Thursday, March 22, 2007


From now on, every time I hear someone counsel a wait-and-see attitude toward abuses in the Church by cheerily quoting Matthew 16:18 about how "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it", I'm going to suggest they read the last chapter of Belloc's The Great Heresies. Especially the chilling part where he considers the two futures immediately ahead of us:

The modern attack on the Faith (the latest and most formidable of all) has advanced so far that we can already affirm one all-important point quite clearly: of two things one must happen, one of two results must become definite throughout the modern world. Either the Catholic Church (now rapidly becoming the only place wherein the traditions of civilization are understood and defended) will be reduced by her modern enemies to political impotence, to numerical insignificance, and, so far as public appreciation goes, to silence; or the Catholic Church will, in this case as throughout the past, react more strongly against her enemies than her enemies have been able to react against her; she will recover and extend her authority, and will rise once more to the leadership of civilization which she made, and thus recover and restore the world.

The first alternative future is the one I think the soothing "gates of hell" folks ought to give some serious thought to. Yes, it's still a future in which the Church has not disappeared. But it's likely to be a terrible, vicious, incomparably cruel future, poisoned by the prime catastrophe of ignorance of and disbelief in Christ. The gates of hell may not prevail, but they can get mighty close. And if they do, the heat's going to make global warming seem like a very, very small issue.