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The Weblog at The View from the Core - Thu. 03/31/05 07:39:22 PM

From "The Agony of Our Lord"

An undated sermon by Rev. Ronald Knox.

.... The Church is sometimes criticized for her want of courage, because she does not seek a direct issue with the tyrannical rulers of the modern age; force a conflict with them by forbidding their Catholic subjects to take any part as citizens in states so misgoverned. Curiously, another charge is often launched against the Church, which is exactly the opposite; and it is often launched by the same people. That charge is, that the Church is always interfering in secular matters which are beyond her province. If that is not so, men ask us, how is it that she is continually getting into trouble with the secular power, all over Europe, all over the world? Surely it cannot be an accident that your Church is always reckoned as a political force, whereas other religious bodies are allowed to go their own way, unmolested by the civil authorities? To be sure, that charge has not been brought against us so confidently of late, since the Orthodox clergy were singled out for persecution in Russia, and the Lutherans in Germany. But it is still brought against us, even in our own country: "Why cannot you be content to be a purely spiritual body? Why is it that you always interfere?"

Now, this accusation is in great measure unjustified; but it would be a long business to examine, in full, a favourite thesis of anti-clericalism. It is true in any case, and we are the first to admit it, that it is not always easy to delimit the exact provinces of the secular and the ecclesiastical power; nor are we prepared to trust the secular power with the demarcation of them. And it is true that the Church could live much more quietly, avoid an infinity of clashes and persecutions, if she would consent to abate her claim on one or two points, constant sources of friction with unsympathetic governments. If only we would be content, for example, to hand over the teaching of children to the State, so far as their general education is concerned, and instil religious knowledge into them somehow else, not in school buildings, not in school hours! If only the Church would be content to have her own laws about marriage and various moral questions, for her own loyal adherents, and not expect them to be adopted as the laws of the country! If only she would keep out of the way, live her own life and let other people live theirs! What a difference it would make to the peace of the world!

On such points as these, it is well known, the Church is prepared to make the best of the situation, if an unfriendly state resists her influence; but always it is under protest. She believes that she has inherited from her divine Master a commission to act as the teacher and guardian of a moral order; she is a city set on a hill, and her light must not be hidden under a bushel. She could purchase for herself an inglorious peace by shutting herself up in the sacristy; but that is not how she interprets her commission. Nor is it only that she could purchase peace for herself; she could, humanly speaking, prevent many blasphemies and even formal apostasies, if she would sit quiet and let the politicians have their own way. Is she justified, we feel inclined to ask, in going out of her way to arouse prejudice by sticking so obstinately to her rights, when that involves peril to the immortal souls of her less docile subjects, who fall away from her membership and give up the practice of religion because they cannot live at peace with her? She knows that; it is part of the sacrifice she has to make; as it was part of our Lord's sacrifice, when he knelt there in the garden, to see Judas and Caiphas losing their souls because of him. But for her, too, truth is truth, and has a right to be told. She cannot alter the conditions of her witness....

[Pastoral Sermons and Occasional Sermons, ed. Philip Caraman, S.J., pp. 433ff.]

Lane Core Jr. CIW P — Thu. 03/31/05 07:39:22 PM
Categorized as Religious & Speeches and Suchlike.


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