concert with the civil authorities. The Church was protected, its commandments and moral teaching were broadly speaking embodied in civil law, its property was secured, its bishops and priests accorded honourable status, and its words were listened to (if not always heeded). For 1500 years the Church had come to accept this as the norm. Whether or not Church and State were formally linked, the Church was accustomed to operate in a favourable civil environment.
The exceptions to this rule had been brief, and had been treated as periods of crisis. Indeed, history seemed to point to the gloomy conclusion that the Church could not sustain the active hostility of the State for very long - at the most, a generation or two. The idea of the Church conducting a long campaign within a hostile society - as it had done for 250 years within the Roman empire - was not regarded as feasible. Hence a long war with the State was to be avoided if possible. Of course, with the Marxists there could be no question of compromise or mutual toleration. Alliances should therefore be sought with those forces in society which were most committed to the anti-Marxist struggle. Of course, ideally, the Church preferred to cooperate with legitimist Catholic monarchies, with whom a full-blown concordat could be signed. But it was prepared to settle for the next best thing, or even the next one after that, so long as the one absolutely unworkable situation - the Marxist state - was held at bay. It was this kind of consideration which motivated Catholic strategy between the wars: the desire for practical convenience, and a huge fear, based on a pessimistic assessment of the Church's ability to withstand prolonged attrition.
These considerations applied most strongly in Germany, where the Catholic Church was still conditioned by its experiences in the Kulturkampf. This had been more damaging than perhaps either the papacy, or even Bismarck, had realized. His accusations that German Catholics were not truly Germans, since their cultural assumptions were hostile to the spirit of German nationalism, had struck very deep, and inflicted lasting harm on the Catholic community. In its subsequent relations with the State, and other Germans, it became infused with an intense eagerness to demonstrate its loyalty to German ideals and aims and its total identification with Germanic society. It had been encouraged to do so by its clergy. In 1914 the Catholics had outbid the Lutherans in their anxiety to endorse the war. No one on either side had excelled the patriotic rhetoric of the German Catholic hierarchy. Cardinal Faulhaber had even gone so far as to say that the war, which he defined as undertaken to avenge the murder at Sarajevo, would enter the annals of Christian ethics as 'the prototype of the Just War'.
It was the continued anxiety not to expose themselves to the charge of being anti-German which led the Catholic Church to come to terms with Hitler and the Nazis. They were terrified of another Kulturkampf. There was a common fear shared by the German bishops, the papal nuncio, Archbishop Pacelli, and the Vatican itself, that a second campaign, waged much more ferociously -and perhaps for much longer - than the first would in effect destroy the Catholic Church in Germany. They feared that Hitler would create a separatist church, subordinate to the State, and that the vast majority of German Catholics (and clergy) would adhere to it, thus exposing the weakness of loyalty to the papacy, undermining the whole concept of populist triumphalism, and inflicting incalculable damage on international Catholicism elsewhere.
The strength of this fear can be measured when we consider what the Catholics had to lose by accepting Hitler. The Weimar republic had ended the official Lutheran predominance in Germany. Catholics no longer had to reckon with the hostility of a Protestant state. In fact they flourished under Weimar. The Protestants, with forty million adherents, had only 16,000 pastors; the Catholics, with twenty million, had 20,000 priests. The last traces of Bismarck's restrictive legislation had been erased. The Catholic church had more money than ever before. New schools, monasteries and convents were being opened every year. There were literally hundreds of Catholic papers and magazines, and thousands of clubs. Karl Bachem, the historian of the Catholic Centre Party, boasted in 1931: 'Never yet has a Catholic country possessed such a highly developed system of all conceivable associations as today's Catholic Germany.' There was a large, prosperous, growing and vocal Catholic intellectual community.
Yet the Catholics felt no loyalty to Weimar; it was not 'nationalist' enough. And towards Hitler, who was, they were ambivalent. It is true some bishops were initially hostile to the Nazis. In 1930, for instance, Cardinal Betram of Breslau called Nazi racism 'a grave error', and described its fanatical nationalism as 'a religious delusion which has to be fought with all possible vigour'. The same year, an official statement by Dr Mayer, Vicar-General of the Mainz archdiocese, confirmed that Catholics were forbidden to vote Nazi because of the party's racial policy. The Bavarian bishops also attack Nazism, and a statement by the Cologne bishops drew attention to the parallel with Action Francaise, officially condemned by the Holy Office three years before. But this comparison was a foolish one to make, since Rome's long hesitation about Action Francaise was notorious - evidently it was by no means in the same category as communism, or even socialism. (In fact, Pius xii revoked the ban on Action Francaise, without any retraction on their part, as soon as he became pope in 1939.)
In any case, some of the bishops flatly refused to take a stand against the Nazis, and especially against Hitler, who was becoming increasingly popular. Cardinal Faulhaber drew a clear distinction between 'the Fuhrer' whom he thought was well-intentioned and basically a good Christian, and certain of his 'evil associates'. (This was a common illusion, based entirely on wishful-thinking, among German clergy of all sects.) Some bishops went further: Shreiber of Berlin dissociated himself from the Mainz condemnation, and when an attempt was made at Fulda in August 1931 to get a unanimous condemnation of Nazism by all the Catholic bishops, the resolution was voted down. The fact is that most of the bishops were monarchists. They hated liberalism and democracy much more than they hated Hitler. So an ambiguous statement went through instead; worse, on this as on other occasions, it was accompanied by fervent balancing assertions of German patriotism, and by rabid complaints at Germany's unfair treatment and sufferings, so that the net effect of the declaration was to help the Nazis, and incline Catholic voters to support them. By trying to trump Hitler's patriotic ace, the Catholic bishops played straight into his hands, and thus encouraged the faithful to give him their votes.
Moreover, once Hitler attained power, German Catholicism dropped its 'negative' attitude and assumed a posture of active support. This was carried through by the bishops as early as 28 March 1933, on a firm indication from Rome (advised by Pacelli) that there would be no Vatican support for a policy of opposition. In the summer, Rome signed a concordat with Hitler, which in effect unilaterally disarmed German Catholicism as a political and social force, and signaled to rank-and-file Catholic priests and laymen that they should accept the new regime to the full. The Church accepted that only avowedly non- political Catholic societies and clubs had the right to exist in Hitler's Germany; the rest - trades unions, political parties, discussion groups, pressure-groups of every kind - were promptly disbanded. The surrender was amazing; a century of German Catholic social activity was scrapped without a fight, and all the principles which had been passionately defended during the Kulturkampf were meekly abandoned. Moreover this was done at a time when the Nazis had already begun to demonstrate their hostility, by searching priests' houses, forcing Catholic clubs and organizations to liquidate themselves, dismissing Catholic civil servants, confiscating diocesan property, censoring Catholic papers, and even attempting to close Catholic schools - all these actions had been undertaken before Rome signed the concordat. On 28 June 1933, over two hundred prominent Bavarian Catholics, a hundred of them priests, were arrested, and not released until the Catholic Bavarian People's Party had agreed to dissolve itself. Pacelli's defence of his advice to Rome to sign the concordat at all costs was that 'a pistol had been pointed at my head'; he had to choose 'between an agreement on their lines and the virtual elimination of the Catholic church in Germany'. But if the Catholics did not dare fight for what they had just yielded, what then would they fight for?
One factor in the Catholic capitulation was undoubtedly fear of the Lutherans. For if the Catholic attitude to Hitler was apprehensive and pusillanimous, many of the Protestant clergy were enthusiastic. The collapse of 1918 and the end of the Protestant monarchy had been a disaster for the Lutherans. Article 137 of the Weimar Constitution laid down that there was to be no state church. The necessary legislation to bring this about had never, in fact, been enacted, so church tax continued to be collected and paid. But most Lutherans were afraid their church would collapse once state support was completely removed. So they hated Weimar. Even as it was, the decline of the Evangelical Church in the 1920s filled them with terror. They had no confidence in their ability to survive even with a neutral state, and like the Catholics they were deeply pessimistic on their chances against systematic persecution. In short, they had lost faith. Some of them, therefore, looked on Hitler and his movement as saviours. *
* The Evangelical churches thought they would regain lost ground under Hitler. Otto Dibelius wrote: To the church leaders it seemed that this presaged the dawning of a new era in which the church would become a national institution.' Karl Barth said the Church 'almost unanimously welcomed the Hitler regime, with real confidence, indeed with the highest hopes.' See James Bentley, 'British and German High Churchmen in the Struggle Against Hitler', Journal of Ecclesiastical History (1972).
In the 1920s, a group of right-wing Lutherans had formed the Federation for a German Church, aimed at obliterating the Jewish background to Christianity and creating a national religion based on German traditions. They made great play with Luther's anti-semitic statements, and his hatred of democracy. Under the influence of the former Lutheran court-preacher, Adolf Stocker, they taught that Luther's reformation would be at last completed by a national reassertion of Germany's spiritual power and physical strength - thus Luther had been, as it were, a John the Baptist to Hitler. An even more extreme group, the Thuringian German Christians, actually acclaimed Hitler as 'the redeemer in the history of the Germans ... the window through which light fell on the history of Christianity'; the Fuhrer was 'God- sent'. A third group, the Christian German Movement, was the first to welcome uniformed Nazi units to their churches and to assign chaplains to the SA. At Hitler's suggestion, in April 1932, the three groups joined forces in the Faith Movement of German Christians, Pastor Joachim Hossenfelder being made 'reich leader'. He quickly offered his services to the Nazi hierarchy.
If the behaviour of the German Protestants seems incredible, it must be remembered that they had no anti-state tradition. They had no dogmatic or moral theology for an opposition role. Since Luther's day they had always been in the service of the State, and indeed in many ways had come to see themselves as civil servants. Unlike the High Anglicans, for instance, they had not been able to develop a doctrinal position which enabled them to distinguish between being part of a national church, and totally subservient to the government. Hence, once Hitler came to power, he benefited from Protestant history. On 3 April 1933 the first National Conference of the Faith Movement passed a resolution: 'For a German, the church is the community of believers who are under an obligation to fight for a Christian Germany. ... Adolf Hitler's state appeals to the church: the church must obey the appeal.' Otto Dibelius, in a broadcast to America two days after the first anti-Jewish measures, appeared to justify them, and claimed the boycott of Jewish businesses was conducted 'in conditions of complete law and order', as though that was the whole point. In the summer of 1933, the offices of the Prussian Evangelical Church were taken over as a prelude to setting up a state protestant church directly aligned to the party. But this Hitler did not want. He had the church officers reinstated. Unlike Mussolini, he was unwilling to be burdened with a state church. He refused the German Christian organization any status in his regime; and he declined to give Hossenfelder any office, or even to receive him. He disliked Christians, not least those prepared to grovel at his feet. On 14 July 1933, at a cabinet meeting, Hitler expressed satisfaction, as well he might, at the progress of events over the whole of the 'Christian front', especially the concordat. He was delighted that the Vatican had 'abandoned the Christian labour unions', and he ordered the publication of the proposed sterilization law to be held up until the concordant was actually signed on 20 July.
Meanwhile, at the Protestant Church elections, with the help of the Nazi propaganda machine, the
German Christians won an overwhelming victory. Their motto was: 'The Swastika on our breasts, the Cross in our hearts.' At synods, the pastors dressed in Nazi uniforms, and Nazi hymns were sung. Nazis, some picked by Hitler, were installed as bishops, and the synods passed Aryan legislation. Hitler chose Ludwig Muller as 'Reich Bishop', and he was duly elected; in his acceptance speech he referred to Hitler and the Nazis as 'presents from God'; on the same occasion, Pastor Leutheuser intoned: 'Christ has come to us through Adolf Hitler. ... We know today the Saviour has come. ... We have only one task, be German, not be Christian.' Actually, this last injunction more or less represented Hitler's own position. He gave no further encouragement to the group. They aroused hostility among the anti-Christian Nazis, and they went against his policy of having no other official centres of power. Moreover, he did not trust the discretion of his Evangelical admirers. In November 1933, at a mass-meeting in the Berlin Sports Palace, presided over by Bishop Muller, Dr Reinhold Krause called for 'a purge of the Old Testament with its Jewish morality of rewards, and its stories of cattle-dealers and concubines'; he also urged the censorship of the New Testament, and the removal of 'the whole theology of the Rabbi Paul' - instead a 'heroic Jesus' was to be proclaimed. This speech provoked a number of pastors into joining a semiopposition group called the Pastors' Emergency League, formed by Martin Neimoller. Hitler was annoyed, and thereafter did not attempt to work directly through a Christian movement. The enthusiasm had always been on their side, rather than his.
Nor was this odd. Despite the attempts of both Protestant and Catholic clergy to delude themselves, Hitler was not a Christian, and most of the members of his movement were avowedly anti-Christian. Of course Hitler was sometimes deceptive. He never officially left the Church; he sometimes referred to 'providence' in his speeches, and he attended church several times in his first years of power. In the 1920s he told Ludendorf that he had to conceal his hatred of Catholicism, because he needed the Bavarian Catholic vote as much as he needed the Prussian Protestants - 'the rest can come later'. His party programme was deliberately ambiguous: 'We demand freedom for all religious denominations in the state so far as they are not a danger to it and do not militate against the customs and morality of the German race'. These careful qualifications ought to have been enough to have alerted any intelligent Christian. Yet the belief persisted, especially among Protestants, that Hitler was a very pious man. They accepted his smooth assurances when he dissociated himself, or if convenient the movement, from the writings of his men - thus he pointed out that Rosenberg's anti-Christian tract, The Myth of the Twentieth Century, which the Catholics put on the Index, was a personal view, not official party policy. In fact he hated Christianity and showed a justified contempt for its German practitioners. Shortly after assuming power, he told Hermann Rauschnig that he intended to stamp out Christianity in Germany 'root and branch'. 'One is either a Christian or a German. You can't be both.' He thought the method might be to 'leave it to rot like a gangrenous limb'. Again: 'Do you really believe the masses will ever be Christian again? Nonsense. Never again. The tale is finished ... but we can hasten matters. The parsons will be made to dig their own graves. They will betray their God to us. They will betray anything for the sake of their miserable little jobs and incomes.'
This harsh judgment comes close to the truth. Neither the Evangelical nor the Catholic Church ever condemned the Nazi regime. Yet the Nazis as a whole did not even go through the motions (as Hitler did at first) of pretending to be Christians. They fiercely rejected accusations that they were atheists. Himmler declared that atheism would not be tolerated in the ranks of the SS. They claimed, rather, to believe in the 'religion of the blood'. They were in the millenarian tradition, and had something in common with the experimental pseudo-religions of the 1790s in revolutionary France, but with an added racialist content. Like the revolutionary cults, they tried to develop a liturgy. The Nazi publishing house put out a pamphlet describing 'forms of celebrations of a liturgical character which shall be valid for centuries.' The main service consisted of 'a solemn address of 15-20 minutes in poetical Language', a 'confession of faith recited by the congregation', then the 'hymn of duty'; the ceremony closed with a salute to the Fuhrer and one verse of each of the national anthems. The Nazi creed, used for instance at harvest festivals, ran:
'I believe in the land of the Germans, in a life of service to this land; I believe in the revelation of the divine creative power and the pure blood shed in war and peace by the sons of the German national community, buried in the soil thereby sanctified, risen, and living in all for whom it is immolated. I believe in an eternal life on earth of this blood that was poured out and rose again in all who have recognised the meaning of the sacrifice and are ready to submit to them. ... Thus I believe in an eternal God, an eternal Germany, and an eternal life.'
Essentially, then, Nazism, unlike communism, was not materialist; it was a blasphemous parody of Christianity, with racialism substituted for God, and German 'blood' for Christ. There were special Nazi feasts, especially 9 November, commemorating, the putsch of 1923, the Nazi passion and crucifixion feast, of which Hitler said: 'The blood which they poured out is become the altar of baptism for our reich.' The actual ceremony was conducted like a passion-play. And there were Nazi sacraments. A special wedding service was designed for the SS. It included runic figures, a sun-disc of flowers, a fire- bowl, and it opened with the chorus from Lohengrin, after which the pair received bread and salt. At SS baptismal ceremonies, the room was decorated with a centre altar containing a photograph of Hitler and a copy of Mein Kampf; and on the walls were candles, Nazi flags, the Tree of Life and branches of young trees. There was music from Grieg's Peer Gynt ('Morning'), readings from Mein Kampf, promises by the sponsors and other elements of the Christian ceremony; but the celebrant was an SS officer and the service concluded with the hymn of loyalty to the SS. The Nazis even had their own grace before meals for their orphanages, and Nazi versions of famous hymns. Thus:
Silent night, holy night,
All is calm, all is bright,
Only the Chancellor steadfast in fight,
Watches o'er Germany by day and night,
Always caring for us.
There was also a Nazi burial service.
The existence of this cult was, of course, well known. The Catholic hierarchy tried to excuse their failure to remonstrate by fostering the belief that these pagan ceremonies were unknown to Hitler, and 'the work of enthusiasts'. They raised no objection to Nazi youth-camps, attended by hundreds of thousands of young Catholics, though Hitler made no secret of his aims: 'I want a powerful, masterly, cruel and fearless youth. ... The freedom and dignity of the wild beast must shine from their eyes ... that is how I will root out a thousand years of human domestication.' At no point were Catholics given, either by their own hierarchy or by Rome, the relaxation from their moral obligation to obey the legitimate authority of the Nazi rulers, which had been imposed on them by the 1933 directives of the hierarchy. Nor did the bishops ever tell them officially that the regime was evil, or even mistaken. The turning point, even for the most blind, should have come on 30 June 1934, when the Nazi State carried out its mass-purge. Among those murdered were, for example, Dr Erich Klausener, General-Secretary of Catholic Action, Adalbert Probst, Director of the Catholic Sports Organization, Dr Fritz Gerlich, editor of a Munich Catholic weekly, and Father Bernard Stempfle, editor of an anti-semitic Bavarian newspaper; Hitler refused to hand over their bodies to relatives and had them cremated in defiance of Catholic teaching. But the Catholic bishops made no protest, no statement at all.
Nor did the Evangelicals. What reaction there was was favourable. Dr Dietrich, Evangelical bishop of Nassau-Hessen, sent Hitler a telegram of 'warmest thanks for the first rescue operation', followed by a circular letter claiming that the blood-bath 'demonstrated to the world' the 'unique greatness of the Fiihrer'; 'he has been sent to us by God'. The failure of the churches at this great turning-point, which demonstrated the essential criminality of the regime and opened the way for all the horrors ahead, proved Hitler was right in his estimate of organized Christianity in Germany. 'Why should we quarrel?' he asked. 'They will swallow everything in order to keep their material advantages. Matters will never come to a head. They will recognise a firm will, and we need only show them once or twice who is the master.' The churches were on Hitler's pay-roll. Both Evangelicals and Catholics, as state churches, benefited from public taxation. Hitler pointed out, in a speech in January 1939, that the two churches were, after the State, the largest landowners in Nazi Germany, and that they had accepted state subsidies which rose from 130 million marks in 1933 to 500 million in 1938; during the war they further increased to over 1,000 million.
In fact, both churches, in the main, gave massive support to the regime. The Catholic bishops welcomed 'the new, strong stress on authority in the German state'; Bishop Bornewasser told the Catholic youth in Trier Cathedral: 'With raised heads and firm step we have entered the new reich and we are prepared to serve it with all the might of our body and soul' In January 1934, Hitler saw twelve Evangelical leaders, and after this meeting they withdrew any support for the Pastors' Emergency League and issued a communique which pledged 'the leaders of the German Evangelical Church unanimously affirm their unconditional loyalty to the Third Reich and its leader. They most sharply condemn any intrigue or criticism against the state, the people or the [Nazi] movement, which are designed to endanger the Third Reich. In particular they deplore any activities on the part of the foreign press which seek falsely to represent the discussions within the church as a conflict against the state.' The Evangelicals provided both the most craven supporters of Hitler and the only element in the state churches to oppose him. Resistance, of a sort, began with the Evangelical 'Barmen Confession' of May 1934, rejecting 'the false doctrine that the state, over and above its special commission, should and could become the single and totalitarian order of human life, thus fulfilling the church's vocation as well.' But this was a theological not a political statement; the 'Confessing Church' never attempted political opposition. Even in Neimoller's church, Nazi flags hung from the walls, and the congregation gave the Nazi salute. And the courage of the pastors was limited. When some of them sent a private protest to Hitler in 1936, which was later published in Switzerland, the public outcry - Hitler was growing in popularity at the time-led the signatories to backtrack. When the Olympic Games were over, Dr Weissler, who had authorized publication (and had then been disowned by the 'Confessing Church') was put into Sachsenhausen, and beaten to death a few months later.
The first, and virtually the only, protest gesture by the Catholics was Pius xi's German encyclical, Mil Brennender Sorge, smuggled into Germany and read out on Palm Sunday in 1937. It attacked not merely violations of the concordat but Nazi state and racial doctrines, and was taken by Hitler to be a declaration of war. He suppressed it without difficulty and there is no evidence it stirred Catholic opposition to the regime. Indeed, he dealt with the state churches without really raising his voice. He used the currency laws, from 1935, to punish priests or nuns with contacts abroad, a device later adopted by the Communist states. The Gestapo carried out repression when necessary. It rarely needed to be severe. Except for a few individuals, the clergy were hardly ever imprisoned for long. Of 17,000 Evangelical pastors, there were never more than fifty serving long terms at any one time. Of the Catholics, one bishop was expelled from his diocese, and another got a short term for currency offences. There was no. more resistance, despite the fact that, by summer 1939, all religious schools had been abolished. Only the free sects stuck to their principles enough to merit outright persecution. The bravest were the Jehovah's Witnesses, who proclaimed their outright doctrinal opposition from the beginning and suffered accordingly. They refused any cooperation with the Nazi state which they denounced as totally evil. The Nazis believed they were part of the international Jewish-Marxist conspiracy. Many were sentenced to death for refusing military service and inciting others to do likewise; or they ended in Dachau or lunatic asylums. A third were actually killed; ninety-seven per cent suffered persecution in one form of another. They were the only Christian group which aroused Himmler's admiration: in September 1944 he suggested to Kaltenbrunner that, after victory, they should be resettled in the conquered plains of Russia.
Of the well-known Christians, Dibelius was arrested in 1937, but acquitted. So was Neimoller in 1938, but he was nonetheless held in concentration camps. As Hitler consolidated his hold on German emotions, resistance grew weaker. Gestapo reports 1938-9 noted that the Evangelicals were giving up the struggle. In Austria, Hitler's annexation was welcomed by the churches. The Austrian Catholic hierarchy greeted the imposition of Nazi restrictions with relief on the grounds that 'the danger of an all- devastating atheistic bolshevism was averted by the actions of the National Socialist Movement. They therefore welcome these measures for the future and bestow their blessing, and would instruct the faithful in this sense.' The Austrian Evangelicals, though less important, were equally enthusiastic. Hitler's response to the groveling of the Austrian bishops was to revoke their concordat, close their schools, and loot and burn the palace of Cardinal Innitzer, their leader. Despite this, Pius xiii, elected pope in March 1939, could hardly wait to send Hitler a friendly letter. He refused to condemn the absorption of Czechoslovakia a few days later, although he knew this meant the Czech Catholics - whom the Jesuits had fought so hard to save for Catholicism three hundred years before - would immediately lose their schools. He described the seizure as one of the 'historic processes in which, from the political point of view, the church is not interested'. In April 1939, Protestants and Catholics rang their bells for Hitler's birthday, and Cardinal Bertram, the Catholic primate, sent him a greetings-telegram.
The churches played no part in the events leading to the outbreak of the Second World War. Both the state churches urged Germans to obey the Fiihrer and fight for victory. The only exception was Preysing, Catholic bishop of Berlin. The German bishops do not seem even to have discussed whether a war started in pursuit of Hitler's expansionist aims was justified or not. Archbishop Grober's line was that the church had 'never left it to the judgment of the individual Catholic, with all his shortsightedness and emotionalism, to decide, in the event of war, its permissibility or lack of it.' Instead, this final decision has always been in the province of lawful authority.' But what did lawful authority have to say? Nothing. The only relevant statement was made right at the end, in January 1945, when Archbishop Jager, calling for further Catholic sacrifices, wrote of Germany's two great enemies, 'liberalism and individualism on the one side, collectivism on the other'. The rest simply told their flocks to obey Hitler. The Pope gave no guidance. Pius xiii advised all Catholics everywhere to 'fight with valour and charity' on whichever side they happened to find themselves. Later, he defended his early war-statements by claiming that both sides construed them to be in their favour. In that case, what was the point in issuing them? It is against this whole background that his encyclical quoted at the beginning of this section should be read. Curiously enough, it contains no condemnation of the Nazi-Soviet carve-up of Catholic Poland. The topic was not even mentioned.
During the war, the churches' attitude to Hitler became, if anything, more servile. There was wholesale confiscation of church property of all kinds, each ministry taking what it wanted. There was antiChristian propaganda in the armed forces. But the churches continued to greet Nazi victories by ringing their bells, until they were taken away to be melted down for the war-effort. Only seven Catholics in the whole of the German Reich refused to perform military service; six were executed, the seventh was declared insane. The sacrifices of the Protestants were more considerable, but still insignificant. In June 1940, their leader, Kerrl, offered to donate all Evangelical property to the State, and make Hitler its 'supreme head' and Summits Episcopus. Hitler contemptuously refused. When he heard of Kerrl's death in 1941, he remarked: 'Pure Christianity, the Christianity of the catacombs, is concerned with translating the Christian doctrine into fact. It leads simply to the annihilation of mankind. It is merely wholehearted Bolshevism under a tinsel of metaphysics.' Thus Hitler, whom Pius xiii saw as the indispensable bastion against Russia, himself equated true Christianity with communism.
In the end he intended to exterminate the Christians. But first he wanted to deal with the Jews. Here he rightly believed he could get German Christian support, or at least acquiescence. 'As for the Jews,' he told Bishop Berningof Osnabruch in April 1933, 'I am just carrying on with the same policy which the Catholic church had adopted for 1500 years.' It was true there was an anti-semitic element in nineteenth- century German Catholicism. In the 1870s, Bishop Martin of Pederborn had asserted his belief in stories of Jewish ritual murders of Christian children. The Catholics had used anti-semitism when German Jews supported the Kulturkampf. One Catholic encyclopaedia (1930) asserted that 'political anti-semitism' was permissible provided it utilized morally acceptable means. Bishop Buchberg called it 'justified self- defence' against 'too-powerful Jewish capital' (1931). Archbishop Grober, editing a handbook on religious problem, included an article on 'race' which stated:
'Every people bears itself the responsibility for its successful existence, and the intake of entirely foreign blood will always represent a risk for a nationality that has proven its historical worth. Hence, no people may be denied the right to maintain undisturbed their previous racial stock and to enact safeguards for this purpose. The Christian religion merely demands that the means used do not offend against the moral law and natural justice.'
What did this mean in practice? Many Jews became Catholics to avoid persecution; thus the old Spanish problem of 'new Christians' cropped up again in a different form. The Nuremberg Laws of September 1935 dealt with this by forbidding two Catholics to marry if one were racially non-Aryan. By and large the Church bowed to this new law, which she had earlier termed an inadmissible infringement of her spiritual jursidiction. One Catholic bishop, Hudel, actually defended the Nuremberg laws. The clergy made some effort to protect Catholics of Jewish birth; but it was unsystematic and unsuccessful. They claimed credit for forcing the Nazis to drop the compulsory divorce of people who had made racially mixed marriages, but this was probably achieved, rather, by demonstrations by Aryan wives. When the bishops condemned 'killing', as they occasionally did, they did not mention words like 'Jews' or 'nonAryan', and never made it clear precisely what they were calling sinful. Thus Catholics engaged in the extermination processes were never told specifically by their clergy that they were doing wrong. The point is academic since they must have known already. The Church excommunicated Catholics who laid down in their wills that they wished to be cremated, or who took part in duels; but it did not forbid them to work in concentration or death-camps - and at the end of 1938, 22.7 per cent of the SS were practising Catholics. Provost Lichtenberg of Berlin was one of the very few Catholic priests who made a real protest against Hitler's Jewish policy; he died on the way to Dachau in 1943. The laity were not much better, and the behaviour of the German bishops contrasted shamefully with that of their colleagues in France, Holland and Belgium. In 1943, the Prussian Synod of the Confessing Church pointed out that liquidation of the Jews was against the Fifth Commandment; this was a statement which the German Catholic bishops could not bring themselves to echo.
The most that can be said in their favour is that they received no guidance from the Pope. When French cardinals and archbishops objected to Petain's 'Jewish statutes' in June 1941, the Vichy Ambassador, Leon Berard, reported that the Vatican did not consider them in conflict with Catholic teaching. It resisted a good deal of pressure to come out against anti-Jewish atrocities. In the autumn of 1943, Bishop Hudel, head of the German Catholic community in Rome, asked the German military commander to stop the arrest and deportation of 8,000 Jews, not on the grounds that it was wrong to exterminate them, but because 'I fear that otherwise the Pope will have to make an open stand which will serve the anti-German propaganda as a weapon against us.' Both he and the German ambassador, Ernst von Wiezsacker, took it for granted that Pius would not protest willingly, but only under pressure - they knew their man. In fact he did nothing at all, though 1,000 Jews were sent off for extermination. The only action taken was a statement in Osservatore Romano, the official Vatican paper, describing the treatment of Jews in concentration camps, and the confiscation of their property, as 'too harsh'. What would have been adequately harsh? The paper did not say. What made Pius keep silent, apart from natural timidity and fear for the safety of the Vatican itself, was undoubtedly his belief that a total breach between Rome and Hitler would lead to a separatist German Catholic Church. Like the Protestant pastors, he was a man of little faith. The Frenchman, Cardinal Tisserant, who watched this sad story unfold in Rome, said at the time: 'I fear that history will reproach the Holy See with having practised a policy of selfish convenience and not much else!'
Would the Germans have resisted a similar campaign to exterminate active Christians? Hitler was susceptible to pressure. There is no record of church protests against such Nazi activities as human stud- farms, breeding and sex experiments conducted at Himmler's Lebensborn Institute and elsewhere. But in August 1941, Bishop Galen of Munster preached a sermon on the sanctity of human life, aimed at the compulsory euthanasia programme, of which he gave details. This sermon was widely circulated and talked about. Not only was the bishop not punished - despite demands from Nazis that he be hanged - but Hitler ordered the operation to be halted. (He later allowed it to be resumed secretly, and in 1943 the system was extended to include orphan children.) The euthanasia issue was the only one on which the German people seem to have felt strongly, apart from the special case of the wives who protested against compulsory divorces; in each case Hitler gave way, at any rate in public, which indicates that he was less intransigent in such matters than either the Pope or the German Christian clergy supposed. But it is notable that when the same gas-chambers intended for the euthanasia victims were in fact employed on Jews of all ages, and in vast numbers, no Christian protest was heard.
What the papacy failed to realize was that the Nazis were more serious enemies of Christianity than even the Communists. They exposed the ambivalence and weakness of Christians, and their cowardice, whereas Communism brought out their strength. And, in the last resort, the Nazis were much more implacably determined to stamp out Christianity. When the Christian aristocrats who had taken part in the July 1944 plot were brought to trial, the president of the court, Roland Freisler, told their leader: 'Count Moltke, Christianity and we Nazis have one thing in common and one only: we claim the whole man.' The real threat of Nazism to Christianity was proclaimed far more loudly by the Nazis themselves than by the official Catholic leaders, who largely ignored it - at any rate in Germany, Austria and Italy. Hitler's plans for Christianity were more draconian than anything envisaged by the Russians. He told his entourage on 13 December 1941: 'The war will be over one day. I shall then consider that my life's final task will be to solve the religious problem. ... The final state must be: in the pulpit, a senile officiant; facing him, a few sinister old women, as gaga and poor in spirit as anyone could wish.' Anti-Christian activities undertaken in Poland and elsewhere were more ferocious than anything contrived by the Russians, and applied equally to Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox churches. Himmler said: 'We shall not rest until we have rooted out Christianity.' The Nazi image of the future was adumbrated in the experimental area of the Warthegau, carved out of former Polish territories and handed over completely to party control as a tabula rasa. The plan involved not merely the separation of Church and State but the progressive and systematic destruction of religion. Did Pius xiii know of this? He was usually well- briefed on what was going on. Eventually, Pius made a speech to the College of Cardinals. Nazism he said was 'a satanic spectre ... the arrogant apostasy from Jesus Christ, the denial of his doctrine and of his work of redemption, the cult of violence, the idolatry of race and blood, the overthrow of human liberty and dignity'. But it was then June 1945, the Germans had surrendered and Hitler was safely dead.
Thus the Second World War inflicted even more grievous blows on the moral standing of the Christian faith than the First. It exposed the emptiness of the churches in Germany, the cradle of the Reformation, and the cowardice and selfishness of the Holy See. It was the nemesis of triumphalism, in both its Protestant and Catholic forms. Yet the Christian record was not entirely shameful. Christian resistance to Hitler and the Nazis had been weak and ineffectual, yet it did exist - it was more persistent and principled than that of any other element in German society. Some Christians in the West recognized its existence and tried to strengthen it; there was a slender line of Christian communication across the abyss of war. During the 1930s George Bell, Anglican Bishop of Chichester, had been in touch with the antiNazi group in the Evangelical Church, and in particular with Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer. When war broke out he tried hard to combat the mindless Christian patriotism which, in 1914, had reinforced the hatreds on both sides. Indeed, he was one of the few Christian prelates in either of the world wars who tried to think out what a Churchman ought to do in these circumstances. In November 1939 he published an article, 'The Church's Function in Wartime', in the Fortnightly Review, which argued that it was essential that the Church should remain the Church, and not 'the state's spiritual auxiliary'. It should define basic principles of conduct, and 'not hesitate ... to condemn the infliction of reprisals, or the bombing of civilian populations, by the military forces of its own nation. It should set itself against the propaganda of lies and hatred. It should be ready to encourage the resumption of friendly relations with the enemy nation. It should set its face against any war of extermination or enslavement, and any measures directly aimed to destroy the morale of a population.'
Bell did his best to live up to these principles, all of which were broken by the Allies with the knowledge and encouragement of the churches. In early summer 1942 he contrived to get to Sweden where he made contact with the German resistance and Bonhoeffer. The latter had told his friends in 1940, after Hitler's success in France: 'If we claim to be Christians, there is no room for expediency. Hitler is the anti-Christ. Therefore we must go on with our work and eliminate him, whether he be successful or not.' Bonhoeffer's last message, smuggled out of prison just before his execution in April 1945, was to Bell: ' ... with him I believe in the principle of our Universal Christian Brotherhood, which rises above all national interests, and that our victory is assured.' For his part, Bell tried to set limits to Allied ferocity. He thought 'the church cannot speak of any earthly war as a crusade'. He advocated an international agreement against night-bombing, but got no support from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Cosmo Gordon Lang. All he obtained from the government was a public statement that their aim was not the total destruction of the German people; and on bombing he was sharply rebuked by Lang's successor, Archbishop Temple, in July 1943: 'I am not at all disposed to be the mouthpiece of the concern which I know exists, because I do not share it.' Bell was horrified by the mass terror raids on German cities conducted by the British, and later by the Americans also. He wrote in the Chichester Diocesan Gazette in September 1943: 'To bomb cities as cities, deliberately to attack civilians, quite irrespective of whether or not they are actively contributing to the war effort, is a wrong deed, whether done by the Nazis or by ourselves.' This unexceptionable Christian observation won virtually no support at the time, and led to Bell being asked by the Dean of Chichester to withdraw from a Battle of Britain Sunday service in his own cathedral. Bell continued to condemn indiscriminate bombing, and forced a debate in the House of Lords on 9 February 1944. The speech he then made did not succeed in halting the bombing, but it aroused much comment and forced many complacent people to think. It also brought, at the time, a comment from Liddell Hart, the military analyst: ' ... the historian of civilisation, if that survives, is likely to regard it as better evidence for Christianity and common decency, than has been provided by any other spokesman. It represents the longer view and the higher wisdom.'
The longer view and the higher wisdom: to what extent did these characterize Christianity in the twentieth century? There was no striking evidence of far-sighted Christian statesmanship in the
Protestant camp. The triumphalist euphoria which marked the first decade of the century slowly disappeared. In Britain, the last real (as opposed to commercially organized) Christian revival took place in Wales, 1904-5. It was essentially Nonconformist, and was promoted by anger against the status and privileges of the established Church in Wales. Its leader, Evan Roberts, was a young miner studying for the ministry, but the movement seems to have been entirely spontaneous and repudiated ministerial guidance. Roberts thought he was guided by the spirit; his helpers did not organize meetings, and he did not prepare his sermons. Sometimes he would remain silent in the pulpit for one and a half hours. But when he spoke he provoked contortions, prostrations and outcries, and his mere presence at a mass political meeting was sufficient to turn it into a religious one: at the 1906 General Election, Lloyd George, the most charismatic politician of the day, begged Roberts not to come to Caernarvon, At the end of 1906, Roberts suddenly collapsed and went into retirement, and the movement quickly subsided. The Nonconformist churches had more MPs in the House of Commons in the 1906 Parliament than at any time since the 1640s; but their legislative programme was a failure, and thereafter their representation declined sharply. Indeed, Nonconformity had been in decay for some time. The main period of growth for the Wesleyans and Baptists had ended by 1845; and even the Primitive Methodists slackened after 1854. For the Church of England, attendances had begun to fall by the 1880s, The last public victory for British Protestantism came in 1911, and was characteristically a negative one. The Reverend F. B. Meyer, the minister of Regent's Park Baptist Church, and organizing secretary of the Free Church Movement, launched a nationwide campaign to stop the staging of the Jack JohnsonBombardier Wells prize fight in Earls Court. Under pressure from the Protestants, the Director of Public Prosecutions began an action against the two fighters for 'contemplating a breach of the peace': but this proved unnecessary when the railway company which owned the freehold of Earls Court forbade the fight by legal injunction.
In the United States, Protestant triumphalism persisted much longer. American Protestants, too, were campaigning against prizefighting; in 1910 they had succeeded in banning the Jack Johnson-Jim Jeffries fight in California. But their chief preoccupation was with alcoholic liquor. It was the great Protestant crusade of the twentieth century. In 1900, thanks to Protestant pressure-groups, twenty-four per cent of the population lived in dry territory; by 1906 this had been extended to forty per cent. In 1913, the Protestants won their first victory at the Federal level, when the Webb-Kenyon law prohibited the sending of liquor into dry states; by 1917 there were twenty-nine dry states and over half the American people lived on dry territory. The famous Eighteenth Amendment came on top of 1918 laws prohibiting the manufacture and sale of liquor after June 1919, and in October the Volstead enforcement act went through Congress, so total prohibition became a fact on 16 January 1920. The trouble with the legislation, however, was that it was undiscriminating and too comprehensive; it bore the marks of an unreasoning religious fanaticism, and it ignored much sympathetic and wise advice. Hence the movement failed to make prohibition stick, and it was not merely defeated but routed. This was a disaster for organized American Protestantism. It was followed by a rapid decline in its domestic political power. Traditional Protestant moral theology had no answer to the Depression. It regarded the New Deal and similar interventionist schemes as unscriptural and sinful. Hence the great majority of Protestant periodicals and ministers, except in the South, favoured the Republicans and opposed Roosevelt. One survey showed that in the 1936 Roosevelt landslide, over seventy per cent of 21,606 Protestant ministers polled voted for Roosevelt's Republican opponent. Landon, who also received the
majority of the votes of all Protestant church members. Among the Congregationalists, the elite of the traditional Protestant dominance, the vote for Landon was as high as seventy-eight per cent. Thus the 1930s and 1940s marked a Protestant political retreat, before a Democratic coalition in which Jews and Catholics and progressives all had increasing roles to play.
Yet it was some time before the weakening in Protestant ability to influence events, or set the tone of society, was translated into figures of church attendance, or was recognized as merely one aspect of a general contraction of Christianity. The number of those actually affiliated to particular churches appeared to be rising. It was calculated at forty-three per cent of the population in 1910, and almost exactly the same in 1920. By 1940 it had risen to forty-nine per cent, and there appears to have been an impressive post-war 'revival' to fifty-five per cent in 1950 and sixty-nine per cent in 1960. The phenomenon was not easy to explain. Within academic Protestantism there had, indeed, been an intellectual revival. It sprang originally from Switzerland, where Pastor Karl Barth, the latest in a long line of innovatory theologians who have found inspiration in the Epistle to the Romans, published his Commentary in 1918, followed by his Church Dogmatics in the 1930s. This neo-orthodoxy, as it is termed, reversed the liberal and rationalist attempt to translate Christianity into a formula for progress and reform - the raison d'etre of Protestant triumphalism - and emphasized the fact that the Christian hope or kerygma is essentially other-worldly. The new theological philosophy, as it might be called, was Germanic in origin, and in a sense was an attempt to understand or explain the hateful fact of world war. But it proved powerfully attractive to American Christian intellectuals in the 1930s-themselves trying to understand the hateful fact of the Depression - who no longer equated Christianity with the American way of life and capitalist democracy. They believed Christianity was millenarian, but not in a materialist sense at all. Reinhold Niebuhr's Introduction to Christian Ethics (1935) denied 'the illusion of liberalism that we are dealing with a possible and prudential ethic in the Gospels. ... The ethic of Jesus does not deal at all with the immediate moral problems of every human life. ... It transcends the possibilities of human life ... as God transcends the world.' The manifesto published by the neo-orthodox group the same year was entitled The Churches Against the World, and it emphasized withdrawal rather than crusade.
It would, however, be idle to pretend that this essentially theological revival had much to do with high attendances at church in the postwar period. On the contrary, American popular religion was becoming increasingly divorced from its doctrinal basis, and ordinary churchgoers less and less inclined to read the New Testament - as the neo-orthodox scholars urged - to discover what it actually says. As long ago as 1831 de Tocqueville had noted of American preachers: 'It is often difficult to ascertain from their discourse whether the principal object of religion is to procure eternal felicity in the other world or prosperity in this.' Religion and church-going served almost as a national talisman to ensure that economic expansion continued into the 1950s and 1960s; it was an insurance policy against the end of affluence. And it was marked by the adaption of psychological concepts to induce tranquility and felicity, a debased modern form of mysticism. Thus Americans read Peace of Mind (1946) by a Boston Reformed Rabbi, Joshua Loth Liebman, the Rev. Norman Vincent Peale's Guide to Confident Living (1948) and Power of Positive Thinking (1952), Mgr Fulton J. Sheen's Peace of Soul (1949), Billy Graham's Peace with God (1953) and Erich Fromms's Art of Loving (1956). These were, in effect, variations on harmonial or gnostic themes which had always flourished in the United States, and which
had produced such phenomena as Christian Science, Theosophy, American Rosicrucianism, and the Christian therapies of Dale Carnegie, the speech-trainer and author of How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936). It could be argued that many of these cults were in the tradition of Jesus Christ as a miracle-worker and faith-healer, just as many of the revivalist sects were in the tradition of the early Charismatics and 'speakers with tongues'. They were thus Christian. Some, indeed, were insistently so. Norman Vincent Peale's best success-story, in his Power of Positive Thinking, which sold two million copies during the Eisenhower years, were Maurice Flint and his wife, who after being 'reached' by Peale built up a successful business marketing 'mustard-seed remembrancers' worn as an amulet and recalling Matthew 17: 20. But many of the cults, such as Theosophy and Rudolf Steiner's 'Esoteric Movement of the Reformation', had virtually no common dogmatic ground with Christianity. And the religious afflatus shaded off into domestic revivals of other imperial religions - Indian Vedanta, Persian Baha'i, Zen Buddhism, and, for American blacks, the prison-cult of Black Power, which is pseudo-Islamic. Indeed, even in President Eisenhower's Washington, which symbolized the Christian revival in the 1950s, and where the tone was Protestant, the actual content was patriotic moralism and sentimentalized religiosity rather than specifically Christian. 'Piety on the Potomac', as it was termed, had something of the quality of classical Roman religion. It was kept up officially, as befitted a great imperial state with world-wide responsibilities and the consciousness of a global mission. In 1954, the phrase 'under God' (as used by Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address) was added to the United States Pledge of Allegiance, and in 1956 the device from the coinage, 'In God We Trust', became the nation's official motto. Which God? God as defined by whom? No answer was required. President Eisenhower, himself the archetype of the generalized homo Americanus religiosus, asked the nation only for 'faith in faith'. He told the country in 1954: 'Our government makes no sense unless it is founded on a deeply-felt religious faith - and I don't care what it is.'
In any event 1960 marked the high-water mark of ostensible religious growth, and thereafter all the indices, for what they were worth, showed continuous decline. As in Britain, popular Christianity had been associated with the imperial mission; as in Britain, the questioning of religious certitudes seemed to grow pari passu with doubts about geopolitical ones. The only difference was that in the United States the sceptical dawn came a generation later. Moreover, Christianity and the western paramountcy were directly linked in the mission field: Protestant triumphalism, as a global phenomenon, rested essentially on Anglo-Saxon imperialism in its various forms. It lost its self-confidence as the West lost its will (and ability) to rule.
In sheer size, the missionary effort continued to expand both between the wars and even after 1945. The number of white Protestant field-workers increased from 4,102 in 1911 to 5,556 in 1925 and 7,514 in 1938; Catholic numbers increased even faster. But income fell, and has continued to fall in comparative terms. Moreover, there was an almost complete failure to speed up the recruitment of local clergy and, above all, their promotion to higher ranks. Thus East Africa did not get its first Catholic bishop until 1939, and the black Anglicans had to wait until 1947. After the Second World War, all the main groups changed their policies and made frantic attempts to produce native clergy in large quantities. But by then it was, in a sense, too late; the colonial revolution was beginning. A confident native Christian clergy, running their own national churches, might have played a formative role in the construction of the new societies, as Christianity and the Christian clergy did in western and central Europe between the fifth and ninth centuries. But in the 1950s the clergy did not yet exist; and though they have since been created, the moment appears to have passed. Locally recruited and trained missionaries now dominate the movement, and form the great majority of the 60,000 Catholic and 42,000 Protestants now active in Asia, Africa and Latin-America. But their influence on Third World governments, never extensive, declines steadily; and in a great part of Asia missionary work has been halted by Communist governments.
More serious, in the long run, has been the failure, or the unwillingness, of the European Christian movements to allow local insights into Christianity to develop. This failure reaches right back into the sixteenth century, when the Jesuits were first discouraged from allowing cultural reinterpretations of Christian teaching to develop. It explains the inability of Christianity to establish more than a foothold in China, India or Japan. Where syncretistic forms of Christianity have made their appearance, 'official' Christianity has promptly stamped on them. Thus in China, the so-called 'Worshippers of Shang-ti', in the 1850s, developed a Christian political reform programme. linked to a new set of commandments - their seventh commandment, for instance, included a ban on opium. Here was a case of Christianity rising up from the depths, since the 'Worshippers' led a rebellion against the Manchu dynasty. One missionary, Griffiths John of the LMS, wrote in 1860: 'I full) believe that God is uprooting idolatry in this land through the insurgents, and that he will by means of them, in connection with the foreign missionary, plant Christianity in its stead.' But the movement allowed polygamy; and it inconvenienced western political arrangements. So it was categorized as non-Christian and destroyed by General 'Chinese' Gordon. In Japan, too, there have been several tentative syncretistic cults, such as Kanzo Uchimua's Mukyokai or 'Non-Church' movement. None has received encouragement from official Christian sects.
In India, an indigenous Christian Church existed when the first Portuguese missionaries arrived around 1500. These native Christians, mainly around Kerala, and numbering about 100,000, believed they sprang from the evangelizing of India by St Thomas in the first century AD. They had a Syriac liturgy and, apparently, a true apostolic succession. But they were, of course, Nestorians. Hence both the Catholic Europeans, and then, in turn, the Protestants, instead of building on this native tradition, sought instead to convert its representatives to their own Continental varieties. Hence the Thomas Church of India, far from expanding, has in fact contracted under the battering of the Western proselytizers, split into five branches. There are now Romo-Syrians of the Syriac rite (plus those of the Latin rite), Malankarans, Monophysite and Unreformed; Nestorians; the Mar Thomas, or the Reformed Syrian Church, and Thomas Anglicans.
The stresses of Christian teaching have produced similar religious abortions elsewhere. Thus in California, there are Wesleyan and Baptist branches of both the Northern anti-slavery Church, and the Southern segregationalist one, though the issue which once split the churches has no meaning in western America. Again, in the Central Provinces of India, there are native branches of the Scottish Original Seceders, though none of their members has been to Scotland or seceded from anything; as primitive Presbyterians they have inherited a disembodied religious tradition. Unassimilated Christianity can also produce entirely new but powerful and creative religions whose origin springs from linguistic and cultural misunderstanding. 'Where is the road that leads to Cargo?' asked the natives of parts of Papua
and New Guinea. These peoples are unable to accept the white Christian's distinction between sacred and secular knowledge. The believe that western goods and technology originate in the worlds of gods and spirits. They also think, rationalizing bitter experiences, that the intruding white man prevents the material betterment of the native people, in particular by withholding from them, and keeping to himself, the religious secrets by which they are obtained. Hence there arises a constant stream of prophets - one a month, on average - whose aim is to release the gods held in white bondage so that they will send possessions (Cargo) to the people.
Innovation in religion is essentially linked to prophecy. Here, perhaps, we have the key to the creative failure of non-European Christianity. The ferocious battles waged by the orthodox Church in the second and third centuries to stabilize Christian dogma and eliminate unlicensed prophets ended by killing prophecy as a means by which the Christian faith was expanded and interpreted - prophecy became a pseudo-science rather than a form of divine revelation. When therefore Christianity was exported by Europe from the sixteenth century onwards, prophecy was not recognized as a legitimate form of Christian activity. Yet it has made its appearance nevertheless, and has done so against a background of official Christian disapproval, thus leading to breakaway movements. Prophecy has, in fact, become the characteristic form of Christianity in Africa, the only large area (apart from Latin America) where Christian missions were faced not with other imperial cults but with primitive pagan religions which could be overborne. Christianity is thus making headway in Africa, but in ways which the official Christian churches find disturbing or even horrific.
The history of separatist native Christian churches in Africa now goes back nearly a century, to the Native Baptist Church (1888) organized in West Africa by David Vincent. The motive was, from the start, independence from white-controlled churches, and the emotional framework was nationalist and racialist. Vincent renamed himself Mojola Agbebi, and he wrote: ' ... when no bench of foreign bishops, no conclave of cardinals lord over Christian Africa, when the Captain of Salvation, Jesus Christ himself, leads the Ethiopian host, and when our Christianity ceases to be London-ward and New York-ward, but Heaven-ward, then will be an end to Privy Councils, Governors, Colonels, Annexations, Displacements, Partitions, Cessions and Coercions.' Vincent defended secret societies, human sacrifice and cannibalism, and he was plainly anxious to bring about a Christian absorption of African customs; but he was not strictly speaking prophetic since he did not claim a personal revelation. The Liberian Episcopalian, William Wade Harris, did. He appeared on the French Ivory Coast about 1914, preaching orthodox morality but claiming a direct line to the Deity and urging immediate repentance, rather like John the Baptist. A French observer, Captain Marty, described him as 'an impressive figure, adorned with a white beard, of magnificent stature, clothed in white, his head enturbaned with a cloth of the same colour, wearing a black stole; in his hand a high cross and on his belt a calabash containing dried seeds, which he shakes to keep rhythm for his hymns.'
The Prophet Harris was immensely successful, and set a completely new pattern for African Christianity. He himself did not attempt to found a personal church, and the orthodox Baptists were the beneficiaries of his converts when he disappeared. But those who followed in his wake had higher ambitions, or less altruistic ones. In the 1920s, Isiah Shembe created the black Nazarite Church, which flourished near Durban in South Africa, and from this point native churches multiplied. Christian native
Charismatics often fell foul of the colonial authorities. The Congolese Baptist Simon Kimbangu, creator of the Church of Christ on Earth, which now has over three million members and is affiliated to the World Council of Churches, was sentenced by the Belgians to thirty years and died in gaol. John Chilembwe, founder of the Ajawa Providence Industrial Mission of Nyasaland, was shot after capturing the land-grabber W. J. Livingstone, one of the Doctor's family, cutting his head off, and mounting it on a pole during a service. Some of these churches, on the other hand, gave no trouble in colonial times, but have been suppressed by nationalist governments - one example being the Lumpa ('Excelling') Church of Zambia, five hundred of whose adherents were killed in a riot, and whose founder, Alice Lenshina, was banished. Many African political leaders are Charismatics themselves, and do not welcome rivals, even if their claims are confined exclusively to the spiritual field.
Nevertheless, the African churches are the one form of Christianity which is growing at spectacular speed. Their names are not arbitrary, and often encapsulate the emphasis of their doctrinal teachings which originally spring, as a rule, from the American Evangelical sects. They include the African Casteroil Dead Church, African Correctly Apostolic Jerusalem Church in Zion, Afro-Anglican Constructive Gaathly, Almighty God Church, Apostles Church of the Full Bible of South Africa, Apostolic Fountain Catholic Church, Bantu Customers Church to Almighty God, the Catholic Church of South Africa King George Win the War, Christ Apostolic Holy Spout Church, the Christian Apostolic Stone Church, the Church of Pleasant Living Congregation, the Ethiopian National Theocracy Restitution, the Fire Baptized Holiness Church of God, the Great George v National Church, the International Foursquare Gospel, the Remnant Church of God, the Sunlight Four Corners Apostolic for Witness of God Church, and so forth. Many of these churches teach there is a reverse colour-bar in heaven, with a black 'Holder of the Keys'. Sometimes they specify there are two gates into heaven, sometimes only one, but with a black Christ in control. The parables are often adjusted. Thus:
'There were ten virgins. And five of them were white and five were black. The five whites were foolish, but the five blacks were wise, they had oil in their lamps. All ten came to the gate but the five white virgins received the same answer as the rich man. ... The white will go a-begging to dip the tip of their finger in cool water. But they will get as a reply: "Nobody can rule twice."'
Many of these religions or cults are associated with the desire for land, and reflect the traditional native leadership of priest-kings. In fact they are tribal churches. They are characterized by sacramental vomiting, water-rituals, and speaking with tongues, such as (a very common formula):
Hhayi, hhayi, hhayi, hhayi,
Sorry Jesus Sorry Jesus Sorry Jesus
Spy spy spy spy, Naughty boy, Naughty boy
Nhayi hhayi hhayi - Halleluja, halleluja,
The big Western Christian communities do not know what they ought to do about these African churches. Significantly, they cannot even agree what, generically, they should be called. 'Separatist', 'messianic', 'prophetic', 'nativistic', 'syncretistic' have all, in turn, been discarded as offensive to African feelings (and to the feelings of American blacks, too, and West Indians, since many of the churches have international links, and some have outposts in London, Paris and elsewhere). The currently acceptable description is 'independent'. A number of these churches are broadly orthodox in their teaching. Some even belong to the World Council of Churches. But others are barely Christian and many are chronically unstable. It is the Montanist world of the second century again, though of course with important variations. Some students of these sects argue that their drift is ultimately anti-Christian in that they tend to form a bridge by which Africans pass back into paganism. They move, it is claimed, from the (orthodox) mission church to an 'Ethiopian' church, then to a Zionist, then by the nativistic or tribal Zionism back to the African animism of their parents or grandparents. This undoubtedly happens in some cases. On the other hand, some of the sects are startlingly original and creative in their theological imaginings, and fervent in their enthusiasm. In .any case, the phenomenon is growing. An analysis of these churches published in 1948 listed the names of 1023 distinct sects. An analysis published in 1968 was based on a survey of over 6,000. According to recent calculations, 'revival movements', usually leading to new churches, break out on average in seven new tribes each year. The expansion of African Christianity is not confined to the 'independent' churches, but they take the lion's share of the new recruits. At present, African Christians of all denominations are doubling in numbers every twelve years, and by the end of the century there may be over 350 million professing African Christians, thus forming the largest single group within the global Christian community, exceeding in numerical importance even the Latin Americans. A big majority of these Christians will be 'independents'. How they will be regarded by the churches of European origin may prove one of the most important ecclesiastical developments of our time.
Much will depend, of course, on how western Christianity organizes itself in the meantime; and this, in turn, will be determined very largely by the attitude of the Catholic Church. So long as Pius xiii lived, world Catholicism was immobile, frozen in a posture which, in all essentials, had been assumed by Pius ix in the third quarter of the nineteenth century. While Protestant triumphalism was quietly abandoned, the populist triumphalism of the papacy remained intact, lovingly preserved like a precious heirloom from an earlier age. Pius xiii was, indeed, the last of a long line of popes stretching back to Boniface Viii, Innocent in and Hildebrand himself. His vision of the Church was Augustinian in that, while he reluctantly recognized that it did not embrace all society, he upheld its authority as universal and omnicompetent. There was, in effect, no aspect of life on which the Church did not have the right, and usually the duty, to give its ruling. In November 1954, in an address to cardinals and bishops, later printed as The Authority of the Church in Temporal Matters, he insisted:
'The power of the Church is not bound by matters strictly religious, as they say, but the whole matter of the natural law, its foundation, its interpretation, its application, so far as their moral aspects extend, are within the Church's power. ... Clergy and laity must realize that the Church is fitted and authorized ... to establish an external norm of action and conduct for matters which concern public order and which do not have their immediate origin in natural or divine law.'
And of course by 'the Church' Pius meant essentially the papacy. Montalembert had protested vigorously against the idea of 'a Louis xiv in the Vatican'. Yet that was what Pius xiii became. He had his own little court of admirers, officials, servants and relatives. He was his own Secretary of State. For nearly twenty years he reigned as the autocratic monarch of the last ancien regime court in history. Increasingly, as he grew older, he separated himself from the day to day business of the curia. It was often extremely difficult, even for the cardinals who were heads of the Vatican departments, to get an audience with him. Usually they had to solicit the favour of his all-powerful German housekeeper, Mother Pasqualina Lehnert. Pius came to dislike business meetings or committees, where he might be faced with uncongenial facts or arguments - even opposition. He was very conscious of his unique, and divinely warranted, powers as a supreme pontiff. These were reinforced, from the autumn of 1950, by supernatural visions which, it appeared, he saw on a number of occasions. Pius did not invite discussion. He dealt with subordinates directly, without using a secretary, giving his orders over his gold-and-white telephone, and replacing the receiver as soon as he had finished what he wanted to say. Officials, when they heard his voice - 'Qui pada Pacellf ('Pacelli speaking') - were trained to go down on their knees with the phone in their hands. Pius insisted on retaining traditional monarchical protocol. All but the most senior, or privileged, officials, on the rare occasions when they came into his presence, addressed him on their knees and left the room walking backwards. He reinstated the practice, which had been scornfully abandoned by Pius x, that the Pope always took his meal alone; not even his favourite relatives were allowed to sit down at the table with him. When he walked in the Vatican gardens, the workmen and gardeners were instructed to hide themselves behind trees so as not to break his solitude. The papal Cadillac, a present from Cardinal Spellman, Archbishop of New York, had solid gold door-handles and, in the back, a single seat, where Pius sat alone, communing with himself.
Yet Pius was not without energy. He understood the nature of the populist papacy, and reinforced it with striking success. He was the first pope to exploit the resources of modern mass-communications, and his figure and voice became familiar to hundreds of millions. Though he disliked private contacts, he enjoyed public appearances. He held many more public and semi-public audiences than any of his predecessors. He could deliver addresses in at least nine languages. He made it his business to receive Catholic representatives from virtually every profession and occupation. He read technical manuals avidly so that he was conversant with some of the details of each calling, and could display this vicarious expertise in the speeches he made. As the Catholic Church claimed to have the moral answers to all problems, and as he was its animating force, he thought it right to deliver his verdicts on as many aspects of human existence as possible. Thus he received, and addressed, men and women in the fields of medicine, law, dentistry, architecture, chemistry, printing, journalism, heating engineering, public health, acting, diesel engines, aeronautics, celestial navigation, radio engineering, and so forth. His encyclicals and published letters and speeches covered a vast range of subjects, usually in considerable technical detail. One of his last encyclicals, Miranda prorsus (1957), dealt with the movies, radio and TV, and laid down, for instance, the moral duties of a news announcer; the way in which regional censorship offices should be set up and operated; the moral responsibilities of cinema managers, distributors and actors; the duty of bishops to rebuke erring Catholic movie directors and producers, and if necessary to impose appropriate sanctions on them; the obligation of Catholic members of festival juries to vote for 'morally praiseworthy' movies, and even the moral criteria by which posters advertising movies were to be determined. In such ways Pius came into dogmatic contact, as it were, with an unnumbered host of Catholics throughout the world. Yet the confrontation was impersonal. Carried high on his Sedia Gestatoria - a form of monarchical transport inherited from imperial Rome -- amid the cheering crowds, he remained a solitary figure, Montalembert's 'little idol in the Vatican'. Pius, wrote Guiseppe Dalla Torre, former editor of L'Osservatore Romano, 'separated himself from direct contact with life, though not, unfortunately, from people who abused his confidence'. The keynote of his pontificate was isolation.
The isolation was not merely personal. It was creedal and political. Pius was a Tridentine pope. To him, the Greek Orthodox were simply schismatics, and the Protestants heretics. There was nothing more to be said or discussed. He was not interested in the ecumenical movement. The Catholic Church already was ecumenical in itself. It could not change, because it was right and always had been right. Indeed, fundamental change in the Catholic Church was to be avoided at all costs. Motion was dangerous: experience showed it invariably led in the direction of evil. Catholicism must stay exactly where it was: it was for the heretics and schismatics to submit as, in God's good time, they surely would. As for the world, Pius saw no reason to alter the analysis set out in his first encyclical. He learnt nothing from the war, or the phenomenon of the Nazis. He had made no mistakes. On the contrary: the war confirmed his initial judgment. International society, by ignoring the Vicar of Christ, was heading for disaster. The war had merely been a further stage of the descent into the abyss. Germany had been divided; the godless Communists controlled all eastern Europe, including the Catholics of Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Slovenia and Croatia - 'the church of silence'. This was the greatest disaster to Christianity and civilization, in Pius's view, since the end of the Wars of Religion. It seemed as though God, in his infinite wisdom, had condemned his Church to fight a perpetual rearguard action against change. But every inch yielded must be bitterly contested first. In political terms, this meant that the papacy had to present adamantine resistance to Communism, socialism or any philosophy which, whatever its other merits, had a basis in materialism. And to do this it must ally itself with the conservative elements in society wherever trustworthy ones could be found. At the same time, the papacy had constantly to remind the world of the claims of the Church, and exhort its leaders to repair the injustice inflicted by the war, especially in eastern Europe.
In international terms, Pius was a Cold Warrior. He thought a peace without justice was not a true peace. Therefore 'Peaceful Coexistence' was morally wrong, since it denied the opportunity to rectify the injustices of the past. He wrote: 'A nation which is threatened by, or already a victim of, unjust aggression, cannot remain passively indifferent if it wishes to behave in a Christian manner ... the solidarity of the family of peoples forbids others to behave as mere spectators in an attitude of passive neutrality.' This was the sin of 'indifferentism'. Pius himself refused any contact with Communist states, and forbade the Catholic hierarchies of the 'church of silence' to compromise in any way with the state authorities. He did not want 'roll back' or open war, but, short of war, he saw the world in terms of a capitalist-Christian crusade against Marxist atheism. The least that Christendom could do, he thought, was to impose a total boycott of the Soviet world. Hence he had no sympathy for the United Nations, since Russia was one of its creators and a permanent member of the Security Council. He argued that the UN could not become 'the full and pure expression of international solidarity in peace' until it had 'cancelled from its institutions and statutes all traces of its origin, which was rooted in the solidarity of war'. Of course, this might take a long time to bring about. Indeed, Pius's whole analysis of Christianity and the world implied a long period of waiting. It would take time before heretics and schismatics came to their senses, and Marxists abandoned their godless materialism. The Church could wait, as it had waited before. It would remain in its fortress, avoiding contact with the evils of compromise, and from time to time lifting its admonitory voice. It was a policy of splendid isolation; or, if the isolation was not splendid, it was at least holy.
The policy changed, in almost all its aspects, from the end of 1958 when Angelo Roncalli succeeded Pius as Pope John xxiii. Roncalli was in his late seventies; he had been a popular patriarch of Venice and it was thought he would prove an acceptable and moderate transitional pope until the time came to hand over to a younger and more liberal generation. In fact he quickly inaugurated an era of rapid change. John, though conservative in such matters as liturgy and devotions, was a political liberal who had begun his career as secretary to Bishop Radini of Bergamo, a protege of Cardinal Rampolla. He had spent most of his career as a papal diplomat en paste and had never involved himself in Vatican politics, but he had always remained loosely attached to the progressive forces within the Church. Unlike Pius xii he was an extrovert, a voluble and well-adjusted hedonist who loved human contact and enormously enjoyed pastoral work. He was a historian, not a theologian, and thus he was not afraid of change but rather welcomed it as a sign of growth and greater illumination. His favourite words were aggiornamento ('bringing up to date') and convivienza ('living together'). Not only did he immediately open the windows and let fresh air into Pius's musty and antique court, but he changed papal policy in three vital respects. First he inaugurated a new, Rome-centered ecumenical movement, which he placed under the direction of a secretariat headed by the German Jesuit-diplomat Cardinal Bea. Second, he opened up lines of communication with the Communist world, and ended the policy of 'holy isolation'. Third he set in motion a process of democratization within the Church by summoning a general council.
Of these the most important was the council - announced within three months of John's election to a stunned and silent group of curial cardinals-because it also embraced the other two aspects of the new policies. John was unable to make the council ecumenical in the true sense, since it proved impossible to arrange an agreed representation of the Orthodox churches, and therefore the Protestants could not be invited either. But all were invited as observers, and by the end of the council there were over a hundred in this category, including, beside the Orthodox, accredited delegations from the Coptic church of Egypt, the Syrian Orthodox, the Ethiopian (Nestorian) Church, the Russian Orthodox Church in Exile, the Armenian Church and other Monophysite churches, the Old Catholics, the Lutherans, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Methodists, Quakers, the Taize Community, the Disciples of Christ, and other Christian churches, besides the secretariat of the World Council of Churches, which the Vatican had hitherto ignored and instructed Catholics to boycott. The other Christian churches, now re-christened 'separated brethren', though not participating, were in fact, by private behind-the-scenes contacts, able to influence the debates and voting, and their very presence acted as a restraining force on religious bigotry during the sessions. The triumphalist rhetoric which had been so notable a feature of the First Vatican Council in 1870 was conspicuously absent. John also engaged in complicated negotiations to secure the presence at the council of full delegations from Communist countries (the term 'the church of silence' was now dropped). He failed with China, and also with Albania and Rumania, but he had a notable success in securing the release from prison, to attend, of Mgr Josef Slipyi, the Catholic archbishop of the Byzantine rite in Lvov, who had been in gaol for seventeen years; and in the event there were, for the opening session, seventeen bishops from Poland, four from East Germany, three from Hungary, three from Czechoslovakia, and all the Yugoslav bishops.
John arranged and held the council, which opened in 1962, against strong and persistent curial opposition. His position was by no means all-powerful because, though personally popular at all levels of the Church, he was unable or unwilling to reorganize the Vatican bureaucracy. It continued to operate as an independent and highly conservative force throughout John's pontificate. But he made his wishes clear, and he trusted to the bishops of the council to do the rest. His opening speech, setting out the new papal policy, was apparently provoked by a lecture given to the Lateran University, the stronghold of Roman orthodoxy, by a former head of the Holy Office, Cardinal Pizzardo, in the autumn of 1960. Pizzardo reiterated the message of 'holy isolation', the Augustinian theory of the Church and the world, as updated by Pius ix and his successors, and as maintained to the end by Pius xii. It was nonsense, he said, to speak or think of 'one world'. There were two worlds confronting mankind: the so-called 'modern world', which was the City of Satan' and the City of God, symbolized and represented by the Vatican - he used the old fortress image again. The world beyond the walls of the City of God, said the cardinal, was 'the new city of Babel':
'It rises on a basis of crude materialism and blind determinism, built by the unconscious toil of the conquered, and bathed in their tears and blood, like the old pagan Colosseum - a ruin washed over by the Christian centuries. It rises up monstrous, holding out before the eyes of the deluded mob of slaves - bringing bricks and pitch for its making - a vain mirage of perfect prosperity and terrestial felicity. ... But at the same time on the glacis of the New Babel, there arise the launching ramps for missiles, and in its storehouse the ogival nuclear weapons pile up for the universal and total destruction to come.'
Pizzardo was virtually repeating the 1939 analysis of Pius's Summi Pontificus, though adding the new and terrifying image of a thermo-nuclear apocalypse - a parousia flying in on the wings of intercontinental missiles. The tone was the characteristic pessimism of populist triumphalism, with its Augustinian roots. John, in his opening speech, begged those attending the council to reject this analysis:
'We are shocked to discover what is being said by some people who, though they may be fired by religious zeal, are without justice, or good judgment, or consideration in their way of looking at matters. In the existing state of society they see nothing but ruin and calamity. They are in the habit of saying that our age is much worse than past centuries. They behave as though history, which teaches us about life, has nothing to teach them ... On the contrary, we should recognize that, at the present historical moment, Divine Providence is leading us towards a new order in human relationships which, through the agency of man and what is more above and beyond their own expectations, are tending towards the fulfilment of higher and, as yet, mysterious and unforeseen designs.'
Pope John's speech was rightly seen as an incitement to action and an optimistic acceptance of change. Such, indeed, was the moral philosophy of John's two major encyclicals, Mater et Magistra (1961) and Pacem in Term (1963), dealing with political and social theory, and international relationships. These introduced some very important developments in papal teaching, since the first implicitly rejected Pius ix's Quanta Cura and its appended Syllabus of Errors, and indeed a mass of other papal statements on politics going back to Gregory xvi's Mirari Vos and Singulari Nos. John not only accepted democracy, but took it for granted that most societies would move towards a welfare state. Indeed, he accepted the socialist argument that the assumption of social responsibilities by the State is an extension of human freedom: state intervention 'makes it possible for the individual to exercise many of his personal rights ... such as the right to ... preserve himself in good health, to receive further education and a more thorough professional training; the right to housing, work, suitable leisure and recreation.' He did not spell out his idea of the perfect form of government, but his advocacy of a written constitution, the separation of powers, and built-in checks on total government power indicated that he took the American system as his model -a system which, in his own lifetime, had very nearly been condemned by the papacy as immoral. In Pacem in Terris he accepted, for the first time in the history of the papacy, total liberty of conscience - an idea which Gregory xvi had dismissed as 'monstrous and absurd' and Pius ix as a cardinal error. Every human being, John wrote, should be able 'to worship God in accordance with the right dictates of his own conscience, and to profess his religion both in private and in public'. He also indicated a desire to come to terms with Socialism, Communism and other materialist philosophies. He distinguished between Communism as such, which he termed 'a false philosophy', and many of its aspects, which might be welcome in practical political programmes, 'even when such a programme draws its origins and inspiration from such a philosophy'. Such consequences, he argued, were more important than philosophical logic, since theory, as he put it, 'was subject to practical considerations' and the practice of Communist states might well contain 'good and commendable elements'. Communist leaders might be theoretically committed to world revolution but in concrete terms it was possible and even likely they would settle for peaceful coexistence; the Church should recognize this probability and turn it to good advantage. Statesmen should strive for disarmament, disputes should be settled through the United Nations, and all should work 'towards the establishment of a juridical and political organization of the world community'. He indicated that he was more concerned with the poor countries of the Third World than with the 'lost territories' of eastern Europe. He urged the rich nations to help underdeveloped countries 'in a way which guarantees to them the preservation of their own freedom'.
John brushed aside previous papal objections to the principle of national sovereignty. He argued that the collective right of a nation to national independence was merely an extension of the rights of an individual, which it was the duty of the Church to uphold. In Africa and Asia, the Church should not merely cease to oppose necessary changes, but should identify itself with them. And it should protest against the attempt to impose uniform western ideas; the countries of the Third World 'have often preserved in their ancient traditions an acute and vital awareness of the more important human values. To attempt to undermine this national integrity is essentially immoral. It must be respected, and as far as possible strengthened and developed, so that it may remain what it is: a foundation of true civilization.' To this John added, by way of concluding his political and international philosophy, a total condemnation of racialism: 'Truth calls for the elimination of every trace of racial discrimination, and the consequent recognition of the inviolable principle that all states are by nature equal in dignity. ... The fact is that no one can be by nature superior to his fellows, since all men are equally noble in natural dignity. ... Each state is like a body, the members of which are human beings.' In sum, the two encyclicals represented an attempt by John to align Catholic thinking with the progressive economic and political wisdom of his day, and they thus marked a benign revolution in papal attitudes.
John saw the council itself as the beginning of a transfer of power from the papal monarchy to the Church as a whole. It was a parliament of the episcopate and he was a constitutional sovereign. He wished to reverse the process whereby, during the nineteenth century, the bishops had been deprived of their independence and had become mere functionaries of a populist papacy. Indeed, he wanted to go further back still to the abortive conciliar theory of the fifteenth century. It had been argued, at the Council of Basle (1431-39), that Christ-delegated authority lay in the Church as a whole. 'Supreme power', said John of Segovia, ' ... belongs to the church continuously, permanently, invariably and perpetually.' Such power could not be alienated any more than a person could discard his own qualities: 'Supreme power resides first in the community itself like a personal sense or inborn virtue.' The Second Vatican Council was a reassertion of this view, and a denial that power could be permanently alienated to a monarchical pontiff; indeed, it took up where Basle had left off. The Vatican n Decree on the Church was, in effect, a denial of the dogma of papal infallibility since it asserted that the true source of authority was plural: 'The body of the faithful ... cannot err in matters of belief. Thanks to a supernatural sense of the faith which characterizes the people as a whole, it manifests this unerring quality when, "from the bishops down to the last member of the laity", it shows universal agreement in matters of faith and morals.'
The revival of conciliar theory, of course, automatically opened up bridges to both the Protestants and the Orthodox, since in both cases the breach had come because of the failure to allow disputes to be settled by true ecumenical methods. Yet John did not overcome the weakness of conciliar method, a weakness which had been fatal to the theory in the fifteen century. Councils were ad hoc affairs. What was also required was the embodiment of conciliar theory in the permanent machinery of church government. Because of its absence, the Pope had wrested back his monarchical absolutism in the fifteenth century. The same process threatened to occur again. Indeed, even during the first session of the Council, John was made aware of a lacuna in his arrangements. The first series of propositions, or schema, to be debated by the Council dealt with the authority of faith, and the sources of revelation. The subject was absolutely crucial, since it determined the whole manner in which the Christian faith was asserted and interpreted, and transcended all the arguments between the Catholics and the other Christian churches. The schema prepared by the Curialists was Tridentine and asserted that the church's innate authority or magisterium was an alternative and equal source to that of revelation through scripture; it was, in effect, identical to the position adopted by Pius x at the height of the Modernist controversy. John had been officially classified as 'suspected of Modernism' then, and in a sense he proved it in 1962 by intervening on the side of the progressives to prevent the curialists exploiting procedural devices to get their schema through. This ultimately led to the adoption by an enormous majority of a definition of revelation which was eirenic and ecumenical. But it was disquieting that the Pope's intervention should have been necessary when it was quite clear what most of the bishops wanted.
Pope John did not live to remedy this defect in his machinery of change. He died in 1963, before the second session of the Council, and before he or it had the opportunity to tackle the whole question of power and government within the Church - indeed, he was already ill when the council first met. Thus, although John's intentions and aspirations were clear, and though he had set in motion a 'revolution of rising expectations' among many bishops and priests and among ordinary Catholic laymen, he had not in fact changed the manner in which the Church was ruled. He left the absolutist papal powers intact.
Hence Cardinal Montini, the curialist who succeeded John as Paul vi, inherited a democratic spirit but an autocratic machine. Which should be allowed to prevail? Pope Paul attempted a compromise. He allowed the council to continue and complete its work. But he withdrew from its competence two subjects which he reserved for himself. This was an arrangement difficult to defend either in logic or on grounds of practical wisdom. Either the Council was sovereign in the Pope's eyes or not. If it was, then why should it not deal with all topics? If it could not deal with two topics considered so important and delicate that only the Pope had the divine wisdom to settle them, then why should it deal with any? The decision devalued the authority of the Council without reinforcing that of the Pope; indeed, it ended by devaluing the authority of the Pope too, by throwing doubt as to where the real source of power in the Church lay.
Moreover, the two subjects was both highly contentious, calculated to rouse emotions, and of a kind which a representative assembly (as opposed to a solitary individual) is peculiarly fitted to handle - clerical celibacy and contraception. Both concerned sex, a matter on which bachelor popes were notoriously liable to come to grief. Both tended to divide Catholics from the other Christian churches, a point which rendered a personal ruling by the Pope peculiarly odious to the 'separated brethren'. And both, as it happened, were matters on which the Pope himself found it difficult to make up his mind. Clerical celibacy had always caused trouble. It had never been enforced in the Eastern Church, except for higher clergy; and in the Latin West it had never been effectively enforced until the nineteenth century. It was pre-eminently a matter which should have been left for the clergy as a whole - or, in more practical terms, the episcopate - to settle themselves. As it was, Paul's ruling that the topic should not be opened, and that celibacy must stay, was seen by many of the younger clergy as neither equitable nor conclusive, and it became a source of disobedience, scandal and disaffection - and of ridicule to the secular world.
Contraception was even more serious, since it involved the morale and the discipline of the Catholic laity. The Latin Church had traditionally taught that birth control in any form was sinful. Yet the scriptural authority on which this ruling was based was meagre. There is nothing about the subject in the New Testament, and the only apparent reference in the Old is Genesis 38:8-10: ' ... and Judah said unto Onan, go unto thy brother's wife and perform the duty of an husband's brother unto her, and raise up seed to thy brother. And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother's wife, that he spilled it on the ground, less he should give seed to his brother. And the thing which he did was evil in the sight of the Lord: and he slew him also.' This is a very obscure passage. It is not clear whether the Lord killed Onan for spilling his seed, or for failing to give his brother's wife a child (a breach of the Levirate law). The implication may be that Onan would also have been killed if he had simply refused to 'go unto' the wife. Yet Augustine declared 'intercourse even with one's legitimate wife is unlawful and wicked where the conception of the offspring is prevented. Onan, the Son of Judah, did this and the Lord killed him for it.' In fact, that was precisely what Onan did not do, as the woman was not his 'legitimate wife'. Moreover, it is clear that Augustine's ruling sprang from his restrictive view of marriage as solely procreative in purpose. For a couple to have intercourse without actively willing conception was, in his view, sinful. He made his position gruesomely clear in Marriage and Concupiscence, a book which greatly influenced Christian teaching on sex for fifteen hundred years: 'It is one thing not to lie except with the sole will of generating: this has no fault. It is another to seek the pleasure of the flesh in lying, although within the limits of marriage: this has venial fault. I am supposing then that, although you are not lying for the sake of procreating offspring, you are not for the sake of lust obstructing their procreation by an evil prayer or an evil deed. Those who do this, although they are called husband and wife, are not; nor do they retain any reality of marriage, but with a respectable name cover a shame ... sometimes this lustful cruelty or cruel lust, comes to this, that they even procure poisons of sterility, and, if those do not work, extinguish and destroy the foetus in some way in the womb, preferring that their offspring die before it lives, or if it was already alive in the womb to kill it before it was born.'
This position, as elaborated by Aquinas, and endorsed by Luther, Calvin and other theologians, remained orthodox teaching in all Christian churches until after the First World War. The Anglican Church reluctantly accepted artificial contraception at the Lambeth Conference of 1930, and shifted the moral theology to a consideration of whether the married couple's intention was selfish or not. This analysis was later adopted by most other Protestant churches. In his 1930 encyclical, Casti Connubii, Pius XI reiterrated the traditional view in the most forceful terms. But in 1951, Pius xii, in an address to Italian Catholic Midwives, stated that use of the so-called 'safe period' as a system of birth control was lawful, provided the intention was justified by circumstances. Such a compromise undermined the Augustinian teaching since Augustine had specifically denounced use of the safe period in his The Morals of the Manichees; and the concession was also fatal to Augustine's whole doctrine of marriage. Moreover, use of the safe period systematically tended to raise the question of whether it was legitimate to stabilize the period artificially; and if this were conceded, it became almost impossible to a draw a workable moral distinction between 'natural' and 'artificial' contraception.
The supposition among many Council members was that the Council would solve the problem by reformulating the doctrine of marriage; and Pope John set up an advisory committee of specialists. Some of the shrewder members were anxious that the Church should not get involved in giving detailed judgment in a field where medical science was moving fast, but should stick, like the Anglicans, to the safe ground of 'right intention'. As Cardinal Suenens of Brussels put it: 'I beg of you, let us avoid a new "Galileo Affair". One is enough for the church.' In fact, despite the papal veto, the topic necessarily arose when the Council discussed marriage and the family as part of the schema on 'The church and the modern world' during the fourth and final session in Autumn 1965. The debate was interrupted on 24 November by a message from the Secretary of State insisting on the Pope's orders that certain changes in the text be made, that it should include explicit mention of Casti Connubii and the address of Pius xii to the midwives, and that 'it is absolutely necessary that the methods and instruments of rendering conception ineffectual - that is to say, the contraceptive methods which are dealt with in the encyclical letter Casti Connubii - be openly rejected; for in this matter admitting doubts, keeping silence, or insinuating opinions that the necessity of such methods is perhaps to be admitted, can bring about the gravest dangers to the general opinion.'
The text of four amendments on which the Pope insisted were attached. The conservatives were delighted; one of them, Cardinal Browne, exclaimed: 'Christus ipse locutus est - Christ himself has
spoken.' This peremptory intervention, of course, made nonsense of the whole principle of the Council; and in fact after much behind-the-scenes negotiations, the Pope's message was itself amended, and the changes he proposed were relegated to a footnote in the final text of the schema. Here was a case of a pope willing to assert his authority, but also willing to withdraw it again under pressure: the pattern of a weak autocrat. The Council thus ended and dispersed with both the contraception issue, and the larger one of sovereignty within the Church, wholly unresolved. Nor has either been resolved since. In July 1968, Pope Paul finally made up his mind on contraception, ignored the majority view of his advisory commission, and published his encyclical Humanae Vitae, which stated that, while 'natural' contraception was licit, 'None the less the church calling men back to the observance of the norms of the natural law, as interpreted by her constant doctrine, teaches that each and every marriage act must remain open to the transmission of life' - thus ruling out artificial methods of birth-control.
The encyclical aroused widespread criticism among the international Catholic community, not merely among laymen and women, but among the priesthood and the episcopate; and its teachings, to judge from opinion polls, are believed to have been generally ignored. Humanae Vitae effectively alienated the progressive wing of the Catholic Church from the papacy; and, at about the same time, the introduction of sweeping changes in the liturgy, including the compulsory use of the vernacular at most services, alienated many on the conservative wing. The reign of Paul vi thus signaled the end of populist triumphalism. It was marked by a general erosion of ecclesiastical authority, the assertion of lay opinion, the defiance of superiors, the spread of public debate among Catholics, the defection of many clergy and nuns, and the decline of papal prestige. And, for perhaps the first time since the Reformation, the number of practising Catholic Christians owing allegiance to Rome began to contract. * Catholicism appeared to have joined Protestantism and Orthodoxy in a posture of decline.
* Accurate figures are subject to arguments over definition. For Britain, the statistician A. E C W. Spencer, formerly director of the Newman Demographic survey, compiled a number of tables for the Pastoral Research Centre, summarized in the April 1975 issue of The Month (London) For England and Wales, he estimated the baptized Roman Catholic population at 5,569,000 in 1958; by 1971 he calculated that 2,600,000 had become 'alienated to the extent that they would not use the offices of the church at the three great turning-points in life: birth, marriage and death; he estimated alienations by 1975 as 3,300,000.
Yet it must be asked: is the expression 'decline' appropriate? If the claims of Christianity are true, the number of those who publicly acknowledge them is of small importance; if they are not true, the matter is scarcely worth discussing. In religion, quantitative judgments do not apply. What may, in the future, seem far more significant about this period is the new ecumenical spirit, the offspring of the Second Vatican Council. On 7 December 1965, the Bishop of Rome, Pope Paul vi, and the Bishop of New Rome, the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras, at a simultaneous ceremony in Rome and Istanbul, performed what was termed a 'joint act', and lifted the mutual excommunications imposed by their predecessors nine hundred years before in 1054.
On 23 March 1966, the Bishop of Rome and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Ramsay, exchanged the kiss of peace before the altar of the Sistine Chapel. Both these symbolic gestures have been followed by detailed and continuing negotiations. Progress has been made on marginal matters, such as the status of Anglican orders. Whether the churches reunite will depend entirely on the question of authority, which always has been, and remains, the real source of division within Christianity. * And the definition of authority between the churches cannot be settled until the Catholic Church determines the source of ecclesiastical power within itself - an issue which the Vatican Council raised but left unresolved. As we have seen, the argument about the control of the Christian Church is almost as old as Christianity itself; and it may be that it will continue so long as there are men and women who assert that Christ was God, and who await the parousia. Perhaps it is part of the providential plan that the organization of Christianity should be a perpetual source of discord. Who can say? We should remember the words of St Paul, towards the end of his letter to the Romans, the key document of the faith: 'O depth of wealth, wisdom and knowledge in God! How unsearchable his judgments, how untraceable his ways! Who knows the mind of the Lord? Who has been his counsellor?'
* The point can be illustrated by comparing the oaths sworn by bishops on their consecration The oath of allegiance of all Roman Catholic bishops includes the promise 'with all my power I will persecute and make war upon heretics' The homage performed
by Anglican bishops reads I, , lately of , having been elected Bishop of ,
and such election having been duly confirmed, do hereby declare that Your Majesty is the only supreme governor of your realm in spiritual and ecclesiastical things as well as temporal and that no foreign prelate or potentate has any jurisdiction within this realm.'
It should be evident from this account of 2,000 years of Christian history that the rise of the faith, and its developing relationship with society, were not fortuitous. The Christians appeared at a time when there was a wide, and urgent, if unformulated need for a monotheistic cult in the Graeco-Roman world. The civic and national deities no longer provided satisfactory explanations for the cosmopolitan society of the Mediterranean, with its rising living standards and its growing intellectual pretensions; and, being unable to explain, they could not provide comfort and protection from the terrors of life. Christianity offered not only an all-powerful God, but an absolute promise of a felicitous life to come, and a clear explanation of how this was to be secured. Furthermore, it was disembodied from its racial and geographical origins, and endowed by its founder with a glittering variety of insights and guidelines calculated to evoke responses from all natures. It was, from the beginning, Universalist in its scope and aim. St Paul, by giving it an internationalist thought-structure, made it a religion of all races; Origen expanded its metaphysics into a philosophy of life which won the respect of the intellectuals while retaining the enthusiasm of the masses, and so made Christianity classless as well as ubiquitous.
Once Christianity acquired the same profile as the Roman empire, it inevitably replaced the state religion. But of course it was more than a state cult - it was an institution in itself, with its own structure and cycle of growth. In the West it drained the empire of talent and purpose, and substituted its own Augustinian vision of society, in which Christian ideas penetrated every aspect of life and every political and economic arrangement. Europe was a Christian creation not only in essence but in minute detail. And therein lay Europe's unique strength, for Christianity proved a matchless combination of spirituality and dynamism. It offered answers to metaphysical questions, it provided opportunities and frames of reference for the contemplative, the mystic and the devout; but at the same time it was a relentless gospel of work and an appeal to achievement.
Moreover, Christianity contained its self-correcting mechanism. The insights provided by Christ's teaching are capable of almost infinite elaborations and explorations. The Christian matrices form a code to be translated afresh in each new situation, so that Christian history is a constant process of struggle and rebirth - a succession of crises, often accompanied by horror, bloodshed, bigotry and unreason, but evidence too of growth, vitality and increased understanding. The nature of Christianity gave Europe a flexible framework of intellectual and moral concepts, and enabled it to accommodate itself to economic and technological change, and seize each new opportunity as it arose. So Europe expanded into the western-dominated society of the twentieth century.
The account of Christianity presented in this book has necessarily stressed its failures and shortcomings, and its institutional distortions. But we have been measuring it by its own stupendous claims, and its own unprecedented idealism. As an exercise in perfectionism, Christianity cannot succeed, even by its internal definitions; what it is designed to do is to set targets and standards, raise aspirations, to educate, stimulate and inspire. Its strength lies in its just estimate of man as a fallible creature with immortal longings. Its outstanding moral merit is to invest the individual with a conscience, and bid him follow it.
This particular form of liberation is what St Paul meant by the freedom men find in Christ. And, of course, it is the father of all other freedoms. For conscience is the enemy of tyranny and the compulsory society; and it is the Christian conscience which has destroyed the institutional tyrannies Christianity itself has created - the self-correcting mechanism at work. The notions of political and economic freedom both spring from the workings of the Christian conscience as a historical force; and it is thus no accident that all the implantations of freedom throughout the world have ultimately a Christian origin.
Of course human freedoms are imperfect and delusory. Here again, Christianity is an exercise in the impossible; but it is nevertheless valuable in stretching man's potentialities. It lays down tremendous objectives but it insists that success is not the final measure of achievement. Indeed, the primary purpose of Christianity is not to create dynamic societies - though it has often done so - but to enable individuals to achieve liberation and maturity in a specific and moral sense. It does not accept conventional yardsticks and terrestrial judgments. As St Paul says: 'Divine folly is wiser than the wisdom of man, and divine weakness stronger than man's strength ... to shame the wise, God has chosen what the world counts folly, and to shame what is strong, God has chosen what the world counts weakness. He has chosen things low and contemptible, mere nothings, to overthrow the existing order.'
We must bear this in mind when we consider the future of Christianity, in the light of its past. During the past half-century there has been a rapid and uninterrupted secularization of the West, which has all but demolished the Augustinian idea of Christianity as a powerful, physical and institutional presence in the world. Of St Augustine's city of God on earth, little now remains, except crumbling walls and fallen towers, effete establishments and patriarchies of antiquarian rather than intrinsic interest. But of course Christianity does not depend on a single matrix: hence its durability. The Augustinian idea of public, all- embracing Christianity, once so compelling, has served its purpose and retreats - perhaps, one day, to re- emerge in different forms. Instead, the temporal focus shifts to the Erasmian concept of the private Christian intelligence, and to the Pelagian stress on the power of the Christian individual to effect virtuous change. New societies are arising for Christianity to penetrate, and the decline of western predominance offers it an opportunity to escape from beneath its Europeanized carapace and assume fresh identities.
Certainly, mankind without Christianity conjures up a dismal prospect. The record of mankind with Christianity is daunting enough, as we have seen. The dynamism it has unleashed has brought massacre and torture, intolerance and destructive pride on a huge scale, for there is a cruel and pitiless nature in man which is sometimes impervious to Christian restraints and encouragements. But without these restraints, bereft of these encouragements, how much more horrific the history of these last 2,000 years must have been! Christianity has not made man secure or happy or even dignified. But it supplies a hope. It is a civilizing agent. It helps to cage the beast. It offers glimpses of real freedom, intimations of a calm and reasonable existence. Even as we see it, distorted by the ravages of humanity, it is not without beauty. In the last generation, with public Christianity in headlong retreat, we have caught our first, distant view of a de-Christianized world, and it is not encouraging. We know that Christian insistence on man's potentiality for good is often disappointed; but we are also learning that man's capacity for evil is almost limitless - is limited, indeed, only by his own expanding reach. Man is imperfect with God. Without God, what is he? As Francis Bacon put it: 'They that deny God destroy man's nobility: for certainly man is of kin to the beasts by his body; and, if he be not kin to God by his spirit, he is a base and ignoble creature.' We are less base and ignoble by virtue of divine example and by the desire for the form of apotheosis which Christianity offers. In the dual personality of Christ we are offered a perfected image of ourselves, an eternal pace-setter for our striving. By such means our history over the last two millennia has reflected the effort to rise above our human frailties. And to that extent, the chronicle of Christianity is an edifying one.