Excerpt from letter of Hilaire Belloc to Fr. Philip Hughes, June 1st, 1917
The point is this: Christendom or Europe was formed and grew up in a particular way. Whether the Catholic Church is true or false has nothing to do with the reality of that formation. The whole thing was a transformation from a certain antique pagan world – up to say 300 – (which is fairly well known even at Protestant Universities) into a Catholic thing (from, say 300 or 350 to say 1500) on the character of which Protestant countries are blankly ignorant. Then comes a third phase from the end of the 15th century onward when there is a tendency to the dissolution of this corpus of Christendom, and a correspondingly vigorous effort to preserve it in spite of disruptive forces. We are still living in this third phase but it has so far matured that there is clearly going to be a victory one way or the other fairly soon, and either the Catholic direction will be generally restored, or it will be lost – and with it, probably our civilization which is bound up with it in every fibre.
One does not have to be a pessimist to believe that the “Catholic direction” has indeed been lost in the Western world. What is left of our store of Catholic capital is almost depleted. How will Belloc’s third phase play out? Will the United States in particular pull back from the brink? Or will our civilization indeed be lost in a crash back into paganism? I believe (hoping desperately to be wrong) that our free fall has already begun, as our “purple mountain majesties” sink beneath the stinking moral miasma of a virtue-phobic society. Fortunately we have the comfort of knowing that, while it is worth fighting for, this is not our real home. Still, it may be time to brush up on the early Christian martyrs – as I recall pagans can be downright intolerant!