Let us note at the outset that the result of our examination (the true position of the Catholic Church today, and Her chances of triumph or defeat) is of the most urgent and immediate importance to all our civilization. There is no other judgment concerning the fate of mankind—and particularly of our own European civilization with its extensions in the New World—compatible in significance to a just estimate of the strength and chances of the Catholic Church. There is no other matter on the same level of interest. That interest is of the same absorbing kind to the man who regards the Faith as an illusion, to the man who hates it as an enemy, and to the man who accepts it as the only authoritative voice on earth.
How Catholicism stands today is obviously a vital matter both to the man who recognizes it for the salvation of the world, and to the man who regards it as a mortal poison in society. But it is also a vital matter to any neutral observer who has enough history to know that religion is at the root of every culture, and that on the rise and fall of religions the great changes of society have depended.
Were human society molded by material environment the fate of no spiritual institution, however august or widespread, would be of final moment. A new mechanical invention, a new turn in the external mode of life, would be the thing to note and the thing upon which we might base our judgment of human fates. But it is not so. The form of any society ultimately depends upon its philosophy, upon its way of looking at the universe, upon its judgment of moral values: that is, in the concrete, upon its religion.
For whether it calls its philosophy by the name of “religion” or no, into what is, in practice, a religion of some kind, the philosophy of any society ultimately falls. The ultimate source of social form is the attitude of the mind; and at the heart of every culture is a creed and code of morals: expressed or taken for granted.