The Catholic Church and the Modern Mind: A Preface

WE met in England. A mutual friend presented me. I still recall the words of introduction: —

‘John, here is an American priest who will listen to you!’

Almost immediately the scholarly-looking clergyman and I fell into a discussion of religion. He heard my case with a tolerant, even a sympathetic air. It took a little while to tell the story of my Catholic training as a child and my attraction to Anglicanism at the age of fourteen. Afterward the discord of my years as a student of the Jesuits was sounded.

Then came a description of the confusing, baffling influences — Dante, Francis of Assisi, Martin Luther, Emerson, Carlyle, Huysmans, William James, Chesterton, Fogazzaro, Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson, Dr. Roderick MacEachen, Dr. John A. Ryan. I told him how disturbing Darwin had been to me, and I was conscious of his look of thoughtful sympathy as I sentimentalized over Durtal in En Route and philosophized over Varieties of Religious Experience.

During those formative years my quest was the purest modern reflection of primitive Christianity. At first the twentieth century’s Catholic image had struck me as being innocently distorted; later it appeared to be deliberately false. There was no trace of apostolic footprints in the present-day unevangelical field of Catholic Theology. Although admiring the Christian economics of the early Church, I marked in despair how the Christlike voice of Dr. John A. Ryan of the National Catholic Welfare Council cried in an American Catholic wilderness.

I made a clean breast of everything. I told how my religious bark drifted into Christian Science waters soon after my graduation from a Catholic college. Not to anchor there. It tarried merely long enough to take on another cargo of doubt, and was caught once more in the swift current of Anglicanism. ‘High Church,’ although it did not satisfy my intellect, brought some meed of balm. Dogma had not sealed the stained-glass windows. There was a sweep of air, and I could breathe.

Finally I spoke of residence at Rome. Throughout my life Rome’s titles carried certain messages to me: ‘Mistress of the World’; ‘The Holy City’; ‘City of the Popes’; ‘The Eternal City.’ Once I had gone so far as to invent my own title — ‘ The Tabernacle of the World.’ My childish imagination had visualized Rome as the central tabernacle, the holy of holies, in the white marble altar of universal Catholicism. Perhaps this focal point of a world religion, through some divine magic, might mend the shattered vase of faith. Ave Roma!

But for me in those youthful years Rome proved not the world’s tabernacle but the ‘kitchen of the Pope,’ as the pamphleteers used to call it. The odor was not of sanctity. Thousands of pots were kept boiling. There were politics to brew and clericalism to stew. Skilled hands prepared the bill of fare for the world-wide Church. Everywhere Catholic clergy and laity would follow it — everywhere but in Italy itself. Yale Roma!

Copyright 1927, The Atlantic Monthly Company

I was no stranger to Rome. My experience both as American press correspondent and as an official of our government afforded me unusual opportunities for observation and study. The conclusions of the late twenties were not the results of an emotional Cook’s tour of Italy, but the silted knowledge of several years in Rome.

Gradually my Catholic faith had left me. My spirit, long troubled, was become strangely quiet. For the moment I was an agnostic. But my agnosticism was not the end but the beginning of constructive thought.

It was just a month after I had left Italy that I met the American priest in England. The attraction of mediæval church architecture had drawn me to the English cathedral towns. We stood together in the vast nave of Canterbury. In the past there had been other clergymen upon whom I poured the mingled currents of my soul. Not many — six or seven, perhaps; all Roman Catholics save one Episcopal bishop of happy memory. The Romans had become instantly ‘professional.’ I was a ‘lost sheep,’ or an ‘intellectual upstart.’ One beautiful exception there was — an American Jesuit of ‘the understanding heart,’ now dead, whom I had met in the Gregorian University at Rome.

And now here was this indulgent ‘Father,’ standing in the shining beauty of the reredos of Canterbury! My youthful rationalism touched but did not revolt him. He was human enough to hear my dilemma and divine enough to comment upon it intelligently.

‘Do you go to church now?’ he kindly asked when I had finished.

‘Occasionally to an Anglican service,’ I replied. ‘ But even there I find that one is invited to sleep upon the stuffy pillow of Theology. The fact that Theology has all but smothered religion in the Roman Church does not seem to trouble or influence anybody.’

At this remark the good Father’s eyes lighted with sudden humor. For a moment only. The smiling twinkle passed and he spoke seriously.

‘That’s right. You are an apprentice. Go to some church and manifest a good intention toward the Master. In the end the God of humanity will set your topsy-turvy religious house to rights. Love is the divine housekeeper.’

‘Do you mean, Father, that there is no essential error in individual religious thinking?’

‘I say, my son, that there is essential religious error in your not thinking. The more highly organized, the more ecclesiastically authoritative the Church is, the less conspicuous the religion of good works among its members. Scientific history will not bear false witness against its neighbors!’

That was all. The priest went his way and I went mine. He took my American address, but did not offer his own. I had nothing but his ordinary family name. The time was almost a decade ago.

Upon returning to the United States I made some confidential inquiries about the background of this priest who so instantly and completely understood me. The findings had interest and significance. He was a prominent professor at a Catholic college in the West. For thirteen years his public writings on religious subjects had enjoyed the episcopal imprimatur of approval. To the hierarchy’s outer eye he was orthodox, or at least sufficiently orthodox to be tolerated.

Indeed, I found out more than this during the investigation. Extraordinary facts came to light. The priest-professor was one of a growing number of Catholic clergymen who in their own consciences were interpreting the Church in terms of personal experience and modern science. The fetish of ecclesiastical authority grew more and more difficult to bear. Some opposed celibacy and advocated marriage for the clergy. Some favored public-school education over parochial-school education; they recalled the late Archbishop Ireland’s opposition to the existing parochial-school system and declared that time had ‘proved Ireland right.’

‘ Why has this state of things been kept a close secret?’ I asked a Catholic physician known throughout the country. He was startlingly frank.

‘Because Catholic modernists on this side of the water as well as on the other side hope for a peaceful religious revolution in the Church itself. Were they to reveal themselves at this premature date, they, like Luther or the more recent Loisy, would be forced from the Church. Their Catholic influence would be gone. For officially they would be non-Catholics. As nonCatholics they would have no effective approach to nonthinking Catholics.’

‘ But what about conscience? ’ I heard myself asking.

‘We are acting not only in the light of reason but according to the instinct of conscience as well. Catholic modernism is nothing but an honest and holy attempt at the resurrection of the undogmatized Church of the first three centuries. Catholics like that priestac-quaintance of yours are the true Christian Catholics of to-day.’

The material concerns of a workaday world began to fill my nights and days. I paid too little heed to my innermost self. Indeed, I became almost indifferent to it. I smile as I remember the reminders of well-meaning friends. In my Christmas stocking there was always a highly polished replica of the rock of Peter. A kindly relative preached this annual sermon in stone.

The gesture amused but could no longer convince me.

Nevertheless, certain religious impulses would not be suppressed. Under their propulsion the business of living for others as well as for myself became a kind of religion. Just when I supposed I had done with formal controversy, life turned and laughed at me.

I received a packet from the half-forgotten priest of Canterbury. It was a sheaf of manuscripts in a paper folder. The postmark was an isolated monastic town in Central Europe. The writer, in a covering note, identified himself as the helpful acquaintance of long ago. He wrote briefly and to the point: —

It must be almost ten years since I heard your confession in the Canterbury Cathedral. Will you hear mine now? Afterward, try to publish it anonymously. There might be strengthening inspiration in it for some dying soul. It is the life breath of my spirit, though my body, like a wheel, whirls on.

(Signed) FATHER -

I am thus become the literary executor of a living man.

The unexpected appointment staggered me. My ears were no strangers to the requests of the dying. But never was there such a last wish as this. There was something thrilling in the message, as of the last request of a dying soul.

I read the articles, read and reread the message. It seemed a voice beyond the grave. A moral compulsion seemed to be in the call. Here was a command which no man must gainsay.

It is in this mood that I have given these four papers to be published in successive issues of the Atlantic. Explicitly they are a modernistic philosophy of the Roman Catholic religion. In their implications they form an appealing autobiography of a wounded and loving human soul.



THE series of papers of which this is the first is designed to constitute constructive criticism. In preparing them I have not been animated by any sense of bitterness or resentment. Contrariwise, I am prompted by love for the dear old Church to which I owe allegiance. She has been a tender Mother, not only to me, but to my ancestors; to them in a land where fealty to her often entailed the throes of persecution. Had I loved the Church less, my pen might have remained listless.

In fact, I have written not one word against my Church. The abuses which I attempt to delineate refer no more to the Church than they do to Christ. They are the barnacles which have grown on the bark of Peter through long centuries. I am writing, therefore, in the hope that those constituted in authority may come to see the necessity of dry-docking.

For obvious reasons I am constrained to take shelter behind the screen of anonymity. To reveal my identity would not aid the cause which I have at heart. With no name attached, the articles will necessarily be judged by their content alone. The issue will not be confused by the intrusion of a personality.


Why don’t priests marry? Priestly celibacy is the great paradox of Catholicism. The Church insists upon the supreme importance of family life. Her priests are exhorted to be moral patterns for the people. It is not, then, a question why priests do not marry. The great problem is, Does a bachelor priesthood fit into the scheme of the modern world? Not only the lay mind, but that of many a cleric, pauses to reflect upon this grave issue.

Celibacy of the clergy does not touch directly upon the sphere of dogma. It is purely a matter of discipline. The fact is that there are thousands of priests to-day who are living in the marriage state with the blessing and sanction of Mother Church. These belong to the Ruthenian or other Oriental rites. Many of these dwell with their wives and children here in the United States.

When the ecclesiastical law of celibacy was first promulgated is not known. It is, however, not ascribed to Evangelical or Apostolic origin. Christ healed Saint Peter’s mother-in-law. Hence the Prince of the Apostles was a married man. The New Testament argument for celibacy is taken from Saint Paul (I Cor. vii. 32—33): ‘He that is without a wife is solicitous for the things of the Lord, how lie may please God: But he that is with a wife is solicitous for the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and he is divided.’ The context here, however, clearly shows that Saint Paul was speaking to ‘all men,’ without special reference to the clergy. No law of celibacy prevailed in the early centuries. An attempt at the Council of Nicæa (325 A.D.) to formulate such a law failed.

Be that as it may, the rule of celibacy is taught in all its force to-day. In these later times it has even achieved a certain dogmatic position. The teaching is that the vow of celibacy is implicitly contained in the ordination to the diaconate. It may surprise many to learn that priests do not pronounce a vow of celibacy. Nor are they questioned upon the subject at ordination. Every candidate knows, nevertheless, what is expected of him. The young Levite has been carried from his early youth upon a wave of pious fervor and enthusiasm. He has been taught that he is choosing the better part. He is aspiring to a nobler estate, from which the ’baser’ concerns of the flesh are excluded.

Most priests have made their decision to renounce the world and its pleasures, particularly those ’lesser joys’ of marital life, when they were as yet children. It is the custom to seek out likely boys who manifest signs of piety and to convince them that they have a vocation to the priesthood. This vocation is supposed to represent some mystic calling from God. Yet it is practically of Catholic doctrine that the priestly vocation consists in the official call to ordination which comes from the bishop. However, many boys of twelve or fourteen are admonished to follow the vocation which has ’manifested itself’ (sic) in them. Sometimes they are even threatened with the loss of their soul if they fail to follow the divine call.

It is a particular mark of zeal on the part of priests and bishops to ’foster vocations’ among the youth subject to their care. Lately a nation-wide campaign for vocations was conducted in the United States. If a boy consents to become a priest, he will be taken gladly and educated free of charge as soon as he completes the grades. Bishops order special collections for this purpose each year, at Pentecost. Of late years many bishops have established colleges particularly to develop vocations. The tendency is to segregate these youthful candidates from secular students. It is thought thus to guard them against the danger of losing their priestly vocation. There might be such a loss were they too much in contact with worldlyminded boys, not blessed with a vocation. Some zealots would fain apply the Italian method. In Italy boys are taken at ten or eleven years of age, clothed with the priestly habit, and then kept apart from the seductions of home and the outside world in general. During the vacation they spend the time at a country place under the surveillance of priestly masters.

The present course of instruction prescribed for priestly candidates extends over a period of twelve years. Six years are required for classical studies, foremost among which is Latin. Then follow two years of scholastic philosophy and four years of theology. These latter six years constitute the seminary course proper. It is a course which embraces practically no modern elements. It is mediæval in character. In the first two years Aristotelian philosophy in its scholastic dress is the form and basis of the course. Modern philosophy, psychology, and the infinite research of the last two or three centuries find little place in this sacred curriculum. The philosophical textbooks are written in Latin, as are the theologies. Professors are enjoined to deliver their lectures in Latin, though they may afterward use the vernacular to explain the meaning. In theology the Church has prescribed a textbook compiled by Saint Thomas seven hundred years ago. However, modern Latin commentaries on the work are permitted. Besides theology, the students are given courses in Scripture, church history, canon law, and liturgy. In all these studies they are simply supposed to memorize the ideas handed down by great minds which have gone before.

In the whole course of this education no individual thought is required, nor for that matter permitted. In the texts the problems, thought out centuries ago, are stated. Then follow the proofs and the line of argumentation, covering Scriptural texts, decrees of the Pope, and the like. At examinations the students arc required to reproduce these data as faithfully as possible. The teaching is polemical. In moral theology, solutions are generally obtained by casuistry. Volumes are written, filled with moral cases of which the author states the solution. The student studies these. Thus he is educated in moral principles.

In Scripture the same cut-and-dried system prevails. Texts are interpreted for the student. He has but to con these interpretations and give them out at examination. The Biblical professor, too, is provided with ready-made interpretations, from which he may not depart without endangering his reputation for orthodoxy. There is a commission at Rome established to solve all Biblical difficulties. But Rome did not feel secure even with this provision. A recent papal decree requires that all Biblical professors must attend a Roman Jesuit school, — over which, incidentally, an American presides, — known as the Biblical Institute. It seems that all others are subject to suspicion, liable to teach heresy. In history the student memorizes the opinions set down in the prescribed textbook. Trained in childlike trust, he accepts this deposit of knowledge as his own.


In all the years of his training the candidate for the priesthood must strive to mould his mentality to a fixed pattern. If he succeeds he is then said to possess the spirit of the priesthood. His whole seminary life is one of routine and formalism. Every hour of the day is regulated for him. He leads a community life, follows the group in his prayers, his studies, and all his activities. It is thought by these external practices to develop a man of regular habits. It is a system little adapted to produce men of thought and individuality.

The course of training for the priesthood is a narrowing process; it produces fixed ideas. Always the priesthood is glorified. The students must listen daily to pious discourses on the high dignity to which they aspire. From this continual preachment a peculiar psychology is developed in them. They become jealous of the high honors for which they arc being groomed. They feel constrained to become champions of the priestly dignity. They grow impatient when confronted with the opinions of those who have not been trained in sacred science. In this frame of mind they go out into the modern world to become leaders of men.

Then it is that the power of the priesthood makes movement in their being. Though they are yet in their early twenties, they are wise from their mediæval studies. Though they have no experience of the world and its ways, they are aglow with the supernatural graces of the holy priesthood. They are fathers of the faithful. They have been sent to preach in the name of Christ — to preach the theological conclusions which they have learned by rote. They have been empowered to offer the sacrifice of the Mass. Proudly they stand at the altar, clad in sacerdotal robes, while the people kneel before them.

The people respect them, having been taught from childhood to honor the priest as God’s own representative. They bow the head, lift the hat, before him. He in turn is a zealot for the honor of the priesthood which is in him. He stands before them and speaks in a strange tongue. When he baptizes their little ones, he must first address them in Latin. Then the whole ceremony is performed in this mysterious tongue. Likewise does he use that dead language when he anoints the sick; when he officiates at funerals; when he assists at marriage; when he administers the sacrament of penance; when he says vespers and benediction; when he offers the sacrifice of the Mass. He also trains his choir to sing this unintelligible tongue at solemn services.

‘Oremus,’ he says to the people. Few, perhaps, in the congregation know that he has said, ‘Let us pray.’ Even now that he is proceeding with a prayer they do not comprehend one word, though he uses the first person plural. The mind halts at this strange procedure.

Strange, indeed, it is to assemble people into a church and then conduct divine services in a language which they do not understand. Why should it be so? Perhaps it has to do with the centralization of ecclesiastical power in Rome. Who knows? Put to find a rational basis for the practice is beyond the most zealous protagonist. It is said to be necessary for unity in the Church. Why, then, is it not necessary in the Orient, where some twenty languages are used in these same Catholic services? Latin is not universally used in the liturgy of the Church. It is used only in the so-called Western World.

The Catholic liturgy is beautiful. Yet how pathetic to hear a priest mumbling in a strange idiom such touching prayers on a dying person: ‘Depart, O Christian soul, from this world in the name of the Father Omnipotent, in the name of Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, who suffered for thee; in the name of the Angels and Archangels . . . ’ The use of Latin is indicative of the spirit which the Church engenders in her priests. They feel that they are officially dispensing salvation.

To be saved, it suffices for the people to follow the routine mapped out by the priest. They are taught that it is their first duty to attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation. They need not bother their heads about what is going on, in Latin, between the priest and God. The law which makes it a mortal sin to miss Mass on the days appointed does not call for any intelligent attention. Physical presence fulfills the precept. However, it must be admitted that the people are not required to pray in Latin, as they were in the Middle Ages. To-day none other than priests and certain religious are bound to pray in Latin.

The priest is bound under pain of mortal sin to pray approximately one hour daily. For this purpose he has a book known as the Roman Breviary. Here the prayers, called the office, are set down for each day of the year. The law requiring him to say this daily portion of prayer does not, however, obligate him to follow the meaning of the words. He need but formulate the words with his lips and tongue. In fact, certain religious, most of whom understand no word of Latin, recite the Latin office daily. It is all based on the principle of formalism, which prevails throughout the practices of the Church. The people are taught to serve God in much the same manner as boys are taught to serve the priest at Mass. These young lads learn to make the responses in Latin without understanding what they are saying. In their haste to follow the priest they usually make elisions and abbreviations that would be ridiculous were the matter not so pathetic.

When the priest gives Communion, he holds the Sacred Host before the people and says in Latin, ‘Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him who taketh away the sins of the world. Lord, I am not worthy . . . May the body of our Lord Jesus Christ keep thy soul unto life everlasting.’ The poor devout communicant kneels there ignorant of all that is being said — unless perhaps he has discovered the meaning of the words from a double-column prayer book. The childlike faith of the people is remarkable.

Traditionally they are Catholic. If conditions arc favorable, if respectability demands, and if piety is simple enough, they remain so. They merge their individuality into a form of worship which demands no personal effort on their part. The priest is the one great personage in the procedure. He tells them what to do. He rates the spirituality of his parish, not by the lives of his people, but by the attendance at Mass and the number of Communions and confessions in his record.


It is the Catholic teaching on divine grace, perhaps, which has produced this mental attitude. Scholastics long ago evolved the theory that grace may be gained automatically from the reception of the sacraments. More grace, of course, could be gained by those who had fervor. But the mere worthy reception of a sacrament sufficed, even though it were a perfunctory act. Hence the desire on the part of priests to have their people receive the sacraments of the Holy Eucharist and penance frequently.

The people are urged to go to Communion daily and to confess their sins weekly. In this manner they are supposed to grow better and better spiritually. Though the facts do not seem to support the theory, the practice continues. The priest sits long hours in the confessional each week. Often he is there daily.

The confessional presents the most difficult problem of the priest’s life. Here he sits as judge between God and man. He must pass upon the worthiness of the penitent to receive absolution from his sins. If he deems the poor sinner worthy, he forgives him in God’s name. If otherwise, he sends him away in his sins. For this serious task he needs all his theological lore. He feels that he must answer to God for the judgments he has passed upon his people.

The sinner must be sorry for his sins to be forgiven. The priest must decide whether or not his sorrow is sincere. To aid him in this he has but the teaching of the old Scholastics which he learned in the seminary. He himself knows little of life. His own life has been guarded from worldly contamination since early childhood. He must pass upon the most intimate relations of connubial life. Of this he knows nothing save that which he has read in his ancient textbooks. He, a celibate, must solve the intricate problems of sex. He must sit hour after hour and listen to the description of sex impulses from the lips of both men and women. They must tell all. They believe that willfully to omit one single detail would be to tell a lie to the Holy Ghost. It would constitute the sin of sacrilege, the gravest of sins. Wherefore they must reveal to him every thought, word, and deed contrary to the law of God. They must also tell the number of times they have sinned, including all the circumstances which might affect the character of their sins.

When the confession is completed, the penitent recites the ready-made act of contrition, which he has memorized. Meanwhile the priest administers absolution, always in Latin. For penance the priest usually prescribes a few prayers or some other act of piety. It has grown to be so commonplace that it easily becomes a matter of routine for many. The priest often hears fifty or sixty confessions in an hour. In most cases these hurried confessions are mere recitals of foibles. After pronouncing the formula prescribed, ‘Bless me, Father, for I have sinned,’there follows some such narrative as this: ‘I missed my morning prayers twice and my evening prayers three times; I failed to say my grace at meals once; I had bad thoughts several times, but did n’t take pleasure in them.’ Though this list theologically does not indicate the semblance of a sin, the penance is imposed and absolution is pronounced. Another confession has been added to the record. It is easy to see how a great sacrament can become almost a meaningless formulary.

There is much routine in religion. The Church organization calls for this. It develops group piety. This is manifest in the number of societies and sodalities that exist. From childhood to old age the people are urged to join these bodies. Such are the Children of Mary, the Saint Aloysius Society, the Young Ladies’ Sodality, the Holy Name Society, the Altar Society, and many others. Usually the members are required, at stated intervals, to receive Communion in a body. The parish priest will announce, for example: ‘Next Sunday will be Communion Sunday for the Altar Society; it is to be hoped that all the members will be here for confession Saturday afternoon and evening and all present Sunday morning to receive the Holy Eucharist.’

Then follow the seasons of special devotion. The four weeks before Christmas constitute a time of penance known as Advent, and the people are urged to attend the special services held during this period. The six weeks preceding Easter constitute the time of Lent. This is the rigorous season of penance, with fasting and abstinence. Special Lenten services are held several times weekly. There are a course of sermons and also the Stations of the Cross. The Lenten regulations are elaborate, yet mercifully surrounded by many exceptions and dispensations. The devotions are traditional and vary little in character from year to year.

There is a similar formalism in all the ministrations of the priest. His work constitutes a spiritual rule over the people. All is assiduously arranged for their spiritual lives. They must conform to regulations, fulfill the requirements laid upon them. There is nothing in the system to engender personal religion in the people. The priest is father to his people — an old-fashioned father. He feels that he has done his duty when he has told them what to do or what not to do. Nor does he fail to chide them bitterly when he finds them recreant to his mandates. It is easy to see that in the modern world, when men are learning to think for themselves, the position of the priest is becoming progressively more difficult. Yet there is nothing in his ecclesiastical repertoire which might enable him to meet the spirit of the times.

Much as he might desire it, he cannot recommend to his people the healthy exercise of personal thought. Though a heart of gold beat in his bosom, he must still stand before his people in the guise of a mediæval pedagogue. To be true to his trust he must be a reactionary. He must preach and interpret the teachings of Christ according to the mind of men who never dreamed of an age or a country like this in which we live. His every public expression must conform to the minds of those savants, mostly Italian, who have grouped themselves about the Vatican. They hold it as a sacred duty to fix the standards of his orthodoxy. Rome demands absolute intellectual submission of him. One discordant statement, written or spoken, is sufficient to make him ‘ suspected ’ at that high court. The Holy See reserves the right of condemning him, without a hearing, for any opinions which do not conform with the rule of orthodoxy. Forsooth, this is logical in an ecclesiastical system such as the Catholic Church.

The priest submits humbly, abjectly, if he would maintain his standing. But many there arc who rebel at heart. The world would be astounded did it know the number of priests who are struggling with the desire to remain faithful to the forms of ecclesiasticism while their very being cries out against the system. These are not the frivolous, not the careless, the negligent, or the unworthy. They are those who have broken through the fanatic wall that was built about them during the years of their seminary training. They are men who have burned the midnight oil, and through their travail have come to know the glorious privilege of independent thought. Such men see clearly that religion in the Catholic Church to-day has become a complex and intricate mass of laws, dogmas, and practices that little resemble the simple faith of the early centuries. These men often suffer anguish of soul because of their helplessness. It is not fear that deters them. It is goodness of heart. They would not scandalize those devoted souls who are filled with simple faith. They love the people; they love the Church. They cannot protest against the evils of ecclesiastical bureaucracy without injuring these two objects of their love.

(The next paper in this series will be ‘The Heresy of the Parochial School.’ We shall be very glad to publish representative letters in comment on or criticism of these articles and shall invite more extended replies from members of the Roman Catholic Church competent to speak in her behalf)