S. Are truth and goodness exclusive in that they alone have rights?
T. They are and that for reasons based on philosophical and theological principles. First, in regard of philosophy. Nothingness can have no rights since it has no existence. It is impossible for a thing which does not exist to have any rights. Therefore to attribute rights to a non-existent entity is an injustice. But what are you doing if you attribute rights to error except attributing them to a non-existent entity? It is enough to consider what truth and error are in order to understand this. Truth is found in the intellect in the measure in which the intellect is in exact conformity with reality. When the intellect has an idea which is not in conformity with reality, then we have error.

But what is really happening in such a case? I have in my mind the idea of something as if this thing formed part of the order of being. I attribute to it rights in my mind, as if it were portion of the Divine scheme of things. But it is not so in reality. In point of fact it is a baseless creation of my own mind. How can I take as the foundation of my life and of my actions a "reality" which is no reality? What can be the outcome of such an aberration? Precisely what happens in the case of any structure raised without foundation. If I take as a basis for my life and action an idea of my own to which nothing real or objective corresponds the whole intellectual and social edifice I raise on that basis is of necessity bound to crumble. There can be no other solid foundation for action and for life than an objective reality. This then is why truth alone has the right to exist in the individual and in the social order. From no point of view can error claim this right. When it gets a footing in a mind or among the multitude, it usurps rights not belonging to it, it is unjust. Evil is the privation of the being and goodness due to a thing. Now error is the specific evil of the intelligence, the privation of the grasp of the order of the world which the intelligence is meant to have. It is a malady to be cured, a disease to be healed, a cancer to be eradicated, not a perfection to be extolled and proclaimed worthy of respect.
S. 'That is certainly a cogent statement. I should be glad if some of my friends could hear their so-called reasoning thus
exploded. May I ask, what are the theological principles underlying your assertion?
T. Theologically I base it on the revelation given to the world by Jesus Christ. Our Lord came down to restore the Divine Life of Grace to the human race and to each individual in it. For this end He revealed truth to the world. This truth belongs to Him in virtue of His Divine right and also in virtue of His work of redemption. If this truth belongs to Him and is given to the world by Him in a well-defined sense and for a very definite purpose, then to ruin or lessen it is to commit an injustice. It is to sacrifice the rights of Jesus Christ.
S. There would then be no place for anything except truth. But is the case so easily solved? Is there not the famous distinction between the "thesis" and the "hypothesis" or between the ideal and the actual condition of affairs?
T. Certainly there is no place for anything but truth. As to the distinction between the "thesis" and the "hypothesis," it needs careful understanding. It is an undoubted fact that the use made of this distinction has caused the loss of many souls.
S. But I should have said that the Church herself favoured this distinction.
T. Not at all. It is a subtlety invented by certain theologians. It is used to quiet one's conscience and get out of a difficulty.
S. How interesting! Would you explain the origin of the distinction and the use that is made of it?
T. By the ideal condition, or the "thesis," is meant the position given to truth and goodness according to their full rights. Thus, in the ideal condition, the Blessed Trinity, Jesus Christ and the Church, occupy among countries and nations the place which belongs to them by right. This means practically living under the reign of Christ and of His Church. Besides this ideal situation, there is the actual situation. In point of fact, Christ does not exercise authority over human society, in fact, truth and goodness do not enjoy their rightful prerogative. More than this, the countries of the world are corrupt. Their corruption is such that it is impossible in practice at this moment to give to the true and the good that which is merely their strict right. This is called the actual condition of affairs, the state of the "hypothesis," the state in which we find ourselves in face of the power---and often the organised power---of the enemies of Christ and of His Church. What is to be done in this case? No one can betray truth and goodness; no one can deny God or the Church, but under existent conditions certain situations must be tolerated which cannot be immediately altered. But it must be always noted that this tolerance is merely tolerance and not approval. In such a case everyone should in his heart have the earnest resolve to obtain their full rights for truth and goodness. Moreover the liberty accorded to every man must be used to do good and especially to spread everywhere the principles of truth, and thus, little by little to get back to the ideal condition of affairs.

S. Am I to understand that you think great harm has been done by having recourse to this distinction?
T. Many Catholics have used this distinction as a means of shirking the duties of the apostolate. They say simply "we are in the state of hypothesis,' " and they do nothing to get back to the "thesis," the ideal state. This is the first evil effect produced by this distinction, and there is another that springs from the first---that this distinction, by quieting and sending to sleep the consciences of those who should be militant Catholics, creates an atmosphere of inaction and sometimes of discouragement in social matters. Becoming accustomed to breathing this atmosphere, people cease to notice the poison it carries and they absorb this poison unconsciously. There is no way out of it, we have to get accustomed to putting in practice our Lord's words, "Yes, yes; no, no." The instructions of the Divine Master can be realised only by a loyal, frank and complete adherence to the principles of truth---the only principles that can direct Society towards God. We must repeat here what we said above: Whenever and wherever the distinction between the ideal and the actual condition of affairs lessens the progressive and educative action of the Church among the nations, it is causing her to fail partially in her mission: not only are souls not sanctified, but they become deadened and in the end become practically indifferent.

S. May I put one difficulty? While we are in the state actually existing today, you tolerate the existence of error: in the ideal state you would no longer tolerate it, and we should be in danger of seeing everywhere spring up under the protection of the Sovereign Lordship of God and of Christ a state of tyranny.
T. Unbelievers do bring forward this difficulty. It may be put in this way: when you are in power you are exorbitant in your demands and we may expect any treatment at your hands. When you are not in power you demand the freedom you refuse to others. To judge this question sanely we must examine it in the light of the great realities of life. These realities are that man is in the world to save his soul and that he stands before the tremendous alternative of eternal bliss or eternal damnation. There is no middle course. Now we know what God demands: to be saved man must die in the state of grace. There is no greater or more real cruelty than to make it easy for a man to lose his soul; there is no higher charity than to help him to win eternal happiness.

Now the modern constitutions of nations which permit and make holy every perversion of the mind and heart give every facility to people to damn themselves. All this makes it  possible to answer the difficulty in a few words:
 (1) Certainly if we were in power we should leave no stone unturned to prevent the los of a single soul.
 (2). We should remember that there is a difference between the social and the individual order. In the strictly individual order we should not violate conscience. If, in spite of us and in spite of everything, a man wants to lose his soul, it is his own business. Consequently, if anyone persisted in refusing obedience to Christ and to the Church we should leave him to his conscience, always provided he caused no scandal---for obviously we could not allow the unbelief of an individual to be detrimental to the common good of a society or of a country or hinder the salvation of even an individual soul. Therefore,
(3) We should deprive error and evil of the possibility of propagating themselves. That is the sense in which we should eliminate false principles concerning liberty and freedom from the codes and the constitutions of the Nations.


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