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Roman Catholic Church.

On the subject of Roman Catholicism of modern times and its work and purpose in the United States, Cardinal Gibbons, the head of the American Catholic Church, writes as follows:

The Roman Church has had a message for all humanity in every age ever since St. Clement penned his famous epistle to the Corinthians, or St. Victor caused the Christian world to meet in special councils for the solution of a universal difficulty. It is no mere coincidence that, at the opening of the last century of this mystical and wonderful cycle of 2,000 years, the Bishop of Rome should again address the world in tones whose moderation and sympathy recall the temper and the arguments of St. Clement, his faraway predecessor and disciple of St. Peter.

The year 1800 was a very disheartening one for Catholicism. It still stood erect and hopeful, but in the midst of a political and social wreckage, the result of a century of scepticism and destructive criticism that acted at last as sparks for an ungovernable popular frenzy, during which the old order appeared to pass away forever and a new one was inaugurated with every manifestation of joy. The tree of political liberty was everywhere planted, and the peoples of Europe promised themselves a life of unalloyed comfort for all future time. Catholicism was the religion of the majority of these people, and was cunningly obliged to bear the brunt of all their complaints, justified and unjustifiable; although the authorities of Catholicism had long protested against many of the gravest abuses of the period, sustained in formal defiance of the principles and institutions of the Catholic religion. The new Caesar threatened to be more terrible to the independence of religion than any ancient one, and the revenues and establishments by which Catholicism had kept up its public standing and earned the esteem and gratitude of the people were swept away or Quasi ruined.

With this overturning of all the conditions of Catholic life came new problems, new trials, and a period of indefinite, uncertain circumstances that were finally set at rest only at the Congress of Vienna in 1815, by which an end was put to the political changes that began with the Revolution of 1789.

The modus vivendi then reached, and soon consecrated by a series of concordats, has remained substantially the basis of the dealings of Catholicism with the governments of the Old World. Only one formal and permanent violation of this legal situation has taken place, the violent and unjust dispossession of the Holy See by the government of the House of Savoy, in flagrant violation of every title [457] that could be invoked by a legitimate civil power. Elsewhere Catholicism has undergone much suffering, both in the states of the Old World and in the republics of South America. But, the above vital conflict apart, the nineteenth century closed with no very acute or intolerable condition of things, although there is much that does not reply to our ideas of fairness and justice.

The chief event of the century, from the point of view of Roman Catholicism, is undoubtedly the holding of the Vatican council. Since the council of Trent the bishops of the Catholic world had not met in common under the guidance of the Bishop of Rome. The gravest interests of religion seemed at stake after more than a century of public infidelity and the overthrow of all former safeguards of faith. The character of doctrinal authority and its visible tangible possessor were declared by the dogma of Papal infallibility. The genuine relations of reason and revelation were set forth in un.-mistakable language.

A general council is the very highest act of the life of the Church, since it presents within a small compass, and at once, all the movements that have been developing in the course of centuries, and offers to all the faithful and to all outside the Church straightforward answers to all the great ecclesiastical problems that come up for settlement. Had the Vatican council been finished it would have taken up the grave subject of ecclesiastical discipline. That is reserved for the reopening of the council at some future date.

In the United States, particularly, the Catholic episcopate has been very active in providing for the most fundamental spiritual needs of their flocks—churches for religious services, priests for the administration of sacraments, schools for the preservation of the revealed Christian faith, orphanages for the little waifs and castaways of society. Whether short or long, the periods of government of these Church rulers have never been idle nor marked by self-indulgence. Almost every one has left some monument of faith as a contribution to the general good of Catholicism. I would neither exaggerate nor boast, yet it occurs to me, after many years of service, travel, and observation, that few ages of Christianity can show a more laborious and elevated episcopate than the nineteenth century.

The recruiting of the diocesan clergy has been the gravest duty of this episcopate, for religion lives by and for men. It can get along without wealth or monuments, but not without intelligent teachers of its tenets and faithful observers of its precepts. In keeping with the decrees of the council of Trent diocesan seminaries have been opened where it was possible, and elsewhere provincial institutions of a similar character. Both flourish in the United States, and grow more numerous with every decade. The older clergy, long drawn from the venerable schools of Europe, have left a sweet odor among us, the purest odors of self-sacrificing lives, of devotion to poor and scattered flocks, of patient, uncomplaining contentment with the circumstances of poverty and humility. There is no diocese in the United States where there cannot be heard tales of the hardships and brave lives of the ecclesiastics who laid the foundations of religion. We remember them always, and hold their names in benediction. The younger generation of our clergy enjoys advantages denied to its predecessors; but we consider that they owe it to those predecessors if they have a degree of leisure to perfect the culture of their minds, and a faithful Catholic people to ask for the benefits which must accrue from greater learning, if it be solid and well directed.

Yet I cannot admit that our older clergy were deficient in the learning of the schools. The names of England and Corcoran are at once on our lips, not to speak of a long array of others almost equally entitled to distinguished mention. If the external conditions of the diocesan clergy have improved, their relations to the Church authority have been safeguarded with even greater earnestness and efficiency. The dispositions of synods, provincial councils, and the three plenary councils of Baltimore have, we are happy to say, had little to do with questions of doctrine. They have all been held for the improvement of discipline and notably for the welfare of the clergy. In the same direction, also, have tended the numerous decisions and instructions from the [458] Roman congregations, whose wisdom has never been invoked by us in vain, and whose sympathy for our conditions we gratefully acknowledge.

Any account of the good influence of the Holy See on our ecclesiastical condilions would be unjust and incomplete if the Congregation of the Propaganda Fide were omitted. To it we owe an unceasing surveillance, full of prudence and intelligence. From its offices have come to the bishops regularly counsel, warning, encouragement, co-operation.

In the religious orders and communities the Catholic Church possesses a very ancient auxiliary force that has rendered incalculable help during the nineteenth century. By their numbers, their strong inherited traditions, their central government, their willing obedience, and their other resources they have come everywhere to the aid of the bishops and the diocesan clergy. Often they bore alone and for a long time, and at great sacrifices, the whole burden of religion. Their praise is rightly on all sides, and their works speak for them, when their modesty and humility forbid them to praise themselves. The missions of Catholicism have largely fallen to them. They stood in the breach for the cause of education when the churches were too poor and few to open colleges. They have given countless missions and retreats, and in general have not spared themselves when called upon for works of general utility. They and their works are of the essence of Catholicism, and they ought rightly to flourish in any land where they are free to live according to the precepts and the spirit of their founders, who are often canonized saints of the Catholic Church.

I shall not be saying too much when I assert that among the invaluable services rendered to the Church by Catholic women of all conditions of life—no unique thing in the history of Catholicism—those rendered by the women of religious communities are of the first rank of merit. Primary Catholic education, in the United States, would have been almost impossible without their devotion. It is owing to them that the orphans have been collected and cared for, the sick housed and sheltered, the poor and helpless and aged, the crippled and the blind, looked after regularly and lovingly. They surely walk in the footsteps of Jesus, doing good wherever they go. The perennial note of sanctity in the Catholic Church shines especially in them. Content with food and clothing and shelter, they devote their lives, often in the very flower of youth and health and beauty, to the weak and needful members of Christian society. He must needs be a Divine Master who can so steadily charm into His service the purest and the most affectionate of hearts, and cause them to put aside deliberately for love of Him even the most justifiable of human attachments. This argument for Christianity is not new; it was urged by St. Justin the Martyr on the libertine world of the Antonines.

In our own beloved country, the United States, we have every reason to be thankful that the liberty to worship God according to the dictates of conscience is guaranteed by the Constitution, and has entered deeply into the convictions of our fellow-citizens. The Catholic Church, by her own constitution, is deeply sympathetic with our national life and all that it stands for. She has thrived in the atmosphere of liberty, and seeks only the protection of the common law, that equal justice which is dealt out to all.

When this nation was forming, the first Catholic bishop in the United States, and my first predecessor in the see of Baltimore, John Carroll, accepted and performed satisfactorily the gravest public duty of a citizen, an embassy to another people for the benefit of his own country. Thereby he left to us all an example and a teaching that we shall ever cherish, the example of self-sacrifice as the prime duty of every citizen, and the teaching that patriotism is a holy conviction to which no Catholic, priest or layman, can hold himself foreign or apathetic.

A Catholic layman of the same distinguished family, Charles Carroll of Carlollton, threw in his lot with the patriots from the beginning, and by word and deed served the cause of American liberty, while he lived to see it flourish and inform more and more the minds and hearts of the first generation of American citizens. In future centuries, as in this, his name will be held in honor and benediction as a signer of the Declaration of [459] Independence. His Catholic belief and conduct will forever be a potent encouragement to the children of his own faith. He was the first layman to contribute notably to the cause of Catholic education, and the native formation of the priesthood, by the establishment of a college for that purpose.

We have done our best in these ten decades to provide the best education for our people and our priests. Intimately convinced that general education without religion is destined to be an evil rather than a blessing, we have created all over the United States a system of primary education in parochial schools that has cost us and yet costs us the gravest sacrifices and entails the heaviest solicitudes. Yet we feel that we are serving the cause of God and country by indoctrinating our Catholic youth with persuasions of the existence of God and His holy attributes, of the true nature of vice and virtue, of conscience and sin, of the spiritual and the temporal, of the proper purposes of life, of punishment and reward in an immortal life. We believe that Christianity is better than paganism; also that Christianity is something simple, positive, historical, that can and ought to be taught from the cradle to the grave, good for all conditions, for both sexes, and for every situation in life this side of the common grave. Believing this, we have shaped our conduct accordingly, and trust to God for the issue. In such matters it imports more to be right in principle than to be successful. Our secondary system of education has gone on from the founding of the republic. Colleges for boys and academies for girls have risen up in every State and Territory, have been supported by the faithful people, and are doing an incalculable good. As our means increase and other advantages offer, we hope to improve them; Catholicism is no stagnant pool, but a field for every good private initiative that respects right and truth. In the Catholic University of America, founded in the last decade of the century by Pope Leo XIII. and the Catholic hierarchy, after due and lengthy deliberation, and made possible by the magnificent generosity of a Catholic woman, we have centred our hopes for a system of higher education that shall embody the best traditions of our ancient Church and the approved gains of our own times. American Catholics have not disposed in the past of great wealth, inherited or earned; hence all these works mean an incredible devotion and intensity of good — will and sustained sacrifices. Wherever the Catholic Church has been strong and successful, schools of every kind flourish. I need only recall the fact that the idea, the constitution, the functions, the influences of a university were unknown in the world until she created the type in the Middle Ages, and gave over to mankind a new factor in civil and religious life—the power of organized learning.

For the last 100 years one line of thought and action has been gradually disengaging itself from all others and dominating them. That is the social movement, or the tendency towards a more evenly just and natural conception of all the relations that arise from the common dwelling of mankind in organized society. It has long taken the form of institutions and plans for the betterment of the conditions of the people, of woman, of all who suffer or think they suffer from the actual organization of society. If there is something Utopian in certain plans or hopes, there is too much that is justifiable at the root of other attempts to reorganize our social conditions. Not to speak of the undesirable inheritances of the past, the new conditions created for the common man by the spread of industrialism and commercialism have often been painful in the extreme, and have aroused both violent protests and deep sympathy. By the help of God we have abolished the reproach of slavery in every civilized land, but we hear from the laboring multitudes a vague cry that they are already in the throes of a return to that accursed institution.

Here the doctrines of Catholicism are eminently in accord with the right conception of human nature, the functions of authority and mutual help or charity, the duty to live, and the right to all the necessary means for that end. She is sympathetic, historically and naturally, to the toiling masses, who, after all, form everywhere the bulk of her adherents, and have been always the most docile and affectionate of her members. It is she who [460] created in the world the practical working idea of a common humanity, the basis of all genuine social improvement. The trials of Catholicism have come more often from the luxury and the sin of those in high places than from the disaffection of its great masses. As this movement has gathered force, and passed from theories into the domain of action, the Catholic Church, through her head, has followed it with attention and respect. The whole pontificate of Leo XIII. is remarkable for acts and documents which have passed into the history of social endeavor in the nineteenth century. His personal charities, large and enlightened, are as nothing in comparison with the far-reaching acts like the refusal to condemn the association of the Knights of Labor. His encyclical on the condition of workingmen recalls the only possible lines of a final concord between labor and capital —the spirit and teachings of Jesus Christ, the best Friend our common humanity ever had. In the same way, his latest encyclical on Jesus Christ, with which the religious history of the century closes, emphasizes the true basis for the restoration of peace and harmony and justice between the poor and the rich, between the producers of capital and the capital that stimulates and regulates production. We may be confident that the papacy of the future will not show less enlightenment and sympathy in its attempts to solve these delicate and grave problems with the least injustice and the greatest charity.

It would be idle to deny or to palliate the many shadows that fall across the history of Catholicism in the century that has elapsed. I scarcely need refer to the weaknesses and errors of her individual children: such acts she repudiates, and when she can chastises remedially. But the Church has not recovered that vast inherited moral power over the public life which it enjoyed before the French Revolution. In many ways the consequences of atheism, materialism, and even of deism, have been deduced into manners and institutions, to the detriment of the ancient Christian morality. The sterner Christian virtue of previous centuries, founded on the Christian revelation, has been forced out of the public life of whole peoples. Expediency, opportunism, moral cowardice have often triumphed over the plain right and the fair truth. The principle has been established that God is on the side of the great battalions, is ever with the strong men of blood and iron. Ancient and venerable sovereignties have been hypocritically dispossessed. Small nationalities have been erased from the world's political map, and the history of the near past almost justifies the rumors of impending steps in the same direction. With the increase of greatness in states comes an increase of warlike perils, not only from commercial rivalry, but from that root of ambition and domination which grows in every heart, unless checked and subdued in time, and which in the past has been too often the source of violent injustice on the greatest scale.

Apostolic delegation to the United States.—Sebastian Martinelli, Archbishop of Ephesus, Papal Delegate, Washington, D. C. Archbishops.—Baltimore, Md., James Gibbons, Cardinal, consecrated 1868; Boston, Mass., John J. Williams, 1866; Chicago, Ill., Patrick A. Feehan, 1865; Cincinnati, O., William H. Elder, 1857; Dubuque, Ia., John J. Keane, 1878: Milwaukee, Wis., Frederick Katzer, 1886; New Orleans, La., P. L. Chapelle, 1897; New York, N. Y., M. A. Corrigan, 1873; Portland, Ore., Alexander Christie, 1898; Philadelphia, Pa., Patrick J. Ryan, 1872; St. Louis, Mo., John J. Kain, 1875; St. Paul, Minn., John Ireland, 1875; San Francisco, Cal., Patrick W. Reardon, 1883; Santa Fe, New Mexico, Peter Bourgade, 1887.

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