I SUPPOSE that a Catholic priest will answer or, anyhow, say something concerning the anonymous Catholic priest who wrote about the Catholic Church in recent numbers of the Atlantic Monthly. There were so many things in his article having to do with seminaries, and presbyteries, and the priest’s compartment of the confessional, that only a priest could be expected to deal with such points in an informed and instructive fashion. Whether any priest will believe it is worth while to do so is quite another thing. But meanwhile there are several reasons which incline me to the opinion that a layman may with propriety venture to express his thoughts on some of the many subjects brought forward for consideration in these extraordinary articles.
First, it is a layman, Mr. John Hearley, who introduced and vouched for the anonymous priest; and in doing so Mr. Hearley made some remarkable, indeed sensational statements, which, as it happens, the present writer considers highly questionable. Secondly, there never has been a time when Catholic laymen have not been keenly, and quite often cantankerously, ready to discuss the Church; and therefore, aside from the special point mentioned above, — namely, my qualifications to deal with some of the amazing statements made by Mr. Hearley, which I will describe in a moment or two, — I deem it fitting that a Catholic layman should ask the privilege of being heard when he considers that he has a proper occasion to bear witness to what he deems to be the truth about the most important thing in our world today, which is the Catholic Church. And thirdly — but no! ‘And thirdly’ twangs too much of a sermon. Let that third point wait; we shall come to it later on, in any case, and the two reasons already given are, I trust, enough to go on with.
As I attempt to do so I find myself facing a distasteful mode of action, which I am constrained, though most reluctantly, to adopt by the fact that this particular discussion is acutely personal — one in which abstract facts are less important (not, of course, in themselves, but in the part they play in the discussion) than the somewhat emotional and even dramatic atmosphere created by Mr. Hearley’s novelistic ‘preface’ to the anonymous articles of the priest, and by the priest’s own pathetic prelude, or foreword, to those articles. As it happens, I am not in a position consistently to object to this manner of dealing with the subject of religion, having myself written a long book soaked in subjectivism and intensely personal, about how and why I left the Catholic Church and how and why I returned. All the same, I do not like to feel myself obliged to adopt that tone again. When Mr. Squeers asked one of the wretched schoolboys at Dotheboys Hall to spell ‘window,’ and the urchin answered ‘w-i-n-d-e-r,’ he was instantly, and I think very properly, told to go and clean it. In the book to which I refer, as Mr. Hearley in his preface refers to those of his experiences which are related to his subject, I tried to spell my answer to the questions propounded by the Master of the school of life, and I had hoped that during the rest of my time in that school I might devote myself to the even harder task of cleaning windows — letting in more light, more warmth, more life — in a word, trying my best to be a Catholic, instead of making myself painfully conspicuous by talking to other people about the matter. We are all little children in the universal school of the Catholic Church, and all children — except the spoiled ones — hate nothing more than ‘showing off,’ or being forced to stumble through their lessons publicly. However, the Head of this school is somewhat more indulgent than the pragmatical Mr. Squeers, and takes the will for the deed when we stumble.
So if I now proceed to trace very briefly an outline of some of my personal experiences, which so curiously coincide with or parallel some of Mr. Hearley’s, I hope my lack of reticence is justified under the circumstances. For Mr. Hearley declares that certain things are unquestionably true which I emphatically deny to be true. I do not believe that either Mr. Hearley or I can prove our opposing contentions, either logically or in a law-court fashion. Neither could we possibly grant each other’s major premise. Mr. Hearley says not only that the Catholic Church is false, but that it is deliberately false. I say not only that the Catholic Church is true, but that it is divinely true; that, quite literally, God founded it, as Napoleon founded his empire, or Henry Ford his business; and that God sustains and directs it, to-day as in its beginning, and so onward, in sœcula sœculorum. I think that both propositions are ‘unprovable,’ certainly in any ordinary sense of that word. The same thing applies to other statements made by Mr. Hearley, and by me, on points of lesser importance, yet very important for all that. It is, then, really Mr. Hearley’s word against mine, and mine against his. It might possibly be said that the whole affair is verbal wrangling — but no! There is such a thing as truth, and unless we are in a world of mere madness and chance materialism, — and of course we are not, — what is true will prevail, and will last. We must all say and do as best we may what we believe to be true, and truth itself will test our sayings and our doings — the one fact that justifies religious, and indeed all kinds of, controversy.
I hope I need not say that I am not challenging Mr. Hearley’s veracity. I simply question the credibility of his statements, which — so far, at least — depend upon the evidence he has presented of his own qualifications as a witness in this matter, except at one point where he quotes an unnamed informant, not the anonymous author of the articles. In doing so, I set over against Mr. Hearley’s presentation of his experiences and observations a somewhat similar statement of mine. In other words, if Mr. Hearley is an ‘expert’ in the court of public opinion, in this matter, so am I.
For, like Mr. Hearley, I too am a journalist. I too was born a Catholic. I too, at about the age of fourteen, entered those doldrums of doubt and perplexity traversed by sudden squalls and storms of emotion which most adolescents know in religious matters, and others as well. I knew ‘the confusing, baffling influences’ of many writers of many kinds, including those listed by Mr. Hearley. I also knew Rome. And, like Mr. Hearley, I too ’lost my Catholic faith.’ In my case, I became a Socialist, after looking for Utopias in many strange places and strange ways, including Helicon Hall. Again like Mr. Hearley, I had my attractions toward Anglicanism. I still, after many years, feel gratitude for the friendly interest in me so generously shown by Dr. Codman, afterward Bishop Codman, in Boston. I recall the incense and the processions at St. Mary the Virgin’s, in New York, and how, being deeply though perhaps vaguely moved by Dr. Barry’s splendid sermons on mysticism, I troubled him with a letter or two, which were very civilly answered. But I turned into more curious byways in the quest of my high romance, taking more than a peep into the tangled mysteries of theosophy and occultism. Like Mr. Hearley, I too read William James’s Varieties of Religious Experience; and followed up my reading by going on a pilgrimage to Cambridge and interviewing the philosopher for a magazine. I remember how moved I was by my meeting and conversation with that fine gentleman and kind soul. (No doubt I bored him rather dreadfully by my immature ideas. ‘ Yes,’ he wrote to me later on, when I had rushed into print with some of them; ‘yes, I suppose something of what you say is something like the views I hold; but you say it with a megaphone!’) By him I was introduced to Wincenty Lutoslawski, the ‘Polish Yogi,’ who that year was giving the Lowell lectures and who wanted me to go to Africa with him and help him start a colony of mystics. (Perhaps William James was trying to get rid of me in a way congenial to my own bizarre interests.)
Many other experiences might be mentioned; but surely these are enough; with only this to be added — namely, that during most of this period, some twenty years, I was (I hope honestly, but am not at all sure about that) convinced that if our poor, suffering, deluded, yearning, questing humanity had one undoubted enemy barring its progress, tampering with its liberty, and obscuring its enlightenment, that enemy, beyond the peradventure of a doubt, was the Catholic Church. But I never held, as Mr. Hearley does, that the Catholic Church was ‘deliberately’ false, and that in ‘Rome, the kitchen of the Pope,’ skilled hands prepared the foods of falsity for the world-wide Church.
Having thus separated from Mr. Hearley on one important matter, I may drop cataloguing our similarities and proceed to a more particular examination of those points in Mr. Hearley’s experiences that are peculiarly his own. As a young man, he was in quest of ‘the purest modern reflection of primitive Christianity,’ but he found ‘no trace of apostolic footprints in the present-day unevangelical field of Catholic theology,’ Having presumably completed his own exhaustive study of the history, traditions, and literature of the primitive period of Christianity, and of the entire field of Catholic theology since primitive times (a fairly stiff task in itself, I should fancy, for a young man, or an old one either; but I suppose there was no help for such a case; a modernist could n’t, of course, accept anything on mere authority; he would have to do the job himself to be sure of it), Mr. Hearley reached the conclusion stated above as to the deliberate falsity of Catholicism — a conclusion apparently confirmed by his observations at Rome.
After leaving Rome, Mr. Hearley met the American priest whose work he introduced to the readers of the Atlantic. To this priest he related his story. By him he was assured that ‘the God of humanity will set your topsy-turvy religious house to rights.’ He was also told by this ‘indulgent father’ that ‘the more highly organized, the more ecclesiastically authoritative the Church is, the less conspicuous the religion of good works among its members.’ Mr. Hearley, upon returning to the United States, made inquiries which showed him that this priest 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.’
Mr. Hearley’s inquiries, he goes on to say, disclosed other ‘extraordinary facts.’ The priest 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 parochialschool education. . . .’ This state of things was kept a close secret until Mr. Hearley lifted the veil. The Catholic ‘modernists’ have been hoping for a ‘peaceful religious revolution in the Church itself.’ If they revealed themselves, ‘they, like Luther or the more recent Loisy, would be forced from the Church. Their Catholic influence would be gone.’ They have reconciled this policy with their conscience because they were ‘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.’
Mr. Hearley tells us that during the period of his quest he had spoken with some six or seven Catholic priests about his religious difficulties. He gives as his sole informant concerning the ‘modernists’ among the Catholic clergy an unnamed ‘Catholic physician.’ There is nothing to show how many priests he talked or corresponded with on this matter, if any. I do not like to question Mr. Hearley’s facts, if facts they are. He himself may have been deceived, wittingly or unwittingly, by his informant. All I can say is that, if true, the facts form an exceedingly startling and important revelation. For nearly fifteen years I have been almost exclusively engaged in Catholic journalism and authorship, or activities connected with the work of the Church as an employee of the National Catholic Welfare Conference. I have met and talked with priests throughout this country, and in Canada, and in Rome. These priests belong to scores of dioceses; they include members of many religious orders, writers, teachers, missionaries, city and country clergy, social workers, scholars, artists, contemplatives (followers of the mystical life), scientists, musicians — in a word, priests of all types. I have carried on correspondence with many whom I have never met. I have been the recipient of intimate confidences. I have listened to many, many stories of hardships and difficulties, of misunderstood motives, of troubles with those in authority, of heartbreaking disappointments and failures. I have known, or at least I have known about, one or two ‘ fallen ’ priests — namely, unhappy individuals who were barred from the sacred ministry because of notorious personal faults, or who themselves left the Church for such reasons. I have never personally known even one priest who left the Church because of intellectual or spiritual difficulties, or who seems likely to do so. Of course, I know there are a number — not a large, indeed a remarkably small number — who have done so. When have they not, since the very beginning? Faith, after all, is faith, and not a mechanistic instinct. ‘Do what you will’ is still the law, il not exactly in the same sense as it was understood at Rabelais’s Thélème.
My acquaintance also includes — necessarily includes, because of the nature of my professional duties as editor of a lay Catholic journal — a very wide acquaintance with American Catholic laymen, of many and of highly various opinions, from those who lay the strongest stress upon organized social-service activities as the most effective means of doing their share of religious work to those who devote themselves almost exclusively to attempting their personal sanctification in what is called the contemplative, or mystical, life. And never, until I read Mr. Hearley’s article, have I dreamed that there was even a small group of such priests or laymen as he describes existing to-day in the United States. It strikes me as a ridiculous statement.
So does his statement that he ‘marked in despair how the Christlike voice of Dr. John A. Ryan of the National Catholic Welfare Council cried in an American Catholic wilderness.’
Also the statement bewilders me. Dr. John A. Ryan is an honored and distinguished professor at the Catholic University. His successive books on economic and other questions have been well received and thoughtfully reviewed by a large number of American Catholic magazines and newspapers. It is well known that he played a leading part in drawing up the famous statement on ‘Social Reconstruction: A General Review of the Problems and Survey of Remedies,’ issued by the four bishops of the administrative committee of the National Catholic War Council, composed of all the archbishops and bishops of the United States, out of which grew the National Catholic Welfare Conference of today — a statement which was not only circulated throughout the length and breadth of the country, but which was advertised in the leading daily newspapers, calling forth a volume of editorial discussion and comment, favorable or adverse, though mostly favorable, which completely filled a huge volume of clippings. If Dr. John A. Ryan’s voice is crying in an American Catholic wilderness, it is certainly not the fault of the Catholic Church.
There is no doubt that many Catholic priests, including bishops, do not agree with Dr. Ryan’s views. It is also quite true that the Catholic laity as a whole have so far not been deeply affected by his economic opinions. But to insinuate, as Mr. Hearley does, fault to the Catholic Church in the United States, or in Rome, for the indifference or apathy or opposition encountered by Dr. Ryan — who suffers here as all pioneers of new or advanced views inevitably must suffer — is so amazing that this fact alone quite shakes my confidence in Mr. Hearley’s knowledge and powers of judgment alike. As for his personal views of the Church, so far as they are personal and do not lead him into such extraordinary statements as the two with which I have just dealt, I can only pass them by — sympathetically, I trust, and also sorrowfully. To me there is nothing more deplorable than the loss of faith in the Catholic Church on the part of any of its children. I will attempt to indicate my reasons for so thinking a little later on, after first saying whatever I deem it proper and becoming in a Catholic layman to say about the article by the anonymous priest to which Mr. Hearley writes what I can only term so trivial and, unwittingly, mendacious a preface—trivial in all but the sad circumstance that it describes his own loss of faith.
As I began by saying, only a priest could adequately traverse the statements made by the anonymous clergyman introduced so theatrically by Mr. Hearley, but even a layman finds so much to wonder at that it may be well to touch upon a few of the points causing lay wonderment, first remarking that what I say was not suggested to me by any priest, and that, where I go beyond my own notions or information, the points dealt with were suggested by another layman, one of the contributors to my journal.
We were both struck by the singular ignorance of Catholic teaching displayed by this clergyman who for thirty years, we are told, has been a pastor and a professor — ignorance that perhaps deserves the harsher name of misrepresentation. Why, too, does he open his article with the rhetorical question, ‘Why don’t priests marry?’ and then drop the question so precipitately without giving any account of the Church’s reasons for imposing celibacy on its clergy, after insinuating that the Church wholly depends upon Saint Paul’s advice, or, really, his remark, that ‘he that is without a wife is solicitous for the things of the Lord: how he 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’? In every Catholic handbook touching on this subject it is stated that Saint Paul was speaking of all men, without special reference to the clergy, as the anonymous priest must know. The Church’s argument for celibacy, based upon the text of Saint Paul, is simply an argument a fortiori, and goes something like this: ‘If what Paul says is true for all men, that they can serve God better without marrying, how much more true of the priest, whose whole life is to be devoted to God’s interests.’ The argument has simply what theologians call suasive force. There are, as every fairly well informed layman knows, — and how much more the clergy! — all sorts of practical reasons for the disciplinary matter of clerical celibacy, economic reasons prominent among them, none of which reasons are so much as hinted at by the anonymous author. The same disingenuous treatment is at work when he goes on to say that ‘most priests have made their decision to renounce the world and its pleasures . . . when they were as yet children.’ As priests are at least twenty-four years old when they take their vows, it would hardly seem correct to term them children.
The same unfair and distorting mode of treatment comes out when the anonymous author trots forth that veritable bogy of a word, ‘casuistry,’ a word which has gained in the pages of ignorant or hostile writers about the Catholic Church something of the same diabolical malodor that is evoked in the black belt of bigotry by the word ‘Jesuit.’ He writes, ‘In moral theology, solutions are generally obtained by casuistry. Volumes are written, filed with moral cases of which the author states the solution. The student studies these. Thus he is educated in moral principles.’ This is something almost topsy-turvy, so far is it from the truth about the way seminarians are trained for the priesthood.
If you define casuistry as ‘the solution of special problems of right and duty by the application of general ethical or legal principles,’ it would be true to say that all individual cases are solved by casuistry in secular and religious courts as well as in the court of conscience. If, however, casuistry is taken to mean ‘ oversubtle and dishonest reasoning applied to particular cases,’ the anonymous charge is merely false. Our author has not troubled himself about clarity of definition; he is repeating an old accusation against the theologians urged by those who were ignorant of the nature of Catholic studies. There are, indeed, volumes that are full of moral cases, in which theologians solve these cases which they have proposed by a full discussion of the principles involved. Legal men will find little to blame in this study of case law. When, however, we examine the practice of Catholic seminaries, we find that this branch of moral study is relegated to a minor place, and that the student is taught from volumes which contain nothing but an explanation of the principles of conduct and an analysis of the content of law. The ordinary textbooks in use are the works of Vermeesch, Noldin, Lehmkuhl, Prummer, Genicot, Cappella, Tanqueray, Sabetti-Barrett, and so forth. Not one of these is ‘a volume filled with moral cases of which the author states the solution.’ They contain a rigid and scientific analysis of the nature of responsibility, the ideas of obligation, of law, of conscience. They contain treatises on justice and the nature of contracts. They contain no cases for solution; they are books dealing with principles, and a mastery of their content, under the guidance of a competent professor, furnishes the young priest’s education in moral principles. One hour a week devoted to ‘case solutions,’ with about six hours devoted to the study of the principles in the light of which the student tackles the cases, is about the average. The statement of the anonymous author, with its unworthy sneer, proves on examination to be utterly misleading.
So do his remarks on several other matters — for example, his statement that the Catholic laity are taught that they need not bother their heads about what is going on, in Latin, at Mass. ‘The law which makes it a mortal sin to miss Mass on the days appointed does not call for any intelligent attention,’ he writes. ’Physical presence fulfills the precept.’ He goes on to say: ‘The law requiring him [the priest] to say this daily portion of prayer [his Divine Office] does not, however, obligate him to follow the meaning of the words. He need but formulate the words with his lips and tongue.’
The two Church, or ecclesiastical, laws here referred to impose a very serious obligation, and their violation is a grave matter. The limits of their content are therefore strictly defined, but they are not the whole law. Behind them lies the natural law (or divine law) of more direct fundamental importance which governs all prayer. Prayer is, in the Catholic view, an ascensus mentis in Deum, an elevation of the soul to God; and, from the very nature of man who prays to God, his sovereign Lord demands all the reverence of which man, having due regard to the circumstances under which he prays, is capable. This law is universal in its application, since it arises from the very nature of the ties that bind man to God. It applies to all prayer and cannot be abrogated or diminished in its force by any Church law. It is presupposed in every law dealing with prayer. Our anonymous writer, in citing the two ecclesiastical laws, would have the non-Catholic infer that the reading of the Office and attendance at Mass are for Catholics merely mechanical acts, and condemns the Church for mere formalism. He might as well find fault with the traffic regulations by citing the law regulating speed and complaining that there is no provision here for the proper lighting of vehicles traveling in the dark. A well-trained Catholic schoolboy could explain that deliberate irreverence and inattention at Mass are always sinful, but under certain conditions do not violate the additional precept, enjoining physical presence. As a matter of fact, the precept goes a little further than the anonymous theologian asserts; besides physical presence, it requires at least the absence of any occupation which is incompatible with the hearing of Mass devoutly. Deliberate inattention during prayer, if not excusable on legitimate grounds, is always sinful in the Catholic view.
But it is when this singular priest begins to write about the Sacrament of Penance, commonly known as Confession, that a layman begins most sadly to ask himself if he really can be a priest at all, so woefully is this solemn, this delicate, this holy, this beautiful, this truly divine thing, this consolation of consolations, misrepresented. For instance, he gives what he terms a typical confession, ‘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. ... It is easy to see how a great sacrament can become almost a meaningless formulary.’ Now even a layman knows enough to agree with the anonymous priest here, so far as to grant that the list of faults or failings given above, theologically speaking, is sinless; but the layman also knows that the further statement made by the author—namely, that absolution is given after the confession of such trifles — is false. Certainly no priest with any knowledge of theology, his own business, would give absolution in such a case; he would either ask the penitent to mention some past grave sin of his life already confessed, and then grant absolution, or else give the poor soul trying so hard to be spotless his fatherly blessing and send it forth into the world where it is so hard to be sinless, still less faultless, consoled and strengthened. He would never degrade the sacrament to a ‘meaningless formulary.’
The ordinary Catholic teaching distinguishes between matter of confession which is certain and that which is dubious. In the latter case, which does not arise in the instance dealt with above, the priest may give absolution, but only provisionally. Where there is no matter, he does not give absolution at all. Such is the Church’s teaching on this question, but the whole discussion is misleading. The most important part of the sacrament, as Catholics are reminded in season and out of season, is true and sincere sorrow for sins committed and the serious resolve to avoid them in future. The confession of sin is necessary, but it does not involve the intimate process indicated by the Atlantic writer. The harrowing details of the secular law courts and the newspapers are foreign to the atmosphere of the confessional. Strictly speaking, the Confession of the most serious crimes is a simple matter. To say, as does our author, that the priest ‘must pass upon the most intimate relations of connubial life . . . must solve the intricate problems of sex,’ is true enough in itself, but utterly misleading in its implication that detailed descriptions of sex impulses must be listened to from ‘the lips of both men and women.’ Penitents are checked if they think they are talking to a psychoanalyst and not a priest. They must respect the modesty and reticence of the confessional. The emphasis has been put on the wrong element by this critic of the Church. Mere confession is a simple matter; the resolve to reform, arising from sorrow for past offenses, is the crucial matter of every good confession. This is an intensely personal thing, and of its very nature excludes the danger of formalism.
I think I have said enough about the first article of the anonymous priest to justify my statement that even laymen are amazed by the obvious errors and the apparent misrepresentations with which it bristles. Of the second article, dealing with the parochial schools, there is no space left to speak. Moreover, I am writing without having more than glanced through it. Only this may I say, that even my glance at the second article showed me that it does not state the case for the schools. It confines itself to condemning them, even in principle; and how any Catholic, still less a priest, can follow that line is completely beyond my ability to imagine.
I will, therefore, come to an end, and in doing so I will return to that third reason for writing these pages to which I referred in starting, holding it in reserve and not naming it. My third reason, then, for writing as best I may something about the Catholic Church is because—though it may be quite wrong of me to do so — I believe that even this anonymous, possibly even traitorous, attack upon the Catholic Church may do some good, though not in the way its author professes to desire, and that a Catholic journalist may possibly be an instrument in helping to achieve those good results by calling to the attention of those interested in the discussion it has provoked one paramount fact about the Church and its relations with the Modern Mind that is of supreme importance. There is more than a mere coincidence in the circumstance that the January numbers of three of our leading magazines contained articles discussing the Catholic Church—one of the authors of those articles being no less an authority than the Supreme Kleagle of the Ku Klux Klan. It is more than a further coincidence that just as these three magazines reached my desk, and hundreds of thousands of other desks and reading tables, the newspapers should have been reporting the Pope’s letter on Church Unity, and — less fully, yet still significantly — the persecution of the Church in Mexico, and the ‘Romeward tendency’ in the Church of England brought to a sort of national crisis by the Prayer Book affair. For, as President Butler of Columbia at the same time was saying, in connection with the publication by his university of all the documents relating to the claims of the Papal See, the Catholic Church is ‘doubtless the chief single phenomenon in the history of the world since the fall of the Roman Empire.’ And this phenomenon is to-day engaging the attention of the whole world in a fashion more vividly compelling, and significant, and universal, than at any time since its beginning. It is not merely because, for the first time in its history, the United States is interested by the spectacle of a candidate for its Presidency who belongs to the Catholic Church that Americans are to-day discussing that Church as never before. Forces deeper and stronger than purely political, or social, or economic, or literary, or scientific interests are compelling this attention, in America as in Europe, and Asia, and Africa, and in the islands of the Seven Seas. And all the multifarious questions concerning it ultimately can be resolved into one question only: ‘What is the Catholic Church?’
In attempting to make his own answer, in his own poor words, to that question of questions, the present writer believes that he is voicing the innermost convictions of millions of Catholics, and expressing something that is now engaging and will increasingly engage the earnest interest of all non-Catholics, and their institutions, and their governments. He may perhaps best attempt that answer by again, but finally, becoming personal. When he, then, returned to the Catholic Church, what happened? What did he find the Church to be?
What happened was a supernatural thing — a force not of this world, not natural, not material, but spiritual wholly. Grace was given to him, and he believed. And he found the Church to be the divinely appointed channel of God’s grace. And all attempts to understand, to study, to explain, to attack, to strengthen, or to destroy the Church, which first of all do not at least recognize its claim to a supernatural origin, a supernatural support, a supernatural mission, lose touch with the one essential condition of study, or attack, or defense.
That the Spirit, which is the first and only creator of all things, became Man in Jesus Christ, who founded His Church on Peter and made Peter and the other Apostles the spiritual progenitors of the Bishops of the Church, through all time to the ending of time, promising to be with them always — such is the greatest fact now faced by the Modern Mind. What the Modern Mind will do with it remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, Catholics who refuse to be disturbed by Spengler’s prophecies of the certain death of all human cultures, or by the traveling philosopher Keyserling’s somewhat similar though more nebulous prognostications; Catholics who remember the bad Popes, and the ages of the decadence of bishops and priests, and the grievous mistakes of policy on the part of the human instruments of God’s will, and their sins and crimes as well, and who know how hotly, how thoroughly, internal criticisms, and discussions of those things not absolutely defined in faith and morals, are going on to-day in the Church, as during all times past — Catholics, I say, will not be greatly perturbed by Mr. John Hearley and his anonymous companion, the disgruntled priest. Some of them, being very human, as all Catholics are, may feel and perhaps express themselves somewhat as American patriots felt and expressed themselves over the case of Benedict Arnold; others, I believe, and hope, will say Masses for them, and ask the Carmelites to say some prayers. In which case, I think I know what may happen, for it happened to me.