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The War Upon Religion
Being an Account of the Rise and Progress of Anti-christianism in Europe
Rev. Francis A. Cunningham
CHAPTER I. The Earlier Crises.
CHAPTER II. The French Revolution of 1789.
CHAPTER III. Opening of the Nineteenth Century.
CHAPTER IV. Anti-Christianism In Rome.
CHAPTER V. The Kulturkampf—The Causes—The Men—and the Events.
CHAPTER VI. The Third Republic.
CHAPTER VII. The War on the Religious Orders.
CHAPTER VIII. The Troubles in Spain.
CHAPTER IX. The Crisis in Portugal.
If it is true that a nation is what its doctrines are, it becomes very easy to discover in the doctrines of contemporary Europe the last reason of the troubles and revolutions which keep it in constant turmoil. It has sowed the wind, now it is reaping the whirlwind. It has destroyed the foundations, and it is but natural that the edifice should begin to fall to its ruin.
The English Socinians, followed by Voltaire, uprooted the Christian idea, and Rousseau after denying the true nature of God, set up the worship of man in His place. From these ancestors was born a generation of rationalists and atheists, who celebrated their triumphs, first in the French Revolution, and afterwards in the general dissolution of organized society. Out of the jumble of confused systems arose all those philosophic, religious, moral, and social aberrations which strive to root themselves in the human mind of the twentieth century. Among the Catholics themselves, whenever ambition or the malign influence of worldly allurements were in the ascendant, there were here and there excrescences of error which tended to diminish the vigor and integrity of the Christian spirit, and lead to that mongrel condition characterized under the name of "Liberal Catholicism."
Rationalism, properly speaking, began in Germany, a country which, until lately, has effected little in the domain of thought, and in the fields of faith and reason, except to ravage and destroy the creations of centuries. Unhappily, however, it has built up nothing in their place. Emmanuel Kant, born in Prussia in 1724, began the process of demolition. Materialistic philosophy had already denied the existence of the soul, and of the invisible world; Kant proceeded to the denial of any certitude regarding the material and visible. With him everything assumed the character of the mythical and ideal. To explain his process he invented in man a second reason, the practical reason, which reconstructs what the speculative reason destroys. In fact, by separating the faculties of the human soul from the objects which they perceive, he led the way to systematic scepticism.
Kant was followed by Fichte. As the former instituted a doubt as to the reality of external objects, Fichte declared that there was no external reality, that the universe surrounding us is only a fiction of the mind to which we alone give reality, and the world is only a form of our own activity. Kant and Fichte assailed the reality of things outside the "Ego," the personal mind; it remained for Schelling—born in 1775—to destroy both subject and object, and to confound all things mind and matter in one immutable, eternal existence. With Hegel, a disciple of Schelling everything becomes pure obscurity, absolute confusion, chaos. Hegelianism was, in principle, the identity of contradictories, the identity of truth and error, of good and evil. In him was verified the prophesy of Isaias of those "who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter." It was a system that insinuated that nothing really exists, that existence is merely a happening; that truth is not truth in itself, that there is no definite truth. It was the affirmation and negation of one and the same thing, fact, or being, at one and the same time. It was important inasmuch as it led the way to systems even more bizarre and destructive in the intellectual and moral order.
Not to speak of the eclecticism of Cousin in the earlier days of the last century, which consisted in culling what he considered truth out of all the various philosophies of the past, without, however, having any definite idea of what was the truth, the chief product of German rationalism in the first half of the century was the system of Positivism. It consisted in confining human knowledge within the sole domain of the observation of the forces of matter, and the study of the mathematical laws and conditions which regulate these forces. Beyond that domain it declares that nothing exists scientifically. Neither first causes, final causes, nor the essences of things, ought—according to it—to be the object of scientific research, for these, it considers, are not science, but metaphysics. Under the name of metaphysics it included religion, theology, and moral teaching, all of which were to be simply eliminated as of no interest to men of intellect. Hegelianism had closed the eyes of human understanding; Positivism had mutilated and crippled its activities.
This disorderly system would have died with its author, August Compt, had not two of his disciples taken it up and given it a certain stability. One of these, M. Littré gave a resume of its teachings in 1845; but it was Taine who endowed it with a species of life, especially in his later writings. According to Littré, Positivism would do away with God, the Creator, the First Cause, the Final End, as subjects "worthy of childish minds." He declares that "outside the sphere of material and positive things the eye of the intelligence can perceive only an infinite void." He considers the soul, anatomically, as the ensemble of the functions of the brain and spinal column, and psychologically, as the ensemble of the functions of the cerebral sensibility. He denies all immortality and future life. "The dead," he declares, "survive only in the ideal existence which presents them to our memory, or in the part they played in the collective life of progress accomplished by humanity." There was to be no more religion or worship. Instead of supernatural ideas and the dogmas of faith it would substitute the cult of "humanity." Finally, in denying the existence of God he ceased to recognize the divinity of Christ, His miracles, and the divine authority of His Church.
The new philosophy became the fad. It was welcomed by young men impatient of restraint; it was preconized by free-thought in a congress of students at Liege; it descended into the workshops, infested the schools, and became a necessary accomplishment for professors in academies and colleges. The danger was increased by the hypocrisy of its writings. "One of the characteristic traits of modern irreligion," says Mgr. Baunard, "is that taint of poetry mingled with mysticism which accompanies the most blasphemous negations."
Out of the union of Hegelianism and Positivism—the negation of absolute truth, and the disdain of metaphysics—was born a new historical criticism, which repudiated a priori the supernatural as false and impossible. This new system taught that: "When criticism refuses to believe in the narration of miracles, it has no need to bring proofs to the support of its negation. What is narrated is false, simply because it cannot be," and again, it declares—"The foundation of all criticism consists in setting aside in the life of Christ the supernatural," and again, "Nothing enters into human affairs but what is human; and every science, particularly history, must bid farewell definitely to the supernatural and the divine."
This perversive philosophy once launched needed only a leader to present it in a concrete and popular form. For such a purpose the German Life of Christ by Strauss could serve as a model. A hand was ready in France to take up the enterprise, Ernest Renan, the modern Voltaire, put forth his notorious "Life of Jesus," which might be called the great crime of the nineteenth century. Renan wished to show that Jesus is not God, and at every page his demonstration is shattered like glass against the evidence of the texts. These texts he knows, but he is content to falsify them. He does so because in his Hegelian school no one assertion is truer than its opposite. Sometimes he adopts the respectful, unctuous tone of those who cried out: "Hail, King of the Jews." In this frame of mind he speaks of Christ as "the man who even yet directs the destinies of humanity," "the man who has given the most beautiful code of perfect life that any moralist has ever traced." But almost in the same breath he insults, minimizes and reproaches our Lord as a pedantic peasant, an eccentric, an anarchist, and the like.
This intermingling of adulation and insult to the divine character of Christ had its effect. It seduced the simple-minded, and brought the book into the hands of the imprudent and deluded multitude. It blinded the masses, it brought tears to the eyes of the faithful, it crushed the great heart of Mother Church, it gave a tone to lying criticism, it gave to blasphemy the character of elegance; it lent assistance to a policy oppressive of truth and liberty; it performed its part in the war of spoliation and sacrilegious confiscation; it renewed the hours of darkness around the Cross of the dying Redeemer; it essayed to make humanity, regenerated through the Blood of the Son of God, return back to Arius and to paganism. The work of Renan and his followers has been the great crime of the century.
During the last half of the century anti-Christianism underwent a change. The position held by Positivism was taken by evolutionist transformation. Its authors were Charles Darwin, the naturalist, and Herbert Spencer, the philosopher. Their doctrines were received with enthusiasm by thousands who had been seeking some new fad in the intellectual line. The anti-Christian looked to it to replace Christianity. In France it became the religion of the Third Republic. Jules Ferry, in the Lodge Clemente Amitie, 1877, declared openly: "We can now throw aside our theological toys. Let us free humanity from the fear of death, and let us believe in a humanity eternally progressing." It was the religion of atheism, and it has been forcing its creed upon humanity ever since.
Scepticism, born of Kant and Hegel, had come to its throne. With Hegel all things were only relative; with Kant objects are only phenomena, and the truth of things is merely subjective; religion itself was to him only subjective, and was, moreover, relegated to the things unknowable. In this he resembled Spencer with whom Religion held the first place in the category of the Unknowable, and that vast, dark, and bottomless pit into which he consigned everything which could not be known by experimentation. This glorification of ignorance, elevated into a system, became known as agnosticism.
The vagaries of sophism in the English-speaking world were hardly less prolific than in Continental Europe. The great intellectual forces of the nineteenth century allied themselves to two movements, the transcendental and the empiric. The former sprang from the writings of Rousseau; created the French Revolution, developed into German rationalism, passed into England to the poetry of Wordsworth and Coleridge, generated in France a whole tribe of soliloquists and dreamers, and was finally crystallized in the half-prophetic, half-delirious preachings of Carlyle. Crossing the Atlantic it inspired and originated New England Transcendentalism through the Concord School of Philosophy, of which Emerson, a pupil of Carlyle, was the chief exponent.
It was a vague and abstract school. It took its very name from the fancy that this new knowledge transcended all experience and was quite independent of reason, authority, the testimony of the senses, or the testimony of mankind. It spoke freely of the Infinite, the Infinite Nothing, the Infinite Essence of Things. Carlyle spoke of Eternal Verities, the Immensities, the Eternal Silences. Emerson wrote of it as the Over-soul, the Spirit of the Universe. It permeated all literature, it directed the study of history, it inspired poetry, it became a religious creed; it hypnotized a large portion of the studious world.
About the middle of the century men began to question it, especially when it was perceived that its conclusions did not correspond with its premises. Human thought suddenly veered to the opposite extreme. The world was tired of abstractions; it called for facts. Thenceforth reason was to be omnipotent, and Nature began to be studied. The philosophy of the new order made her a god. "She will give up her secrets to us, and we will build our systems upon them. We will tear open the bowels of the mountains, and read their signs. We will pull down the stars from the skies, weigh them, and test their constituents. We will seek the elemental forces of Nature, and there we shall find the elemental truths. We will dredge the seas, sweep the rivers, drag fossils out of forgotten caves, construct the forms of dead leviathans from one bone, examine the dust of stars in shattered aerolites, and the structure of the animal creation in the spawn of frogs by the wayside, or the tadpoles in the month of May. And we shall find that all things are made for man; and that man alone is the Omnipotent and Divine." The world took up the cry and called it Progress. Mankind was shaken by new emotions. Through steamship, telegraph, telephone, and wave currents, distance was annihilated. The world was moved from its solid basis. Vast buildings were flung into the sky; the populations flocked to fill them in the dense cities; and in the exultation of the moment men looked back upon the past with a kind of pitying ridicule, and cried: "This is our earth, our world; we want no other. Humanity is our God, and the earth its throne!"
Then in the very height of all this pride, men suddenly discovered that under all this huge mechanism and masonry they had actually driven out the soul of man. The building of sky-scrapers, the slaughter of so many millions of hogs, the stretching of wiry networks over cities and states, the underground railways and sea-tunnels—all these were but a poor substitute or compensation for the ideals that were lost. Beneath all this material splendor every noble quality that distinguishes man was utterly extinguished, and one saw only the horrors of the midnight streets, the masses festering in city slums, the great gulf broadening between the rich and the poor, selfishness, greed, Mammon-worship, the extinction of the weak, the sovereignty of the strong, the cruelty, the brutality, the latent meanness of the human heart developing day by day like a monstrous disease upon the face of humanity.
Then came the mutterings of a new terror, the very offspring of the materialism that was worshiped, the spectre of socialism and anarchy, the new belief in the terrible destructiveness of a Godless science. The intellectual world drew back in horror at the sight of the child it had begotten. It began to repudiate the transcendentalism that made pantheism, and the empiricism which made Nature a god, and now it strives to justify itself by a futile attempt to reconcile God with human fancy. Its new religions are but the sugaring of the pill that a docile humanity must swallow. The vagueness of transcendentalism is united with the materialism of nature worship, and the resulting equation is pessimism. Charity, kindness, love, the smile of friendship and the laughter of innocence, all must vanish into the black night of despair before the mandate of a Moloch who has eaten the heart and smothered the thinking soul. It is the moment of crisis, when the world is beginning to look for a savior; and out of the darkness only one source of hope is seen glowing with eternal fire, one shelter for poor persecuted, over-ridden, oppressed humanity—the mother of order and happiness, the protectress of the home, the warmth of the heart, the life of the soul—the mistress of all true philosophy—the old, the never changing Church.
In following up the various assaults made by the Gates of Hell upon the Church established by Christ, one is struck by the absolute method and order they betray. There is a mind behind them all, and that mind has been working vigorously for nineteen centuries. Arianism, Manicheeism, the paganism of the sixteenth century, Protestantism, all were conceived along religious lines, and the thought of God was ever their central proposition. With the French Revolution, born of Deism in England and Rationalism in Germany, there came into view the spirit of Paganism, which has set itself against Christianity for over a hundred years. Even Paganism, with its aping of the ancients and its depreciation of Christian doctrine and morality, has yielded before the human craving for spirituality, and is falling to pieces rapidly. But the Gates of Hell never grow weary, and the mind that in past ages could trouble the peace of the Church rises to a new effort, an effort that, with strange fatuity, it dreams will be final. Arianism, Protestantism, Paganism failing, the new religion of degeneration takes on a darker, a more repellent aspect. It no longer hides behind religious phrases, but comes out into the open, and those who can read its character have called it Satanism.
Under the guise of Modernism it strove to plant its poisonous weeds even in the vestibule of the Church, but, exposed through the vigilance of our great Pontiff, it made use of the Protestant churches to propagate its errors, until in many pulpits the authority of Jesus is as much a stranger as if Christ had never been born. Out of this chaos came the strange philosophy of Charles W. Eliot with its use of Christian phrases and its negation of the Christian religion. Eliot's nonsense, however, was but a stepping stone whereby the last assault might be made upon the Church. The plans of this assault have been developing for years in many universities of the country, in the yellow press, and in many organizations of men who have grown weary of law and seek in absolute license the gratification of animalism. Satanism is thus the danger of the day.
After many exemplifications of the creed of Satanism in the matters of divorce, abortion, race suicide, white slavery, not to speak of burnings at the stake and the thousand and one horrible crimes that a "wicked and adulterous generation" perpetrates in the open light of day, the world was prepared to hear its praises sung from the rostrum of one of America's largest educational establishments.
One evening last year an eminent professor, speaking in one of our largest universities, formulated some of its tenets, the horror of which, let us hope, will shock even the most depraved of minds. In Satanism charity shall be no more; that spirit of love which made life tolerable, which brought the smile to the face of poverty and suffering, which, born of Divine love, spreads its wings over the darkness of earth and creates faith in better things and hope of higher destinies—that charity shall have no place in the creed of these men, no more than it shall have place in that land of eternal despair whence first that creed came forth. More satanic still, the hand of this new religionist is red with the blood of the helpless, the infant whose feeble wailings wring the heart of a human mother, the blood of the infirm whose hollow cheek bespeaks the pity of the more fortunate, or whose halting step awakens the manhood of the young and noble, the blood of the aged who have given the years of their lives to the cause of humanity. To Satanism all these, to whom Christ had said, "Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy burdened, and I will refresh you," are obstacles, in the pathway of conquest to the Gates of Hell. This Satanism gives as its excuse the cause of economy as against humanitarianism, as if Divine Providence during the many centuries that have passed has not fully demonstrated Its ability to care for the world, to prevent by natural means the danger of over-population to keep the balance in human affairs as wonderfully as It has in the circling of the stars in the firmament.
One notes these various assaults not with any sense of fear for the Church to which Christ has promised His assisting presence, until the end of time, but as signs of the times, as warnings to those who thoughtlessly are led into the toils, to those who for a little temporary gain would deliver up the souls of their children that they may drink the doctrines of Satanism and lie down in pleasant places to die of its noxious poison.
The day has gone by when the discussion was between Christian and Christian; it is now a stand-up fight, a fierce struggle, every day becoming more fierce, between faith and infidelity. A spurious philosophy has prevailed under one name or another in every age, from the days of Democritus down to our own; but it has received recently an impetus from the teachings of Materialists. Emboldened by their success in research, the professors of the Materialistic school have attempted to lift the mysterious veil of nature, and have challenged the truths of Revelation on the most fundamental principles of the Christian creed.
In fact the Materialistic theories which today deify reason and make matter eternal, and which recognize in matter the principle and perfection of every form of life, are the substratum underlying almost every species of modern literature. It is this materialistic philosophy in the trappings of popular literature which is filling the earth with crime and making the lives of men a veritable inferno. Its pernicious influence has been stealing over the minds of men till it has succeeded in shaking to its centre the whole fabric of social life in almost every civilized country.
The irreligious works of the European continent have been translated into English, and circulated in every variety of form from the most ornate to the cheapest and most accessible. They are on the counters in the department stores, in the most flashing advertisements where their most prurient qualities are held out as inducements to the buyer. Nor are works of a similar spirit and tendency wanting in our own literature. And these works, adapted to every class of readers, and to every grade of intellect, revive the old errors, while fertile in the production of new ones, flatter the pride of the understanding, stimulate the passions of the heart, and diffuse their poison in every department of human learning and through every form of publication by which the popular mind can be reached.
An evil press, largely circulated and read by many who suspect no evil, is rapidly sapping the faith of the multitudes.
Unfortunately there exists in our nature a propensity to evil. Whatever flatters our passions or vicious inclinations we, as a rule, are readier to follow than what is good and virtuous. Hence we find that bad books are more generally read than good ones, and that newspapers wherein religion and morality are outraged, have a very wide circulation. If anything more than bad example tends to propagate vice, it is bad reading. Vice in itself is odious, but when decked out in the false coloring of a cleverly written book it becomes enticing. Young inquisitive people—and young people are generally inquisitive—are tempted.
After perusing such a book their horror of vice is much lessened; they take up another, and so, by degrees, their ideas become perverted. Nearly all men agree that it is the familiarity with vice which develops all the immoral and vicious propensities of human nature, and it is this familiarity with the face of vice which is so contagious, and draws so many into the vortex of crime in the large cities while its absence keeps country life so pure and untarnished.
It is indeed hard to say which is the more dangerous among books—those which are written professedly against Christ, His Church and His laws, or the furtive and stealthy literature which is penetrated through and through with unbelief and passion, false principles, immoral whispers and inflaming imaginations. To read such books is a moral contagion—it is to imbibe poison—it is certain spiritual death.
It is certainly a melancholy reflection, that any such books should be extant among us. It is sad to think that any of the human species should have so far lost all sense of shame, all feelings of conscience, as to sit down deliberately and compile a work entirely in the cause of vice and immorality, which, for anything they know, may serve to pollute the minds of millions, and to propagate contagion and iniquity through generations yet unborn—living, and spreading its baneful influence long after the unhappy hand that wrote it is mouldering in the dust.
It is a striking observation made by one of the Fathers of the Church that "as the authors of good books may hope to find their future crown lightened by the degree of wisdom and virtue which their writings impart through successive generations, so the writers of evil books may well dread an increase of punishment in the future world proportionate to the pollution which they spread, and the evil effects which their writings shall produce as long as they continue to be read."
To what frightful deserts must the writers of modern literature look forward in accordance with such a prediction! The literature of today, light and popular, stately and philosophical alike, teems with immorality and infidelity. It displays itself in every form of poetry and prose, in lectures, essays, histories, and in biblical criticism. There it stands palpable and terrible, like Milton's Death, black and horrible, obstructing the light of heaven, and overshadowing God's fair creation. The press is a Catholic institution: a Catholic invented it; a Catholic first printed books, and the Catholic Church first fostered it. But the enemies of Catholicity have seized it and turned it into an engine of destruction to faith and morals.
The newspapers in most cases teem with scandals which absorb the thoughts or arouse the passions. Such reading familiarizes the young with the details of vice, and their better nature is overshadowed by the vicious existences pictured, while the moral strength to resist temptation is slowly but surely weakened.
Then there is that inward strife and struggle—that warring of the passions from which no one is free—that tendency to evil which seeks to cast off the salutary restraints of religion, and which has carried down with the current of innate corruption the greater part of mankind. All these things are borne in upon the soul, day by day, and year by year, as though life were to last forever, until the unhappy reader begins to abandon the absolute realities of life and law and to dwell in the house of a diseased imagination like a leper waiting for the moment of final dissolution.
What we want thus today is an arousing of the Catholic conscience in this regard, the cultivation of Catholic instincts, and the acquiring of Catholic habits of thought. While the banners of atheism and anarchy are waving throughout Europe, the forces of infidelity and indifference are doing their deadly work at home. The spirit of revolt, born of corruption and bred of disease, has swept across the ocean and finds a resting place nearer home. The enemy has laid hold of a great part of the Press and is using it for the destruction of morality and the perversion of truth. The wells of knowledge and the fountains of truth are being daily and hourly poisoned by means of the current literature. A spiritual pestilence is passing over the earth, and the souls of millions are perishing through its foul agencies.
If God, therefore, has given to Catholics wealth of ability and strength of mind, and richness of opportunity to engage in the intellectual combat which is being fought everywhere around us, they ought to use these means to oppose the tide of infidelity and indifference which is sweeping over the nations by putting against it the barrier of good books and Catholic reading. In many quarters the mists are beginning to lift; many intelligent people are beginning to look to the Catholic Church because of her openly proclaimed doctrines, her magnificent works in building up the mighty fabric of the social world, and her lofty ideals of humanity. Secularism in education is confessing its failure at home and abroad.
The toiling masses are turning to the Church for the solution of the vexed problems of labor. The creeds are falling to pieces for want of unity, cohesive principle and authority. Thousands are flocking back to the old Church in sheer weariness of spirit. The thousands would swell into millions if we were up and active in the dissemination of good books, and did our part in helping on the cause of Catholic literature. The Catholic book, the Catholic magazine, the Catholic newspaper is the fiery cross spread from hand to hand, to light up the darkness and to kindle the faith of the multitudes.
One of the forces that make most of contemporary conditions is that of Socialism.
Modern Socialism originated in a group of uncompromising materialists. Marx was one of the young men who revolted from the extravagant Idealism of Hegel, into the crassest Materialism, along with such men as Feuerbach, Bruno, Bauer and Engel. His theory of the universe reduces it to matter and force, and that of duty to the pursuit of pleasure in its material forms. The man's life was better than his creed, for there were some heroic sacrifices in it, for the good of the cause. But his theory neither called for nor sanctioned any such sacrifices. They were due to the pervading atmosphere of an imperfectly Christian civilization, with its ideals of pity and sympathy. They could not find their roots in a materialist view of the process of human history, which is but the tale of "conflict of existence and survival of the fittest," not much above the wrangling of wild beasts in the forests.
While it is only the errors of Socialism that meet with opposition from sound minds—the good points not being identified with the system except by accident—there are some of its errors that are fundamental and therefore deserve a larger exposure than the rest.
Among these is its false conception of the relation of individuals to society. Socialism of its very nature absorbs the individual into the State in such a way as to sacrifice the individual rights to the State's authority. This is an essential feature of all forms of real Socialism, and it puts an end to morality because it destroys all personal freedom and responsibility.
In the early days the Christian Church vindicated the inherent rights of conscience against the unholy tyranny of pagan Rome, which claimed authority to dictate the belief and control the religious practices of its subjects. Socialism would sacrifice the rights which the Church has won and must continue to defend, and proposes to erect a State, with unlimited power in the civil and ecclesiastical spheres.
In the view of the Socialist the State does not exist to furnish opportunities for personal development or defend our rights. In that State the individual must exist only for the sake of society, and his principal function is to promote the temporal well-being of the governing section. To this conception of man's nature they attempt to give a scientific authority.
They borrow from biology the idea of an organism and then, passing over the essential differences, they apply it in an unqualified sense to the State. Thus we are not surprised to read that "the relations of individuals to the social organism are on a par with the relation of cells to an animal organism." This monstrous doctrine implies that man is not a person, a free moral agent, with God-given rights and duties independent of the State.
It is Gronlund who says of rights: "There are none save what the State gives," and he adds "this conception of the State, as an organism, consigns the rights of man to obscurity." It certainly reduces man to a condition of physical and moral slavery.
Could it be established Socialism would thus prove a more frightful despotism than any pagan government of the past. Not a remnant of freedom would be left. The nature of our work, its place, time and reward would be fixed for us. The State could dispose at pleasure of our persons, our families and our property. It would lay its hands upon the family to destroy its unity and stability.
The masses of mankind would be placed completely at the disposal of a small and closely centralized body of politicians whose judgments would have the force of infallibility and who would be armed with irresistible power to enforce their ideals and to compel the observance of their laws.
The Socialists continually assert that religion in their system will be a private affair and no concern of the State. But they also take it for granted that once Socialism is realized religious belief must vanish. Indeed, it is impossible that Church and State, which both claim to be supreme and conflicting directors of mind and conscience, should co-exist.
An omnipotent collectivism would not long bear with a spiritual authority which speaks in God's name, which necessarily disputes its jurisdiction and the truth and justice of its fundamental principles, and which is therefore a constant menace to its stability. In order to save itself such a State would naturally try to suppress and destroy the Church.
In the face of such a proposed revival of pagan society, it becomes more and more necessary to insist upon the doctrine of man's spiritual dignity and moral freedom, and the unassailable basis upon which they rest. A personal God, whose essence is absolutely moral, is the fundamental truth, which alone can safeguard our rights from unjust attack.
The obligation to obey the laws which God has imposed upon our conscience carries with it the power and the right to obey. Our rights thus are not given and cannot be taken away by such a State. They have their origin and authority in the supreme Author of our being. Their validity is bound up with the sovereign rights of God, and are therefore, absolute and inalienable. It is in this Divine right that we find the broad and strong foundation of our freedom and of all the rights of man.
Thus Socialism is antagonistic to human liberty. Inseparably bound up with it is a materialistic philosophy. In the name of science—a word more abused than liberty—its adherents claim the right to revise and revalue all standards of morality. Experience shows that it thrives and propagates best in the soil of materialism. Its natural allies are the Secularists. Its irreconcilable foe, and the most formidable obstacle to its progress, is the Catholic Church.
It is, in fact, not merely a party for social reform, but a wing of the irreligious army, operating among the working classes, doing its utmost to sow mistrust and hatred of religion and to excite the hope and belief that the amelioration of the condition of labor depends upon the success of materialism.
While thus a warning is in order to those who are led by its utterances, its greatest danger lies in the fact that it may do much mischief in spreading an irreligious spirit, and weakening the foundations of belief among men whom it may not capture to its economic heresies, but who permit themselves to be influenced by what it might term its philosophic doctrines.
Out of the multiplicity of religious sects and philosophical systems with which Europe was deluged at the beginning of the present century, came the new form of Modernism, which is, as the Holy Father has said, but the synthesis of all errors. That vague endeavor to reduce Christian life and teaching to the vagaries of modern thought found its exponents in Germany, Italy, France and England. Schell in Germany sounded the note, and Fogazzaro in Milan took it up, picturing it in his novel "Il Santo." In England it found favor with the unhappy Father Tyrrell, and in France, with the Abbe Loisy and Houtin. The latter, according to present reports has become reconciled with the Church.
The watchful eye of the present Pontiff, Pope Pius X., detected the nature and aims of the new sect before it had yet time to fasten itself upon the minds of the faithful. Accordingly, on September 16, 1907, he issued to the world his famous Encyclical, Pascendi Dominici gregis, treating of the errors of Modernism.
The Encyclical was divided into four parts as follows
I. The Errors of Modernism—Agnosticism—This error declares that the human reason is merely a phenomenon, and cannot raise itself to the knowledge of God. This negation offers free access to scientific atheism, which is an opposition to what Faith teaches.
Immanence—Agnosticism is the negative side of Modernism; immanence constitutes its positive constituent. This doctrine would have it, that religion is a fact and as such demands an explanation; this is not to be sought from without, but from within. Religious immanence thus places as the basis of faith the sensus cordis, or a feeling of the heart, taking its origin from a need of the Divine hidden in the folds of the subconscious.
Subjectivism—Modernism supposing that the religious conscience is the supreme rule in all things relating to God, declares that that conscience, attracted by the unknowable, either exalts the phenomenon, that is, transfigures it, or deforms, that is, disfigures it, according to circumstances, persons, places or time.
Symbolism—Modernism declares that man, before thinking upon his faith, creates that faith, either in an ordinary and vulgar manner, or in a reflex and studied way. In this second case there come what are called the dogmas of the Church. These dogmas, Modernism says, are the instruments of the believer, the symbols of his faith.
Thus the essence of Modernism tends, from a social point of view, to subject the doctrines of the Church to the vague but dominant ideas of the moment, unknown yesterday, and forgotten tomorrow. From the point of view of the individual it would subject objective, theological and philosophic truth to the sensation of the individual and to the sentiment of the ego.
II. How these errors are employed.—The Pope then points out the principles which the Modernist theologian makes use of. For the theologian of this kind, dogma arises from the need which the believer has of elaborating his own religious thought. For him the Sacraments are only the symbols of faith, the consequences of worship, or something instituted for its nourishment. Inspiration is the need which the believer has of expressing his thought by writing or by word; in this way it approaches very nearly to poetical inspiration. It teaches, moreover, that the Church is only the product of the collective conscience, which, in virtue of vital immanence, comes down from a first believer; autocratic at first, it must now, according to Modernism bend itself to the popular forms.
To the historian, history is only the relation of phenomena, and should thus exclude God and everything divine. It declares that the apologist ought not to depend upon the Church, but should seek the aid of historical and psychological researches in the treatment of religious questions. The reformer would thus reform everything according to the above principles. It would replace positive theology by the history of dogmas, which it would write in accordance with history and science. As to worship, the Modernists while desiring to be indulgent in its regard, would nevertheless gradually diminish it. Finally, they look for the abolition of the Roman Congregations in general, and particularly of the Holy Office and of the Index.
Condemnation—The Holy Father then condemns Modernism: "But these suffice to show by how many ways the doctrine of the Modernists leads to atheism and to the destruction of all religion. Indeed, it was Protestantism which made the first step upon this path; then followed the error of the Modernists; atheism will follow next."
III. The causes, the results and the purpose of Modernism. The proximate cause are the errors of the intellect; its remote causes are curiosity and pride: non sumus sicut ceteri homines, and philosophical ignorance. The purpose of Modernism is threefold: the abolition of the scholastic method in philosophy, the abolition of tradition and of the authority of the Fathers; and the abolition of the ecclesiastical magisterium, the teaching Church.
IV. The Remedies—First. The teaching of scholastic philosophy and theology in all Seminaries and Catholic Universities, and at the same time the study of positive theology, which ought to be prosecuted in a sincerely Catholic spirit.
Second. The expulsion of all Modernists from the rectorship and professorships of Seminaries and Catholic Universities.
Third. The care which bishops as delegates of the Holy See, should take to keep from their priests and the faithful all Modernist writings. They should be exceedingly careful not to give their imprimatur to books which are Modernist in any way.
Fourth. The institution in each diocese of a council of censors to revise carefully all Catholic publications. The formula Imprimatur of the Bishop will be preceded by the Nihil obstat of the censor. The priest may not undertake, without permission of the Bishop, the direction of journals or reviews, and the Bishop will carefully examine those who write as editors or correspondents.
Fifth. The Bishops will forbid congresses of priests, except in rare occasions, when they shall be certain that there is no danger of Modernism, laicism, or presbyterianism.
Sixth. There shall be instituted in every diocese a council of vigilance, to watch over books and schools. They shall make certain as to the authenticity of the relics venerated in the churches, and see that the truth of pious traditions are not ridiculed in the newspapers; they shall maintain a surveillance over institutions of a social character and the publications pertaining thereto.
Seventh. One year after the publication of this Encyclical, the Bishops and religious superiors shall hand to the Holy See a diligent report, detailed and complete on the matters which constitute the object of the articles of this Encyclical; and thenceforth they shall do the same in their triennial report to the Holy See.
Such is in brief the resume of this famous document, whose appearance aroused the interest of the whole world. That its measures were effective is evident from the history of Modernism in the last three years. The incipient heresy is practically dead in the pale of the Church itself. Without it has invaded Protestantism, giving rise to pragmatism and all those vagaries which fill the philosophical curriculums of many universities. The Holy Father himself has gained a signal and complete victory.
And now a word as to the purport of the book which begins in the following pages. It is intended primarily to demonstrate that the struggle against the Church has ever been a struggle against the Holy See as the head and centre of all Catholicity. The repudiation of authority began with the Reformation. Then indeed it was merely an outcry against the claim of the Church to possess her authority from God. Later this error developed into a repudiation of human authority. Finally there came the repudiation of all lawfully constituted authority whether human or divine. It was the sequence of Protestantism, Rationalism and Radical Socialism.
Moreover, in the Catholic countries themselves the Church ever remained strong as long as all looked loyally to the centre of unity in the Holy See at Rome. The whole history of Jansenism, Gallicanism, Febronianism and Josephinism, is but the history of human ambition battling against the divine authority of the Sovereign Pontiff. And even then the result would have been a calming down of inordinate ambition before the claims of reason and Revelation, had not an impetus come from without. For a hundred years there has not been a revolution in the Latin lands which has not been aroused and engineered by the influence of English speaking powers. So that it may be said that if the Catholic countries were left to their own ways, they would remain not only Catholic, but up to date in every form of enlightenment and progress.
The history of Christ's Church on earth has ever been a story of storm and stress. The faithful heart of today mourns in discouragement over the evils that afflict the Church in the opening decade of the twentieth century; yet it needs but a glance at the past to convince us that the severest trials of the Spouse of Christ have happened in times long gone by. She has seen the tempest arise out of the clear sky; the clouds of persecution have hung low, at times even enveloping her in their gloomy shadows; she has seen the lightning's flash and heard the loud roar of the thunders of human wrath, while the hurricane swept over the face of the earth overturning the fondest memorials of her progress, and levelling to the dust the proudest monuments of her civilization. She has prostrated herself to the ground and with buried face has called upon the mercy of God to comfort her sorrow and heal her wounds. And when the storm has passed, she has lifted up her eyes to behold the glory of a newer day, the rainbow of hope, telling of that ancient promise: "For, behold, I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world."
The story of the past has been told too often to need repetition in this place. Our interest lies entirely with modern days, with the struggle of the Church against the spirit of anti-Christ incarnate in all the movements of error from the sixteenth century until our own times. And thus, while we are seeking the causes of that anti-Christian spirit, we cannot help regarding with interest the influence exerted by the Protestant Reformation upon the intellectual and moral life of Europe. The abandonment of the old faith led, by a natural sequence, to estrangement from Christianity itself. This is so palpable that it is surprising how the innovators could have overlooked the fact that to abuse and ruin the one meant the wounding and destruction of the other. Indeed, had not organized Catholicity existed at the time, and in its then form, there would have been no concrete Christianity to reform, but only some archaeological remnants out of which it would have been difficult to construct even an imperfect idea of the religion of Christ.
Coincident with the great revolt against the Church was the impetus given to the study of the natural sciences. This coincidence, unhappily, assumed to the unthinking the appearance of cause and effect, as if the intellectual powers of man had been stunted and repressed under the regime of ecclesiastical authority, to be freed and exercised in a time of revolt against the Church. This unfortunate conviction was gradually instilled into the minds of the masses by men brilliant of intellect, but unscrupulous in their hatred of the Church and of her teachings. The people accepted the premise and followed it out to its conclusion; that Catholicity should be regarded as an enemy, and as such should be persecuted and destroyed. They were unable to measure the force of circumstances surrounding the new unfolding of the physical sciences, to recognize the evil character of many champions of the new order, or the glamor which the awakening of new studies cast upon minds hitherto engrossed with the sober logic of the schools. The fact, moreover, that many of the old theories with regard to natural phenomena must eventually have yielded to the processes of scientific evolution had not occurred to them. All these were forgotten or missed in the enthusiasm for the novelties of nature, and under the influence of a gaudy literature they permitted themselves to believe that the Church was responsible for the tardiness of the awakening, and hence that she should be discarded, that Christianity as a consequence should be uprooted, and that the intellect should acknowledge no other deity than the impersonal God of nature.
Moreover, the Church had ever been recognized as the supreme authority in the matter of Christian morality. To attack, therefore, her existence could mean nothing less than to open wide the floodgates of iniquity, to cast down the barriers that had hitherto restrained the evil passions, and to proclaim the reign of license and anarchy. These fatal conditions, taking their rise in the sixteenth century, grew into palpable being and gave place later to that monster of iniquity which today holds half of the world in its grasp.
The influences of the Protestant revolt were more far-reaching than the limits of any provincial or national territory, for although the Council of Trent, in 1545, had met the challenge of European discontent with a rigid investigation into every disputed point of ecclesiastical discipline, nevertheless the roots of the new heresy penetrated by secret channels into those very countries which had repudiated the advances of Luther, and taken their stand upon the basis of Roman Catholic unity. It was but natural that a people nurtured upon the living bread of Apostolic doctrine as delivered to them through the ministry of the Holy See should look with distrust upon the excessive and destructive theories of the German Protestantism. They found, however, in the morbid doctrines of Calvin a certain weird and uncanny attraction, which like an hypnotic obsession led them on until they mistook empty and high-sounding formulas for the clear light of truth. It was not that they did not see much that was repugnant and absolutely untenable in Calvinism; nor would they openly espouse the outward organization which the heretic called his church; but they hoped to find a middle path as far removed from the rigid fatality of the Genevan heresiarch as it would be from what they would call, the laxity of the Roman Church. Out of the resulting confusion was born the spirit of Jansenism, which proved to be little else than the Calvinistic heresy disguised under the external forms of Catholic unity. It was a heresy all the more dangerous that its assaults were not directed in the open and from the outside, but were nurtured within the very household of the faith, where it spent its arrows of discontent upon the children of the Sanctuary kneeling in devotion under the shadow of the altar.
Midway between the strongholds of Luther and Calvin lay the country of the Netherlands, rendered important at the time through the influence of its celebrated University of Louvain. Out of its curious people came that Cornelius Jansen whose name was to acquire a questionable celebrity through his championship of the new idea. A quondam conspirator in the interests of Philip II., he had been raised, for his services in that direction, to the See of Ypres. For twenty years he studied in his own way the great tomes of St. Augustine, reading his whole works ten times over, and his refutation of the Pelagians as many as thirty times. It was a period when theologians were much interested in grace, free will, predestination, and kindred questions. The Church had already condemned the theories of Baius in that regard, and Calvin's errors, which he claimed to have found in St. Augustine, had been refuted time and again. It was the work of Jansen to revive in a more classical form all these condemned doctrines and to seal them by an appeal to St. Augustine. To this end he finished before his death, in 1638, an immense work entitled Augustinus, which, however, was not published until 1640, two years after his death.
Its heretical character was immediately recognized. The University of Paris censured five leading propositions extracted from the work, which were in turn formally condemned by Pope Urban VIII., in 1642. The Jansenists, however, endeavored to meet the Papal condemnation with casuistic subtlety. They resorted to a distinction between the orthodox sense of the propositions and the heretical sense in which they might be read; they thus claimed that Jansen understood them only in their orthodox sense, while they agreed that the propositions were rightly condemned in a heretical sense. Hence they declared that the five propositions were either not at all contained in the work of Jansen, or at least that they were not there in the sense condemned by the Bull of Urban VIII. To these observations Pope Alexander VII. replied by the Bull of 1656, wherein he condemned such distinctions, declaring that the five propositions were taken from the work of Jansen, and that they werecondemned in the sense of that author. The Jansenists retorted by asserting that the Papal Bull was only a simple regulation of discipline, and that it could exact nothing more than a respectful silence. Practically the whole action of the new sectaries amounted to an effort to restrict the scope of Papal infallibility, in as much as they declared the Pope might rightly adjudicate in regard to dogmatic doctrines, but not in regard to dogmatic facts. Thus, he was right in condemning the five propositions, as they held, but wrong in declaring that Jansen taught them in a heretical sense. This distinction was formally condemned by Clement XI. in 1705, and the bishops and prelates of France were obliged to subscribe to a formula declaring that they condemned the propositions with heart as well as with lips, according to the mind of the Holy Father.
The novelty of the Jansenistic ideas raised up, especially in France, a coterie of supporters, brilliant of intellect, but entirely dominated by pride and egotism. Foremost of these was the Abbe St. Cyran, who became the sponsor of the Jansenistic doctrine after the death of its inventor. A Calvinist in sentiment, however orthodox by profession, his career was hardly such as might be expected of an apostle of truth. His treasonable life had awakened the hostility of the great Richelieu long before the advent of Jansenism, and he had spent years of weary confinement in the prison of Vincennes. His character was one of duplicity as is evident from his general tone of teaching. It was he who, one day, informed St. Vincent de Paul, that he would speak the truth in one place if he thought the truth would be appreciated there, and its opposite where ever he should find the people unable to apprehend the truth. It is significant of his pride that he declared that the Holy Scriptures were clearer in his own mind than they were in themselves. This strange individual upon his liberation from prison, at the death of Richelieu, set himself up as a martyr and contrived to chant his woes into the ears of the courtly set that hovered about the French throne. He succeeded in casting the glamor of fashion over his Jansenistic theories. He was welcomed especially by the members of a family destined to hold the destinies of Jansenism in their grasp, the Arnaulds of Port Royal. There were two brothers of especial prominence, and two sisters, Angelique and Agnes, who had received their initiation into Jansenism in all good faith, but who became later on most bitter in their advocacy of principles which no true Catholic could hold. The Abbey of Port Royal, near Paris, thus became the very stronghold of the new sect and drew to its doors some of the brightest men of the day. Among these was that celebrated Pascal whose "Provincial Letters" exerted such an influence in stirring up a national hatred of the Jesuits. The Abbey of Port Royal, however, proved itself too great a factor in the seditious movements of the day. It was suppressed by a royal order in 1709, and its buildings demolished in the year following.
Just at the moment when the followers of Jansen seemed most ready to yield to the claims of saner thought, when the instructions of the Holy See were already bearing salutary fruit, the heresy took on a new lease of life, and opened up an avenue to greater dissension and error. In the year 1693 appeared a work entitled: Moral Reflections Upon the New Testament by Pasquier Quesnel, an ex-priest of the Oratory of Jesus. He was a man who had already incurred suspicion and censure. The book, although conceived in a tone of lofty piety and deep meditation, was found nevertheless to be a very storehouse of Jansenistic ideas. It was received with enthusiasm even by many pious souls whose mental acumen could not perceive the poisonous spirit that it harbored. Cardinal Noailles, Archbishop of Paris, was at first one of its strongest supporters until the book, after a critical examination by a Papal commission, was condemned by Pope Clement XI. in 1713. The Bull by which this condemnation was proclaimed was the celebrated "Unigenitus," a factor not alone in the religious, but in the political history of the eighteenth century.
After the appearance of the Bull, Cardinal Noailles forbade his people to read the "Moral Reflections," but at the same time he refused to receive the Papal Bull without some qualification. Other prelates proceeded to greater extremes than this, four of them having the hardihood to appeal from the Bull to a further Ecumenical Council. This attitude was a declaration of open rebellion; it was a call to many who had hitherto hidden behind the screen of prudent silence. A new religious faction was formed and rapidly grew in numbers. They termed themselves the Appellants from their appeal to a future council. To meet the disastrous effects of this growing schism Pope Clement XI. in 1718 put forth the severe Bull, "Pastoralis officii," wherein it was declared that anyone, though he be cardinal or bishop, refusing to accept the Bull "Unigenitus" should thereby cease to be a member of the Church. The contest went on ten years longer before Cardinal Noailles and the French episcopate with but few exceptions yielded entirely to the demands of the Holy See. The affair, however, though quieted to a great extent in the ranks of the clergy, was nevertheless secretly supported by a number of contumacious persons, and openly by the Parliament of Paris and other governmental bodies, who brought persecution to bear upon the issue. In 1746 de Beaumont, Archbishop of Paris, forbade his clergy to administer the Sacraments to any sick person who should be unable to produce a certificate from the parish priest stating that he had been to confession. He was cited before the Parliament in 1752, and was later banished from Paris. The controversy was finally settled by Clement XIV. who permitted that the Sacraments might be given to a person whose opposition to the Bull, "Unigenitus" was not notorious.