Philosophy and theology teach that there are two kinds of atheism, doctrinal [or speculative] and practical. The first consists in an open and direct denial of the existence of God; the second consists in acting and living without denying the existence of God, but yet as if He did not really exist. Those who profess the first are called theoretical or doctrinal atheists; those who live according to the second, practical atheists; the latter are the more numerous.
It is the same with Liberalism and Liberals. There are theoretical and practical Liberals. The first are the dogmatizers of the sect philosophers, the professors, the controversialists, the journalists. They teach Liberalism in books, in discourses, in articles, by argument or by authority, in conformity with a rationalistic criterion in disguised or open opposition to the criterion of the divine and supernatural revelation of Jesus Christ.
Practical Liberalists are by far in the greater majority. Like a flock of sheep, with closed eyes, they follow their leaders. They know nothing in truth of principles and systems, and, did they perceive the perversity of their instructors, would perhaps detest them. But, deceived by a false cry or shibboleth, they troop docilely after their false guides. They are none the less the hands that act, while the theorists are the heads that direct. Without them [i.e., the practical Liberals] Liberalism would never pass beyond the narrow bounds of speculation. It is the practical Liberals that give it life and exterior movement. They constitute the first matter of Liberalism, disposed to take any form, ready for any folly or absurdity proposed by the leaders.
Amongst Catholic Liberals many of them go to Mass, even make novenas, and yet when they come in contact with the world lead the lives of practical Liberals. They make it a rule "to live up to the times," as they call it. The Church they believe to be somewhat out-of-date, an old fogy; that She is held back by a certain set of reactionaries, Ultramontane; but they have hopes that She will in the course of time catch up with the modern spirit of progress, of which they are the vanguard. The barnacles of medievalism still encumber the bark of Peter, but time, they believe, will remedy this. The straw of medieval philosophy and theology they hope before long to thrash out by the introduction of the modern spirit into her schools. Then will a new theology be developed more in conformity with the needs of the times, more in harmony with the modern spirit which makes such large demands upon our "intellectual liberty." [Unfortunately, we have witnessed sll this come to pass in the wake of Vatican Council II, 1962-1965, with disastrous results.-----Editor, 1993.] So they believe [or imagine they believe] that all is well. Is their responsibility before God, therefore, lessened? Assuredly not. They sin directly in the light of faith. They are less excusable than those Liberals who have never been within the pale of the Church. In short they sin with their eyes open.
Amongst Liberals we must not forget to include those who manage to evade any direct exposition or expression of the Liberal theory, but who never the less obliquely sustain it in their daily practice by writing and orating after the Liberal method, but recommending Liberal books and men, measuring and appreciating everything according to the Liberal criterion, and manifesting on every occasion that offers, an intense hatred for anything that tends to discredit or weaken their beloved Liberalism. Such is the conduct of those prudent journalists, whom it is difficult to apprehend in the flagrant advocacy of any proposition concretely Liberal, but who nevertheless in what they say and in what they do not say, never cease to labor for the propagation of this cunning heresy. Of all Liberal reptiles, these are the most venomous.