|THE HIERARCHY OF THE UNITED STATES
PASTORAL LETTER OF 1919
|James Cardinal Gibbons
The archbishops and bishops of the United States in conference assembled, to their clergy and faithful people—Grace unto you and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Venerable brethren of the clergy,
Thirty-five years have elapsed since the Fathers of the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore addressed their pastoral letter to the faithful of their charge. In it they expressed their deliberate thought upon the state of religion at the time, upon its needs and its abundant resources. Surveying the growth of the Church during a century, they saw with thankfulness the evident design of God in behalf of our country; and turning to the future, they beheld the promise of a still more fruitful development. With wise enactment and admonition they imparted new vigor to our Catholic life. With a foresight which we can now appreciate, they prepared the Church in America to meet, on the solid ground of faith and discipline, the changing conditions of our earthly existence. As Pope Leo XIII of happy memory declared: "the event has proven, and still does prove, that the decrees of Baltimore were wholesome and timely. Experience has demonstrated their value for the maintenance of discipline, for stimulating the intelligence and zeal of the clergy, for protecting and developing the Catholic education of youth" (Encyc., <Longinqua oceani spatia>, January 6, 1895).
The framers of the legislation were men of power, strewing forth in their wisdom the dignity of prophets and instructing the people with holy words. They are gone, nearly all, to their rest and reward; but their godly deeds have not failed. They have left us a sacred inheritance; their labors are held in remembrance and their names in benediction forever.
Following the example of our predecessors, and like them trusting in the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we lately took counsel together for the welfare of the Church and of our country. The whole hierarchy of the United States assembled in Washington to consider the problems, the needs, and the possibilities for good which invite us to new undertakings. In the record of the last three decades, we found much to console and inspire us. We also knew well that you with whom and for whom we have labored would rejoice in considering how abundantly God has blessed our endeavors. And we therefore determined, for His glory and for your comfort, to point out the significant phases in our progress, and to set forth the truths which contain the solution of the world's great problems.
This course we adopted the more hopefully because of the approval and encouragement given us by our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XV, in the letter which he sent us last April. Knowing how deeply the Sovereign Pontiff is concerned for the restoration of all things in Christ, and how confidently he looks at this time to the Church in America, we felt that by uniting our thought and our effort we should co-operate, in the measure of our opportunity, toward his beneficent purpose. In his name, and in our own, we greet you, dear brethren, as children of the Holy Catholic Church and as citizens of the Republic on whose preservation the future of humanity so largely depends. We exhort you, as of one mind and heart, to ponder well the significance of recent events, so that each of you, as circumstance requires, may rightly fulfill his share of our common obligation.
First of all, it is our bounder duty to offer up praise and thanksgiving to almighty God who, in His gracious Providence, has restored the nations to peace. He has shown us His mercy, and the light of His countenance is shining upon us, that we may know His way upon earth, which is the way of salvation for all the peoples. Now that the storm is subsiding, we can see the true meaning of its causes. We can review more calmly the changes and movements which brought it about; and we can discern more surely their import for our various human interests.
In the spiritual order, there has been a steady advance. The issue between truth and error, with regard to all that religion implies, is now quite clearly drawn. As human devices, intended to replace the Gospel, have gradually broken down, Christianity, by contrast, appears distinct and firm in its true position. The Church indeed has suffered because it would not sanction the vagaries of thought and policy which were leading the world to disaster. And yet the very opposition which it encountered, an opposition which would have destroyed the work of man, has given the Church occasion for new manifestations of life. With larger freedom from external interference, it has developed more fully the power from on high with which the Holy Spirit endued it. Far from being weakened by the failure of outward support, its activity is seen as the expression of its inner vitality. Its vigor is shown in its ready adaptation to the varying conditions of the world, an adaptation which means no supine yielding and no surrender of principle, but rather the exertion of power in supplying as they arise, the needs of humanity. Because It maintains inviolate the deposit of Christian faith and the law of Christian morality, the Church can profit by every item of truth and every means for the betterment of man which genuine progress affords. It thrives wherever freedom really lives, and it furnishes the only basis on which freedom can be secure.
The inner vitality of the Church has been shown and enhanced by the action of the Holy See in giving fresh impetus to the minds and hearts of the faithful; in stimulating philosophical, historical, and biblical studies; in creating institutions of learning; in revising the forms of liturgical prayer; in quickening devotion; and in reducing to a compact body of law the manifold enactments of canonical legislation. At the same time, the Sovereign Pontiffs have promoted the welfare of all mankind by insisting on the principles which should govern our social, industrial and political relations, by deepening respect for civil authority; by enjoining upon Catholics everywhere the duty of allegiance to the State and the discharge of patriotic obligation. They have condemned the errors which planned to betray humanity and to undermine our civilization. Again and again, the charity of Christ constraining them, they have sought out the peoples which sat in darkness and the shadow of death; and they have urged all Christians who are yet "as children tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine," to enter the haven of the Church and anchor upon the confession of "one Lord, one faith, one baptism" (Eph. 4:14, 5).
The Holy See And The Church In America
From these salutary measures the Church in America has derived in full its share of benefit. But it has also received, to its great advantage, especial marks of pontifical favor. To Pope Leo XIII we are indebted for the establishment of the Apostolic Delegation, whereby we are brought into closer union with the Holy See. The presence in our midst of the representative of the Holy Father has invigorated our ecclesiastical life, and facilitated to a marked degree the administration of our spiritual affairs, in keeping with our rapid development.
Though its organization had extended to every part of the United States, the Church, until 1908, was still on a missionary basis, as it had been from the beginning. By the action of Pope Pius X, it was advanced to full canonical status and ranked with the older Churches of Europe. It now observes the same laws and enjoys the same relations with the Apostolic See.
From the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Benedict XV, though burdened with sorrow and trial, has given his children in America continual proof of his fatherly care. He has guided us with his counsel, encouraged us with his approbation, and rejoiced in our prosperity. Recognizing the importance of America for the world's restoration, he sees from his exalted position the broader range of opportunity which now is given the Church in our country. By word, and yet more by example, he shows how effectually the Catholic spirit can renew the face of the earth.
Needs Of The Holy See
It is a source of happiness for us that the Catholics of America have appreciated the evidences of paternal affection bestowed on them by the Vicar of Christ. For we can truly say that no people is more loyal to the Holy See, none more diligent in providing for its needs. Our assistance at the present time will give the Holy Father special consolation, owing to the fact that the faithful in so many countries are no longer able to share with him their scanty means. It is to the Pope, on the contrary, that they, in their destitution, are looking for aid. And it is in their behalf that he has more than once appealed. Touching, indeed, are the words with which he implores all Christians throughout the world, and "all who have a sense of humanity," for the love of the Infant Saviour, to help him in rescuing from hunger and death the children of Europe. In the same encyclical letter (<Paterno iam diu>, November 24, 1919), he commends most highly the bishops and the faithful of the United States for their prompt and generous response to his earlier appeal, and he offers their action as an example to all other Catholics. Let us continue to deserve his approval.
It is sufficient for us to know that the Holy Father, with numberless demands upon him, is in need.
The Growth Of The Church In Our Country
The growth of the Church in America was fittingly brought to view at the celebration, in 1889, of the first centenary of the hierarchy. Within a hundred years, the number of dioceses had risen from one to seventy-five. During the last three decades the same rate of progress has been maintained, with the result that at present one sixth of the citizens of the United States are members of the Catholic Church, in a hundred flourishing dioceses.
But what we regard as far more important is the growth and manifestation of an active religious spirit in every diocese and parish. "We are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you toward each other aboundeth" (2 Thes. 1:3). You have not contented yourselves with bearing the Catholic name or professing your faith in words: you have shown your faith by your works; by the performance of your religious duties, by obedience to the laws of the Church, and by co-operation in furthering the kingdom of God. For thus "the whole body, being compacted and fitly joined together, by what every joint supplieth, according to the operation in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in charity" (Eph. 4:16).
With you, dear brethren of the clergy, we rejoice in the fruits of your zeal, your loyalty, and your concern for the welfare of the souls entrusted to your care. You have learned by a happy experience how much can be accomplished through your daily ministration, your immediate contact with the people, your words of advice and instruction, above all, through your priestly example. To you we gladly attribute the provision of the material means which are needed for the worship of God and for the countless forms of charity. You "have loved the beauty of his house and the place where his glory dwelleth" (Ps. 25:8). What is yet more essential, you have builded in the souls of your people, and especially in the little ones of Christ, the temple of the living God. In the work of our Catholic schools, you have both the honor and the responsibility of laying the first foundation. We know that you have laid it with care, and that the whole structure of Catholic education is securely based upon Jesus Christ, the chief cornerstone: "in whom all the building being fitted together, groweth up into an holy temple in the Lord . . . an habitation of God in the Spirit" (Eph. 2:21).
You, likewise, beloved children of the laity, we heartily commend for your willingness, your correspondence with the intent of your pastors, your support so cheerfully given to the cause of religion. When we consider that every church and school, every convent, asylum and hospital represents the voluntary offering brought by you, out of your plenty and more often out of your want, we cannot but marvel and glorify God who has made you "worthy of his vocation and fulfilled in you all the good pleasure of his goodness and the work of faith in power" (2 Thes. 1:11). For as faith is expressed in deeds, so, conversely, is it strengthened by doing: "by works faith is made perfect" (James 2:22). And since the bond of perfection is charity, we look upon your generosity both as an evidence of your good will toward the whole of God's Church and as a token of His heavenly favor. "Wherefore, brethren, labor the more that by good works you may make sure your calling and election" (2 Peter 1:10).
We would have you bear always in mind that your faith is your most precious possession and the foundation of your spiritual life, since "without faith, it is impossible to please God" (Heb. 11:6). Without faith, the outward forms of worship avail us nothing, the sacraments are beyond our reach, the whole plan and effect of redemption is made void. It behooves us, then, to guard with jealous care the treasure of faith by thankfulness to God for so great a gift and by loyalty to "the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Tim. 3:15). The fact that unbelief is so common, that firm and definite teaching of Christian truth is so often replaced by vague uncertain statements, and that even these are left to individual preference for acceptance or rejection—the fact, in a word, that by many faith is no longer regarded as of vital consequence in religion, should the more determine us to "watch, stand fast in the faith, do manfully and be strengthened" (1 Cor. 16:13). While we must needs look with sorrow upon the decay of positive belief, let us recognize, with gratitude, the wisdom of Him who, being the "author and finisher of our faith," established in His Church a living authority to "teach all nations, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you" (Matt. 28:20). Let us also consider the splendid courage with which that mission has been accomplished through the centuries, by the witness of martyrs, the constancy of faithful peoples, the zeal of preachers and pastors, the firmness of pontiffs who, amid the storms of error and the assaults of worldly power, stood fast in the faith upon the assurance given them by Christ: "the gates of hell shall not prevail" (Matt. 16:18).
The Catholic who appreciates the blessing of faith and the sacrifices which generous men and women in all ages have made to preserve it, will take heed to himself and beware of the things whereby some "have made shipwreck concerning the faith" (1 Tim. 1:19). For this disaster is usually the end and culmination of other evils, of sinful habits, of neglect of prayer and the sacraments, of cowardice in the face of hostility to one's belief, of weakness in yielding to the wishes of kindred or friends, of social ambition and the hope of advantage in business or public career. More subtle are the dangers arising from an atmosphere in which unbelief is mingled with culture and gentle refinement, or in which the fallacy spreads that faith is hopelessly at variance with scientific truth. To counteract these influences, it is necessary that they who love the truth of God, should "the more and more abound in knowledge and in all understanding" (Phil. 1:9). As they advance in years, they should lay firmer hold upon the teachings of religion and be prepared to explain and defend it. They will thus "Continue in faith, grounded and settled and immovable from the hope of the Gospel" (Col. 1:23), ready always to give "a reason of that hope that is in them" (1 Peter 3:15), and, if needs be, to "contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints" (Jude 3).
To the Church which is taught all truth by the Holy Spirit, Christ entrusted the whole deposit of divine revelation. To the watchful care of the Church we owe the preservation of that Book from which Christians in every age have derived instruction and strength. How needful was the warning of the Apostle that "no prophecy of Scripture is made by private interpretation" (2 Peter 1:20), appears in the history of those movements which began by leaving each individual to take his own meaning from the sacred text and now, after four centuries, have ended in rejecting its divine authority. The Church, on the contrary, with true reverence for the Bible and solicitude for the spiritual welfare of its readers, has guarded both it and them against the dangers of false interpretation. In the same spirit, dear brethren, we exhort you to acquire a loving familiarity with the written word: "for what things soever were written, were written for our learning; that through patience and the comfort of the Scriptures we might have hope" (Rom. 15:4). This intimate knowledge of Holy Writ will bring you close to the person and life of our Saviour and to the labors of His Apostles. It will renew in your hearts the joy with which the first Christians received the tidings of salvation. And it will deepen in you the conviction that the Scriptures are indeed the word of God, "which can instruct you unto salvation by the faith which is in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 3:15)—a conviction which cannot be shaken either by the disputations of the learned who "stumble at the word," or by the errors of the unlearned and unstable who wrest the Scriptures "to their own destruction" (2 Peter 3:16).
The Catholic Spirit
The knowledge of our holy religion will enkindle in you a love of the Church, which Christ so loved that He gave Himself for it, purchasing it with His blood. It is the Church not of one race or of one nation, but of all those who truly believe in His name. The more you dwell upon its teaching, its practice, and its history, the stronger will be your sense of unity with the multitude of believers throughout the world. You will clearly understand that the true interests of each part, of each diocese and parish, are the interests of the Church Universal. "You are the body of Christ and members of member. And if one member suffer anything, all the members suffer with it; or, if one member glory, all the members rejoice with it" (1 Cor. 12:26-27). This is the practical meaning of Catholicity and its saving strength as opposed to the weakness of localism. The really Catholic mind is careful not only for the needs which affect its immediate surroundings, but for those also which press upon the Church in less prosperous sections, or which, in far countries, hinder the spread of religion. Such was the mind of those Christians to whom St. Paul appealed in behalf of their distant brethren: "In this present time, let your abundance supply their want; that their abundance may also supply your want, that there may be an equality" (2 Cor. 8:14).
Your Catholic sense will also enable you to see how tireless the Church has been in providing both for the souls of men and for their temporal needs: how much of what is best in modern civilization, how much that we value in the way of liberty and law, of art and industry, of science, education, and charity, is due to the Catholic spirit. Like its Founder, the Church has gone about the world doing good to all men; and with Him the Church can say: "the works that I do in the name of my Father, they give testimony of me.... though you will not believe me, believe the works" (John 10:25, 38). And this ministry of love the Church will continue. It will adopt all agencies and means that may render its service of better effect; it will quicken them all with the fervor of charity lest they harden to mechanical form; and it will take utmost care that they be employed to draw men nearer to Christ.
The spirit that made Vincent de Paul a saint and a hero of charity lives on in his followers. According to the pattern which he gave, they minister to those who are in any distress, quietly and effectually. Of late they have notably increased their power for good. Through the Conference of Catholic Charities, a "great door and evident" is opened upon a wider range of usefulness. To all who are joined together in this holy undertaking we say with the Apostle: "May the Lord multiply you and make you abound in charity one toward another and toward all men; as we do also toward you" (1 Thes. 3:12).
Be instant, therefore, dear brethren, in helping those who suffer or want; but take heed also to your own spiritual life, that in thought and purpose and motive, as well as in outward deed, you may be acceptable in the sight of God. From the teaching of the Church and from your own experience, you know that without the divine assistance you cannot walk in the footsteps of Christ. And you need not be reminded that the principal means of grace are prayer and the sacraments.
Through prayer we lift up our hearts to God, and He in turn enlightens our minds, kindles our affections, gives power to our wills. For whether we adore His majesty or praise Him for His wonderful works, whether we render Him thanks for His goodness or beseech Him for pardon or beg Him to help and defend us, our prayer is pleasing to Him: it goes up as incense before Him, as the voice of His children to the Father who loves them, who pursues them with mercy and offers them speedy forgiveness. Wherefore, in joy and in sorrow, in adversity and in prosperity, "in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your petitions be made known to God" (Phil. 4:6).
We are certain that amid the trials of the last few years, you have prayed without ceasing—for those who had gone from you to the post of duty and danger, for your country, for the untold millions who fell in the struggle. Many of you surely have found that it is "a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from sins" (2 Mach. 12:46). This doctrine and practice, so fully according with the impulse of human affection, appeals to us now with singular force. For those who mourn, it is a source of comfort; for all, it is the exercise of pure charity. And no petition could be more pleasing to the Father of mercies than that which implores Him to grant to our departed brethren everlasting rest in a place of refreshment, light, and peace. The remembrance of those who are gone before us with the token of faith will raise up our hearts above worldly desires; and whereas we are saddened by the certain prospect of death, yet we shall be comforted with the promise of immortal life, knowing that "if our earthly house of this habitation be dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in heaven" (2 Cor. 5:1).
We heartily commend the beautiful practice of family prayer. "Where there are two or three gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matt. 18:20). If this is true of the faithful in general, it applies with particular meaning to those who are members of the same household. The presence of Jesus will surely be a source of blessing to the home where parents and children unite to offer up prayer in common. The spirit of piety which this custom develops, will sanctify the bonds of family love and ward off the dangers which so often bring sorrow and shame. We appeal in this matter with special earnestness to young fathers and mothers, who have it in their power to mold the hearts of their children and train them betimes in the habit of prayer.
The Sacrifice And The Sacraments
This will also inspire them with love for the public services of the Church and, above all, for the central act of Catholic worship, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. For the truly Catholic heart, there can be no need of insisting on the duty which the Church enjoins of hearing Mass on Sundays and festivals of obligation. We have only to stir up the faith that is in us, and consider that on the altar is offered the same clean oblation whereby the world was redeemed on the Cross; and as today no Christian can stand unmoved on Calvary, or pass with indifference along the road which Jesus trod, so is it inconceivable that any who believe in the word of Christ and His Church, should allow household cares or business pursuits or the love of pleasure and ease to keep them away from Mass. Negligence in respect of this duty may often result from lack of proper instruction; and we therefore desire to impress upon parents, teachers, and pastors the importance and the necessity of explaining to those in their charge, the origin, nature, and value of the Holy Sacrifice, the meaning of the sacred rites with which it is offered, and the order of the liturgy as it advances from season to season. There is so much beauty in the worship of the Church, so much power to fill the mind with great thoughts and lift up the heart to heavenly things, that one who hears Mass with intelligent devotion cannot but feel in his soul an impulse to holier living. Such is the experience of those especially who begin each day by attending at Mass, and we rejoice to know that their number is increasing. They will grow in faith and fervor, and their piety will be for all a source of edification.
It is likewise consoling to see in our time a revival of the spirit which, in primitive ages, led the Christian to receive each day "the Bread that came down from heaven." In the Holy Eucharist, the love of Jesus Christ for men passes all understanding. "He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood abideth in me and I in him" (John 6:57). A worthy communion unites us with our Saviour, and even transforms our spiritual being, so that we may say with the Apostle: "I live, now not I; but Christ liveth in me" (Gal. 2:20). As by His continual abiding within it, the Church is holy and without blemish, so does the presence of Christ in each soul purify it even as He is pure, and give it power to do all things in Him who strengthens it.
The sense of our unworthiness may incline us to draw back from the holy table; but, as St. Paul tells us: "Let a man prove himself and so let him eat of that bread and drink of the chalice" (1 Cor. 11:28). Only sin can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord, and for sin He has provided a remedy in the sacrament of His mercy. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all iniquity" (1 John 1:9). Through these two sacraments, the one given for the healing of our souls, the other for their nourishment, we are established in the life of grace and are "filled unto all the fullness of God" (Eph. 3:19).
Mary The Mother Of Christ
What grace can accomplish in His creatures, God has shown in the person of her whom He chose to be His mother, preserving her from all stain and endowing her with such pureness of heart that she is truly "full of grace" and "blessed among women." The unique privilege of Mary as co-operating in the Incarnation, entitles her to reverence and honor; but in the Catholic mind it is love that prompts veneration for the Mother of Christ. It is indeed beyond comprehension that any who sincerely love Jesus, should be cold or indifferent in regard to His Mother. No honor that we may pay her can ever equal that which God Himself has conferred, and much less can it detract from the honor that is due to Him.
In keeping with her singular dignity is the power of Mary's intercession. If the prayers of holy men avail to obtain the divine assistance, the petitions of Mary in our behalf must be far more efficacious. With good reason, then, does the Church encourage the faithful to cultivate a tender devotion for the Blessed Virgin. But if all generations should call her blessed, and if the peoples of earth should glory in her protection, we in the United States have a particular duty to honor Mary Immaculate as the heavenly Patroness of our country. Let her blessed influence preserve our Catholic homes from all contagion of evil, and keep our children in pureness of heart. Let us also pay her the tribute of public honor in a way that will lead all our people to a fuller appreciation of Mary, the perfect woman and the surpassing model of motherhood. As Pope Benedict has declared, it is eminently fitting that the devotion of American Catholics to the Mother of God should find expression in a temple worthy of our celestial Patroness. May the day soon dawn when we shall rejoice at the completion of so grand an undertaking; for, as the Holy Father says in commending the project of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, "our human society has reached that stage in which it stands in most urgent need of the aid of Mary Immaculate, no less than of the joint endeavors of all mankind" (<Letter to the Hierarchy>, April 10, 1919).
The nursery of Christian life is the Catholic home; its stronghold, the Catholic school. "In the great coming combat between truth and error, between Faith and Agnosticism, an important part of the fray must be borne by the laity.... And if, in the olden days of vassalage and serfdom, the Church honored every individual, no matter how humble his position, and labored to give him the enlightenment that would qualify him for higher responsibilities, much more now, in the era of popular rights and liberties, when every individual is an active and influential factor in the body politic, does she desire that all should be fitted by suitable training for an intelligent and conscientious discharge of the important duties that may devolve upon them."
The timely warning contained in these words from the Pastoral Letter of 1884 shows how clearly our predecessors discerned the need, both present and future, of Christian education. Their forecast has been verified. The combat which they predicted has swept around all the sources of thought, and has centered upon the school. There, especially, the interests of morality and religion are at stake; and there, more than anywhere else, the future of the nation is determined. For that reason, we give most hearty thanks to the Father of Lights who has blessed our Catholic schools and made them to prosper. We invoke His benediction upon the men and women who have consecrated their lives to the service of Christian education. They are wholesome examples of the self-forgetfulness which is necessary in time of peace no less than in crisis and danger. Through their singleness of purpose and their sacrifice, the Church expresses the truth that education is indeed a holy work, not merely a service to the individual and society, but a furtherance of God's design for man's salvation. With them we realize, more fully than ever before, the necessity of adhering to the principles on which our schools are established. If our present situation is beset with new problems, it is also rich in opportunity; and we are confident that our teachers will exert themselves to the utmost in perfecting their work. Their united counsel in the Catholic Educational Association has already produced many excellent results, and it justifies the hope that our schools may be organized into a system that will combine the utilities of free initiative with the power of unified action. With a common purpose so great and so holy to guide them, and with a growing sense of solidarity, our educators will recognize the advantage which concerted effort implies both for the Catholic system as a whole and for each of the allied institutions.
We deem it necessary at this time to emphasize the value for our people of higher education, and the importance of providing and receiving it under Catholic auspices. "Would that even now, as we trust will surely come to pass in the future, the work of education were so ordered and established that Catholic youth might proceed from our Catholic elementary schools to Catholic schools of higher grade and in these attain the object of their desires" (<Third Plenary Council: Acts and Decrees>, 208). This wish and ideal of our predecessors, in a gratifying measure, has been realized through the establishment of Catholic high schools and the development of our Catholic colleges. These have more than doubled in number; they have enlarged their facilities and adjusted their courses to modern requirements. We congratulate their directors and teachers, and with them we see, in the present condition of their institutions, the possibility and the promise of further achievement in accordance with their own aspirations.
In educational progress, the teacher's qualification is the vital element. This is manifestly true of the Catholic school, in which the teacher's personality contributes so much toward the building of character and the preservation of faith along with the pupil's instruction in knowledge. If, therefore, the aim of our system is to have Catholic youth receive its education in its completeness from Catholic sources, it is equally important, and even more urgently necessary, that our teachers should be trained under those influences and by those agencies which place the Catholic religion at the heart of instruction, as the vitalizing principle of all knowledge and, in particular, of educational theory and practice. We note with satisfaction that our teachers are eager for such training, and that measures have been taken to provide it through institutes, summer schools, and collegiate courses under university direction. We are convinced that this movement will invigorate our education and encourage our people, since the work of teachers who are thoroughly prepared is the best recommendation of the school.
We cannot too highly approve the zeal and liberality of those who, with large amount or small, have aided us in building up our schools. For what we value as significant in their action is not alone the material help which it renders, essential as this has become; but rather and chiefly the evidence which it affords of their spiritual sense and perception. It shows that they appreciate both the necessity of Catholic education and the unselfish devotion of our teachers. At a time, especially, when vast fortunes are so freely lavished upon education in other lines, it is edifying to see our people either dedicating their individual wealth to the cause of religious instruction or, as members of Catholic associations, combining their means for the same noble purpose. They, assuredly, have given an object lesson, teaching all by their example, "to do good, to be rich in good works, to give easily, to communicate to others, to lay up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on the true life" (1 Tim. 6:18-19).
The Catholic University
It was the progress of our academies, colleges, and seminaries from colonial days onward, that made the university possible; and it was the demand, created by them, for larger opportunities that made it a necessity. Established, at the instance of the bishops, by Pope Leo XIII, it represents the joint action of the Holy See and the American Hierarchy in behalf of higher education. Like the first universities of Europe, it was designed to be the home of all the sciences and the common base of all our educational forces. This twofold purpose has guided its development. As in the Ages of Faith and Enlightenment, the various religious orders gathered at the centers of learning which the Holy See had established, so in our own day, the orders have grouped their houses of study about the university, in accordance with the express desire of its founders. "We exhort you all," said the Pontiff, "to affiliate your seminaries, colleges and other Catholic institutions of learning with your University on the terms which its statutes suggest" (Apostolic Letter, <Magni Nobis gaudii>, March 7, 1889). As the process of affiliation is extended to our high schools, it benefits them and also provides a better class of students for our colleges. In keeping, then, with the aims of its founders, the university exists for the good and the service of all our schools. Through them and through their teachers, it returns with interest the generous support of our clergy and laity.
"By no means surprising or unexpected," said Pope Pius X, "is the steady and vigorous growth of the Catholic University which, located at Washington, the Capital City of the American Republic, built up by the offerings of the Catholic people and invested by the Apostolic See with full academic authority, is now become the fruitful parent of knowledge in all the sciences both human and divine.... We are fully determined on developing the Catholic University. For we clearly understand how much a Catholic university of high repute and influence can do toward spreading and upholding Catholic doctrine and furthering the cause of civilization. To protect it, therefore, and to quicken its growth is, in our judgment, equivalent to rendering most valuable service to religion and to country alike" (<Letter to the Cardinal Chancellor>, January 5, 1912).
To the same intent, Pope Benedict XV writes: "We have followed with joy its marvellous progress so closely related to the highest hope of your Churches . . . well knowing that you have all hitherto contributed in no small measure to the development of this seat of higher studies, both ecclesiastical and secular. Nor have we any doubt but that henceforth you will continue even more actively to support an institution of such great usefulness and promise as is the University" (<Letter to the Hierarchy>, April 10, 1919).
It is our earnest desire that the university should attain fully the scope of its founders, and thereby become an educational center worthy of the Church in America, worthy also of the zeal which our clergy and laity have shown in behalf of education. Its progress and prosperity will make it, as the Holy Father trusts, "the attractive center about which all will gather who love the teachings of our Catholic Faith."
Considering the great good accomplished by our Catholic societies, the Fathers of the Third Plenary Council expressed the desire "to see their number multiplied and their organization perfected." That desire has been fulfilled. The rapid development of our country provides ample occasion, even under normal conditions, for those activities which attain success through organization. Continually, new problems appear and opportunities arise to spread the Faith, to foster piety, to counteract tendencies which bode evil, either openly or under attractive disguise. In response to these demands, our Catholic associations have increased their usefulness by selecting special lines of activity, and by following these out wherever the cause of religion was in need or in peril. Through the hearty co-operation of clergy and laity, these agencies have wrought "good to all men, especially to those who are of the household of the faith" (Gal. 6:10). They have enlisted our Catholic youth in the interests of faith and charity, provided in numberless ways for the helpless and poor, shielded the weak against temptation, spread sound ideals of social and industrial reform and furthered the public welfare by their patriotic spirit and action. We rejoice in the fruits of their fellowship, and we desire of them that they strive together for the highest and best, "considering one another to provoke unto charity and to good works" (Heb. 10:24).
The tendency on the part of our societies to coalesce in larger organizations is encouraging. It arises from their consciousness of the Catholic purpose for which each and all are striving; and it holds out the promise of better results, both for the attainment of their several objects and for the promotion of their common cause, the welfare of the Church. The aim which inspired the Federation of our Catholic Societies, and which more recently has led to the Federation of Catholic Alumnae, is worthy of the highest commendation. It manifests a truly Catholic spirit, and it suggests wider possibilities for good which a more thorough organization will enable us to realize.
We regard as specially useful the work of associations like the Church Extension Society and the Missionary Unions, in securing the blessings of religion and the means of worship for those who suffer from poverty or isolation. The sections of our country in which Catholics are few offer, no less than the populous centers, a field for zealous activity; and we heartily encourage all projects for assisting those who, in spite of adverse circumstances, have preserved the faith, for reclaiming many others who have lost it, and for bringing to our non-Catholic brethren the knowledge of our holy religion.
As we thus survey the progress of the Church in our country and throughout the world, we cannot but think of the greater good which might result if men of worthy disposition were all united in faith. For we gladly recognize the upright will and generosity of many who are not yet "come to the city of the living God" and "to the Church of the first-born" (Heb. 12:22). We know that among them are men of judgment, who with spiritual insight are looking to the Catholic Church for the sure way of salvation; and that not a few, with exceptional talent for historical research, have set forth in their scholarly writings the unbroken succession of the Church of Rome from the Apostles, the integrity of its doctrine, and the steadfast power of its discipline. To all such earnest inquirers we repeat the invitation given them by Pope Leo XIII: "Let our fervent desire toward you, even more than our words, prevail. To you we appeal, our brethren who for over three centuries have differed from us regarding our Christian faith; and to all of you likewise who in later times, for any reason whatsoever, have turned away from us. Let us all 'meet together in the unity of faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God' (Eph. 4:13). Suffer that we invite you to the unity which has always existed in the Catholic Church and which never can fail. Lovingly we stretch forth our hands to you; the Church, our mother and yours, calls upon you to return; the Catholics of the whole world await you with brotherly longing, that you together with us may worship God in holiness, with hearts united in perfect charity by the profession of one Gospel, one faith and one hope" (Apostolic Letter, <Praeclara gratulationis>, June 20, 1894).
We give thanks to our Lord Jesus Christ, for His mercy upon so many who were scattered abroad and in distress even as sheep that have no shepherd. Year by year, "the multitude of men and women who believe in the Lord is more increased" (Acts 5:14). But though conversions are numerous, much remains to be done. "Other sheep I have that are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold and one shepherd" (John 10:16).
Pray fervently, therefore, that light may be given to those who yet are seeking the way, that they may understand the nature of that union and concord so clearly set forth by Christ Himself, when He prayed to the Father, not only for His Apostles, "but for them also who through their word shall believe in me: that they all may be one, as thou, Father, in me and I in thee; that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that thou hast sent me" (John 17:20, 21). Now Christ and the Father are one, not by any outward bond of the least possible agreement but by perfect identity in all things.
Negro And Indian Missions
In our own country there are fields of missionary labor that call in a special manner for assiduous cultivation. There are races less fortunate in a worldly sense and, for that very reason, more fully dependent on Christian zeal. The lot of the Negro and Indian, though latterly much improved, is far from being what the Church would desire. Both have been hampered by adverse conditions, yet both are responsive to religious ministration. In the eyes of the Church there is no distinction of race or of nation; there are human souls, and these have all alike been purchased at the same great price, the blood of Jesus Christ.
This is the truth that inspires our Catholic missionaries and enables them to make such constant efforts in behalf of those needy races. We commend their work to the faithful in every part of our country. In the name of justice and charity, we deprecate most earnestly all attempts at stirring up racial hatred; for this, while it hinders the progress of all our people, and especially of the Negro, in the sphere of temporal welfare, places serious obstacles to the advance of religion among them. We concur in the belief that education is the practical means of bettering their condition; and we emphasize the need of combining moral and religious training with the instruction that is given them in other branches of knowledge. Let them learn from the example and word of their teachers the lesson of Christian virtue: it will help them more effectually than any skill in the arts of industry, to solve their problems and to take their part in furthering the general good.
"The mission which our Lord Jesus Christ, on the eve of His return to the Father, entrusted to His disciples, bidding them 'go into the whole world and preach the Gospel to every creature' (Mark 16:15)—that office most high and most holy—was certainly not to end with the life of the Apostles: it was to be continued by their successors even to the consummation of the world, as long, namely, as there—should live upon earth men to be freed by the truth" (Apostolic Letter, <Maximum Illud>, November 30, 1919).
These words of the Holy Father, addressed, with his characteristic love of souls, to all the bishops of the Church, have for us in America a peculiar force and significance. The care of our Catholic population, which is constantly increased by the influx of immigrants from other countries, hitherto has fully occupied the energies of our clergy and of our missionary organizations. Until quite recently, the Church in the United States was regarded as a missionary field. As such it has drawn upon Europe for recruits to the priesthood and the religious orders, and for financial assistance, which it owes so largely to the Society for the Propagation of the Faith.
The time now has come to show our grateful appreciation: "freely have you received, freely give" (Matt. 10:8). Wherever we turn in this whole land, the memory of the pioneers of our Faith confronts us. Let it not appeal in vain. Let it not be said, to our reproach, that American commerce has outstripped American Catholic zeal, or that others have entered in to reap where Catholic hands had planted, perchance where Catholic blood had watered the soil.
"Lift up your eyes, and see the countries, for they are white already to harvest" (John 4:35). Consider the nations that lie to the south of our own, and in them the manifold needs of religion. Look to the farther east where of old a Francis Xavier spread the light of the Gospel. Think of the peoples in Asia, so long estranged from the Faith which their forefathers received from the Apostles. In some of these lands, entire populations grow up and pass away without hearing the name of Christ. In others, the seed of God's word has been planted and there is promise of vigorous growth; but there is none to gather the fruit. "The harvest indeed is great, but the laborers are few" (Matt. 9:37).
"Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest that he send forth laborers into his harvest" (<ibid.>, 38). This, as the Holy Father reminds us, is our first obligation in regard to the missions. However eager the missionaries, they will labor in vain, unless God give the increase. This is also the appropriate object of the Apostleship of Prayer, whose members, to our great joy, are steadily becoming more numerous. Let all the faithful associate themselves with it and thus contribute, by their prayers at least, to the success of the missions.
In the next place, measures must be taken to increase the supply of laborers. They were few before the war; and now they are fewer. Unite with us, therefore, in praying that the special grace and vocation, which this holy enterprise demands, may be granted more abundantly We gladly encourage young men who feel in their souls the prompting and desire for the missionary career. And we bless with cordial approval the efforts of those who, in our colleges and seminaries, develop this apostolic spirit and train up workers for the distant parts of the vineyard.
We appeal, finally, to the generosity of the faithful in behalf of the devoted men who already are bearing the heat of the day and the burden. They have given all. Let us help them at least to overcome the difficulties which the war has occasioned, and to develop the work which they are doing, with inadequate means, in their schools, orphanages, and other institutions. So shall we have some part in their labors, and likewise in their reward. For "he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life everlasting; that both he that soweth and he that reapeth, may rejoice together" (John 4:36).
As the departments of Catholic activity multiply, and as each expands to meet an urgent need, the problem of securing competent leaders and workers becomes day by day more serious. The success of a religious enterprise depends to some extent upon the natural ability and character of those who have it in charge. But if it be truly the work of God, it must be carried on by those whom He selects. To His Apostles the Master said: "You have not chosen me: but I have chosen you, and have appointed you, that you should go and should bring forth fruit; and your fruit should remain" (John 15:16). Of the priesthood St. Paul declares: "Neither cloth any man take the honor to himself, but he that is called of God" (Heb. 5:4). The same applies, in due proportion, to all who would enter the Master's service in any form of the religious state. And since our educational, charitable, and missionary undertakings are for the most part conducted by the priest, the Brother, and the Sister, the number of vocations must increase to supply the larger demand.
God, assuredly, in His unfailing providence, has marked for the grace of vocation those who are to serve Him as His chosen instruments. It lies with us to recognize these vessels of election and to set them apart, that they may be duly fashioned and tempered for the uses of their calling. To this end, we charge all those who have care of souls to note the signs of vocation, to encourage young men and women who manifest the requisite dispositions, and to guide them with prudent advice. Let parents esteem it a privilege surpassing all worldly advantage, that God should call their sons or daughters to His service. Let teachers also remember that, after the home, the school is the garden in which vocations are fostered. To discern them in time, to hedge them about with careful direction, to strengthen and protect them against worldly allurement, should be our constant aim.
In our concern and desire for the increase of vocations, we are greatly encouraged as we reflect upon the blessings which the Church has enjoyed in this respect. The generosity of so many parents, the sacrifices which they willingly make that their children may follow the calling of God, and the support so freely given to institutions for the training of priests and religious, are edifying and consoling. For such proofs of zeal, we return most hearty thanks to Him who is pleased to accept from His faithful servants the offerings of the gifts which He bestows.
The training of those who are called to the priesthood is at once a privilege and a grave responsibility. This holiest of all educational duties we entrust to the directors and teachers of our seminaries. Because they perform it faithfully, we look with confidence to the future, in the assurance that our clergy will be fully prepared for the tasks which await them. "That the man of God may be perfect, furnished to every good work" (2 Tim. 3:17) is the end for which the seminary exists. The model which it holds up is no other than Jesus Christ. Its course of instructions begin with St. Paul's exhortation: "holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly vocation, consider the apostle and high priest of our confession, Jesus" (Heb. 3:1); and it ends with the promise: "thou shalt be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished up in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which thou hast attained unto" (1 Tim. 4:6).
The Catholic Press
The functions of the Catholic Press are of special value to the Church in our country. To widen the interest of our people by acquainting them with the progress of religion throughout the world, to correct false or misleading statements regarding our belief and practice, and, as occasion offers, to present our doctrine in popular form—these are among the excellent aims of Catholic journalism. As a means of forming sound public opinion, it is indispensable. The vital issues affecting the nation's welfare usually turn upon moral principles. Sooner or later, discussion brings forward the question of right and wrong. The treatment of such subjects from the Catholic point of view is helpful to all our people. It enables them to look at current events and problems in the light of the experience which the Church has gathered through centuries, and it points the surest way to a solution that will advance our common interests.
The unselfish zeal displayed by Catholic journalists entitles them to a more active support than hitherto has been given. By its very nature the scope of their work is specialized; and, within the limitations thus imposed, they are doing what no other agency could accomplish or attempt, in behalf of our homes, societies, and schools.
In order to obtain the larger results and the wider appreciation which their efforts must deserve and which we most earnestly desire, steps must be taken to co-ordinate the various lines of publicity and secure for each a higher degree of usefulness. Each will then offer to those who are properly trained, a better opportunity for service in this important field.
At all times helpful to the cause of religion, a distinctively Catholic literature is the more urgently needed now that, owing to the development in our country and the progress of education, there has grown up a taste for reading and, among many of our people, a desire for accurate knowledge of the Church. In recent times, and notably during the past three decades, there has been a gratifying increase in the number of Catholic authors, and their activity has been prolific of good results. By the simple process of telling the truth about our faith and its practices, they have removed, to a considerable extent, those prejudices and erroneous views which so often hinder even fair-minded thinkers from understanding our position. As so much had been accomplished by individual writers in this and other countries it was wisely thought that even greater benefit would accrue from their co-operation. The realization of this idea in the <Catholic Encyclopedia> has given us a monumental work, and opened to all inquirers a storehouse of information regarding the Church, its history, constitution, and doctrine. It has furthermore shown the value and power for good of united effort in behalf of a high common purpose; and we therefore trust that while serving as a means of instruction to our clergy and people, it will give inspiration to other endeavors with similar aim and effect, in every field of Catholic action.
The Obvious Outcome
The progress of the Church, which we have reviewed, has been no easy achievement. There have been trials and difficulties; and, as Christ predicted, there have been frequent attempts to hamper the Church just where and when it was doing the greatest good for our common humanity.
In the net result, however, the Church has been strengthened, to its own profit and to that of the world at large. In an age that is given to material pursuits, it upholds the ideals of the spiritual life. To minds that see only intellectual values, it teaches the lesson of moral obligation. Amid widespread social confusion, it presents in concrete form the principle of authority as the basis of social order. And it appears as the visible embodiment of faith and hope and charity, at the very time when the need of these is intensified by conditions in the temporal order.
The temporal order, in the last thirty-five years, has undergone radical changes. It has been affected by movements which, though checked for a time or reversed, have steadily gathered momentum. Their direction and goal are no longer matters of surmise or suspicion. Their outcome is plainly before us.
During the first three decades of this period, the advance of civilization was more rapid and more general than in any earlier period of equal length. The sound of progress, echoing beyond its traditional limits, aroused all the nations to a sense of their possibilities, and stirred each with an ambition to win its share in the forward movement of the world. At the same time, the idea of a human weal for whose promotion all should strive and by whose attainment all should profit, seemed to be gaining universal acceptance. If rivalry here and there gave occasion for friction or conflict, it was treated as incidental: the general desire for harmony, apparently, was nearing fulfillment.
Toward this end the highest tendencies in the secular order were steadily converging. A wider diffusion of knowledge provided the basis for a mutual understanding of rights and obligations. Science, while attaining more completely to the mastery of nature, placed itself more effectually at the service of man. Through its practical applications, it hastened material progress, facilitated the intercourse of nation with nation, and thus lowered the natural barriers of distance and time. But it also made possible a fuller exchange of ideas, and thereby revealed to the various peoples of the earth that, in respect of need, aspiration, and purpose, they had more in common than generally was supposed. It helped them to see that however they differed in race, tradition, and language, in national temper and political organization, they were humanly one in the demand for freedom with equal right and opportunity.
As this consciousness developed in mankind at large, the example of our own country grew in meaning and influence. For a century and more, it had taught the world that men could live and prosper under free institutions. During the period in question, it has continued to receive the multitudes who came not, as in the early days, from a few countries only, but from every foreign land, to enjoy the blessings of liberty and to better their worldly condition. In making them its own, America has shown a power of assimilation that is without precedent in the temporal order. With their aid it has undertaken and achieved industrial tasks on a scale unknown to former generations. The wealth thus produced has been used in generous measure to build up institutions of public utility. Education, in particular, has flourished; its importance has been more fully recognized, its problems more widely discussed, the means of giving and obtaining it more freely supplied. While its aim has been to raise the intellectual level and thereby enhance the worth of the individual, experience has shown the advantage of organized effort for the accomplishment of any purpose in which the people as a whole, or any considerable portion, has an interest. Hence the remarkable development of associations which, though invested with no authority, have become powerful enough to shape public opinion and even to affect the making of laws. If, in some instances, the power of association has been directed toward ends that were at variance with the general good and by methods which created disturbance, there has been, on the whole, a willingness to respect authority and to abide by its decisions.
Thus, as it appears, the whole trend of human affairs was securing the world in peace. The idea of war was farthest from the minds of the peoples. The possibility of war had ceased to be a subject for serious discussion. To adjust their disputes, the nations had set up a tribunal. The volume of seeming prosperity swelled.
Catholic War Activities
Once it had been decided that our country should enter the war, no words of exhortation were needed to arouse the Catholic spirit. This had been shown in every national crisis. It had stirred to eloquent expression the Fathers of the Third Plenary Council.
"We consider the establishment of our country's independence, the shaping of its liberties and laws, as a work of special Providence, its framers 'building better than they knew,' the Almighty's hand guiding them.... We believe that our country's heroes were the instruments of the God of nations in establishing this home of freedom; to both the Almighty and to His instruments in the work we look with grateful reverence; and to maintain the inheritance of freedom which they have left us, should it ever—which God forbid—be imperiled, our Catholic citizens will be found to stand forward as one man, ready to pledge anew 'their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor."'
The prediction has been fulfilled. The traditional patriotism of our Catholic people has been amply demonstrated in the day of their country's trial. And we look with pride upon the record which proves, as no mere protestation could prove, the devotion of American Catholics to the cause of American freedom.
To safeguard the moral and physical welfare of our Catholic soldiers and sailors, organized action was needed. The excellent work already accomplished by the Knights of Columbus, pointed the way to further undertaking. The unselfish patriotism with which our various societies combined their forces in the Catholic Young Men's Association, the enthusiasm manifested by the organizations of Catholic women, and the eagerness of our clergy to support the cause of the nation, made it imperative to unify the energies of the whole Catholic body and direct them toward the American purpose. With this end in view, the National Catholic War Council was formed by the hierarchy. Through the Committee on Special War Activities and the Knights of Columbus Committee on War Activities, the efforts of our people in various lines were co-ordinated and rendered more effective, both in providing for the spiritual needs of all Catholics under arms and in winning our country's success. This unified action was worthy of the Catholic name. It was in keeping with the pledge which the hierarchy had given our Government: "Our people, now as ever, will rise as one man to serve the nation. Our priests and consecrated women will once again, as in every former trial of our country, win by their bravery, their heroism and their service new admiration and approval" (<Letter to the President>, April 18, 1917).
To our chaplains especially we give the credit that is their due for the faithful performance of their obligations. In the midst of danger and difficulty, under the new and trying circumstances which war inevitably brings, they acted as priests.
The account of our men in the service adds a new page to the record of Catholic loyalty. It is what we expected and what they took for granted. But it has a significance that will be fairly appreciated when normal conditions return. To many assertions it answers with one plain fact.
The National Catholic Welfare Council
In view of the results obtained through the merging of our activities for the time and purpose of war, we determined to maintain, for the ends of peace, the spirit of union and the co-ordination of our forces. We have accordingly grouped together, under the National Catholic Welfare Council, the various agencies by which the cause of religion is furthered. Each of these, continuing its own special work in its chosen field, will now derive additional support through general co-operation. And all will be brought into closer contact with the hierarchy, which bears the burden alike of authority and of responsibility for the interests of the Catholic Church.
Under the direction of the Council and, immediately, of the Administrative Committee, several departments have been established, each with a specific function, as follows:
The Department of Education, to study the problems and conditions which affect the work and development of our Catholic schools;
The Department of Social Welfare, to co-ordinate those activities which aim at improving social conditions in accordance with the spirit of the Church;
The Department of Press and Literature, to systematize the work of publication;
The Department of Societies and Lay Activities, to secure a more thoroughly unified action among our Catholic organizations.
For the development and guidance of missionary activity, provision has been made through The American Board of Catholic Missions, which will have in charge both the Home and the Foreign Missions.
The organization of these departments is now in progress. To complete it, time and earnest co-operation will be required. The task assigned to each is so laborious and yet so promising of results, that we may surely expect, with the divine assistance and the loyal support of our clergy and people, to promote more effectually the glory of God, the interests of His Church, and the welfare of our country.
Lessons Of The War
In order that our undertakings may be wisely selected and prudently carried on, we should consider seriously the lessons of the War, the nature of our present situation, and the principles which must guide the adjustment of all our relations.
Our estimate of the war begins, naturally, with the obvious facts: with the number of peoples involved, the vastness and effectiveness of their armaments, the outlay in treasure and toil, the destruction of life and the consequent desolation which still lies heavy on the nations of Europe. Besides these visible aspects, we know somewhat of the spiritual suffering—of the sorrow and hopelessness which have stricken the souls of men. And deeper than these, beyond our power of estimation, is the moral evil, the wrong whose magnitude only the Searcher of hearts can determine.
For we may not forget that in all this strife of the peoples, in the loosening of passion and the seething of hate, sin abounded. Not the rights of man alone but the law of God was openly disregarded. And if we come before Him now in thankfulness, we must come with contrite hearts, in all humility beseeching Him that He continue His mercies toward us, and enable us so to order our human relations that we may both atone for our past transgressions and strengthen the bond of peace with a deeper charity for our fellow men and purer devotion to His service.
We owe it to His goodness that our country has been spared the suffering and desolation which war has spread so widely. Our homes, our natural resources, our means of intercourse and the institutions which uphold the life of our nation have all been preserved. We are free, without let or hindrance, to go forward in the paths of industry, of culture, of social improvement and moral reform. The sense of opportunity has quickened us, and we turn with eagerness to a future that offers us boundless advantage.
Let us not turn hastily. Our recent experience has taught us innumerable lessons, too full and profound to be mastered at once. Their ultimate meaning a later generation will ponder and comprehend. But even now we can recognize the import of this conspicuous fact: a great nation, conscious of power yet wholly given to peace and unskilled in the making of war, gathered its might and put forth its strength in behalf of freedom and right as the inalienable endowment of all mankind. When its aims were accomplished, it laid down its arms, without gain or acquisition, save in the clearer understanding of its own ideals and the fuller appreciation of the blessings which freedom alone can bestow.
The achievement was costly. It meant interruption of peaceful pursuits, hardship at home, and danger abroad. Not one class or state or section, but the people as a whole had to take up the burden. This spirit of union and sacrifice for the commonweal found its highest expression in the men and women who went to service in distant lands. To them, and especially those who died that America might live, we are forever indebted. Their triumph over self is the real victory, their loyalty the real honor of our nation, their fidelity to duty the bulwark of our freedom.
To such men and their memory, eulogy is at best a poor tribute. We shall not render them their due nor show ourselves worthy to name them as our own, unless we inherit the spirit and make it the soul of our national life. The very monuments we raise in their honor will become a reproach to us, if we fail in those things of which they have left us such splendid example.
The Present Situation
We entered the war with the highest of objects, proclaiming at every step that we battled for the right and pointing to our country as a model for the world's imitation. We accepted therewith the responsibility of leadership in accomplishing the task that lies before mankind. The world awaits our fulfillment. Pope Benedict himself has declared that our people, "retaining a most firm hold on the principles of reasonable liberty and of Christian civilization, are destined to have the chief role in the restoration of peace and order on the basis of those same principles, when the violence of these tempestuous days shall have passed" (<Letter to the Hierarchy>, April 10, 1919).
This beyond doubt is a glorious destiny, far more in keeping with the aims of our people than the triumph of armies or the conquest of wider domain. Nor is it an impossible destiny, provided we exemplify in our own national life "the principles of reasonable liberty and of Christian civilization."
At present, however, we are confronted with problems at home that give us the gravest concern. Intent as we were on restoring the order of Europe, we did not sufficiently heed the symptoms of unrest in our country, nor did we reckon with movements which, in their final result, would undo both our recent achievement and all that America has so far accomplished.
These are due, partly, to the disturbance which war invariably causes, by turning men away from their usual occupations, by reducing production, increasing taxation and adding to the number of those who are dependent and helpless. The majority of the people do not realize to what an extent the necessities of war diverted industrial and other activities from their ordinary course. There naturally results irritation and impatience at the slowness with which reconstruction proceeds.
Deeper and more ominous is the ferment in the souls of men, that issues in agitation not simply against defects in the operation of the existing order, but also against that order itself, its framework and very foundation. In such a temper men see only the facts—the unequal distribution of wealth, power, and worldly advantage—and against the facts they rebel. But they do not discern the real causes that produce those effects, and much less the adequate means by which both causes and effects can be removed. Hence, in the attempt at remedy, methods are employed which result in failure, and beget a more hopeless confusion.
To men of clearer vision and calmer judgment, there comes the realization that the things on which they relied for the world's security have broken under the strain. The advance of civilization, the diffusion of knowledge, the unlimited freedom of thought, the growing relaxation of moral restraint—all these, it was believed, had given such ample scope to individual aims and desires that conflict, if it arose at all, could be readily and thoroughly adjusted.
The assumption is not borne out by the facts. On the contrary, as in the war, destruction was swifter and wider because of the progress of science, so our present situation is complicated by increased ability to plan, to organize, and to execute in any direction that may lead to any success. Education provided at the public expense can now be used as the strongest means of attacking the public weal; and to this end it will surely be used unless thinking and doing be guided by upright motives. The consciousness of power, quickened by our achievement in war but no longer checked by discipline nor directed to one common purpose, has aroused parties, organizations, and even individuals to a boldness of undertaking hitherto unknown. The result is an effort to press onward in the pursuit of self-appointed ends, with little regard for principles and still less for the altruism which we professed on entering the war.
On the other hand, it is true, intelligence, initiative, and energy have been exerted to accomplish higher and worthier aims. It was thought that the enthusiasm and eagerness for service which war had called forth, might easily be directed toward useful and needed reforms. With this persuasion for their impulse and guidance, various movements have been inaugurated either to uproot some evil or to further some promising cause.
Now it is obvious that neither the pursuit of lofty ideals nor earnest devotion to the general welfare, can do away with the fact that we are facing grave peril. Much less can we hide that fact from view by increasing the means and following the inclination to pleasure. No sadder contrast indeed can be found than that which appears between careless enjoyment in countless forms, and the grim struggle that is shaking the foundations of social existence. Craving for excitement and its reckless gratification may blind us to danger; but the danger is nonetheless real.
The practical conclusion which the present situation forces upon us is this: to bring order out of confusion, we must first secure a sound basis and then build up consistently. Mere expedients no longer suffice. To cover up evil with a varnish of respectability or to rear a grand structure on the quicksand of error, is downright folly. In spite of great earnestness on the part of their leaders, reforms without number have failed, because they moved along the surface of life, smoothing indeed its outward defects, yet leaving the source of corruption within.
Christ And The Church
One true reform the world has known. It was effected, not by force, agitation, or theory, but by a Life in which the perfect ideal was visibly realized, becoming the "light of men." That light has not grown dim with the passing of time. Men have turned their eyes away from it; even His followers have strayed from its pathway; but the truth and the life of Jesus Christ are real and clear today—for all who are willing to see. There is no other name under heaven whereby the world can be saved.
Through the Gospel of Jesus and His living example, mankind learned the meaning, and received the blessing, of liberty. In His person was shown the excellence and true dignity of human nature, wherein human rights have their center. In His dealings with men, justice and mercy, sympathy and courage, pity for weakness and rebuke for hollow pretense were perfectly blended. Having fulfilled the law, He gave to His followers a new commandment. Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. And since He came that they might have life and have it more abundantly, He gave it to them through His death.
The Church which Christ established has continued His work, upholding the dignity of man, defending the rights of the people, relieving distress, consecrating sacrifice, and binding all classes together in the love of their Saviour. The combination of authority and reasonable freedom which is the principal element in the organization of the Church, is also indispensable in our social relations. Without it, there can be neither order nor law nor genuine freedom.
But the Church itself would have been powerless save for the abiding presence of Christ and His Spirit. "Without me, you can do nothing"; but again, "Behold I am with you all days."—Both these sayings are as true today as when they were spoken by the Master.
There may be philosophies and ideals and schemes of reform; the wise may deliberate and the powerful exert their might; but when the souls of men have to be reached and transformed to a better sense, that justice may reign and charity abound, then more than ever is it true that without Christ our efforts are vain.
The Sources Of Evil
Instructed by His example, the Church deals with men as they really are, recognizing both the capacities for good—and the inclinations to evil that are in every human being. Exaggeration in either direction is an error. That the world has progressed in many respects is obviously true; but it is equally plain that the nature of man is what it was twenty centuries ago. Those who overlooked this fact were amazed at the outbreak of war among nations that were foremost in progress. But now it is evident that beneath the surface of civilization lay smoldering the passions and jealousies that in all time past had driven the nations to conflict. Pope Benedict expressed this truth when he pointed to the causes of war; lack of mutual good will, contempt for authority, conflict of class with class, and absorption in the pursuit of the perishable goods of this world, with utter disregard of things that are nobler and worthier of human endeavor (encyclical, <Ad Beatissimi>, November 1, 1914).
These are the seed and prolific sources of evil. As tendencies perhaps, they cannot be wholly extirpated; but to justify them as principles of action, to train them into systems of philosophy and let them, through education, become the thought of the people, would be fatal to all our true interests. As long as the teaching of false theory continues, we cannot expect that men will act in accordance with truth. It is a mistake to suppose that philosophy has a meaning for only the chosen few who enjoy the advantage of higher education and leisurely thinking; and it is worse than a mistake to punish men for acting out pernicious ideas, while the development and diffusion of those same ideas is rewarded as advancement of knowledge. We surely need no further proof of the dangers of materialism, of atheism, and of other doctrines that banish God from His world, degrade man to the level of the brute, and reduce the moral order to a struggle for existence. Argument against such doctrines, or theoretical testing of their value, is superfluous, now that we see the result of their practical application. And while, with every legitimate means we strive, as we must, to uphold the rights of the public by the maintenance of order, let us be fully convinced that we are dealing with the final and logical outcome of false doctrine. Here again the source lies farther back. If we find that the fruit is evil, we should know what to do with the root.
The Fundamental Error
It cannot be denied that the growth of knowledge and its application to practical needs have made the earth a better habitation for man; many appear to consider it—as his first and only abode. As the means of enjoyment are multiplied, there is an increasing tendency to become absorbed in worldly pursuits and to neglect those which belong to our eternal welfare. The trend of speculative thought is in the same direction; for while the development of science continually affords us evidence of law and order and purpose in the world about us, many refuse to acknowledge in creation the work of an intelligent author. They profess to see in the universe only the manifestation of a Power, whose effects are absolutely determined through the operation of mechanical forces; and they extend this conception to life and all its relations. But once this view is accepted, it is easy to draw the conclusion that the really decisive factor in human affairs is force. Whether by cunning or by violence, the stronger is sure to prevail. It is a law unto itself and it is accountable to none other, since the idea of a Supreme Lawgiver has vanished.
This indeed is the root evil whence spring the immediate causes of our present condition. God, from whom all things are and on whom all things depend, the Creator and Ruler of men, the source and sanction of righteousness, the only Judge who with perfect justice
can weigh the deeds and read the hearts of men, has, practically at least, disappeared from the whole conception of life so far as this is dominated by a certain type of modern thought. Wherever this sort of thinking is taken as truth, there is set up a scheme of life, individual, social, and political, which seeks, not in the eternal but in the human and transitory, its ultimate foundation. The law of morals is regarded as a mere convention arranged by men to secure and enjoy the goods of this present time; and conscience itself as simply a higher form of the instinct whereby the animal is guided. And yet withal it lies in the very nature of man that something must be supreme, something must take the place of the divine when this has been excluded; and this substitute for God, according to a predominant philosophy, is the State. Possessed of unlimited power to establish rights and impose obligations, the State becomes the sovereign ruler in human affairs; its will is the last word of justice, its welfare the determinant of moral values, its service the final aim of man's existence and action.
God The Supreme Ruler
When such an estimate of life and its purpose is accepted, it is idle to speak of the supreme value of righteousness, the sacredness of justice, or the sanctity of conscience. Nevertheless, these are things that must be retained, in name and in reality: the only alternative is that supremacy of force against which humanity protests. To make the protest effectual, it is imperative that we recognize in God the source of justice and right; in His law, the sovereign rule of life; in the destiny which He has appointed for us, the ultimate standard by which all values are fixed and determined. Reverent acknowledgment of our dependence on Him and our responsibility to Him, acknowledgment not in word alone but in the conduct of our lives, is at once our highest duty and our strongest title to the enjoyment of our rights. This acknowledgment we express in part by our service of prayer and worship. But prayer and worship will not avail, unless we also render the broader service of good will which, in conformity with His will, follows the path of duty in every sphere of life.
As we are not the authors of our own being, so we are not, in an absolute sense, masters of ourselves and of our powers. We may not determine for ourselves the ultimate aim of our existence or the means of its attainment. God has established, by the very constitution of our nature, the end for which He created us, giving us life as a sacred trust to be administered in accordance with His design. Thereby He has also established the norm of our individual worth, and the basis of our real independence. Obedience to His law, making our wills identical with His, invests us with a personal dignity which neither self-assertion nor the approval of others can ever bestow. The man who bows in obedience to the law of his Maker rises above himself and above the world to an independence that has no bounds save the Infinite. To do as God commands, whatever the world may think or say, is to be free, not by human allowance but under the approval of Him whose service is perfect freedom.
In the light of this central truth, we can understand and appreciate the principle on which our American liberties are founded—"that all men are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights." These are conferred by God with equal bounty upon every human being, and, therefore, in respect of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, the same rights belong to all men and for the same reason. Not by mutual concession or covenant, not by warrant or grant from the State, are these rights established; they are the gift and bestowal of God. In consequence of this endowment, and therefore in obedience to the Creator's will, each of us is bound to respect the rights of his fellow men. This is the essential meaning of justice, the great law antecedent to all human enactment and contrivance, the only foundation on which may rest securely the fabric of society and the structure of our political, legal, and economic systems.
The obligation to give every man his due is binding at all times and under all conditions. It permits no man to say, I will be just only when justice falls in with my aims, or furthers my interests; and I will refrain from injustice when this would expose me to failure, to loss of reputation, or to penalty enacted by law. The obligation is binding in conscience, that representative of God which He has established in our innermost selves, which requires our obedience not merely out of self-respect or as a matter of our preference, but as speaking in His name and expressing His mandate.
Let this spirit of justice and conscientious observance prevail in the dealings of man with man: it will soon determine what practices are honest, what methods are justified by the necessities of competition, by economic law, by opportunity of profit, by the silence of the civil law or the laxity of its administration. It will weigh in the same even balance the deeds of every man, whatever his station or power; and it will appraise at their true moral value all schemes and transactions, whether large or small, whether conducted by individuals or groups or complex organizations.
The same spirit of justice that condemns dishonesty in private dealings, must condemn even more emphatically any and every attempt on the part of individuals to further their interests at the expense of the public welfare. The upright citizen refuses as a matter of conscience to defraud his neighbor, to violate his pledges, or to take unfair advantage. Likewise, in his business relations with the. community as a whole, whatever the character of his service, he is careful to observe the prescriptions of justice. He feels that if it is wrong to overreach or circumvent his brother in any matter, the wrong is not less but far more grievous when inflicted on the commonwealth.
Origin Of Authority
The true remedy for many of the disorders with which we are troubled is to be found in a clearer understanding of civil authority. Rulers and people alike must be guided by the truth that the State is not merely an invention of human forethought, that its power is not created by human agreement or even by nature's device. Destined as we are by our Maker to live together in social intercourse and mutual co-operation for the fulfillment of our duties, the proper development of our faculties, and the adequate satisfaction of our wants, our association can be orderly and prosperous only when the wills of the many are directed by that moral power which we call authority. This is the unifying and co-ordinating principle of the social structure. It has its origin in God alone. In whom it shall be vested and by whom exercised is determined in various ways, sometimes by the outcome of circumstances and providential events, sometimes by the express will of the people. But the right which it possesses to legislate, to execute and administer is derived from God Himself. "There is no power but from God; and those that are, are ordained of God" (Rom. 13:1). Consequently, "he that resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God" (<ibid.>, 2).
Powers Of The State
The State, then, has a sacred claim upon our respect and loyalty. It may justly impose obligations and demand sacrifices for the sake of the common welfare which it is established to promote. It is the means to an end, not an end in itself; and because it receives its power from God, it cannot rightfully exert that power through any act or measure that would be at variance with the divine law, or with the divine economy for man's salvation. As long as the State remains within its proper limits and really furthers the common good, it has a right to our obedience. And this obedience we are bound to render, not merely on grounds of expediency but as a conscientious duty. "Be subject of necessity, not only for wrath but also for conscience sake" (<ibid.>, 5).
The end for which the State exists and for which authority is given it, determines the limit of its powers. It must respect and protect the divinely established rights of the individual and of the family. It must safeguard the liberty of all, so that none shall encroach upon the rights of others. But it may not rightfully hinder the citizen in the discharge of his conscientious obligation, and much less in the performance of duties which he owes to God. To all commands that would prevent him from worshiping the Creator in spirit and truth, the citizen will uphold his right by saying with the Apostles: "We ought to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29).
Where the State protects all in the reasonable exercise of their rights, there liberty exists. "The nature of human liberty," says Leo XIII, "however it be considered, whether in the individual or in society, whether in those who are governed or in those who govern, supposes the necessity of obedience to a supreme and eternal law, which is no other than the authority of God, commanding good and forbidding evil; and so far from destroying or even diminishing their liberty, the just authority of God over men protects it and makes it perfect" (encyclical, <Libertas praestantissimum>, June 20, 1888).
The State itself should be the first to appreciate the importance of religion for the preservation of the commonweal. It can ill afford at any time, and least of all in the present condition of the world, to reject the assistance which Christianity offers for the maintenance of peace and order. "Let princes and rulers of the people," says Pope Benedict XV, "bear this in mind and bethink themselves whether it be wise and salutary, either for public authority or for the nations themselves, to set aside the holy religion of Jesus Christ, in which that very authority may find such powerful support and defense. Let them seriously consider whether it be the part of political wisdom to exclude from the ordinance of the State and from public instruction, the teaching of the Gospel and of the Church. Only too well does experience show that when religion is banished, human authority totters to its fall. That which happened to the first of our race when he failed in his duty to God, usually happens to nations as well. Scarcely had the will in him rebelled against God when the passions arose in rebellion against the will; and likewise, when the rulers of the people disdain the authority of God, the people in turn despise the authority of men. There remains, it is true, the usual expedient of suppressing rebellion by force; but to what effect? Force subdues the bodies of men, not their souls" (encyclical, <Ad Beatissimi>, November 1, 1914).
The spiritual endowment of man, his rights, and his liberties have their source in the goodness of God. Infinitely just as Ruler of the world, He is infinitely good as Father of mankind. He uses His supreme authority to lay upon men the commandment of love. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like to this: thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (Matt. 22:37-39).
Let us not persuade ourselves that we have fully complied with the divine law in regard to our relations with our fellow men, when we have carefully discharged all the obligations of justice. For its safeguard and completion, the stern law of justice looks to the gentler but nonetheless obligatory law of charity. Justice presents our fellow man as an exacting creditor, who rightly demands the satisfaction of his rightful claims. Charity calls on us as children of the one universal family whose Father is God, to cherish for one another active brotherly love second only to the love which we owe to Him. "It is not enough," says St. Thomas, "that peace and concord reign among the citizens: love also must prevail. Justice prevents them from injuring one another; it does not require them to help one another. Yet it often happens that some need aid which falls under no obligation of justice. Here charity steps in and summons us to further service in the name of the love we owe to God" (<Contra Gentes>, III, 129). Though different in kind from justice, the precept of charity imposes duties which we may not disregard. To love the neighbor is not simply a matter of option or a counsel which they may follow who aim at moral perfection: it is a divine command that is equally binding on all. It extends beyond kindred and friends to include all men, and it obligates us in thought and will no less than in outward action.
As commonly understood, charity is manifested in deeds that tend to the relief of suffering in any of its various forms, or that provide opportunities of advancement for those who have none, or that add somewhat to the scant pleasure of many laborious lives. And these beyond question are deeds that deserve all praise. But it is in the source whence they come, in the good will which prompts them, that the essence of charity consists. We may love others from a sense of our common humanity, from sympathy, from natural pity for pain and distress. Yet this benevolence is securely based and immeasurably ennobled, when it is quickened with the higher motive of love for God, the heavenly Father. Then the pale form of altruism or humanitarianism is replaced by the divine presence of charity.
By its very nature, charity is a social virtue. Wherever a social group is formed—in the home, the community, the civic association—good will is a necessity. It is charity rather than justice that overcomes selfishness, casts out rancor, forbids hatred, clears away misunderstanding, leads to reconciliation. After justice has rendered impartial decision, it is charity that brings men back to fellowship. And if at times it be fitting that mercy should season justice, the quality of mercy itself is but charity touched to compassion.
The Law Of The Gospel
The law of charity is essentially the law of the Gospel, the "new commandment" which Jesus gave His disciples. It is the distinctive badge of the Christian: "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another" (John 13:35). And more than this: the Incarnation itself was evidence of the divine good will toward men: "By this hath the charity of God appeared toward us, because God hath sent his only begotten Son into the world that we may live by him" (1 John 4:9).
It is therefore significant that, as the world moves farther away from Christ and loses the spirit of His teaching, there should be less and less of the charity which He would have His disciples to practice. On the other hand, we, as Christians, must ask ourselves whether we have so fully observed the "new commandment" of love as to leave the world without excuse for its unbelief. There are countless forms of charity which seek no publicity and ask no earthly reward: these the world could hardly be expected to know. But it cannot help seeing such evidences of love as appear in the ordinary conduct of genuine Christians, in their daily intercourse, their speech and habits of thought. That men in exceptional conditions should rise to great heights of self-sacrifice is proof indeed of a natural disposition, which may remain latent until it is stirred into action by sudden disaster or national peril; then it becomes heroic. Charity, however, does not wait for such occasions; it finds its opportunity in season, and out of season, and it makes heroes of men in peace no less than in war. This, then, should be our concern, this constant exercise of good will toward all men, that they may see in us the disciples of Christ and be led to Him through the power of love.
The security of the nation and the efficiency of government for the general weal depend largely upon the standards which are adopted, and the practices which are admitted, in social relations.
This is characteristic of a democracy, where the makers of law are commissioned to do the will of the people. In matters pertaining to morality, legislation will not rise above the level established by the general tone and tenor of society. It is necessary, then, for the preservation of national life, that social morality, in its usage and sanction, be sound and steadfast and pure.
This aim can be accomplished only by reaching the sources in which life has its origin, and from which the individual character receives its initial direction. As the family is the first social group, it is also the center whose influence permeates the entire social body. And since family life takes its rise from the union of husband and wife, the sanctity of marriage and of marital relations is of prime importance for the purity of social relations.
The esteem in which marriage is held furnishes an index of a people's morality. If honor and respect be due an institution in proportion to its sacredness, its significance for human happiness and the measure of responsibility which it implies, marriage must claim the reverence of every mind that is capable of paying tribute to anything good. A lowering of the general estimate is a symptom of moral decline.
That such a lowering has taken place is due, in part, to the disregard of those requirements which even the prospect of marriage imposes. While emphasis is laid, and rightly, upon physical qualifications, not sufficient importance is attached to moral fitness, the real basis of marital happiness.
It is essential, in the first place, that clean living before marriage be equally obligatory on men and women. The toleration of vicious courses in one party while the other is strictly held to the practice of virtue, may rest on convention or custom; but it is ethically false, and it is plainly at variance with the law of God, which enjoins personal purity upon each and all.
Those who contemplate marriage should further make sure that their motives are upright. Where the dominant aim is selfish, where choice is controlled by ambition or greed, and where superficial qualities are preferred to character, genuine love is out of the question: such marriages are bargains rather than unions, and their only result is discord.
The same consequence may be expected from one-sided views of the marital relation. It is a vain idealism that anticipates joy in perfection, but takes no thought of the mutual forbearance which is constantly needed, or of the courage which trial demands, or of the serious obligations which family life implies. Illusion in such matters is the worst kind of ignorance.
On the other hand, it is idealism of the truest and most practical sort that sees in marriage the divinely appointed plan for co-operating with the Creator in perpetuating the race, and that accepts the responsibility of bringing children into the world, who may prove either a blessing or a curse to society at large.
Where such ideals prevail, the fulfillment of marital duties occasions no hardship. Neither is there any consideration for the fraudulent prudence that would improve upon nature by defeating its obvious purpose, and would purify life by defiling its source. The selfishness which leads to race suicide, with or without the pretext of bettering the species, is, in God's sight, "a detestable thing" (Gen. 38:10). It is the crime of individuals for which, eventually, the nation must suffer. The harm which it does cannot be repaired by social service, nor offset by pretended economic or domestic advantage. On the contrary, there is joy in the hope of offspring, for "the inheritance of the Lord are children; and his reward, the fruit of the womb" (Ps. 126). The bond of love is strengthened, fresh stimulus is given to thrift and industrious effort, and the very sacrifices which are called for become sources of blessing.
For the Christian the performance of these duties is lightened by the fact that marriage is not a mere contract: it is a sacrament and therefore, in the truest sense, a holy estate. It sanctifies the union of husband and wife, and supplies them with graces that enable them to fulfill their obligations. Hence it is that the Church invests the celebration of marriage with a solemnity becoming its sacramental importance, performs the sacred rite at the foot of the altar, and unites it in the nuptial Mass with the sublimes" of religious functions.
Originating in such solemn circumstances, the family life receives, at its very inception, a blessing and a consecration. The "sacredness of home" has a definite meaning, deeper than its natural privacy, its intimacy and inviolability: the home is sacred because it is established with God's benediction to carry out His purpose in regard to mankind.
Public authority and social sanction unite to safeguard the home, to protect its rights and condemn their violation. But its strongest defense is in the keeping of those who make it, in their mutual fidelity and careful observance of their respective duties. These alone can ward off temptation and forestall the intrusion from without of influences which, through treachery, bring about ruin.
There is need of greater vigilance in protecting the home at this time, owing to conditions which tend to weaken its influence. The demands of industry, of business, and of social intercourse subject the family tie to a strain that becomes more severe as civilization advances. Parents who are sensible of their obligations, will exert themselves to meet external pressure by making the home more attractive. They will set their children the example of giving home their first consideration. And while they contribute their share of service and enjoyment as their social position requires, they will not neglect their children for the sake of amusement or pleasure.
In this matter we appeal with special earnestness to Catholic mothers, whose position in the home gives them constant opportunity to realize its needs and provide for its safety. Let them take to heart the words of Holy Scripture in praise of the virtuous woman: "Strength and beauty are her clothing.... She hath opened her mouth in wisdom and the law of clemency is on her tongue. She hath looked well to the paths of her house and hath not eaten her bread in idleness. Her children rose up and called her blessed; her husband, and he praised her" (Prov. 31:25-28). The home that is ruled by such a woman has nothing to fear in the way of domestic trouble.
Of itself and under normal conditions, marital love endures through life, growing in strength as time passes and renewing its tenderness in the children that are its pledges. The thought of separation even by death is repugnant, and nothing less than death can weaken the bond. No sane man or woman regards divorce as a good thing; the most that can be said in its favor is that, under given circumstances, it affords relief from intolerable evil.
Reluctantly, the Church permits limited divorce: the parties are allowed for certain cause to separate, though the bond continues in force and neither may contract a new marriage while the other is living. But absolute divorce which severs the bond, the Church does not and will not permit.
We consider the growth of the divorce evil an evidence of moral decay and a present danger to the best elements in our American life. In its causes and their revelation by process of law, in its results for those who are immediately concerned and its suggestion to the minds of the entire community, divorce is our national scandal. It not only disrupts the home of the separated parties, but it also leads others who are not yet married, to look upon the bond as a trivial circumstance. Thus, through the ease and frequency with which it is granted, divorce increases with an evil momentum until it passes the limits of decency and reduces the sexual relation to the level of animal instinct.
This degradation of marriage, once considered the holiest of human relations, naturally tends to the injury of other things whose efficacy ought to be secured, not by coercion, but by the freely given respect of a free people. Public authority, individual rights and even the institutions on which liberty depends, must inevitably weaken. Hence the importance of measures and movements which aim at checking the spread of divorce. It is to be hoped that they will succeed; but an effectual remedy cannot be found or applied, unless we aim at purity in all matters of sex, restore the dignity of marriage, and emphasize its obligations.
By divine ordinance, each human being becomes a member of the larger social group, and in due course enters into social relations. These are, and should be, a means of promoting good will and an occasion for the practice of many virtues, notably of justice and charity.
That social enjoyment is quite compatible with serious occupation and with devotion to the public good is evident from the services rendered during the war by all classes of people, and especially by those who gave up their comfort and ease in obedience to the call of their country. Let this same spirit prevail in time of peace and set reasonable limits to the pursuit of pleasure. With the tendency to excess and the craving for excitement, there comes a willingness to encourage in social intercourse abuses that would not be tolerated in the privacy of home. For the sake of notoriety, the prescriptions of plain decency are often set aside, and even the slight restraints of convention are disregarded. Fondness for display leads to lavish expenditure, which arouses the envy of the less fortunate classes, spurs them to a foolish imitation, and eventually brings about conflict between the rich and the poor.
Though many of these abuses are of short duration, their effect is nonetheless harmful: they impair the moral fiber of our people and render them unfit for liberty. The plainest lessons of history show that absorption in pleasure is fatal to free institutions. Nations which had conquered the world were unable to prevent their own ruin, once corruption had sapped their vitality. Our country has triumphed in its struggle beyond the sea; let it beware of the enemy lurking within.
There should be no need of legal enactments to improve our social relations, and there will be none, if only we act on the principle that each of us is in duty bound to set good example. Society, no less than its individual members, is subject to God's law. Neither convention nor fashion can justify sin. And if we are prompt to remove the causes of bodily disease, we must be just as energetic in banishing moral contagion.
"Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt lose its savour, wherewith shall it be salted?" (Matt. 5:13.) Let Catholics in particular reflect on this saying, and keep it before their minds under all circumstances, whether at home or abroad. Each in his own social sphere has a mission to perform, sometimes by explaining or defending the faith, sometimes by condemning what is wrong, but always by doing what is right. It is the eloquence of deeds that convinces where words are of no avail. The light is silent. "So let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 5:16).
In society, as in the home, the influence of woman is potent. She rules with the power of gentleness, and, where men are chivalrous, her will is the social law. To use this power and fashion this law in suchwise that the world may be better because of her presence is a worthy ambition. But it will not be achieved by devices that arouse the coarser instincts and gratify vanity at the expense of decency. There will be less ground to complain of the wrong inflicted on women, when women themselves maintain their true dignity. "Favor is deceitful and beauty is vain; the woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised" (Prov. 31:30).
The present tendency in all civilized countries is to give woman a larger share in pursuits and occupations that formerly were reserved to men. The sphere of her activity is no longer confined to the home or to her social environment; it includes the learned professions, the field of industry and the forum of political life. Her ability to meet the hardest of human conditions has been tested by the experience of war; and the world pays tribute, rightfully, to her patriotic spirit, her courage, and her power of restoring what the havoc of war had well-nigh destroyed.
Those same qualities are now to undergo a different sort of trial; for woman, by engaging in public affairs, accepts, with equal rights, an equal responsibility. So far as she may purify and elevate our political life, her use of the franchise will prove an advantage; and this will be greater if it involve no loss of the qualities in which woman excels. Such a loss would deprive her of the influence which she wields in the home, and eventually defeat the very purpose for which she has entered the public arena. The evils that result from wrong political practice must surely arouse apprehension, but what we have chiefly to fear is the growth of division that tends to breed hatred. The remedy for this lies not in the struggle of parties, but in the diffusion of good will. To reach the hearts of men and take away their bitterness, that they may live henceforth in fellowship one with another—this is woman's vocation in respect of public affairs, and the service which she by nature is best fitted to render.
In 1891, Pope Leo XIII published his encyclical, <Rerum Novarum>, a document which shows the insight of that great Pontiff into the industrial conditions of the time, and his wisdom in pointing out the principles needed for the solving of economic problems. "That the spirit of revolutionary change which has long been disturbing the nations of the world, should have passed beyond the sphere of politics and made its influence felt in the cognate sphere of practical economics, is not surprising. The elements of the conflict now raging are unmistakable, in the vast expansion of industrial pursuits and the marvelous discoveries of science; in the changed relations between masters and workmen; in the enormous fortunes of some few individuals and the utter poverty of the masses; in the increased self-reliance and closer mutual combination of the working classes; as also, finally, in the prevailing moral degeneracy. The momentous gravity of the state of things now obtaining fills every mind with painful apprehension; wise men are discussing it; practical men are proposing schemes; popular meetings, legislatures and rulers of nations are all busied with it—and actually there is no question that has taken a deeper hold on the public mind."
How fully these statements apply to our present situation, must be clear to all who have noted the course of events during the year just elapsed. The war indeed has sharpened the issues and intensified the conflict that rages in the world of industry; but the elements, the parties, and their respective attitudes are practically unchanged. Unchanged also are the principles which must be applied if order is to be restored and placed on such a permanent basis that our people may continue their peaceful pursuits without dread of further disturbance. So far as men are willing to accept those principles as the common ground on which all parties may meet and adjust their several claims, there is hope of a settlement without the more radical measures which the situation seemed but lately to be forcing on public authority. But in any event, the agitation of the last few months should convince us that something more is needed than temporary arrangements or local readjustments. The atmosphere must be cleared so that, however great the difficulties which presently block the way, men of good will may not, through erroneous preconceptions, go stumbling on from one detail to another, thus adding confusion to darkness of counsel.
Nature Of The Question
"It is the opinion of some," says Pope Leo XIII, "and the error is already very common, that the social question is merely an economic one, whereas in point of fact, it is first of all a moral and religious matter, and for that reason its settlement is to be sought mainly in the moral law and the pronouncements of religion" (apostolic letter, <Graves de communi>, January 18, 1901). These words are as pertinent and their teaching as necessary today as they were nineteen years ago. Their meaning, substantially, has been reaffirmed by Pope Benedict XV in his recent statement that "without justice and charity there will be no social progress." The fact that men are striving for what they consider to be their rights puts their dispute on a moral basis; and wherever justice may lie, whichever of the opposing claims may have the better foundation, it is justice that all demand.
In the prosecution of their respective claims, the parties have, apparently, disregarded the fact that the people as a whole have a prior claim. The great number of unnecessary strikes which have occurred within the last few months is evidence that justice has been widely violated as regards the rights and needs of the public. To assume that the only rights involved in an industrial dispute are those of capital and labor is a radical error. It leads, practically, to the conclusion that at any time and for an indefinite period, even the most necessary products can be withheld from general use until the controversy is settled. In fact, while it lasts, millions of persons are compelled to suffer hardship for want of goods and services which they require for reasonable living. The first step, therefore, toward correcting the evil is to insist that the rights of the community shall prevail, and that no individual claim conflicting with those rights shall be valid.
Among those rights is that which entitles the people to order and tranquility as the necessary condition for social existence. Industrial disturbance invariably spreads beyond the sphere in which it originates, and interferes, more or less seriously, with other occupations. The whole economic system is so compacted together and its parts are so dependent one upon the other, that the failure of a single element, especially if this be of vital importance, must affect all the rest. The disorder which ensues is an injustice inflicted upon the community; and the wrong is the greater because, usually, there is no redress. Those who are responsible for it pursue their own ends without regard for moral consequences and, in some cases, with no concern for the provisions of law. When such a temper asserts itself, indignation is aroused throughout the country and the authorities are urged to take action. This, under given circumstances, may be the only possible course; but, as experience shows, it does not eradicate the evil. A further diagnosis is needed. The causes of industrial trouble are generally known, as are also the various phases through which it develops and the positions which the several parties assume. The more serious problem is to ascertain why, in such conditions, men fail to see their obligations to one another and to the public, or seeing them, refuse to fulfill them except under threat and compulsion.
"The great mistake in regard to the matter now under consideration is to take up with the notion that class is naturally hostile to class, and that the wealthy and the workingmen are intended by nature to live in mutual conflict" (<Rerum Novarum>). On the contrary, as Pope Leo adds, "Each needs the other: Capital cannot do without Labor, nor Labor without Capital. Religion is a powerful agency in drawing the rich and the bread-winner together, by reminding each class of its duties to the other and especially of the obligation of justice. Religion teaches the laboring man and the artisan to carry out honestly and fairly all equitable agreements freely arranged, to refrain from injuring person or property, from using violence and creating disorder. It teaches the owner and employer that the laborer is not their bondsman, that in every man they must respect his dignity and worth as a man and as a Christian; that labor is not a thing to be ashamed of, if we listen to right reason and to Christian philosophy, but is an honorable calling, enabling a man to sustain his life in a way upright and creditable; and that it is shameful and inhuman to treat men like chattels, as a means for making money, or as machines for grinding out work." The moral value of man and the dignity of human labor are cardinal points in this whole question. Let them be the directive principles in industry, and they will go far toward preventing disputes. By treating the laborer first of all as a man, the employer will make him a better workingman; by respecting his own moral dignity as a man, the laborer will compel the respect of his employer and of the community.
The settlement of our industrial problems would offer less difficulty if, while upholding its rights, each party were disposed to meet the other in a friendly spirit. The strict requirements of justice can be fulfilled without creating animosity; in fact, where this arises, it is apt to obscure the whole issue. On the contrary, a manifest desire to win over, rather than drive, the opponent to the acceptance of equitable terms, would facilitate the recognition of claims which are founded in justice. The evidence of such a disposition would break down the barriers of mistrust and set up in their stead the bond of good will. Not an armistice but a conciliation would result; and this would establish all parties in the exercise of their rights and the cheerful performance of their duties.
The right of labor to organize, and the great benefit to be derived from workingmen's associations, was plainly set forth by Pope Leo XIII. In this connection, we would call attention to two rights, one of employees and the other of employers, the violation of which contributes largely to the existing unrest and suffering. The first is the right of the workers to form and maintain the kind of organization that is necessary and that will be most effectual in securing their welfare. The second is the right of employers to the faithful observance by the labor unions of all contracts and agreements. The unreasonableness of denying either of these rights is too obvious to require proof or explanation.
A dispute that cannot be adjusted by direct negotiation between the parties concerned should always be submitted to arbitration. Neither employer nor employee may reasonably reject this method on the ground that it does not bring about perfect justice. No human institution is perfect or infallible; even our courts of law are sometimes in error. Like the law court, the tribunal of industrial arbitration provides the nearest approach to justice that is practically attainable; for the only alternative is economic force, and its decisions have no necessary relation to the decrees of justice. They show which party is economically stronger, not which is in the right.
The right of labor to a living wage, authoritatively and eloquently reasserted more than a quarter of a century ago by Pope Leo XIII, is happily no longer denied by any considerable number of persons. What is principally needed now is that its content should be adequately defined, and that it should be made universal in practice, through whatever means will be at once legitimate and effective. In particular, it is to be kept in mind that a living wage includes not merely decent maintenance for the present, but also a reasonable provision for such future needs as sickness, invalidity, and old age. Capital likewise has its rights. Among them is the right to "a fair day's work for a fair day's pay," and the right to returns which will be sufficient to stimulate thrift, saving, initiative, enterprise, and all those directive and productive energies which promote social welfare.
Benefits Of Association
In his pronouncement on Labor (<Rerum Novarum>) Pope Leo XIII describes the advantages to be derived by both employer and employee from "associations and organizations which draw the two classes more closely together." Such associations are especially needed at the present time. While the labor union or trade union has been, and still is, necessary in the struggle of the workers for fair wages and fair conditions of employment, we have to recognize that its history, methods, and objects have made it essentially a militant organization. The time seems now to have arrived when it should be, not supplanted, but supplemented by associations or conferences, composed jointly of employers and employees, which will place emphasis upon the common interests rather than the divergent aims of the two parties, upon cooperation rather than conflict. Through such arrangements, all classes would be greatly benefited. The worker would participate in those matters of industrial management which directly concern him and about which he possesses helpful knowledge; he would acquire an increased sense of personal dignity and personal responsibility, take greater interest and pride in his work, and become more efficient and more contented. The employer would have the benefit of willing cooperation from, and harmonious relations with, his employees. The consumer, in common with employer and employee, would share in the advantages of larger and steadier production. In a word, industry would be carried on as a co-operative enterprise for the common good, and not as a contest between two parties for a restricted product.
Deploring the social changes which have divided "society into two widely different castes" of which one "holds power because it holds wealth," while the other is "the needy and powerless multitude," Pope Leo XIII declared that the remedy is "to induce as many as possible of the humbler classes to become owners" (<Rerum Novarum>). This recommendation is in exact accord with the traditional teaching and practice of the Church. When her social influence was greatest, in the Middle Ages, the prevailing economic system was such that the workers were gradually obtaining a larger share in the ownership of the lands upon which, and the tools with which, they labored. Though the economic arrangements of that time cannot be restored, the underlying principle is of permanent application and is the only one that will give stability to industrial society. It should be applied to our present system as rapidly as conditions will permit.
Whatever may be the industrial and social remedies which will approve themselves to the American people, there is one that, we feel confident, they will never adopt. That is the method of revolution. For it there is neither justification nor excuse under our form of government. Through the ordinary and orderly processes of education, organization, and legislation, all social wrongs can be righted. While these processes may at times seem distressingly slow, they will achieve more in the final result than violence or revolution. The radicalism, and worse than radicalism, of the labor movement in some of the countries of Europe, has no lesson for the workers of the United States, except as an example of methods to be detested and avoided.
Pope Benedict has recently expressed a desire that the people should study the great encyclicals on the social question of his predecessor, Leo XIII. We heartily commend this advice to the faithful and, indeed, to all the people of the United States. They will find in these documents the practical wisdom which the experience of centuries has stored up in the Holy See and, moreover, that solicitude for the welfare of mankind which fitly characterizes the Head of the Catholic Church.
Our country had its origin in a struggle for liberty. Once established as an independent republic, it became the refuge of those who preferred freedom in America to the conditions prevailing in their native lands. Differing widely in culture, belief, and capacity for self-government, they had as their common characteristics the desire for liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Within a century, those diverse elements had been formed together into a nation, powerful, prosperous, and contented. As they advanced in fortune, they broadened in generosity; and today, the children of those early refugees are restoring the breath of life to the peoples of Europe.
These facts naturally inspire us with an honest pride in our country, with loyalty to our free institutions and confidence in our future. They should also inspire us with gratitude to the Giver of all good gifts, who has dealt so favorably with our nation: "He hath not done in like manner to every nation" (Ps. 147). Our forefathers realized this, and accordingly there is evident in the foundation of the Republic and its first institutions a deep religious spirit. It pervades the home, establishes seats of learning, guides the deliberation of lawmaking bodies. Its beneficent results are our inheritance; but to enjoy this and transmit it in its fullness to posterity, we must preserve in the hearts of the people the spirit of reverence for God and His law, which animated the founders of our nation. Without that spirit, there is no true patriotism; for whoever sincerely loves his country, must love it for the things that make it worthy of the blessings it has received and of those for which it may hope through God's dispensation.
We are convinced that our Catholic people and all our citizens will display an equally patriotic spirit in approaching the tasks which now confront us. The tasks of peace, though less spectacular in their accomplishment than those of war, are not less important and surely not less difficult. They call for wise deliberation, for self-restraint, for promptness in that emergency and energy in action. They demand, especially, that our people should rise above all minor considerations and unite their endeavors for the good of the country. At no period in our history, not even at the outbreak of war, has the need of unity been more imperative. There should be neither time nor place for sectional division, for racial hatred, for strife among classes, for purely partisan conflict imperiling the country's welfare. There should be no toleration for movements, agencies, or schemes that aim at fomenting discord on the ground of religious belief. All such attempts, whatever their disguise or pretext, are inimical to the life of our nation. Their ultimate purpose is to bring discredit upon religion, and to eliminate its influence as a factor in shaping the thought or the conduct of our people. We believe that intelligent Americans will understand how foreign to our ideas of freedom and how dangerous to freedom itself are those designs which would not only invade the rights of conscience but would make the breeding of hatred a conscientious duty.
Care For Immigrants
Such movements are the more deplorable because they divert attention from matters of public import that really call for improvement, and from problems whose solution requires the earnest co-operation of all our citizens. There is much to be done in behalf of those who, like our forefathers, come from other countries to find a home in America. They need an education that will enable them to understand our system of government and will prepare them for the duties of citizenship. They need warning against the contagion of influences whose evil results are giving us grave concern. But what they chiefly need is that Christian sympathy which considers in them the possibilities for good rather than the present defects, and, instead of looking upon them with distrust, extends to them the hand of charity. Since many of their failings are the consequence of treatment from which they suffered in their homelands, our attitude and action toward them should, for that reason, be all the more sympathetic and helpful.
The constant addition of new elements to our population obliges us to greater vigilance with regard to our internal affairs. The power of assimilation is proportioned to the soundness of the organism; and as the most wholesome nutriment may prove injurious in cases of functional disorder, so will the influx from other countries be harmful to our national life, unless this be maintained in full vigor. While, then, we are solicitous that those who seek American citizenship should possess or speedily attain the necessary qualifications, it behooves us to see that our political system is healthy. In its primary meaning, politics has for its aim the administration of government in accordance with the express will of the people and for their best interests. This can be accomplished by the adoption of right principles, the choice of worthy candidates for office, the direction of partisan effort toward the nation's true welfare and the purity of election; but not by dishonesty. The idea that politics is exempt from the requirements of morality, is both false and pernicious: it is practically equivalent to the notion that in government there is neither right nor wrong, and that the will of the people is simply an instrument to be used for private advantage.
The expression or application of such views accounts for the tendency, on the part of many of our citizens, to hold aloof from politics. But their abstention will not effect the needed reform, nor will it arouse from their apathy the still larger number who are so intent upon their own pursuits that they have no inclination for political duties. Each citizen should devote a reasonable amount of time and energy to the maintenance of right government by the exercise of his political rights and privileges. He should understand the issues that are brought before the people, and co-operate with his fellow citizens in securing, by all legitimate means, the wisest possible solution.
Public Office And Legislation
In a special degree, the sense and performance of duty is required of those who are entrusted with public office. They are at once the servants of the people and the bearers of an authority whose original source is none other than God. Integrity on their part, shown by their impartial treatment of all persons and questions, by their righteous administration of public funds and by their strict observance of law, is a vital element in the life of the nation. It is the first and most effectual remedy for the countless ills which invade the body politic and, slowly festering, end in sudden collapse. But to apply the remedy with hope of success, those who are charged with the care of public affairs, should think less of the honor conferred upon them than of the great responsibility. For the public official above all others, there is need to remember the day of accounting, here, perhaps, at the bar of human opinion, but surely hereafter at the judgment seat of Him whose sentence is absolute: "Give an account of thy stewardship" (Luke 16:2).
The conduct of one's own life is a serious and often a difficult task. But to establish, by the use of authority, the order of living for the whole people, is a function that demands the clearest perception of right and the utmost fidelity to the principles of justice. If the good of the country is the one real object of all political power, this is preeminently true of the legislative power. Since law, as the means of protecting right and preserving order, is essential to the life of the State, justice must inspire legislation, and concern for the public weal must furnish the single motive for enactment. The passing of an unjust law is the suicide of authority.
The efficacy of legislation depends on the wisdom of laws, not on their number. Fewer enactments, with more prudent consideration of each and more vigorous execution of all, would go far toward bettering our national conditions. But when justice itself is buried under a multiplicity of statutes, it is not surprising that the people grow slack in observance and eventually cease to respect the authority back of the laws. Their tendency then is to assume the function which rightly belongs to public executive power, and this they are more likely to do when aroused by the commission of crimes which, in their opinion, demand swift retribution instead of the slow and uncertain results of legal procedure. The summary punishment visited on certain offenses by those who take the law into their own hands may seem to be what the criminal deserves; in reality, it is a usurpation of power and therefore an attack upon the vital principle of public order. The tardiness of justice is surely an evil, but it will not be removed by added violations of justice, in which passion too often prevails and leads to practices unworthy of a civilized nation.
For the removal of evil and the furtherance of good in the social and political spheres, an enlightened public opinion is requisite. The verdict rendered by the people must express their own judgment, but this cannot be safely formed without a knowledge of facts and an appreciation of the questions on which they have to decide. As the needed information ordinarily is supplied by the press, it is at once obvious that the publicist has a large measure both of influence and of responsibility. He speaks to the whole public, and often with an authority that carries conviction. In a very real sense he is a teacher, with the largest opportunity to instruct, to criticize, to fashion opinions, and to direct movements. When the use of this great power is guided by loyalty to truth, to moral principle and patriotic duty, the press is an agency for good second only to public authority. When through its influence and example, the people are led to respect law, to observe the precept of charity, to detest scandal and condemn wrongdoing, they may well regard the press as a safeguard of their homes and a source of purity in their social and political relations. From it they will learn whatsoever things are just and pure, whatsoever are lovely and of good report. But no man has a right to scatter germs of moral corruption any more than he has to pollute the water supply of a city. The press, which condemns the one as a criminal deed, cannot lend countenance, much less co-operation, to the other.
Though men are divided into various nationalities by reason of geographical position or historical vicissitude, the progress of civilization facilitates intercourse and, normally, brings about the exchange of good offices between people and people. War, for a time, suspends these friendly relations; but eventually it serves to focus attention upon them and to emphasize the need of readjustment. Having shared in the recent conflict, our country is now engaged with international problems and with the solution of these on a sound and permanent basis. Such a solution, however, can be reached only through the acceptance and application of moral principles. Without these, no form of agreement will avail to establish and maintain the order of the world.
Since God is the Ruler of nations no less than of individuals, His law is supreme over the external relations of States as well as in the internal affairs of each. The sovereignty that makes a nation independent of other nations does not exempt it from its obligations toward God; nor can any covenant, however shrewdly arranged, guarantee peace and security, if it disregard the divine commands. These require that in their dealings with one another, nations shall observe both justice and charity. By the former, each nation is bound to respect the existence, integrity, and rights of all other nations; by the latter, it is obliged to assist other nations with those acts of beneficence and good will which can be performed without undue inconvenience to itself. From these obligations a nation is not dispensed by reason of its superior civilization, its industrial activity, or its commercial enterprise; least of all, by its military power. On the contrary, a State which possesses these advantages is under a greater responsibility to exert its influence for the maintenance of justice and the diffusion of good will among all peoples. So far as it fulfills its obligation in this respect, a State contributes its share to the peace of the world: it disarms jealousy, removes all ground for suspicion, and replaces intrigue with frank co-operation for the general welfare.
The growth of democracy implies that the people shall have a larger share in determining the form, attributions, and policies of the government to which they look for the preservation of order. It should also imply that the calm deliberate judgment of the people, rather than the aims of the ambitious few, shall decide whether, in case of international disagreement, war be the only solution. Knowing that the burdens of war will fall most heavily on them, the people will be slower in taking aggressive measures, and, with an adequate sense of what charity and justice require, they will refuse to be led or driven into conflict by false report or specious argument. Reluctance of this sort is entirely consistent with firmness for right and zeal for national honor. If it were developed in every people, it would prove a more effectual restraint than any craft of diplomacy or economic prudence. The wisest economy, in fact, would be exercised in making the principles of charity and justice an essential part of education. Instead of planning destruction, intelligence would then discover new methods of binding the nations together; and the good will which is now doing so much to relieve the distress produced by war would be so strengthened and directed as to prevent the recurrence of international strife.
One of the most effectual means by which States can assist one another is the organization of international peace. The need of this is more generally felt at the present time when the meaning of war is so plainly before us. In former ages also, the nations realized the necessity of compacts and agreements whereby the peace of the world would be secured. The success of these organized efforts was due, in large measure, to the influence of the Church. The position of the Holy See and the office of the Sovereign Pontiff as Father of Christendom were recognized by the nations as powerful factors in any understanding that had for its object the welfare of all. A "Truce of God" was not to be thought of without the Vicar of Christ; and no other truce could be of lasting effect. The popes have been the chief exponents, both by word and act, of the principles which must underlie any successful agreement of this nature. Again and again they have united the nations of Europe, and history records the great services which they rendered in the field of international arbitration and in the development of international law.
The unbroken tradition of the Papacy, with respect to international peace, has been worthily continued to the present by Pope Benedict XV. He not only made all possible efforts to bring the recent war to an end, but was also one of the first advocates of an organization for the preservation of peace. In his letter to the American people on the last day of the year, 1918, the Holy Father expressed his fervent hope and desire for an international organization, "which by abolishing conscription will reduce armaments, by establishing international tribunals will eliminate or settle disputes, and by placing peace on a solid foundation will guarantee to all independence and equality of rights." These words reveal the heart of the Father whose children are found in every nation, and who grieves at the sight of their fratricidal struggle. That they were not then heeded or even rightly understood is but another evidence of the degree to which the passions aroused by the conflict had warped the judgment of men. But this did not prevent the Pontiff from intervening in behalf of those who were stricken by the fortunes of war, nor did it lessen his determination to bring about peace. To him and to his humane endeavor, not Catholics alone, but people of all creeds and nationalities, are indebted for the example of magnanimity which he gave the whole world during the most fateful years of its history.
The interests of order and peace require that our domestic, social, and national relations be established on the solid basis of principle For the attainment of this end, much can be done by wise legislation and by organized effort on the part of associations. We are confident that such effort and enactment will hasten the desired result. With their practical sense and their love of fairness, the American people understand that our national life cannot develop normally without adequate protection for the rights of all and faithful performance of duty by every citizen. And as they united to secure freedom from other nations, they now will strive together to realize their country's ideals.
Once more, however, we must emphasize the need of laying a sure foundation in the individual mind and conscience. Upon the integrity of each, upon his personal observance of justice and charity, depends the efficacy of legislation and of all endeavor for the common good. Our aim, therefore, should be, not to multiply laws and restrictions, but to develop such a spirit as will enable us to live in harmony under the simplest possible form, and only the necessary amount, of external regulation. Democracy, understood as self-government, implies that the people as a whole shall rule themselves. But if they are to rule wisely, each must begin by governing himself, by performing his duty no less than by maintaining his right.
Need Of Sound Education
Inasmuch as permanent peace on a sound basis is the desire of all our people, it is necessary to provide for the future by shaping the thought and guiding the purpose of our children and youth toward a complete understanding and discharge of their duties. Herein lies the importance of education and the responsibility of those to whom it is entrusted. Serious at all times, the educational problem is now graver and more complex by reason of the manifold demands that are made on the school, the changes in our industrial conditions, and, above all, by reason of the confusion and error which obscure the purpose of life and therefore of true education.
Nevertheless, it is mainly through education that our country will accomplish its task and perpetuate its free institutions. Such is the conviction that inspires much of the activity displayed in this field, whether by individuals or by organizations. Their confidence is naturally strengthened by the interest which is taken in the school, the enlarged facilities for instruction and the increased efficiency of educational work.
But these again are so many reasons for insisting that education shall move in the right direction. The more thorough it becomes, the greater is its power either for good or for evil. A trained intelligence is but a highly tempered instrument, whose use must depend on the character of its possessor. Of itself knowledge gives no guarantee that it will issue in righteous action, and much less that it will redound to the benefit of society. As experience too plainly shows, culture of the highest order, with abundance of knowledge at its command, may be employed for criminal ends and be turned to the ruin of the very institutions which gave it support and protection. While, therefore, it is useful to improve education by organizing the work of the schools, enriching the content of knowledge, and refining the methods of teaching, it is still more necessary to insure that all educational activity shall be guided by sound principles toward the attainment of its true purpose.
Principles Of Catholic Education
The Church in our country is obliged, for the sake of principle, to maintain a system of education distinct and separate from other systems. It is supported by the voluntary contributions of Catholics who, at the same time, contribute as required by law to the maintenance of the public schools. It engages in the service of education a body of teachers who consecrate their lives to this high calling; and it prepares, without expense to the State, a considerable number of Americans to live worthily as citizens of the Republic.
Our system is based on certain convictions that grow stronger as we observe the testing of all education, not simply by calm theoretic discussion, but by the crucial experience of recent events. It should not have required the pitiless searching of war to determine the value of any theory or system, but since that rude test has been so drastically applied and with such unmistakable results, we judge it opportune to restate the principles which serve as the basis of Catholic education.
First: The right of the child to receive education and the correlative duty of providing it are established on the fact that man has a soul created by God and endowed with capacities which need to be developed, for the good of the individual and the good of society. In its highest meaning, therefore, education is a co-operation by human agencies with the Creator for the attainment of His purpose in regard to the individual who is to be educated, and in regard to the social order of which he is a member. Neither self-realization alone nor social service alone is the end of education, but rather these two in accordance with God's design, which gives to each of them its proportionate value. Hence it follows that education is essentially and inevitably a moral activity, in the sense that it undertakes to satisfy certain claims through the fulfillment of certain obligations. This is true independently of the manner and means which constitute the actual process; and it remains true, whether recognized or disregarded in educational practice, whether this practice include the teaching of morality or exclude it or try to maintain a neutral position.
Second: Since the child is endowed with physical, intellectual, and moral capacities, all these must be developed harmoniously. An education that quickens the intelligence and enriches the mind with knowledge, but fails to develop the will and direct it to the practice of virtue, may produce scholars, but it cannot produce good men. The exclusion of moral training from the educative process is more dangerous in proportion to the thoroughness with which the intellectual powers are developed, because it gives the impression that morality is of little importance, and thus sends the pupil into life with a false idea which is not easily corrected.
Third: Since the duties we owe our Creator take precedence of all other duties, moral training must accord the first place to religion that is, to the knowledge of God and His law, and must cultivate a spirit of obedience to His commands. The performance, sincere and complete, of religious duties, ensures the fulfillment of other obligations.
Fourth: Moral and religious training is most efficacious when it is joined with instructions in other kinds of knowledge. It should so permeate these that its influence will be felt in every circumstance of life, and be strengthened as the mind advances to a fuller acquaintance with nature and a riper experience with the realities of human existence.
Fifth: An education that unites intellectual, moral, and religious elements is the best training for citizenship. It inculcates a sense of responsibility, a respect for authority, and a considerateness for the rights of others which are the necessary foundations of civic virtue—more necessary where, as in a democracy, the citizen, enjoying a larger freedom, has a greater obligation to govern himself. We are convinced that, as religion and morality are essential to right living and to the public welfare, both should be included in the work of education.
There is reason to believe that this conviction is shared by a considerable number of our fellow citizens who are not of the Catholic faith. They realize that the omission of religious instruction is a defect in education and also a detriment to religion. But in their view the home and the Church should give the needed training in morality and religion, leaving the school to provide only secular knowledge. Experience, however, confirms us in the belief that instead of dividing education among these several agencies, each of them should, in its own measure, contribute to the intellectual, moral, and religious development of the child, and by this means become helpful to all the rest.
The Right To Educate
In order that the educative agencies may co-operate to the best effect, it is important to understand and safeguard their respective functions and rights. The office of the Church instituted by Christ is to "teach all nations," teaching them to observe whatsoever He commanded. This commission authorizes the Church to teach the truths of salvation to every human being, whether adult or child, rich or poor, private citizen or public official.
In the home with its limited sphere but intimate relations, the parent has both the right and the duty to educate his children; and he has both, not by any concession from an earthly power, but in virtue of a divine ordinance. Parenthood, because it means co-operation with God's design for the perpetuation of humankind, involves responsibility, and therefore implies a corresponding right to prepare for complete living those whom the parent brings into the world.
The school supplements and extends the educational function of the home. With its larger facilities and through the agency of teachers properly trained for the purpose, it accomplishes in a more effectual way the task of education for which the parent, as a rule, has neither the time, the means, nor the requisite qualifications. But the school cannot deprive the parent of his right nor absolve him from his duty, in the matter of educating his children. It may properly supply for certain deficiencies of the home in the way of physical training and cultivation of manners; and it must, by its discipline as well as by explicit instruction, imbue its pupils with habits of virtue. But it should not, through any of its ministrations, lead the parent to believe that having placed his children in school, he is freed from responsibility, nor should it weaken the ties which attach the child to parent and home. On the contrary, the school should strengthen the home influence by developing in the child those traits of character which help to maintain the unity and happiness of family life. By this means it will co-operate effectually with the parent and worthily discharge its function.
Since the child is a member not only of the family, but also of the larger social group, his education must prepare him to fulfill his obligations to society. The community has the right to insist that those who as members share in its benefits shall possess the necessary qualifications. The school, therefore, whether private or public as regards maintenance and control, is an agency for social welfare, and as such it bears responsibility to the whole civic body.
While the social aspect of education is evidently important, it must be remembered that social righteousness depends upon individual morality. There are virtues, such as justice and charity, which are exercised in our relations with others; but there is no such thing as collective virtue which can be practiced by a community whose individual members do not possess it in any manner or degree. For this very reason the attempt to develop the qualities of citizenship without regard for personal virtue, or to make civic utility the one standard of moral excellence, is doomed to failure. Integrity of life in each citizen is the only sure guarantee of worthy citizenship.
Function Of The State
As the public welfare is largely dependent upon the intelligence of the citizen, the State has a vital concern in education. This is implied in the original purpose of our government which, as set forth in the preamble to the Constitution, is "to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity."
In accordance with these purposes, the State has a right to insist that its citizens shall be educated. It should encourage among the people such a love of learning that they will take the initiative and, without restraint, provide for the education of their children. Should they through negligence or lack of means fail to do so, the State has the right to establish schools and take every other legitimate means to safeguard its vital interests against the dangers that result from ignorance. In particular, it has both the right and the duty to exclude the teaching of doctrines which aim at the subversion of law and order and therefore at the destruction of the State itself.
The State is competent to do these things because its essential function is to promote the general welfare. But on the same principle it is bound to respect and protect the rights of the citizen and especially of the parent. So long as these rights are properly exercised, to encroach upon them is not to further the general welfare, but to put it in peril. If the function of government is to protect the liberty of the citizen, and if the aim of education is to prepare the individual for the rational use of his liberty, the State cannot rightfully or consistently make education a pretext for interfering with rights and liberties which the Creator, not the State, has conferred. Any advantage that might accrue even from a perfect system of State education would be more than offset by the wrong which the violation of parental rights would involve.
In our country, government thus far has wisely refrained from placing any other than absolutely necessary restrictions upon private initiative. The result is seen in the development of our resources, the products of inventive genius, and the magnitude of our enterprises. But our most valuable resources are the minds of our children, and for their development at least the same scope should be allowed to individual effort as is secured to our undertakings in the material order.
The spirit of our people in general is adverse to State monopoly, and this for the obvious reason that such an absorption of control would mean the end of freedom and initiative. The same consequence is sure to follow when the State attempts to monopolize education; and the disaster will be much greater inasmuch as it will affect, not simply the worldly interests of the citizen, but also his spiritual growth and salvation.
With great wisdom our American Constitution provides that every citizen shall be free to follow the dictates of his conscience in the matter of religious belief and observance. While the State gives no preference or advantage to any form of religion, its own best interests require that religion as well as education should flourish and exert its wholesome influence upon the lives of the people. And since education is so powerful an agency for the preservation of religion, equal freedom should be secured to both. This is the more needful where the State refuses religious instruction any place in its schools. To compel the attendance of all children at these schools would be practically equivalent to an invasion of the rights of conscience, in respect of those parents who believe that religion forms a necessary part of education. Our Catholic schools are not established and maintained with any idea of holding our children apart from the general body and spirit of American citizenship. They are simply the concrete form in which we exercise our rights as free citizens, in conformity with the dictates of conscience. Their very existence is a great moral fact in American life. For while they aim, openly and avowedly, to preserve our Catholic faith, they offer to all our people an example of the use of freedom for the advancement of morality and religion.
Our Higher Destiny
The adjustment of the relations which we have considered is intended to further our welfare on earth. That mankind through freedom and peace should advance in prosperity is a large and noble aim. But it is not the ultimate aim of human existence; nor is it the highest criterion whereby the value of all other ends and the worth of our striving for any of them can be rightly determined. "For we have not here a lasting city, but we seek one that is to come" (Heb. 13:14). We look for "a City that hath foundations; whose builder and maker is God" (ibid., 11:10).
In the light of our higher destiny, we can judge and surely appraise the things which men desire, which they hate or despise or fear. We can see in their true perspective the manifold changes of the world, and in their right proportion its losses and gains, its achievements and failures. We can understand the confusion, the dismay, and the dread of what may come, which have clouded the vision of many. For these are the final result of the vast experiment whereby the world would have proven its self-sufficiency. To those who imagine that humanity has outgrown the need of religion, that result is bewildering. To the Catholic mind it brings distress, but no perplexity. It repeats, with an emphasis proportioned to the weight of disaster, the lesson which history has written again and again as the meaning of such upheavals.
"They shall perish, but thou shalt continue; and they shall all grow old as a garment. And as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed; but thou art the self-same, and thy years shall not fail" (Heb. 1:11, 12; Ps. 101:27, 28). What is declared in these words, as regards the heavens and the earth, is likewise true of our human affairs. And the more fully we realize that change is the law of our existence, the more readily should we turn our thought, with humble confidence, toward our Creator and His eternal law.
As we look upon the record which the past unfolds, we cannot but note that it is filled with the struggles of mankind, with their building up and tearing down, with searchings for truth which often end in illusion, with strivings after good which lead to disappointment. The very monuments which were reared to celebrate human triumph remain simply to tell of subsequent downfall. Not rarely the greatness of human achievement is learned from the vast extent of its ruins.
But above it all, standing out clearly through the mists of error and the grosser darkness of evil, is One, in raiment white and glistening, who has solved the problem of life, has given to sorrow and pain a new meaning, and, by dying, has overcome death: "Jesus Christ yesterday, and today; and the same forever" (Heb. 13:8).
There are numberless paths, but the Way is one. There are many degrees of knowledge, but only one Truth. There are plans and ideals of living, but in real fulfillment there is only one Life. For none other than He could say: "I am the way and the truth and the life" (John 14:6).
Pray, therefore, dearly beloved, that the spirit of Jesus Christ may abide with us always, that we may walk on His footsteps in justice and charity, and that the blessing of God may descend abundantly upon the Church, our country, and the whole American people.
Given at Washington, in conference, on the 26th day of September, in the year of our Lord, 1919.
In his own name and in the name of the hierarchy,
James Cardinal Gibbons,
Provided Courtesy of: