The Path to restoration of the Faith

Hilaire Belloc - Essays of a Catholic Layman in England (1931) Excerpts:

"Now, an ingrained habit of the defensive is a prime condition of defeat. There is no such thing as a defensive battle or a defensive campaign, save in the sense that one may begin on the defensive, but only with the fixed object of turning to the offensive at the right moment. It was not the learning, still less the logic, of our enemies, which gave them such strength; it was the defensive mood into which Catholic apologists allowed themselves to be maneuvered.

Details must be dealt with; exposure of our opponents' ignorance on details is valuable to obtain. But allowing ourselves to be pinned to details involves a loss of power and is not the way to conduct a struggle. Through entanglement in detail we suffer the further weakness of allowing much to go by default. We are so much occupied with special points that false statements on others escapes attention and is let pass. A mass of such runs through all attacks in detail. If the habit f the defensive involves us in all this weakness, the lesson is that the counteroffensive should now be our policy. We have every reason for undertaking it.

We have a campaign to win - a decisive result to achieve, and with the foe's good faith we are not concerned. We have two weapons only, but invincible - we possess the truth, we use our reason. Our opponents support falsehood, however consciously. Having a false theology they do not reason clearly. We must use these weapons unsparingly, without troubling ourselves over the good or bad faith of those against whom e use them. The struggle is arduous, and unless we use our full strength we shall not succeed.

It is in the nature of things that the advance of the Catholic Church, now as at all other times, must be effected, ultimately, by individual conversions; so was the Church originally founded, so did it recover it's loss in the sixteenth century, and, indeed, conversion can never be anything but individual by definition; to call it anything else in its essence would be a contradiction in terms. The process of individual conversions will be the constant and inevitable process of Catholicism wherever it has sufficient vitality to advance at all. There is not, in any new method, wherever it has sufficient vitality to advance at all. There is not, in any new method, room for slackening here; the appeal to the individual, the revelation of reality to the individual, remains the cell and unit of effort. If that were not present no mass effect could develop. But I say that "supplementary to it" must be a new conception of the way in which we should set to work . . . . To undermine the crude false philosophy opposed to us, to loosen its hold on the masses by ridicule of its ignorance, exposure of its errors, satire of its pompous self assurance and isolation, is a task open to any man. The method is easily available. But it involves very unpleasant consequences to the agent. We need agents, none the less. Without them we shall do nothing . . . we need Tertullians. We must be militant. . . . Our society has become a mob. The mob loves a scrap, and it is right. we must attack the enemy . . . we must analyze and expose his hidden false postulates, so that individuals who hold those postulates shall be brought to shame . . . We must expose the confusion of thought in the opposing camp; its ignorance of the world and of the past, its absurd idols. And in dong so we must face, not only ideas - which is easy - but men, defenders of those ideas - which is difficult. We must wound and destroy . . .

Remember that the reaction of men against what they dislike is exactly proportioned to its activity. Now, activity is the condition of success. When lord Salisbury said "First find out what particularly annoys your enemy and then do it as often as ever you can", he proposed a sound rule of combat. That is the spirit in which victories are achieved. Nor is it blameworthy. On the contrary, it is glorious. It is indeed blameworthy to attack with the mere object of irritation; it is also futile and vulgar; but to challenge active hate as the proper means to a good end - excellent!

. . . . It is not enough to expose particular misconceptions which have arisen from some ignorance of detail in the matter of faith; if the man is an enemy of the faith, then let his whole body of work be battered. Let him be fallen upon. Let it be argued from his bad judgment in particular affairs that his judgment in the main affair is also bad. If there is a lack of good faith in his method let that be proved, not only by examples pertinent to religion, but also by examples which have nothing to do with the main quarrel in themselves, but which pertain to the general thesis that enemies of the chief truth are enemies of all truth . . . As for those who maintain that militancy is barren, I will reply with the precisely contrary truth, that conflict is the mother of all things. The most powerful ally one can have is fashion, and fashion is set when a battle is won. But a battle is not won without wounds . . .

Catholic culture is still undecided between a reaction towards it's great origins in religion and a popular drift still further away from these - which drift, if it becomes the main stream, will carry our civilization into the abyss. For upon the maintenance and increase of the Church the life of our civilization depends. There are apparent in all art, literature, and morals many forerunners of collapse. Whether we shall avoid it or succumb, none can tell".