Taken from the author's Foundation for Freedom (Catholic Social Guild, 1951). Fifty years on, is the home-schooling movement the final refuge of the family before the new totalitarians?
FIRST LINE OF DEFENCE
A Dying People
The decline is upon us: its course is acknowledged by all as due to the practice of birth control, most of which is effected by contraceptives. Catholics, I am afraid, are not free from its taint. As long ago as 1934 the Catholic family in England was barely of a size sufficient to replace itself. The position is still the same today and seems due in many cases to what an English Catholic bishop has called a compromise with conscience. With him Dr. H. P. Newsholme, a distinguished Catholic doctor, at one time chief medical officer of health for the city of Birmingham, appears to be in complete agreement. Writing on this point a year ago he said:-
"There has, in fact, been exposed to our troubled gaze, an ulcer in the body Catholic, an ulcer poisonous to Catholic life in many directions. What is needed is the cautery, whether of human discipline, or of the divine discipline of the Holy Spirit, cleansing, renewing health of outlook, and giving insight and strength of purpose whereby these Catholic couples can recognize and follow the way of married life which God intends for them."
There is room, therefore, for heart-searching amongst Catholics; for the realization that few things are worse than that act which frustrates nature to deny life, so shutting from the glory of the vision of God the child that can never be born. Those who perpetrate it are the hollow ones, bearing about them the mark of that selfishness, which is their guiding principle. So they become shrivelled even in youth, without the bloom in their lives that fullness brings. Frustration they have chosen and with it restlessness; condemning their own lives to the weariness that selfishness brings and their country to the slow decay that brought France to her knees in 1940 with hardly a blow being struck against her. There is no vision amongst those who practise birth-control, and where vision is lacking the people perish: adventure and enterprise go from their lives and with it eventually the will to survive. Listless and weary they wait for death.
Family Values: Life-giving Love
Home (to put the whole thing in terms that we understand best) is the place where the good things are taught: they can be taught adequately, we know, in no other. And we need the good things - to know them and love them and fully adhere to them - because in doing all three our service of God consists. In a word, we are meant to lead good lives - such that they show by the splendour of their living something of the splendour that is God - and we do that to the extent that we model our own on the life of Christ Our Lord. If you examine His life in the Gospels you will see that love was its core. He never sought Himself. He never rested whilst others could be helped. He never got irritated and annoyed. You will never find that He thought of Himself. He was always giving Himself to other people. We are meant to do the same, to turn to others and love them as He did and for His sake, which does not mean coldly and with aloofness, but warmly and without thought for ourselves. A person who loves like that stands out amongst his fellows. He is always at peace and his happiness goes very deep, precisely because it is the last thing he thinks about. He has something which the selfish really yearn for, but which they cannot get because they try and find it always in themselves. There is strength about such a one and depth. A nation peopled with men, who try at least to love like that is acquainted with peace and happiness: it will defend its freedom, which it sees correctly as the key to that fullness, which is the source of both. It will hold the family in high regard, -striving always to encourage its standards: lacking altogether the arrogant insolence that tries to supplant it. It will see that the Christian family is its strength, breeding the love which gives a people life; without which it will certainly die.
The family is unique in its power to instil love. In its circle you have that beautiful unselfish giving, which draws husband and wife closer and closer together as the years go by; which shows itself in the sacrifices they are always making for each other and for the children, who are the fine fruit of their loving. In such love you have greatness, a kind of living unknown to those who have never known what it is to share joy and sorrow with another loved beyond words, trusted utterly, for whom no gift is too precious. Between Christian parents that love is found and by them imparted to their children. In such a family you find strength and great happiness. A nation composed of such families is a nation at peace, unselfish and without the hate cast by self-seeking. Just think for a moment of the difference that would be made to the life of this country if, in it, one found less selfishness and more of that steady generosity towards others, which is so fine an expression of the love that is found in the Christian home. Take, for a moment, the case of industry itself
To me it is extraordinary that when men step over their thresholds to go to work in the morning, they drop the Christian attitude taught and preserved in many homes and adopt one that is unworthy of a Christian to say the very least. Behind them at home they leave love and trust and self-reliance. At work they exchange these for active dislike - sometimes, even, hatred - suspicion and a slavish willingness to follow the crowd. At home there is no machinery for the settlement of disputes because disputes there are the exception and not the rule. Why is conciliation machinery found in industry? Because in it disputes are accepted as normal, as the rule and not the exception. And why is this? Because in industry, men regard themselves, not as co-operating together to serve each other, but, as belonging to one "side" or other. There are no "sides" in the Christian family. Instead there is a unity that is the fruit of love. There is no unity in industry because in it there is no love and no unselfishness. Thus those who oppose each other on what one is forced to call the industrial battlefield seek to prove by strength there that might is right. In doing so they display a mentality closer to that of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin than to that of Christ Our Lord.
In the international field that mentality has led to two wars in my generation. As likely as not it will lead to another. In the industrial field its legacy is perpetual friction and dispute. So
class-war is tearing us to pieces at a time when unity (the fruit of loving co-operation) is more important, if possible, than ever before: and this dismal process of industrial strife will go on until men have the courage, to take the standards that govern the family into the field of industrial life - until, quite frankly, both sides cease using their strength in a futile attempt to prove who is right and have the honesty and courage to ask themselves what is right and to act accordingly. That is what the family does. That is what capital and labour must do if they would bring peace to industry and, with peace, the freedom that brings fulfilment. That way lies strength, dignity, true greatness - all flowing from the unity, itself the fruit of love, that must be sown, to be lasting, in the quiet of the Christian home. Once again we see that the family is basic, the cradle of liberty because it teaches those values, which must be adhered to if a people is to find fulfilment in the unity of love and, finding it, be resolute in defence of the freedom from which it flows.
The Christian Home:
In the secularism of the Report on Population you have one instance of an insidious trend in this country that is directed against the family and all it means. Another, in my own personal opinion, is provided by the increasing tendency to legislate for all our needs and requirements from the cradle to the grave. Leaving aside the grave and the thought (so dear to the heart of the planner) of the dull symmetry of the State coffins in which, presumably, we are all to be buried - leaving aside this end of the business, let us turn to the cradle side of the experiment and ask ourselves how State nurseries are to be reconciled with the intimacy of parental care; State intrusion with the rightful privacy of the home; State assumption of responsibility with that which natural law and the whole tradition of the West place on mother and father and children. I cannot see how reconciliation is possible: nor, presumably, can the Irish bishops; and I am given great confidence by this stand of a whole hierarchy against State intrusion. [Ed. Tragically, as elsewhere, the reverse is true in Ireland today. See Feb. 1999 CO].
To me it seems that the social arrangements of today are tending to rob the family of self-reliance, responsibility and independence and strip it of the very qualities it is meant to foster - qualities, which make for fullness of living, without which a nation grows old and weary and sterile, lacking altogether the will to survive. Yet this is the arrangement we have imposed on ourselves and its advocates claim that, by doing so, we have strengthened ourselves as a people and assumed, in fact, the moral leadership of the world! I find it hard to understand such reasoning, to see that by whittling away spiritual values, you make it easier to withstand the mad on rush of militant atheism; that by taking the heart out of the home, you increase our strength to withstand that totalitarian menace, which, in its hatred of the West and all it stands for, has been quick to see the essential part played by the family in the preservation of both. The first blows of the totalitarian State have always been directed at the Christian family and its way of life. With the Catholic Church they bracket, as the most determined enemy of all they stand for, the Christian home. Always they try to break it; to tear children from their parents so that they may smash the influence of the home and put in its place their foul doctrines of hate, materialism and racial pride. That was done under Hitler in Germany and the attempt is being made to do it now in the new slave States of Eastern Europe. Listen to a pronouncement from one of them: it is typical of the outlook of those who rule them all:-
That came over the Warsaw wireless not so long ago. In it you have an example of the satanic spirit pervading the horrible tyranny now fastened on the peoples of Eastern Europe. Every time we neglect our own children, we give an opening, not only to those, who would thrust it on every home in the world, but to those in the West also, who, in the witless materialism of a misplaced humanitarian ideal, would deprive the family of its Christian spirit - of most of what we mean when we talk about home - and open the door wide to the barbarian invader.