The Faith is now in the presence not of a particular heresy as in the past – the Arian, the Manichean, the Albigensian, the Mohammedan – nor is it in the presence of a sort of generalized heresy as it was when it had to meet the Protestant revolution from three to four hundred years ago. The enemy which the Faith now has to meet, and which may be called “The Modern Attack,” is a wholesale assault upon the fundamentals of the Faith – upon the very existence of the Faith. And the enemy now advancing against us is increasingly conscious of the fact that there can be no question of neutrality. The forces now opposed to the Faith design to destroy.
The battle is henceforward engaged upon a definite line of cleavage, involving the survival or destruction of the Catholic Church. And all – not a portion – of its philosophy.
We know, of course, that the Catholic Church cannot be destroyed. But what we do not know is the extent of the area over which it will survive; its power of revival or the power of the enemy to push it further and further back on to its last defences until it may seem as though anti-Christ had come and the final issue was about to be decided. Of such moment is the struggle immediately before the world.
To many who have no sympathy with Catholicism, who inherit the old Protestant animosity to the Church (although doctrinal Protestantism is now dead) and who think that any attack on the Church must somehow or other be a good thing, the struggle already appears as a coming or present attack on what they call “Christianity.”
You will find people saying on every side that the Bolshevist movement (for instance) is “definitely anti-Christian” – “opposed to every form of Christianity” – and must be “resisted by all Christians irrespective of the particular Church to which each may belong,” and so on.
Speech and writing of this kind are futile because they mean nothing definite. There is no such thing as a religion called “Christianity” – there never has been such a religion.
There is and always has been the Church, and various heresies proceeding from a rejection of some of the Church’s doctrines by men who still desire to retain the rest of her teaching and morals. But there never has been and never can be or will be a general Christian religion professed by men who all accept some central important doctrines, while agreeing to differ about others. There has always been, from the beginning, and will always be, the Church, and sundry heresies either doomed to decay, or, like Mohammedanism, to grow into a separate religion. Of a common Christianity there has never been and never can be a definition, for it has never existed.
There is no essential doctrine such that if we can agree upon it we can differ about the rest: as for instance, to accept immortality but deny the Trinity. A man will call himself a Christian though he denies the unity of the Christian Church; he will call himself a Christian though he denies the presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament; he will cheerfully call himself a Christian though he denies the Incarnation.
No; the quarrel is between the Church and the anti-Church – the Church of God and anti-God – the Church of Christ and anti-Christ.