"Well," you say, "that's all ancient history. It's got nothing to do with us; the sort of problems which bothered people early in the sixteen century don't bother us." Well, in a sense that's true. Nobody bothers nowadays about the King, God bless him, being Head of the Church in England. It tickles the English citizen to read in the paper that their Majesties attended divine worship yesterday at Sandringham. "Sooner it was them than me", he reflects; but on the whole he rather likes the Church of England to be part of the set-up of monarchy in this country; it gives him a solid sense of prosperity. But as to King George being supreme Head of the Church, he bothers about it as little King George himself. In that sense, the whole controversy which cost More and Fisher their lives is a dead controversy now. But in a more general sense, we haven't nearly finished with it. It was all part of that general attack of Satan against the Catholic Church, which started immediately after our Lord's death, and is going on still (emphasis added).
Satan, like so many half-educated people, likes to be thought original, but he's really repeating himself all the time in slightly different ways. You will find that about your own temptations, if you look into them; you imagine at first sight that he's really pulled off something absolutely new on you, and then, when you trace it back a bit, you find it was just the same old story, the same kind of pride, the same kind of carelessness, which had landed you several times before. And so it has been with his grand attack on the Christian Church. For the first few centuries it was the Roman emperors that were the trouble; Christians were persecuted because they wanted to worship God instead of worshipping the Roman emperor. The Roman Empire fell, and there was a pause, a good long pause, and kings began to become important all over Europe; so Christians like St. John and St. Thomas were persecuted because they wanted to obey God instead of obeying the king. Nowadays, kings are at a discount, and the modern world has started to worship a dreadful thing called the State. Fascism or Communism, it's all the same thing really; it's just worship of the State. And because they hold out against this worship of the State, because they won't let the State dictate to them how they are going to worship and how the Church is going to be organized, people are being killed now all over Europe. We heard plenty about it when it was the Nazis who were doing it; we don't hear so much about it now that it isn't the Nazis. But the thing is going on; more and more the shadow of atheism is falling over the whole of eastern Europe. And it is quite on the cards that within your lifetime the main strength of the Catholic Church will lie in the English-speaking countries; the very countries we have been accustomed to think of as Protestant! France, Spain, Italy, Belgium, - you can't bet what is going to happen there. It's quite probable that you, later on, will find yourself having to pull your socks up, and help to save the Catholic Church, humanly speaking, from going under. (The No-Men will conclude in Pt. 4)
- Ronald A. Knox