Bernard Wall’s Blistering Christian Humanism, 1934

“The real enemy in Marx’s eyes was not Catholicism or Christianity, but the power that had, so Marx believed, already dethroned God and set up a purely secular culture and new secular standards of value—the power of Capitalism” (17).

“Capitalist and bourgeois society is characterized by the doctrines of free trade and economic individualism, and by the ideals of progress, freedom of thought and democratic institutions—in a word, by Liberalism” (17).

“But he fully recognizes—no thinker more so—that ideology and sociology are indissolubly linked…”(17).

“…that Capitalism is nothing else but economic liberalism, and that it has a very close relationship not only with political Liberalism, but also with liberal philosophy or philosophic idealism” (18).

“First, Liberalism, following in the steps of Protestantism, revolted against Catholicism, and its victory brought in the secularized culture of bourgeois Capitalism” (18).

“But though Communism is the enemy of both Catholicism and of Capitalism, it stands far nearer to Capitalism than to Catholicism” (18).

“Marx regarded Communism as destined to carry on the capitalist or bourgeois tradition, and Capitalism as a first step towards the new system of economic world organization. But on the other hand Marx was bitterly hostile to the ideological side of the bourgeois culture—that is to say, to the liberal ideals which the bourgeois themselves regarded as the real justification of their material achievement” (19).

“Of course, Marx did not consciously blame the bourgeois for being governed by class interest for class interest is, according to the Marxian theory, the supreme dynamic force in social life. The bourgeois can no more help exploiting the proletariat than the wolf can help eating the lamb, the only difference being that the proletarian lamb is being transformed by the dialectic of history into a Communist wolf that will in turn devour the bourgeois lamb” (20).

“We, however, as Christians, may well take a diametrically opposite view of all this development. We may condemn the ruthless subordination of human life to economic ends and the wholesale secularization of culture as evil…” (20).

“For Europeans Liberalism is a temporary phenomenon which belongs to the phase of transition between a Christian culture and one that is completely secularized. European culture had already ceased to be Christian in the eighteenth century, but it still retained the inherited moral standards and values of a Christian civilization. And so it attempted to erect their standards into an independent system providing a rational philosophic justification for them” (20).

“This was the Liberal idealism that was the faith of the nineteenth century—not a religious faith, but a quasi-religious substitute for one” (20).

“But as Liberalism did not create these moral ideals, so, too, it cannot preserve them” (20).

“Once society is launched on (20) the path of secularization it cannot stop in the half-way house of Liberalism; it must go on to the bitter end, whether that end be Communism or some alternative type of “totalitarian” Secularism” (21).

“Marxism condemns in Liberalism just the element that we can approve, namely, its partial acceptance of Christian moral standards; and it approves just what we condemn. That is to say, the secularization of life and the entire subordination of man to economic ends” (21).

“All those Liberal achievements which seemed so secure half a century ago are to-day either lost or in peril” (21).

“A man like Bernard Shaw, who has been a leader of what is known as progressive thought for a lifetime, has even gone so far as to plead not for dictatorship not for the abolition of private property, but for the right of the government to exterminate recalcitrant minorities or so-called “anti-social elements”” (21).

“Everywhere in Europe to-day Liberalism seems a lost cause, whether the cry be forward to Communism or, as in Germany, back to neo-paganism and tribal patriotism” (21).

“…the power of the party is shown by the Assyrian ruthlessness with which it has in the last few years destroyed the independent life of the Russian peasantry at the cost of an incalculable amount of human suffering” (22).

“It is not an issue between the capitalist and the proletariat, for it is obvious that the real proletarians are the starving peasants of the Ukraine and not the well-fed bureaucrats of Moscow. The vital issue is the subordination of man, body and soul, to the economic machine of the secular State” (22).

“They have lost their faith in the traditional creed of Liberalism, and they rally to Communism, because in spite of its cruelties and intolerances it seems modern and progressive and anti-religious. As Mr. Muggeridge has pointed out with such biting emphasis in his Winter at Moscow, all these Platonic admirers of Communism from the West find in Russia something that they can understand—a State run on advanced lines by advanced people; whereas the (22) victims of the Soviet system, the wretched peasants and unprivileged workers and priests, are people of the underworld with whom they have nothing in common and whose sufferings seem distant and unreal” (23).

“In such an order there would be no need for a State any more than it is necessary for ants or bees to have a State” (23).

“Any violent revolution that attempted to “liquidate” the middle classes could not possibly succeed, and even if it did succeed it would only destroy the highly organized social mechanism of Western society” (23).

“…for it will find no place for the Christian or for the human soul” (23).

“Catholicism is anti-individualist—as anti-individualist as Communism itself. It is not merely a social religion, it is in its very essence a society, and it is only in the life of this one body that the individual human being can attain his true end. But this society is not a state or an economic organization, it is the society of the world to come, the Bride of God, and the mystical body of Christ. Consequently Catholic sociology is also theology” (24).

“It is the theory of this divine society through which and through which alone the true destiny of the human race can be realized” (24).

“As soon as they make themselves the absolute ends of human life they become counter-churches, representative of that City of Man which to the end of time makes war upon the City of God” (24).

“The characteristic Christian view of economics, that we find in the Gospels and in the lives and teachings of the saints, is that economics are of very little importance. Live from hand to mouth, don’t bother about the future, leave these things to the Gentiles, who have nothing better to do” (24).

“There has never been a time when society was completely Catholic; Catholicism has never been more than a leaven working gin the world, and its work is never finished. The Roman Empire had hardly ceased to be pagan before it found itself Arian. The Christianization of Western Europe was hardly complete when the Reformation came” (25).

“She sows her seed broadcast among publicans and harlots, in the corruption of the great Roman and Hellenistic cities, in the welter of barbarism and violence of the Dark Ages, in the slums of Manchester and New York” (25).

“Yet it is to these men that we owe our modern Catholicism: they, even more than the survivors of the age of persecution and the converts of the Oxford Movement, are the true heroes of the faith and the creators of modern English and American Catholicism” (25).

 “It was the result of a new social initiative and a new economic theory of life which had revolted against the Catholic tradition” (25).

“But Communism and Capitalism agree in putting economic things first and in ordering society to an economic end, and consequently they are both far more opposed to Catholicism than they are to one another” (26).

“Protestantism, Liberalism and Communism are the three successive stages by which our civilization had descended from Catholicism to complete secularism. The first eliminated the Church, the second eliminated Christianity, and the third eliminates the human soul. We cannot have a Christian society or a Christian economic life until our civilization has recovered its moral conscience, its faith in God and its membership of the Church” (26).

“…for the more secular a society becomes the lower becomes its vitality, and a civilization that has completely lost its soul is dead and damned” (26).

“At the same time patriotism must not blind us to the fact that all the nations of Western Europe are in the same boat. They may be Catholic or Protestant by tradition, but when it comes to the realities of practical life we find that they all more or less share the same modern bourgeois secular culture which is the culture of the capitalist society” (26).

“…as represented by the (26) Corporate State. But the Corporate State is only Catholic when it is in Catholic hands. When this is not the case, as in Germany, then the Corporate State can become anti-Catholic and anti-Christian. And the same is true of every social remedy—Distributism, Social Credit or what you please. They are Christian in so far as they are ordered to Christian ends” (27).

“We have our citizenship in the absolute supernatural society, and this citizenship carries with it the right and the duty of social action—Catholic Action” (27).

“But as for a Catholic who believes in the reality of a divine and universal society all such ideas are blasphemy against Christ the King. The Church is the true world society, the goal of humanity, the only society that answers the universal needs of the human soul, and the one order that is destined to incorporate everything that is of permanent value in human history. It differs from all other societies in that it transcends the limitations of time and the barriers of race and secular culture. It unites the past in living communion with the present so that we still draw our life from the undying spiritual activity of the faithful of every age” (28).

“It inherits all the riches of the Gentiles, Greek philosophy and Roman law, Oriental mysticism and Western humanism, and incorporates them in its own tradition while preserving its spiritual identity and the transcendent authority of its supernatural mission. But while the Church is the bearer of life to humanity it depends on the individual members of the Church whether they will be merely the passive recipients of this gift or whether they will be the agents of its diffusion in the world. All the tragedies of Christendom arise from the failure of individual Catholics to rise to their opportunities and to permeate their life and their social and intellectual culture by their faith. Wherever Catholics cease to be active, when they rest in a passive acquiescence in what they have received, Catholicism tends to lose contact with contemporary culture and the world drifts away from the Church” (28).

“The Catholic tradition contains an infinite depth of spiritual resources, but these possibilities can only be realized and actualized in a Catholic culture by the dynamic activity of individual Catholics” (29).

Source: Bernard Wall, “The Real Issue,” Colosseum 1 (1934).