The futility of drawing sharp distinctions between worldly and religious affairs would seem to be too apparent to need exposition. And yet the cry for such distinction is continually heard.
Came last week to the Pope a party of Italian undergraduates, youthfully maintaining that the Pope should become that most mythological of all creatures a perfect neutral.
Replied the Pope (Pius XI, master of pointed phrase): "When Politics come near the Altar, then Religion, the Church, the Pontiff have not only the right but the duty to give directions and indications to be followed by Catholics."
The same reply was made by Moses. The same was made by Luther, Calvin, Knox. The same was made in unmistakable language by Pius IX, in the last Century: "It is an error to assert that the Church ought to be separated from the State and the State from the Church."*
The same reply is made by Protestants today. Protestant Churches established Prohibition. Protestant ministers preach war or peace, condemn or condone divorce, denounce corruption. Hitherto they have sidestepped the problems of industry, but now they are beginning to have something to say about it.
Pius XI's reply to the undergraduates was not only weighted with the authority of tradition; it was the only logical reply. For if Religion is irrelevant to the affairs of this world, it would be completely and quickly banished to the next.
*Indeed, this Pontiff went further and declared: "It is an error to assert that every man is free to embrace the Religion he shall believe true, guided by the light of reason."