The Story of Joan of Arc - M. M. Mangasarian - ebook

Brought to ebook for the first time, this is the famous lecture delivered in Chicago at the turn of the 20th Century about Joan of Arc and the Catholic Church from Mangasarian.Born in Mashger (now within Turkey) in the Ottoman Empire, M. M. Mangasarian attended Robert College in Constantinople, and was ordained as minister in Marsovan in 1878. In about 1880 he enrolled at Princeton University. He was pastor at a Presbyterian church in Philadelphia from 1882 to 1885, when he resigned, becoming an independent preacher and a lecturer on "independent religion" in New York. In 1892 he became leader of the Ethical Culture Society of Chicago, a group established by Felix Adler. In 1900 he organized the Independent Religious Society of Chicago, a rationalist group, of which he remained pastor until 1925. He retired to Piedmont, California, where he lived for the rest of his life.

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M. M. Mangasarian

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THIS LECTURE ON JOAN OF Arc, delivered some time ago, provoked a great deal of criticism in Chicago. The people who protested against it and wanted to punish its author were, naturally enough, the Roman Catholics. What interests me in Joan of Arc is not the fact that the story of her martyrdom and subsequent canonization could be used as a weapon against the Church of Rome, but because the story in itself is so very compelling. It is quite true that the story also illustrates how far from infallible the Catholic Church has been in its dealings with the Maid of Orleans—first, burning her at the stake as a witch, and, five hundred years later, beatifying her as a saint. The statement in my lecture which caused the greatest displeasure was to the effect that the same church which had burnt Joan of Arc as a witch in fourteen hundred thirty-one had sainted her in nineteen hundred and nine. The Catholics deny that they were at all responsible for the terrible death of the deliverer of France. This lecture will throw some light on that question.

As related in a former lecture, it was at her shrine, in the Church of the Sacred Heart, in Paris, last summer, that I promised myself the task of presenting to the American people the truth about Joan of Arc. I shall speak very plainly in this lecture, but, I am sure, without any trace of bitterness in my heart toward anyone. I shall speak with feeling, of course, for it is impossible not to be moved to the depths by the events which brought a girl of nineteen to the stake—but my passion is free from anger or prejudice. I can weep for this young woman without gnashing my teeth on her fanatical persecutors. I am sure I can tell the truth without lying about the Catholic Church.

But I do not wish to be sentimental, either. I have not forgiven the unrepentant destroyers of the innocent. To convert a heretic into a saint by trying to prove that she was not a heretic at all is not repentance; it is sophistry. To deny that Joan suffered death at the hands of, and by the authority of, the Vicar of Christ on earth is not a sign of regret for the past, but a defiance of history. When the Catholics shall admit that, through ignorance, and urged on by circumstances they could not control, they committed the act which they have since atoned for by offering her a heavenly crown—when, I say, the Catholics shall shed over her body tears as genuine as those which black Othello shed over the woman he had smothered—then we will forgive them.

But the Catholic Church will have to choose between securing our forgiveness and retaining her infallibility. If she should repent of a single act ever committed by her officially, she would lose her claim to infallibility—for how can the infallible err? If, on the other hand, she should hold to her infallibility, how can she be sorry for anything she has ever done? If I had any influence with the Catholics I would advise them to sacrifice infallibility for the respect of humanity. It is much more divine to say, “I am sorry,” than to say, “I am infallible.” But the Catholic Church will not take my advice.