The pulse of the world is violently athrob. We are keenly aware that the long-waited crisis is imminent. Humanity's mighty struggle, involving both national and international issues, is fast taking on a religious hue. And the ecclesiastical power coming to the front is the Papacy.
The Historical Background.—Against the ecclesiastico-political tyranny of the Middle Ages there were two great reactions in Europe. One was a revival of true Christianity with an ensuing spirit of democracy, as manifest in the Protestant Reformation. The other was a philosophy of ultraliberalism,—anticlerical and irreligious,—as shown in the French Revolution. These together were almost fatal to the Papacy.
Protestantism and Democracy.—Happily for mankind, the religious reformation and the spirit of democracy prevailed. The world enjoyed one of its brightest eras of civil and religious freedom. So great was the influence of this reaction that even lands traditionally Roman Catholic or pagan were compelled to institute reforms and to concede more liberty to the masses in matters of religious freedom and civil government. The following allusion to Luther by Dr. Isidore Goma y Tomas, present primate of the Roman church in Spain, seems to indicate that Catholics recognize the part Protestantism played in this matter:
"Political laicismo does not deny God, but relegates Him to the tribunal of the conscience, and exiles Him from society. Hence the doctrine of separation of church and state, fatal offspring of Protestantism. . . . Radically, the modern error of the separation absolute of the two powers is derived from Protestantism. From the moment that 'faith alone justifies,' according to the principle of Luther, religion remains relegated to a personal plane, and is reduced to a purely individual matter."—"Hours Graves" (Solemn Hours), a pastoral letter, July 12, 1933.
Dictators in Vogue Today.—Democracy is now being rapidly supplanted by centralized government. Many philosophers and statesmen declare that the masses are no longer capable of self-government. So this is preeminently the day of dictators. The people, either by force or by persuasion, are yielding to a single man the prerogatives they once asserted to be exclusively their own. Individual freedom is being swallowed up in the urge for social and economic salvation by mass standardization. In the social world the "perilous times" of "the last days" are here. 2 Tim. 3:1-5. Society, steeped in the eighteen sins mentioned by the apostle, is in a state of disintegration. Democracy, founded on the principle of self-government, cannot survive when basic self-restraint is abandoned and the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life are unleashed. The present situation is not unlike that of the Roman republic.
"The choice of the Romans was not between an improved republic and a degraded empire, but [between] an empire or no government at all. The ancient self-control had gone. Political passions and degraded appetites had broken loose which could never again be enchained by voluntary republican forms. Since liberty had failed, there was nothing else left but to try repression; the only alternatives were absolute monarchy or ruin."—Hugh Taylor, in "Conditions of National Success," p. 209 (1924).
Protestantism Falls.—If a revival of godliness through the Reformation brought us out of the bondage of the Dark Ages, it must be a decline of godliness that is taking us back. "Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof," is the outstanding religious condition of these "perilous times." Protestantism has lost its "protest." The shattering and splitting into a multitude of conflicting creeds and sects, the waning of missionary activities, the repudiation of the Holy Scriptures for the teachings of higher criticism and evolution, and the seeking for social popularity in the world, too well demonstrate its moral fall. And this is a vital factor contributing to the revival of Romanism, a fact recognized by the Catholics themselves.
Rome Diagnoses Protestantism.—When the Spanish primate of the Catholic Church was rallying his flock to the cause of Catholic Action, he declared: "The old attacks of the heterodoxy against Catholic dogma have already passed away, the which had their definite synthesis in the rationalist thesis of Luther."—"Los Deberes de la Hora Presente" [The Duties of the Present Hour], p. 5. And notice these statements from the press:
"Father O'Connor finds that never was a time more propitious for making America Catholic. Protestantism is breaking up, and releasing millions, who are looking around for a new allegiance. . . . The greatest field for converts, Father O'Connor finds, is among the Protestants of the 'Modernistic' churches, who have been gradually weaned away from the strict Protestant tenets of the older generation."—Our Sunday Visitor, (R.C.), March 24, 1935.
"During the ceremony of reading approval of the beatification of 136 English martyrs, Pope Pius affirmed that Protestantism was 'getting more and more exhausted' and had reached the point where `its own very instability is inspiring many souls with a nostalgia for Catholicism.' He rejoiced that returns to Catholicism were being multiplied even more frequently. Behold Catholicism, which shines in the clear light, while Protestantism goes on from denial to denial, rendering ever more intense in many souls that follow the invitation of truth a homesickness for returning to Catholicism. It has sometimes seemed as though the ship of the [Roman] church were in danger, but instead it has passed triumphantly on in the real course of culture."—The Atlanta (Georgia) Journal, Dec. 10, 1929.
The Associated Press records the following action from the recent triennial convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church of America, held at Cincinnati, Ohio : "[A] movement to delete the word 'Protestant' from the church's title, resulted in the introduction of a resolution asking the house of bishops and the house of deputies to make the change."—Springfield (Missouri) Daily News, Oct. 8, 1937.
Lutheranism in Germany.—The collapse of the Hohenzollern throne and subsequent political changes in Germany since the close of the World War have left its old state church—Lutheran--in a plight. The German state officially supports and controls the church of Luther, but advocates Nazi neopaganism, and lives in concordant relationship with the Vatican, where it keeps a diplomatic representative. In spite of all the political hubbub, Rome has made many recent gains in Germany, and expects to win out in the end.
In 1929 a significant declaration of Emil Ludwig, noted biographer, was published throughout the country by the Hearst Sunday press, in which he said : "When on February 27 I had a conversation with the Pope on the results of the war, he spoke with violence against the Treaty of Versailles, and gave an interesting explanation for Germany's defeat