The quarrel Print
By Hilaire Belloc   
Wednesday, 14 March 2012
The issue is very well stated when abhorrence is expressed [by implication] of a recent authoritative Catholic pronouncement, that “if certain laws are declared invalid by the Catholic Church, they are not binding.” Here, as we have just seen, is the whole point. Where there is a conflict between civil law and the moral law of the Catholic Church, members of the Catholic Church will resist the civil law and obey the law of the Church. And when this happens you get that active dissension between the Church and the State which history records in all the great persecutions. That was the very crux between the Roman Empire and the Catholic Church before Constantine. In the eyes of the civil power the Christians were rebels; in the eyes of the Christians the civil power was commanding practices which no Catholic could adopt. It was demanding duties which no Catholic could admit.

That the quarrel has not yet broken out into open form [save here and there in the shape of a few riots] is due to the fact that hitherto the bulk of Catholic doctrines have been retained in States of non-Catholic culture. But as the moral distance grows greater between the Catholic and the non-Catholic, as the Modern State reverts more and more to that Paganism which is the natural end of those who abandon Catholicism, the direct contrast cannot fail to pass from the realm of theory to that of practice.

It is inevitable there should appear in any Absolute State, not alone in States which still trust to the machinery of voting, but in all States, Monarchic or Democratic, Plutocratic or Communist, laws which no Catholic will obey. One or two tentative efforts have already been made at such laws. When those laws are presented to Catholics there will at once arise the situation which has arisen successively time and again for nearly two thousand years; the refusal on the part of Catholics, which refusal in the eyes of the State is rebellion. 

There will follow upon that what the State calls the punishment of disobedience, and what Catholics have always called, and will once again call, persecution. It will be accompanied by considerable apostasy, but also considerable heroism; and in the upshot the Faith's power to survive will lie in this: that devotion to the Faith is stronger, more rational, better founded, more tenacious, more lasting in substance, than that hatred which the Faith also, and naturally, arouses. – The Catholic Church and the Modern State


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