Infiltration: A Method which Catholics and Communists both use.
There are in the world today two movements which on the one hand are diametrically opposed to one another, but which on the other hand copy each other’s methods and admire each other’s organization and success. They are International Communism and the Roman Catholic Church. Cardinal D’Alston, in his Lenten Pastoral on The Lay Apostolate, 1957, had this to say: “A lesson can be learnt from the Communists who are adept at forming cells, and infiltrating into various centres for the dissemination of their pernicious doctrines. The lay Catholic does not always realise that he can be an apostle in his own circle, or that a chance word in office, factory, or warehouse, is often the means of bringing another to the knowledge of God or of the Church.”1
To paraphrase an old saying, we may define “infiltration” from the Catholic’s point of view, as putting a sheep in wolf’s clothing. This method places a highly trained and able person in a key position where he can carry out the orders of an exterior agency by influencing the thinking and actions of a group which would not consciously make such choices if all the facts were known. The Jesuits have this as one of their principal aims, and Catholic Action puts the principle to work among laymen.
In his book, Lend Me Your Hands, Bernard F. Meyer gives the following insight into Roman Catholic thinking on this point:
Douglas Hyde, who was a Communist for twenty years and editor of the London Daily Worker, says in The Answer to Communism, that their method “…has proved that under modern conditions any quite ordinary person can be developed as a leader…To achieve this two things are necessary. One, he must be instructed so as to be rather better informed on certain specialized subjects than the average man with whom he mixes. Two, he must become accustomed to the sound of his own voice—to express himself in public.
In order to achieve this latter point the party’s ‘education’ system is based on a technique calculated to make all Communist party members (25,000,000 of them—our comment) able in time to contribute to discussion, first in small gatherings and later in large.
By such means everyone short of a half-wit can with patience be turned into a ‘leader’ by virtue of a little extra knowledge of a certain type, the acquisition of the jargon that goes with it, coupled with plenty of self confidence.
So when a strike develops, it is the Communist who steps into a position on the strike committee. When rents are to be increased it is he who will emerge as the leader of agitation against the proposal. And when military defeat or crushing economic crisis comes it is he who will lead the angry masses in the seizure of power.” In spite of its perversion to an evil purpose, we must acknowledge the validity of this method. (This last italics is mine–R.S.G.)
John F. Cronin, in Catholic Social Action, applies this method of planned, organized infiltration directly to Catholic Action in respect to unionism. He writes: “While the general principle of social action leaders has been nonintervention in union affairs, there have been times when priests active in labor work have been asked to help in fighting Communism or racketeering within unions. Secondly the Association of Catholic Trade Unionists (ACTU) trains its members in such a way that they will be effective in internal union matters. In addition to such training, the ACTU sponsors meetings and discussions by members of a union on its internal policies. Conclusions reached in such discussions may subsequently be advocated in union caucuses or meetings. In some cities, non-members of the union have attended such policy meetings, while in others there is a strict rule against the presence of outsiders.”2
Such a movement that promotes systematic infiltration of national institutions is a cause of great concern to younger nations. Catholics may be a minority, but when they are unified and obedient, as they usually are, they pose a threat to the majority groups which are not so organized. In addition, the Catholic’s obedience to a foreign authority which he places above that which belongs to his own nation, is a deep source of suspicion. It is a fact that many younger nations are as concerned about, and hard pressed by, the Catholic power groups, most of which are of long-standing, as they are by the more recent semi-Marxist and-or all-out Communist pressure groups. China to make Confucianism the national religion and the basis of national education. Catholic Action, which was well-established in China, having an organizational framework patterned after that of Italy, opposed it tooth-and-nail? We can safely assume that wherever in the world non-Christian governments seek to establish either a State-religion, other than Catholicism, or a secularized State and school system, Catholic Action will be bitterly opposed to it. In India and Ceylon, training in Catholic Action thinking and operation begins in the Catholic primary schools. In 1937, the Archbishop of Calcutta said: “We came to the conclusion that the solid basis of Catholic Action ought to be laid in our schools; and we unanimously decided to draw up a plan according to which our Catholic Youth should be prepared for their future apostolate.”4
“The most serious danger to democracy from…all Catholic Action, undoubtedly lies in the methods of secrecy or furtiveness and deceit.”5 No one would deny to the Roman Catholic the right to judge political and social issues in the light of his religion, and even with an attentive ear given to the clergy of his faith. But the issue which arises over the matter of Catholic Action is not whether individuals may be permitted to act and vote in accord with their personal convictions, but whether democratic institutions, which most of the younger countries still wish to maintain, shall be overrun by the concerted, planned, and organized tactics of Catholic laymen who receive their orders from the Hierarchy and who lay their own intellects and consciences at the altar of the institutional Church.
Catholic Actionists, whether in politics, unions, or other social bodies, do not act according to their individual consciences except in the most peripheral matters. On the contrary, their very genius is to act as a disciplined team according to a pre-arranged plan, controlled and coordinated by leaders outside the organization which is being infiltrated.
It has been correctly said by Catholic Action leaders that Catholic Action is first of all didactic—it is intended to instruct Catholics themselves, to give them what Arch-bishop Carboin has called “the integral Catholic mind,” which is “absolutely necessary for the Catholic Actionist.” Obviously, the idea of the freedom of the individual conscience is essentially alien to Roman Catholic thinking and Catholic Action attempts to indoctrinate workers, teachers, professional people of all kinds, and politicians, with the mind-set of the Church of Rome, and then turn them out into the world to make an influence. Fringe organizations and movements of all kinds, political and social, stand related to Catholic Action, and are the channels for “action” which generally means pre-meditated infiltration. Only the Communist Party, Catholicism’s arch-rival, can match the program of Catholic Action.
The Hierarchy is unwilling to admit responsibility for the Involvements of Catholic Action in Public Affairs
Spokesmen for the Hierarchy distinguish between Catholic Action and “actions of Catholics.” Newman says: “There is no room for the suggestion that the Church as such dabbles in politics and in temporal affairs in general. That Catholics can interest themselves in politics, spurred by apostolic motives, is both possible and desirable and is frequently proved by practice. They devote their efforts to the better shaping of the world of politics in a way which they hope will redound to the interests of the Church and the Christian life.”6 In another place Newman quotes Mgr. Pavan as saying: “In their (i.e., Catholic Actionists) successes, the whole Church triumphs; whereas for their failures, they alone must render full account.”7 This is the continual position taken by the Hierarchy that it can wash its hands of any responsibility for the concrete activities on the part of their obedient pupils, the Catholic Actionists. As Truman points out, this refusal to assume honest responsibility for the outcome of the Hierarchy’s instruction and direction, is simply to protect the Hierarchy from external attack, preserve the good name of “holy church” and quiet Protestant fears.8
Pope Pius XI said: “Catholic Action…represents the official lay apostolate; it is an instrument in the hands of the Hierarchy; it must be as it were the prolongation of its arm; it is by that very fact subject to the direction of the ecclesiastical superior.”9
On two other occcasions, Pope Pius again conceded that the Hierarchy is directly involved in Catholic Action in very many instances and that the overall idea of Catholic Action is a religious one and under the Church’s authority. “It is action,” said Pius XI, “ordered not in view of material and earthly aims, but of spiritual and heavenly ones—it is not political but religious, and thereby wholly dependent upon the Church’s authority. But if, by the inevitable inter-connection of things, it has to descend also into the economic and social field, and actually touch upon political matters, it does so uniquely in view of supernatural interests and of the moral and religious uplifting of both individuals and peoples.”10 “Should political questions also involve religious and moral interests, Catholic Action can and must, when possible, intervene directly, directing all Catholic energies, high above particular views, and by means of disciplined action, towards the superior interests of souls and of the Church.”11
There probably are few interests, on high government levels, which in these complex days do not fall into the category of things in which the “supernatural interests” of the Roman Catholic Church feels it ought to involve itself. Pope Pius XI frankly admits that there is an “inevitable inter·connection of things,” and by this whimsical expression the Pope admits that the door is wide open for Catholic Action, with the authority of the Church, to involve itself in almost any issue, so long as someone can show that there is a “connection” between the issue at point and Catholic interests somewhere. Furthermore, the Pope has called Catholic Action “an instrument in the hands of the Hierarchy; a prolongation of its arm.” How then can the Hierarchy wash its hands of responsibility for what takes place when Actionists carry out the Hierarchy’s directions and teachings?
We have said enough to confirm that an affirmative answer must be given to our initial question: “Does Catholic Action constitute a menace to democratic governments in countries where Catholics are a small but unified minority and where Catholic Action is vigorous?” Furthermore, we believe that governments should hold the Hierarchy of the Catholic Church responsible for the activities of the laymen when these laymen are carrying out the principles and teachings of the Church and are working under and along with the clergy. Truman expresses it very well when he says:
Apart from these arguments based on Catholic principles there is the general argument based on logic and the morality of our free society that any body of men which both enunciates policy and supervises its agents to see that the policy is applied correctly is morally responsible for the actions of its agents. The spokesmen for the Church certainly hold the Communist Party responsible for the actions of its members in the trade unions; they hold the A.L.P. responsible for those of its members in the unions whose names appear on unity tickets with the Communists in union elections. It is therefore only right and logical that the Bishops should be held responsible for “action of Catholics” organizations….12
The Catholic Church is a totalitarian organization. It claims to be the ultimate authority not only in religion but also in many areas outside the plainly religious. Catholicism claims that truth is that which the infallible Church through its Papacy declares as the Living Voice of God.13
Catholic laymen are bound to obey and they are subj~ct to penalties if they fail to comply. When these elements of authoritarianism and discipline are combined in Catholic Action and applied to social problems, politics, labor-management relations, and other areas of public life, a serious problem arises for secular and non-Christian governments, and also for Protestant Christian missions. It is extremely necessary that the essential nature of Catholic Action be understood by everyone who is involved in public affairs, and that the Hierarchy be made responsible for its own actions.
We conclude with a quotation from Cardinal Sarto, Bishop of Mantua and Patriarch of Venice, who later became Pope Pius X, which he included in his address entitled, “Obedience to the Pope in Catholic Action,” delivered at the Congress of Lodi, 1890. In this passage the identification of the Roman Church, and its Papacy, with Christ, is boldly asserted and Catholic Action is shown to be the obedient servant of the Roman Pontiff.
Catholic Action consists especially in affirming the rights of Jesus Christ who is truly our King.
Because Jesus Christ is represented by His Church, Catholic Action consists in being affectionate children of this perfect society, which does not depend on other powers for the right to live and exercise her ministry because she receives all her power from God….
Because, moreover, this Church is not built in the air, or in the land of the moon, but does her work in this our sublunar world, having a Supreme Head, Bishops and Priests, Catholic Action is directed towards the defence of and to the revindication of the rights of the Roman Pontiff, who is to the Church of Jesus Christ what the head fs to the body, what the foundation is to the building, for where the Pope is there is the Church: Ubi Petrus, ibi Ecclesia. The more open the war against the Pope is the more open, the more active, the more resolute should Catholic Action be in defending and maintaining the inviolable rights of the Roman Pontiff….
The issues are stated plainly enough in these paragraphs. Rome identifies herself with the highest authority of all, Christ Jesus. Her authoritarian claims are carried out by disciplined organizations of laymen under the direction of the Hierarchy. This is called Catholic Action. Its claim to divine authority and its high degree of regimentation explain both the passion and the menace of Catholic Action.
1. Newman, p. 22.
2. John F. Cronin, Catholic Social Action (Milwaukee: Bruce Publishing Co., 1948), page 105.
3. John Fitzsimons and Paul McGuire, Restoring All Things, A Guide to Catholic Action (New York; Sheed & Ward, 1938),pages 78–79.
4. Ibid., p . 84.
5. Tom Truman, Catholic Action and Politics (London; The Berlin Press, 1960), p. 227.
6. Newman, op. cit., pp. 152–3.
7. Ibid., p. 140.
8. Truman, p. 204.
9. Pius XII, Discourse to the First World Congress of the Lay Apostolate, Rome 1951. Quoted by Truman, page 32.
10. Pope Pius XI, Letter to the Ordinaries of Italy, through Cardinal Gasparri, 2nd October, 1922.
11. Pope Pius XI, Letter to Cardinal Segura. Quoted by Newman, page 149.
12. Truman, p. 205.
13. Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Letter Concerning Modern Errors; “When the Living Voice of God, the Pope, has spoken on matters of faith and morals it is for the theologian to show how and where the teaching given by the Living Voice of the Church is contained in Scripture and in our sacred tradition.” cf. Truman, p. 20.