THE LOSSES OF THE CHURCH
ONE of the funniest aspects of the situation as regards the Roman Church in Great Britain is the astonishment at each other of Catholics and non-Catholics. How, asks the innocent non-Catholic when he reads such things as I have described, can this sort of thing be accepted by grown-up and educated men and women in the twentieth century? He tactfully approaches a Catholic neighbour, and finds that the man – I mean, lady – cherishes a weird and wonderful version of the history of the Holy Fathers and their Holy Church, and regards the teaching and practice of the Church as so beautiful that everybody who learns the truth about them is at once won.
You will even meet Catholics who will tell you that the fact that there is not a stampede into the Church is a wise dispensation of Providence. Its organization would be apt to be demoralized if the return of the nations to Rome were too rapid. But, your neighbour adds, the change is proceeding satisfactorily. While the ministers of other Churches speak mournfully of decay and losses, the Catholic Church moves on majestically, increasing in numbers far beyond its natural increment of births, from decade to decade. Have not even unbelievers said repeatedly that the future lies simply between two forces, Rome and Reason?
But from this it follows only that the audacity of Catholic apologists succeeds at times in deceiving unbelievers, for the claim that the Church is gaining ground in the world is the last and biggest untruth with which the priests dupe their people. On the first page of this book I say that the Church has only about 200,000,000 followers, and that half of these are illiterate. That was written twenty-two years ago, yet it is roundly true to.day. The Church then claimed about 300,000,000 followers, but I had proved from official statistics and Catholic admissions in various countries that 100,000,000 of these – seceders and children of seceders – were no longer Catholics. This was shown in my Decay of the Church of Rome (1909); and, as the Roman clergy had not at that time secured their mischievous control of reviewing in the Press, the book was everywhere accepted as a sound, moderate, and unanswerable analysis.
But if the reader prefers to entertain the Catholic estimate of membership (about 300,000,000) twenty-two years ago, what ought it, if the Church is growing, to be to-day? At least 450,000,000, not counting converts. The Church bitterly opposes birth control. This may seem ironical in view of the historical survey of its morals which I made in the first part of the book, and when we recall that until near the close of the last century it fully approved the castration of boys for singing even in the Papal choir at Rome ; but the motive is, of course, not delicacy. It is, as a priest bluntly said to a meeting of Catholic women, to secure an increasing membership for the Church until it "beats the Protestants." Now, in a modern civilization an unrestricted birth rate would, it is estimated by experts, give an increase of population of more than 20 per cent. per decade. Yet the Catholic world-total given in current reference-books (The World Almanac, Statesman’s Year Book, etc.), and supplied to them by the Catholic authorities, is only 331,000,000. That shows, not an advance, but a loss of a further 100,000,000; and still half the remainder (in Latin America, the Philippines, and other backward countries) are either totally illiterate or of such rudimentary literacy (Polish, Italian, Spanish, Croat, Irish, etc., peasants) that the Church can hardly boast of holding their allegiance.
Some modification of this conclusion is required because large numbers of Catholic women in Great Britain, America, France, etc., now defy the Church and practise birth control; but again let me refer the reader to published, and in this case official, Catholic statistics. The English Catholic Directory proudly gives each year the figures which testify to the growth of the Church: the steady rise of baptisms, school-children, marriages, and membership. How nice it must look to the Catholic! But the figures really betray an extraordinary situation, and it is amazing how few people see it.
Child-baptisms, which is the same as Catholic births, are given as 69,184 in 1938, when the total births in England and Wales were 621,603. Children in Catholic schools are given as 383,267, while the total number for England and Wales is more than 5,000,000. Marriages in Catholic. churches are correctly stated to be 6·5 per cent. of the whole; and the number of Catholics is claimed to be 2,361,504 in a total population of about 40,000,000. Do you see the joke? Avoiding decimals and complicated sums, these figures mean that Catholics are one-ninth of the community if we go by births: one-fourteenth if we go by percentage of school-children: one-fifteenth if we go by marriages: yet less than one in sixteen even if we accept their grossly exaggerated statement of their numbers! We will return to the significance of these figures, but they put my present point beyond any cavil. The proportion of Catholic births (child-baptisms) to the total births shows that the Catholic increase by births is enormously higher than the general national increase, and they therefore ought, if they numbered 300,000,000 a quarter of a century ago, to be now, on the ground of births alone, 450,000,000 or 500,000,000. In Catholic countries their birth rate is higher than in England.
But even 331,000,000 – the Catholic Directory blatantly, without any detailed explanation, says 366,185,084 (admire the precise unit, as if they had counted heads ) – is a gross exaggeration of the Catholic world-total. It is based upon figures which are given in the Orbis Catholicus, an official Roman publication. They provoke a smile. For France the book claims "most" of the population (42,000,000) as Catholic; and other works report, on the strength of this, that there are 40,000,000 Catholics in the country. But even the more optimistic French Catholic writers do not claim more than 10,000,000, so we at once deduct 30,000,000 or so from the world-total. For Germany the book claims 23,750,000, and we shall see that there cannot be more than 10,000,000; and the losses in Austria and Czecho-Slovakia raise the total which we must deduct to at least 20,000,000. Almost the entire population of Spain is included in the 331,000,000, though the Orbis Catholicus (written before the victory of Franco-Benito-Adolph) is here vague, whereas we have even Irish Jesuits admitting that at least 14,000,000, if not 20,000,000, must be
deducted. In Italy, we are told, "practically all" are Catholics; and we shall see that more than 10,000,000 are not. The Mexicans (16,000,000) are said to be 90 per cent. loyal to the Pope; which, in view of recent Mexican history, is amusing. In Argentina "nearly all " the 12,000,000 are Catholics; and the book then notes that the country has secular education, which the Church bitterly loathes. In Chile, where the Church is disestablished and the schools are closed against it, the "great majority" are said to be Catholics. In Uruguay "practically all" are Catholics, but the civil power is "definitely hostile to the Church." That is already an unchallengeable deduction of 100,000,000 from the Catholic total, but, since neither papers nor books now tell English readers the truth about these matters, the astonished reader will desire some details. I gave these in my recent Papacy in Politics To-day (1937), and may here be brief.
France is the most audacious instance of the complete recklessness, yet impunity, with which Catholics make -their claims. The country has had for sixty years a Government which the Vatican calls "Atheistic," and it has passed every measure which the Church most bitterly opposes. This Government is returned placidly at every election on a basis of manhood suffrage, and the country has not known a Catholic statesman, much less President, since 1880. Its higher scholarship, in science, history, economics, etc., is solidly Atheistic, the Church claiming only a few artists, literary men, and soldiers amongst men of distinction. In fine, such recent Catholic writers on the subject as Georges Goyau and Denis Gwynn admit that French Catholic estimates of their numbers range from 5,000,000 to 10,000,000 (in nearly 42,000,000), and that the higher figure is inadmissible.
English priests try to confuse the public mind in regard to this awkward fact, which heavily discredits all their statistics, by drawing a distinction between "practising" and "non-practising" Catholics. This is just cheating. A Catholic is supposed to incur eternal damnation every time he fails to attend Mass on Sunday, except for "grave reason," or to confess and communicate once a year. Now, a Catholic of poor character may do this occasionally, just as he may get drunk, but to count as Catholics 30,000,000 people who never go to Mass or confession is to deceive the public. A truthful apologist would explain to the reader that his Church holds that there is no such thing as a seceder – that it still counts as a Catholic one who has become a Protestant or a Buddhist – but in England and America religious diplomacy is holier than truth. Remember, however, in reading Catholic statistics, that they include all who were in their infancy baptised in the Church, whether they have remained loyal to it or not, unless they have been formally excommunicated, which is now a ceremony that is rarer than coronations.
Next, we saw, the Orbis Catholicus counts nearly 24,000,000 Catholics in Germany; yet, as I proved in my Papacy in Politics To-day, there are not more than 10,000,000. One very definite indication will suffice here. The German Catholics had a strict political organization until the Nazis grasped power, and at the last entirely free election, in 1932, no genuine Catholic failed to vote for his party. Large numbers of Jews also voted with them. What was the result? They got about one-seventh of the total vote (5,300,000 out of 35,000,000). The Socialists and Communists, who were under the ban of the Church as much as the Nazis, got 13,000,000 votes: the Nazis 11,700,000. On this very rigorous test the Catholics are shown to be about one-seventh of the population, or about 10,000,000. They have lost at least 10,000,000 in the last twenty years. Yet our reference books continue to make them a body of 20,000,000, and the reader wonders how Hitler is able to defy one-third of his country, as well as the Socialists and Communists, even in time of war.
This was the situation eight years ago. It is now far worse. German Catholics bitterly assailed their leaders for, on instructions from Rome – which really means from the present Pope, who was then Secretary of State – trusting Hitler’s promises and supporting him at the final election (1933), and a large number of them have yielded under Nazi economic pressure and left the Church. This drift increased alarmingly when the exposure of appalling vice in monasteries all over Germany continued year after year in courts in which, German Catholics admit, there was no question of corruption or malpractice, and the Pope endorsed the charges by suppressing whole provinces of monks. The Catholic Church in Germany, of which the Vatican was so proud, is to-day in ruins.
The same disintegrating forces have now been at work in Austria and Czecho-Slovakia, and have made a deadly beginning in Poland. Even before the brutal Nazi expansion, the Catholic figures for these countries were formally mendacious. The Orbis Catholicus for 1938 claimed that 93 per cent. of the Austrians were Catholics, yet the compiler (an English priest) and every writer who repeated the figure knew that, to the bitter mortification of the Church, Vienna and some other cities were so predominantly anti-Catholic that Socialists had held power in them, on a clean basis of manhood suffrage, for nearly twenty years after the last war. The Vatican was compelled to use the treachery and violence of Dollfuss to crush them. In the case of Czecho-Slovakia we have the admission of a Czech priest in the most important Catholic weekly in England (Tablet, October 31, 1936) that 1,900,000 Catholics had left the Church between 1919 and that date; and a priest’s admission of drift may be multiplied by two and his claim of membership divided by two.
Poland now, to the extreme concern of the Vatican, enters the list of the doomed. There was no more Catholic country in the world, but in the provinces which Russia has taken over the priests will pay heavily for the fierce persecution they, with the full approval of the Vatican, exercised on non-Catholics from 1919 to 1939, and in the provinces occupied by Germany the Church suffers like the general population. At least 20,000,000 have been lost by the Vatican since 1918 in Germany, Austria, Czecho-Slovakia, and Poland; and, under Nazi pressure, the Church continues to crumble.
For Spain, where the outcome of the war was still in doubt in 1938, the Orbis Catholicus makes no precise claim. It would stultify itself if it made the usual claim of "90 per cent." or "practically all" at a time when the people held out for three years against armies which, literally, fought under the Papal banner and in spite of every ecclesiastical ban. A British M.P., a Catholic, had not even this elementary sense of humour. He published a pamphlet in which, as usual, "practically all" the Spaniards were said to be devout Catholics! About the same date an Irish Jesuit, Father Gannon, admitted in the Irish Times (January 23, 1937) that there were only "ten or fifteen million Catholics" in Spain. When a religious writer cannot make up his mind between 10,000,000 and 15,000,000 we may split the difference with him. That leaves a further 1 2,000,000 apostates to be deducted from the Catholic world-total.
Here again we need not rely upon the loose statements of Catholics and their critics. In recent years Catholicism has had as rigorous a political organization in Spain as in Germany, for from 1931 onward the Government, democratically elected, set out to accomplish a programme which the Church fiercely resented. What was the result? The anti-clericals were returned at every election. In the cities the vote for them was three to one, showing that educated Spain has done with the Church.
It is sometimes said that in the last election before the rebellion of the Fascist-Catholics more votes were cast for these than for the anti-clericals, so that the war was not so much a rebellion as a legitimate recovery of power from wicked usurpers. This scandalous excuse for a ghastly war, which even the most cultivated and refined Catholic writers in England have repeated, is based upon the usual mendacity. Although the Socialist Government had rather foolishly (in the circumstances) extended the vote to women before that election, the total anticlerical vote, Left Wing and Centre (Liberal), was 4,696,000 against a Right-Wing vote of 4,750,000. But the total vote cast was 3,000,000 short of the number of men and women who were entitled to vote, and everybody who has at least an elementary knowledge of Spain knows that this means that at least 2,000,000 Anarchists and Syndicalists, who never vote, must be added to the anti-clerical strength. Moreover, by that time large numbers of anti-clericals had become alarmed by the political development and on economic grounds. had voted against "the Reds." To-day between 10,000,000 and 15,000,000 Spaniards brood over their hatred of the Church in silence under a canopy of terror.
In my Papacy in Politics To-day I showed that at least 15,000,000, and probably a much higher figure, must be deducted from the Catholic total for Latin America. In what used to be the most Catholic Republic of South America, Chile, the bitterly anticlerical Socialists won the election in 1922, and their power was destroyed only by the grossest corruption. In Peru, which had been almost as reactionary, the leader of the anti-clerical and revolutionary Apra had 100,000 votes at the Presidential Election, in spite of every device of crooked clerical-conservative manipulation. In Argentina, American missionaries stated a few years ago, the workers were so solidly anticlerical that it was difficult for a Catholic to enter or remain in the Trade Unions. Brazil was almost equally advanced, and, as I said, the Orbis Catholicus admits that in Uruguay the Government is still “definitely hostile to the Church.”
Of Mexico it is hardly necessary to speak. The Government, freely returned by the literate workers and the middle class at each election, has been anti-Catholic and cursed by the Church for twenty years. The spurts of rebellion which the priests (on funds supplied from the United States) organized, and often led, were ragged futilities, their troops consisting almost entirely of illiterate, and often savage, Indians. I travelled over thousands of miles of Mexico in the height of the struggle, and realized the utter mendacity of Catholic accounts of it.
In South America the Church has had the same bloody revenge as in Spain. Any reader who thinks that this is intemperate language should turn back to page 149 of this book. The Church still claims that it may, or must, shed the blood of seceders or inflict any penalties it thinks fit. The rapid growth of Communism and Socialism in Latin America after 1918 gave it the same opportunity as in Spain and Austria. It organized a coalition of reactionaries in every Republic except Uruguay (and Argentina remains fairly moderate) and got its critics brutally suppressed. The Press of the world was silent, because suppressing “Reds” is a public service. In point of fact, many of the finest middle-class men suffer torture and vile conditions in the jails of Brazil, Chile, and Peru to-day for their criticism of the corrupt Latin Church and its exploitation of tens of millions of illiterate Indians.
I must refer the reader again to my earlier book for an adequate discussion of the Church’s immense losses in the United States, and must be content here with two points. The first is that a man need not do an hour’s research to perceive that figures of membership of the Roman Church in America are as dishonest as such figures are in the case of Great Britain. For instance, the 1926 Census gave the figure (supplied, of course, by the Church) as 18,605,000. The American Catholic Directory (using the same sources) gave 20,709,015, and the egregious Father Guilday was permitted to say in the Encycloptædia Britannica (1929) that the real figure was 25,000,000. These figures (except the fantastic Guilday total) are based upon the reports of the parish priests – hence the ludicrous appearance of accuracy down to a unit-and even one or two American Catholic publications have shown and protested against the gross deception of the public. Letters from Catholic bishops to their priests, urging them to include “bad” Catholics (seceders) with good in their totals so as to beat the Protestant figures, have been published. See a mass of evidence in John F. Moore’s Will America Become Catholic? (1931). There are probably not more than 15,000,000 Catholics in the United States, whereas if the Church had kept the allegiance of all Catholic immigrants (Irish, Italian, Polish, German, Mexican, etc.) and their descendants, it would, without converts, now have more than 40,000,000 members.
The second point is that while the American Catholic Church is the richest and most powerful in the world – it has property of the value of $1,000,000,000, fifty newspapers, four or five wireless stations, etc. – it is one of the poorest in culture, and has very grave statistics of crime and vice. Of the 30,000 men of distinction in the American Who’s Who, only 7 per 100,000 are Unitarians – and these are largely clerical officials or politicians. It has the same percentage of cultural leaders as the despised Fundamentalists. On the other hand, it not only controls the notorious Tammany, but an analysis of criminals in Sing Sing which was made by a Catholic chaplain and published in the Commonweal (December 14, 1932) revealed that a total of 1581 prisoners no less than 855 were Catholics. Statistics of prostitution in New York tell much the same story, and the representation of the Church in the alcoholic world is notorious. There are non-Catholics who profess to admire the growth of the Church because it means "such a force for good"; they then chide me for telling such facts as these. The Roman Church is to-day an organization for augmenting the power and wealth of the clerical body and the hierarchy.
In Italy between 10,000,000 and 20,000,000 must be deducted. Since the Pope made (for £19,000,000 and political independence) his infamous compact to support Mussolini, the tyranny makes it impossible to get closer to the figures, but it would be ingenuous to ask us to believe that the Socialists, who were considerably more than a third of the voters as long as elections were free, have joined the Church. Even at that time, moreover, all the middle-class Liberals and a large proportion of the Fascists were anti-Catholic. It is very safe to deduct a third of the population, or 14,000,000, from the Catholic total for Italy.
I cannot here cover the whole ground, and must be content to say that in all countries except a few backward lands (Ireland, Poland, etc.) one must deduct from a fourth to a third of the Catholic total. I have given details in earlier books, but election and other precise data which I reproduce here for ten countries imply a loss of over 100,000,000. The Church has lost at least 50,000,000 followers since 1919. Hence its truculent policy and alliance with reactionary powers everywhere.
What about Great Britain? In my Decay of the Church of Rome I gave an exhaustive analysis of the figures to 1909 and showed that the loss to date was 2,250,000 and the number of Catholics about 1,500,000. I showed earlier in this chapter that the Catholic birth rate is enormously higher than the general national birth rate, and therefore, without any conversions, the total ought now to be considerably over 2,500,000. Add the Catholic claim of 10,000 adult converts a year and their children, and you get a further 400,000. But we have still to add immigrants from Ireland, and for the last ten years the number has been prodigious. In October, 1937, the Cork Examiner lamented that in nine months of that year 37,000 had migrated from the Free State to Great Britain, besides an unknown number through Ulster. That means 50,000 (putting 50,000 British "on the dole") a year, or certainly half a million in thirty years. So the Church in Great Britain should now have about 4,000,000 members. It claims 3,000,000 (including 600,000 in Scotland), and the figures I have given show that 2,000,000 is the highest we can admit. The facts are making the Catholic laity impatient. In a recent prominent discussion of the "leakage" in the Catholic Herald (August 11, 1939) it was stated that exact inquiry in a London parish showed that 6 I per cent. of the boys who passed through the Catholic school left the Church! Yet these are all included in the Catholic statistics. Probably about 1,500,000 is the correct figure for England and Wales, or nearly a million less than is claimed, revealing a loss of some 2,000,000 in the present century. But pray understand that these are mostly poor or obscure folk. All is well, because the Catholic Directory proudly displays a list of 27 Peers and Baronets and 27 "Lords by Courtesy" (but no distinguished scientists, historians, philosophers, economists, etc.).
The Roman Church is an anachronism, an imposture, which the world is rapidly finding out. It fights with every foul weapon against the menace; political intrigue, mendacity – I have surely shown that – to its own people and the world, coercion of editors, publishers, booksellers, and librarians, material profit to its members against non-Catholics, libel of its critics, and, where the conditions permit (South America, Portugal, and Spain, for instance), prison, torture, and guns. It is poor in scholarship and rich in crime. It hates and fears truth. It still prefers the long cloak and dagger, the intrigue and the secret bullying. If Englishmen would but realize that it counts only about one-thirtieth of the people of their country, or far less if you exclude immigrants, they would not meekly tolerate the power it arrogates.
Ten years have passed since my last revision of this little work: ten of the most fateful years in modern history. What part did the Roman Church play in the dramatic and tragic events of those years? And how does it stand to-day? The first six years witnessed the embroilment of the world in the most terrible war of all time, and that the Vatican cooperated with and aided the Nazis, Fascists, and Japanese, who, from sheer greed, brought this terrible calamity upon the race has been proved beyond question in a large number of works. I have given a summary of the evidence in small special booklets (The Vatican and the Nazis, The Pope and the Italian Jackal, The Papacy in France, and Russia and the Roman Church), and Professor Salvemini has proved the Vatican’s guilt in the case of Italy in a series of learned works. The policy with which the Vatican prepared the way, from South America to Japan, for this stupendous conspiracy against the race is described in my Papacy in Politics To-day (Watts & Co.; fourth edition, now in preparation; to be published in 1951).
When Russia turned the tide of Nazi success and the intervention of America made the triumph of the Western Allies a certainty the Vatican discovered that it is neutral in politics. It had already quarrelled with Hitler because he refused to carry out the solemn promises, embodied in a Concordat, with which he had bought the support of the Vatican and the German Catholics. The war was hardly over when, in Britain and America, Catholic writers, with their habitual mendacity, brazenly claimed that the Catholics were the only force in Germany that had never bent the knee to Baal (Hitler). Any history of recent times in Germany gives the facts which expose this lie. Even the very impartial Annual Register records that it was the Catholics of Bavaria, under orders from their bishops, who finally gave Hitler his powers, and it is ordinary historical teaching that, while the Communist deputies were liquidated before the final election and the Socialist deputies flatly refused the dictatorial powers which Hitler asked and were in their turn liquidated, the Catholic representatives kissed the feet of the arch-criminal until he refused to carry out the provisions of the Concordat. They were still moderate in their criticisms until in 1936 the German courts – not Nazi courts but in the Catholic cities – were encouraged to uncover the long-suspected and incredible corruption of the German monks and priests, some thousands of whom went to jail, mainly on a charge of unnatural vice.
During the last phase of the War and the first phase of what is ironically called the Peace the Vatican was silent. It then entered upon a policy as unscrupulous as that which it had followed early in the last century, for which the Catholic historian, Lord Acton, described the Popes as "worse than the Old Man of the Mountains," the most murderous figure in history. It saw that America was now disposed to carry out the work which Hitler had professed to be the sole aim of his mighty armament: the destruction of Communism and Socialism. No other Press in the world was so poisonous in creating hatred of Russia as the Catholic, especially in America, and in the various countries of Europe the Catholics were instructed to march under a false banner (the Popular Republican Movement, the Christian Democrats, the Peasants’ Party, etc.) so as to sweep together all anti-Socialist elements, Liberal, Radical, or Conservative, in each country. By this manœuver the Vatican has won enormous favour, and prestige in America and a power of which it had ceased to dream in Britain, France, and Italy. Analysis of electoral statistics shows, when one recollects that Catholics are only the core of these movements, that numerically/ the Church has made no gains, and we have the grim but not unfamiliar spectacle of the Vatican gaining wealth and power by alliances with red-handed rulers like Franco, Salazar, and Perón, and with sinister forces that, in order to protect greed, threaten to engulf the world in a more barbaric war than ever.
 This, by the way, is the only book of mine (out of about 130, a large number of which deal with the Roman Church) to which any Catholic writer has "replied." The "reply" (The Rationalist as Prophet, by the Jesuit Keating) is a two-penny pamphlet in which not a single item of my 300 pages of severe evidence is noticed! It is a cheap screed of abuse and loose rhetoric. The Jesuit speaks of me as "a certain Mr. McCabe" (several of my books had already sold 50,000 copies), and falsely states my position in the Church. The pamphlet, reprinted, is still the only reply to my works which Catholics are allowed to read.
 There is here an instance of what the Catholics were really allowed to do in the last edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica. In earlier editions this notorious fact was given (article "Eunuchs") as an item of common knowledge. In the last edition not merely is it suppressed, but the truth is gravely perverted.