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the Vosges has caused a moral question to spring
out of the political, is gaining ground step by step
and forcing itself upon the international conscience.

Despite the treaties which hold certain peoples
bound to Germany, this conscience clearly feels with
what ardour their hearts turn to horizons which are
not exactly those of their powerful ally.

When M. Loubet went to Italy, the enthusiastic
welcome given him by the populace left far behind
the manifestations made to various sovereigns, now
correct, now cordial. That a part of their respect
was offered to the man himself, kindly, plain and
smiling, who kept his part as first citizen of his
country without a dream of playing the monarch, is
likely enough; but what had prepared the outburst
of sympathy at Rome, which so astonished diplomatic
circles, was the moral prestige of France. The plaudits
went to a people risen ngain, a people towards whom,
more than towards any beside, the other peoples feel
in brotherly wise, because they realise that this people
has preoccupations beyond its own national interests.

There is a phrase used in Italy, when speaking of
France, which has become hackneyed, the " nazione
sorella." The two Latin sisters have indeed mingled
their blood on the Lombard plains : but it would be
a mistake to see in their present friendship only the
consequence of that sisterhood-in-arms. It is far


more than that. The sisterhood has been confirmed
and perhaps remade upon a surer foundation. It is
on the way to become a sisterhood of intellectual and
moral effort. Something in the festivities that wel-
comed the President of the Republic went to the
people who, knowing how to prepare war, has chosen
peace, and in whose consciousness an obscure work
is being fulfilled which we must endeavour to

It has often been said that after 1870 patriotism
became the religion of France : a hasty and not a
very happy formula by which to define a profound
growth of national feeling. On some of the lips
that have repeated it this has taken a sense entirely
opposed to the reality. There have been believers
and unbelievers who have imagined some with grief
and others with joy that in the hearts of their fellow-
citizens the old religions were about to be replaced
by a new worship. Certain manuals of civic morality,
hurrying to outrun public opinion, have sought to
replace the catechisms of the fallen cults by patriotic

This is a complete misapprehension. 'It was right
to bring together the two ideas of Fatherland and
Religion. But the connection set up between them
was a mistaken one.

France essayed to put morality and religion into
her patriotism : she essayed to find her path sub
specie teternitatis. Many a time had her cathedral
vaults vibrated to the accents of Te Deums thanking
God for her victories : now she felt that defeat was
about to give her more painful but more useful


She did, then, two apparently contradictory things :
she chose peace and at the same time prepared for
war. She realised she had no right to follow the
advice of the nai've friends who would have induced
her to disarm under pretext of giving proof of her
tranquillity and good behaviour. She realised that
such an attitude would be construed as an acceptance
of the fait accompli that she who was so passionate
for her honour would have the air of disguising her
renunciation under an oratorical tinsel which would
deceive no one.

So she made sacrifices it may be we are not yet
at the end of them and from beyond the Vosges
there came in response, with unwavering persever-
ance, the declaration that there is no tribunal in the
world which can validate a forced marriage.

For what are we making these sacrifices? For a
very simple matter : to prevent the prescription being
established to be faithful, undoubtedly, to Alsace;
but fundamentally, what we desire above all is to be
faithful to an idea, to be the knights of this idea, that
it may make its definitive entry into the world
through us and through our suffering.

It is obvious that certain facts might be alleged
against these views. All deep social evolution begins
in ignorance of itself. It seems to have sudden stops
and turnings back; it may meet with obstacles; but
the chief factors in these considerations the enthusi-
asm of France for every sacrifice, and her persist-
ent choice of peace are facts which any one can

Though the question is a delicate and complex one,
I hope I have spoken clearly, and shown what it is
that the French democracy is seeking, expecting and


desiring. It is in nowise a revision of the Treaty of
Frankfort wherein it would dictate every article : but
an effort on the part of Germany to apprehend that
her honour is in no degree involved in the question
of Alsace. What the French democracy desires, or
rather what the idea which controls and leads it
desires, is that the question be studied under the
promptings not of German or French interests, but
of those of Alsace : that this gallant people, which has
given contemporary Europe the spectacle of an ideal-
ism that might have been thought incredible, should
become at last the arbiter of its own fate. Does some
one exclaim " Utopia"? For to-day perhaps
Utopia : but if to-morrow it is not a reality, it will
be the day after. 1 In any event, it is faith; and it is
hope besides : the hope of which a volume that Ger-
many knows well the Bible has said that " it does
not confound." Thus, when the political attitude
of France seemed to be so far removed from all the
Churches, it became more thoroughly religious than
it had been even under her most pious kings. And
what indeed is this effort, which tends to cause the
light of the ideal to search into questions seemingly
the most foreign to it, but the continuation and
unfolding of Christian effort ? This respect for one's
adversaries, this love for one's enemies, which the
Church no longer preaches save as a theory and per-

1 In the end, these feelings will be understood. They are,
already, by some of the finer spirits in Germany. At Strasbourg,
a celebrated [German] Professor of the University has been known
to excuse himself, in a voice trembling with emotion, from address-
ing; a meeting in which he was the only representative of the
[German] immigrants; he had understood and admired the
dignified reserve in which the Alsatian populace enwraps itself.


haps as an inaccessible ideal, inspires a people who
call themselves unbelievers because they believe more
and better than their Church. They have even made
of it the principle of political action, the keystone of
the vault of one of the buildings they are preparing
for the new " City of God" whereof they cherish
the dream, and in whose construction they seek
employment with all their brother peoples.

Wherefore, we do not seek peace for the sake of
peace : our pacifism is no more inspired by weariness
than by a faint heart. We might have been mis-
understood had we not made the preparations we
have made. If, occasionally, the advantages of peace
have been sung as though they presented a goal, those
who have so sung them have neither looked far nor
high enough; they have only seen the intermediate
halting-place without perceiving the goal towards
which the caravan is journeying.

France desires peace with Germany because a war
is an outburst of hatred, and she feels no more hatred
for her neighbours on the east than for others. She
feels her solidarity with them ; she has need of them
for a work that reaches far beyond commercial,
industrial or financial ententes.

And thev have need of her.

If an evil fate decreed that these sentiments should
not be understood; that, after being represented for
forty years as those who threatened the peace of
Europe, we should be attacked then indeed we
should spring up with the enthusiasm of citizens
defending not their soil and Fatherland alone, but
cherishing an ideal that will make its entry into
the world through their efforts through their mar-
tyrdom if that must be; and we should find allies


disarmed, but not the less indomitable even in the
heart and conscience of our foes.

I said just now that the seeds of these ideas of
respect and love for one's adversary came from Chris-
tianity. But they have not germinated in the soil of
the Church. Not only has she not created all this vast
movement of conscience that has made its appear-
ance since 1870 she has persistently ignored it.

In his letter to Queen Wilhelmina of Holland
(May 29, 1899), Leo XIII did not conceal his chagrin
that his representatives had not been invited to the
Hague; but his complaint aroused no echo: for the
more vigorously the Roman pontiff protested that
he entered into his role not merely of lending moral
support to every work of pacification, but of effec-
tively co-operating therein these are the very ex-
pressions of the apostolic letter the more strange
did it seem that he had not sooner perceived it, and
that the Holy See had allowed little Switzerland to
take almost all the initiative and make almost all the
effort required to move public opinion.

If one had listened to the Pope's complaint, it was
he who, through his legate, would have laid the first
stone of a building whereof the Church of Rome had
had no conception, and whose execution it had not
contributed to render possible. Throughout the
world, Catholic organs would not have failed to
declare that undenominational efforts could not do
without the blessing of the Church.

I am far from undervaluing the eminent services
which the Roman pontiff may render to civilisation :
but if, after September 20, 1870, the hope of seeing


the Holy See become, as it were, a witness for the
higher justice may have crossed certain minds, that
hope was of brief duration.

Lord of a realm which is not of this world, the
Pope might have given a new and higher spiritual
meaning to the three crowns of his tiara, might have
made himself heard even by infidels and schismatics.

Leo XIII caught a glimpse of this role of supreme
arbiter, but it soon became evident that he was pre-
occupied above all by the advantages which might be
drawn therefrom for the re-establishing of his tem-
poral throne : " Pro Tribunals sedentes el solum Deum
pr# oculjs habentes," says the protocol of the Roman
Congregations. Now the interventions of the pontiff
did not tend to judgments according with intelligence
and justice, and enforcing themselves on all minds by
dint of their lofty independence. Profession was
made of all this, while in reality political combina-
tions were being fashioned. Services were being
rendered to such and such governments, wherefrom
great advantages were counted on in advance. The
negotiations to be found on every page of the decrees
of this Pope made him as unmindful of the complaints
of the Irish as of Prussian Poland, and led him to
force the policy of the Rally (Ralliement) on French
Catholics. All this, far from striking the world as
the endeavour of a spiritual power to further the
evolution towards peace and justice, appeared rather
as an attempt to establish a kind of eminent right
over and in temporal things. The Holy See still
continued as in Boniface VIIPs vision, and dreamed
neither of enlarging nor of spiritualising it.

But to return to the question of the pacifist move-


ment : it must be acknowledged that the great
Catholic organs in France seem never to concern
themselves about it except in blame or ridicule. 1

We have seen them arrogating to themselves the
monopoly of patriotism, seeking in it a means to
regain the popularity which more and more escapes

But the patriotism they preach is only a systematic,
childish, impossible ignorance of what is going on
over the frontier : hatred and disdain for the
foreigners whom they picture as employed in setting
absurd machinations on foot against France. The
principal Catholic journals are continually speaking
of the foreign gold which is used to encourage actual
plots against us, while Protestants, Freemasons and
Jews are denounced as agents of this international
conspiracy. 2

I apologise for speaking even thus briefly of such
absurdities, which in some circles have grown into a

1 Let us note, however, that in 1907, " the Gratry Society for
maintaining peace between nations " was established (composed
of Catholics ; its general secretary is M. A. Vanderpol, 40 rue
Franklin, Lyons). Fifteen bishops have either joined it or
given it their support. The members of the Committee are
MM. Chenon, Fonsegrive (Yves Le Querdec), R. Jay, the Abbe
Gayraud, the Abbe Lemire, Marc Sangnier, P. Gemahling, the
Abbe Pichot. What is more, in April 1910, Pius X sent his
benediction cunctis sodalibus coetus PACIFISTARUM, and with his
own hand underlined the last word. Appel de la ligue des catho-
liques franfais pour la paix au catholiques beiges, Brussels, 1910,
p. 16.

2 It is a serious error in historical method to wish to judge an
age-old institution on isolated fragments of its development : to
judge the entire Church, for instance, according to its present
manifestations. We do not wish to commit this error, and shall
not confuse the Church with its hierarchy or even with its Pope.


veritable literature out of which an awakening of
French Catholic feeling is anticipated! * But it was
necessary to show the extraordinary retrogression,
intellectual, moral and social, which on this matter
has taken place in the Church at the very moment
when public opinion is making so characteristic an
effort to purify the idea of patriotism. 2

It was necessary to note the preceding facts with
some precision, for they have almost determined the

1 Complaint is often made, and with good reason, of the low
intellectual and moral level of the greater number of our papers :
and what might not be much condemned in purely commercial
undertakings whose character no one misunderstands, becomes
much more regrettable in papers put forward with the recommenda-
tion of Christ's Vicar.

The vulgar and foolish statements published in the Correspond-
ance romaine inspire a part of the so-called Catholic Press through-
out the world. The inexplicable favour which it has constantly
enjoyed in high circles, despite the complaints and protests of
many members of the Episcopate, will always remain one of the
saddest facts of Pius X's pontificate. One has to have the com-
plete series of this sheet under one's eyes to credit its existence.
See the remarkable study by M. Pernot in his book La Politique
de Pie X (Preface by Emile Boutroux), Paris, 1910, pp. 254-97.

2 In this matter Protestantism behaves in an entirely different
way. Among the sermons preached on the occasion of the
national holiday of July 14 there are many which show that the
orator is in perfect harmony with the preoccupations of his fellow-
citizens. To satisfy oneself of this it is enough to run through
the volumes in which are collected the sermons of the pastors
Eugene Bersier, T. Fallot, Leopold and Wilfred Monod, Charles
Wagner, J. E. Roberty and J. Vienot. In the same class of ideas
may be noted the address given at Strasbourg by M. Th. Gerold,
pastor and President of the Consistory of St. Nicholas, on the
occasion of the fortieth anniversary of 1870, and published at length
in the Journal d* Alsace-Lorraine for Sept. 30, 1910. See another
address by the same, given at Wissembourg, Oct. 7, 1909 (in the
brochure Le Monument franfais de Wissembourg, by E. Hermann,
Paris, Union four la verite^ 1909, pp. 52-9).


course of events since 1870. Being in no state to
furnish France with the viaticum she needed then,
the Churches did not dream that a little of the fault
may have been theirs. They poured recriminations
on those who took the liberty of saying to them,
" Doubtless your bread was excellent in old time, but
to-day it is so hard our teeth cannot manage to bite
it. It would only break them without doing us any

The anger manifested toward such has naturally
resulted in again scattering and driving away many
of those who had been tempted to look to the

Thus the instinctive enthusiasm, so strong among
the French, for general ideas and generous causes has
been forced to express itself outside the Churches, and
sometimes under the cross-fire of their gibes. The
unfolding and realisation of ideas, which they them-
selves had painfully sown in the human heart, is
achieved entirely without their aid and apparently
in opposition to them.

To-day, internationalism and humanitarianism are
regarded as the heresies par excellence by the official
representative of a Church which yet glories in calling
itself Catholic.

In whatever direction our eyes may look in this
country, they are met by phenomena analogous to
those we have just been observing : in spite of weak-
nesses, often greatly exaggerated in the accounts given
of them, it represents the vigorous effort of a whole
people to impregnate its laws and political life with
justice and the ideal. It is not resolved merely to
proclaim equality and fraternity on its monuments


and coins: it is determined to introduce them into
the humblest reality. Between the priest declaring
that "injustice rules here below," but "justice will
rule in the future life," and the infidel declaring
"justice must rule from this time forward" which
is the more religious?

Do not let us be imposed upon by words. At no
period of its growth has France been so much pre-
occupied with the realisation of ideas. And what is
this but the very inspiration of religious genius ?

" Imprudence," does some one say? " the fanati-
cism of principles which take no account of practic-
ability leads to the worst disappointments." Those
who should speak thus anent these pages would show
they had not understood their purpose. We are not
asking what France can or ought to do, but what
she is doing. If she is imprudent, that does not
prove her irreligious, but rather the contrary. What
indeed is religion but the joyful, valiant affirmation
of truth, beauty and obligation, without taking
counsel of circumstance or obvious self-interest?

There are many other matters as to which the
various Churches have not shared the preoccupations
of the conscience of to-day : thus they have scarcely
co-operated in the attempts that seek to remove
from our codes those laws which, without openly
avowing it, establish certain natural incapacities of
woman, or set up shameful regulations which make
the traffic in "white slaves" a social institution.
With rare exceptions, the Churches have not under-
stood the astonishment felt at their not hurrying to
the aid of the weak and the oppressed.

It would take too long to speak of all that here;


we do not pretend to be setting forth pictures of all
their deficiencies, but simply to be pointing out in
what conditions religio-social feeling has been driven
to manifest itself outside the old institutions and
under shapes they do not appear to have foreseen.

For the same reason we shall only recall, by way
of reminder, the political attitude which the Church
of Rome, and it alone, has taken in the conflicts
about the form of government. Theoretically, it has
proclaimed its neutrality : practically, above all and
before all, it has figured as a political party a reac-
tionary and retrogressive party.

These facts are too well known to detain us.
Besides, even if they have greatly influenced the
feelings of France in respect to her clergy, and if,
long ago, they separated the clergy from France and
afterwards France from her clergy, that is an entirely
negative situation; whereas we choose to hold to the
positive side of the development, to what is being
born rather than to what is dying.

One matter, however, must be noted, touching
which a great majority in the country have not only
censured the political compromises or the clergy, but
have been wounded by them in their conscience.
Strictly speaking, they might have excused an in-
voluntary ardour on the part of the representatives
of the old parties. But clericalism is an organised,
disciplined thing; and when the battalions of the
faithful are seen conducted by their priests to the
ballot-boxes, one feels oneself among men who retain
a still rudimentary conception of certain civic duties.
At the doors of the voting-booths this Catholic
battalion may very likely encounter another battalion
which will say " Yes" where it says " No," with no


more criticism or freedom : but this, regrettable
enough on the part of some ephemeral committee,
becomes singularly sad when it issues from the
Church of Christ.

Another element in its political activity which has
seriously injured its moral prestige is since we must
call things by their name the lack of frankness in
its methods. One need not be fifty years old to recall
the time when the words "liberty" and "progress"
were only pronounced with wrath and reprobation by
the political candidates whom the Church supported.

They realised at last that if they did not sacrifice
to the gods of the day they would ruin their cause.
Everybody knows the new turn they have now given
to the words "liberal" and "progressive."

Cleverness of this sort may succeed for a moment,
here and there : but it is inevitably found out, and
reflects on the honour of those who have associated
themselves with it. By encouraging it, the clergy
have for their part contributed to the debasing of our
electoral morals; they have behaved as though all
means were good for the attainment of power.

These are among the causes which, working slowly
everywhere, have aggravated the misunderstandings
already existing between France and the Church.
They explain the indifference with which the law
of Separation of the Churches and the State was

If out of all that precedes we try to disengage
some general impression, we shall doubtless perceive
that it is not the faith, but the incredulity of the
Churches that alienates our young democracy from
them : it is not the elevation of their ideal, but that


in their ideal which is merely mechanical and too easy
of realisation.

Democracy does not like dogmas, because they are
represented to it not as starting-points, or as mile-
stones on the road, indicating the way past genera-
tions have followed, but because they are imposed on
it as absolute and final points of attainment. By
fixing the canon of their holy books and closing it,
the Churches have not merely honoured the past, they
have given it a unique character : they have been
unable to regard it as begetting the future.

" My Father works continually," said Christ, and
announced that his spirit would manifest itself anew
and more effectively in time to come; but the
Churches that have taken his name have straitened
these visions of the future.

These statements, however, would not correspond
to reality if we did not immediately add another to
indicate the cause for the immense hold upon souls
which Catholicism still maintains. That is one of the
rays of its crown which has nowise paled.

I would speak of the ardour and boldness with
which it appeals to the most mystical and powerful
element of human nature : the instinct of devotion.

Just as Christ, passing of old through the country
towns of Galilee, cast his glance on an unknown
man mending his nets and said to him, " Follow thou
me! " so to-day the Church repeats that word: and
in a moment transforms and transfigures the most
trivial lives.

Among those whom she thus calls, to lead them
whither they know not, whither perhaps they would


not go, there are few indeed who do not, some day
or other, regret their enthusiasm, the naive impru-
dence with which they pledged themselves to follow
in a way from which they could never more escape,
whereon the bridges behind them are broken. And
yet they have chosen the better part, since, tearing
themselves from egoism, they have tried to rough-
hew the social man within them.

Claiming a perfect devotion, an absolute immola-
tion, the Church has rendered homage to the best
inclination of the heart; and for this, in spite of many
a disillusionment and shipwreck, the heart has been
grateful to her.

Therein lies her great superiority over all attempted

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Online LibraryPaul SabatierFrance to-day, its religious orientation → online text (page 5 of 22)