“Above all, turn from that simple poverty-stricken figure that the Gospels present to us, to the man who claims to be His Vicegerent on earth. See him go, crowned three times over, on a throne borne on men’s shoulders, with the silver trumpets shrilling before him and the ostrich fans coming on behind, and you will understand why the world cannot take the Church seriously. Look at the court that is about him, all purple and scarlet, and set by that the little band of weather-beaten fishermen!
“No; if this Church were truly of Christ, she would imitate Him better. It was His supreme mission to point to things that are above; to lift men’s thoughts above dross and gold and jewels and worldly influence and high places and power; to point to a Heavenly Jerusalem, not made with hands; to comfort the sorrowful with a vision of future peace, not to dabble with temporal matters; to speak of grace and heaven and things to come, and to let the dead bury their dead! The best we can do for her, then, is to disembarrass her of her riches; to turn her temporal possessions to frankly temporal ends; to release her from the slavery of her own ambition into the liberty of the poor and the children of God!"
(ii) In a word, then, the Church is too worldly to be the Church of Christ! You cannot serve God and Mammon. Yet in another mood our critic will tell us that we are too otherworldly to be the Church of Christ. “The chief charge I have against Catholicism,” says such a man, “is that the Church is too unpractical. If she were truly the Church of Jesus Christ, she would surely imitate Him better in that which, after all, was the mark of His highest Divinity—namely in His Humanity towards men. Christ did not come into the world to preach metaphysics and talk forever of a heaven that is to come; He came rather to attend to men’s simplest needs, to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to reform society on better lines. It was not by His dogma that He won men’s hearts; it was by His simple, natural sympathy with their common needs. He came, in a word, to make the best of this world, to use the elements that lay ready to His hand, to sanctify all the plain things of earth with which He came in contact.
“These otherworldly Catholics, then, are too much apart from common life and common needs. Their dogmas and their aspirations and their metaphysics are useless to a world which wants bread. Let them act more and dream less! Let them show, for example, by the prosperity of Catholic countries that Catholicism is practical and not a vision. Let them preach less and philanthropize more. Let them show that they have the key to this world’s progress, and perhaps we will listen more patiently to their claim to hold the key to the world that is to come!”
But, surely, this is a little hard upon Catholics! When we make ourselves at home in this world, we are informed that Jesus Christ had not where to lay His Head. When we preach the world that is to come, we are reminded that Jesus Christ after all came down from that world into this to make it better. When we build a comfortable church, we are told that we are too luxurious. When we build an uncomfortable one we are asked how we expect to do any good unless we are practical.