A. D. (Amory Dwight) Mayo.

Religion in the common schools. Three lectures delivered in the city of Cincinnati, in October, 1869 online

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old imperial allies of the church out of the steadfast position of
centuries into the line of progressive nations. The political ascend-
ancy of the Catholic priesthood was forever gone, and, like a pru-
dent commander, the great Cardinal prepared to evacuate his outer
works, and retreat within the second line of intrenchments. This
was the exclusive educational control of all the Catholic children in the
world. No longer could the church hope to control the educa-
tion of the children of parents outside the church in any civilized
country. Even with growing freedom of the press, liberty of
speech, and cheap literature, there was imminent danger that its
own fold would be invaded, and its own children learn that the
priest is not the infallible representative of God on earth. To
avert this calamity was the aim of this manifesto, the gist of which
is found in sections 45, 46, 47, 48 and 22 of the Syllabus of Errors.
These sections are the concentration of a good deal of equal im-

CoTnmon Schools. 21

port in the same document, and perfectly cover the position of
those authorities on the question of education. Under the head
of Modern Errors, the Pope enumerates the following :

"45. The whole control of the public schools wherein the youth
of any Christian State is educated, only the Episcopal seminaries
being in some degree excepted, may and should be assigned to the
civil authority, and so assigned to it that no right be recognized, in
any other authority whatever, to interfere with the school disci-
pline, the direction of studies, the conferring of degrees, the selec-
tion or approbation of teachers.

" 46. Nay, in the very seminaries for the education of the clergy
the method of study to be adopted is subject to the civil authority.

"47. The best constitution of civil society requires that the
public schools, which are open to the children of all classes, and
that public institutions universally, which are devoted to higher
literary and scientific instruction, and to the education of youth, be
released from all authority of the church, from her moderating
influence and interference, and subjected wholly to the will of the
civil and political authority (to be conducted) according to the
pleasure of the rulers and the standard of the common opinions of
the age.

"48. That method of instructing youth can be approved by
Catholic men, which is separated from the Catholic faith and from
the power of the church, and which has regard exclusively, or at
least principally, to a knowledge of natural things only, and to the
ends of social life on earth."

" 22. The obligation by which Catholic teachers and writers are
absolutely bound is confined to those things alone which are pro-
pounded by the infallible judgment of the church as dogmas of
faith to be believed by all."

This position covers the whole ground of education. From that
day, in every part of the world, the Catholic bishops have moved
on this line of operations. In Ireland the Primate of the Catholic
church has commanded the people to leave the national schools,
on pain of excommunication. The Pope himself has sent a loud-
mouthed "bull" over the Alps, against the Austrian government,
for granting to every church in Austria the right to educate its own
children, with partial public aid. And now we are told the Empress
Eugenie, the beloved defender of the church in France, has jour-
neyed to the Orient, to present the educational question to the
Eastern church. The infallibility of the Pope will be proclaimed ;
all reluctant prelates and priests will be silenced, or put out, and
the priesthood will become a unit all over the world, in drawing
Catholic children out of the educational pandemonium of modern
society into the ark of the Most High.

On the heels of this manifesto the last great council of the

^^ Religion i.n the

Catholic church in the United States, held at Baltimore, Md., en-
forced this duty, and the bishops were polarized on this question
of the relation of the Catholic church to the American tystem of
common schools. Up to this day the Catholic priesthood in the
United States had been granted a long tether in this, difficult field
of operations. It would seem that every bishop was permitted to
manage educational affairs according to his own judgment, so that
the result came out on the side of the church. Thus, in New
England, where the general enlightenment had even reached
the Catholic people, the priesthood saw that they could only
go with the stream, and permitted the laity to educate their
children in the admirable public schools, serving themselves on
boards of education, and making little public opposition to the sys-
tem. In New York, the headquarters of Catholic influence,
political intrigue, and social aristocracy, their astute bishops played
now upon one, now upon another party ; now sending and now
withdrawing their children from public instruction; till, last winter,
a bill was forced through the legislature of the State to give a pro-
portion of the school moneys of the city of New York to private
schools, under which they support sectarian Catholic education.
In Cincinnati, for several years, the priesthood has been at open
war with the national system, and has built up an elaborate system
of parochial schools, supplemented by a high school and college,
the latter under the control of the Jesuits. But now all differences
of policy are subdued to the papal mandate. Everywhere in the
United States the priesthood are moving to gather the Catholic
children into sectarian Romish schools controlled by the church.

But education is expensive, and such education as the American
people are giving to their children in the common schools is beyond
the power of any religious sect to maintain. Only the whole
people can support popular schools as good as now are found in
every large city and town of the northern states. The Catholic
laity see that they are compelled, by this priestly programme, to
pay for an inferior article of Catholic parochial education while
their children are forbidden (by that priesthood alone) to go into
the splendid temple of knowledge built by the money of the whole
people. They are beginning to revolt. A portion have revolted,
and send their children to the public schools, running the risk of
the Archbishop's anathema. A much larger number are pushing
toward the temple, clamoring for leave to come in. Able leaders
of this class, especially among the Irish Catholics, are arising, who
stoutly demand that the clergy shall grant some reprieve from this
infallible rule that cripples their children in the race for knowledge,
which, in America, is the race for success in life. The Catholic
laity have furnished to the republic a roll of eminent men, and they
are- asking the Catholic priesthood, like Father Hyacinthe, why

Co77imoit Schools.

their religion should separate them from the nineteenth century.
The people grumble at the church-tax for parochial instruction, and
are not, like Archbishop Purcell, perfectly satisfied with the schools
themselves. To this demand the priesthood has presented its ulti-
matum. Divide the public school money among the religious sects^ as
in Canada and Justria, and other European States; at any rate.,
give us our proportion of the public money. On this condition they
consent to call their Catholic parochial schools public schools, as
they would be very willing to call their church the State church,
and pay its expenses out of the public treasury. There is no
instance in which the Catholic clergy now offers more than this :
The State shall pay to support schools vjhich are under the control of the
Catholic priesthood., on condition that those sectariari schools shall change
their name to public schools. On this platform they stand, and
besiege every legislature in the United States. Already is a vast
system maturing to prevent the emancipated slaves from entering
the new Southern public schools ; and, ere long, this educational
war will break out over the border. If they can succeed in this
they will still retain control of a great body of American citizens
and perpetuate the power of the church.

I make no charges against the Catholic priests as men. I would
deprive them of no rights as American citizens. But the Catholic
priesthood in the United States is a close religious corporation,
under the control of an infallible foreign Pope, elected by a college
of cardinals, not one of whom resides in the United States, a
majority of whom are Italians. As a body, that priesthood has
always been hostile to American ideas and institutions. If it could
have had its way ten years ago, this republic would have been dis-
membered. It wishes to gather all Catholic children into its
exclusive fold, that it may form an ecclesiastical kingdom of God
within the republic which can finally control it. It drives at the
very heart of American life when it attempts to destroy our Amer-
ican system of public instruction and hurl us back upon the ex-
ploded European system of schools controlled by religious sects.

This object it attempts to secure by two means: argument and
policy. Of these the argument is the shadow, and the policy the
substance. Despotism always tries to amuse and occupy the think-
ing classes by subtle argumentation, while it drives on like fate to
its inevitable end. The argument against the slave power closed
fifty years ago, in 1 820, and all the reasoning after that time, by the
slaveholders, was a cloud of mist sent out to conceal the machina-
tions of its policy. The argument against sectarian education at
pnblic expense was long since closed. The Catholic priesthood
still fills the air with the shadowy ghosts of ideas long since buried,
giving thereby employment to its dialectic skill, and concealing its
covert approaches to the heart of the American school.

^Jf. Religiojh in the

The argument of the priesthood converges on one point. The
Catholic citizens of the United States pay taxes to support the
public school. That school, they sometimes say, is "atheistic;"
sometimes declare "sectarian Protestant." according as the occasion
demands. Within the last three months, Archbishop Purcell has
made both declarations concerning the common schools. In either
case it is obnoxious to the priesthood, whose ultimatum is Catholic
religious education. It is an oppression to compel the Catholic
citizen to pay for an institution his priest declares hostile to his
religion. So it becomes a question of conscience. Observe, in
this argument, the conscience of the priesthood is put forward as the
conscience of the laity. The Catholic Irishmen of Boston, the most
intelligent body of Irish citizens in the United States, have not
found it contrary to conscience to send their children to the public
school, where the Bible is read by legal command. Ten intelligent
Catholic gentlemen sit in our board of education, some of them its
most useful members, have sworn an oath to administer the sys-
tem as now arranged, and do not look like men who expect to
wake up any morning in purgatory. The fact is, the conscience here
spoken of is the conscience of the Catholic priesthood as reconstructed by
the manfesto of December 8, 1 864.

Now, even if the common school were, as the priests assert, a
Protestant sectarian institution, and if the American system of
republican government made us a Protestant sectarian nation, there
would be no oppression in the taxation by which the public system
of schools is supported. For the common school is not a the;p-
logical, or ecclesiastical, or primarily a religious, institution. It is
not even primarily an educational institution. It is a politico-edu-
cational institution, established primarily to qualify the American
people to support American republican government. I have shown,
on a former occasion, that our government and order of society
recognize and are built upon religion as separated from its sectarian
forms. The common school, as an American public institution,
acknowledges the universal obligation to worship God, and do good
to man, as the condition of republican life. But it is chiefly con-
cerned to fit the people for American society, to become American
citizens. It may be that education alone will not enable a people
to obtain or preserve republican government, but it is certain no
people destitute of education can obtain or preserve it. No great
European nation can become a republic till its people are far more
enlightened and accustomed to thought than now. Our slave
States lost their liberties, and, for four years, were held up to a
devastating war, by their aristocracy, because of the ignorance of
their people. Without education the American people can neither
vote right, nor preserve order, nor protect any part of their free
nationality. So every State has now established the unsectarian

Coimnojh Schools. ^o

common school, as the corner stone of the nation, since it has been
demonstrated that no system of sectarian, parochial schools can
educate the mass of the people up to that point.

Now, the Catholic citizen, like every citizen, shares in every
public advantage of this intelligence of the people. As a Catholic,
he is indebted to it. For why are all the legal and political disa-
bilities that every Protestant nation in Europe imposes on Catholics
here removed ? Why can a Catholic be President of the United
States, and not the King of Great Britain ? Why are Catholics,
as a sect, in no such danger from popular violence as in Great
Britain ? Why has the Catholic child free access to all our schools,
supported by public money ? Because America is a republic, and
American citizens are educated in the common schools above
European ideas of oppression. And now this priesthood turns and
smites the very hand that guards the religious and civil liberties of
its people, in a country where public opinion is against its religion,
complaining that it is an unbearable oppression to pay the tax that
educates the people to protect a government which guards itself
from public harm. Besides, the Catholic tax-payer, like every other
tax-payer who sends no child to school, receives a thousand fold the
value of his tax, in general protection of person, property, rights,
and the blessings of our national life.

The common school is a vital part of our American system of
government. It is religious in the same way, and no more Protest-
ant than the United States and State governments, or American
society in general. Why does not this priesthood demand that
Catholic taxes should be used to support a government in every State,
under the control of itself? The manifesto of 1864 asserts the
infallible right of the church to unite with the civil government in
ruling the people. Why does not the Archbishop of Cincinnati
claim that the legislature of Ohio shall consult him in respect to
legislation for Catholic citizens ? Why does not this priesthood
withdravV from an order of society where free speech and press are
the law of the land; where they can not amass and control such
vast ecclesiastical properties as once in Mexico ; where they must
be taxed to pay for Protestant chaplains in congress, army and navy,
Protestant officials in prisons ; perhaps a Protestant sheriff to hang a
Catholic murderer who has just been absolved by his priest.? Are
Catholic politicians forbidden by their priests to hold office under
this "godless" government? The logic of this demand for secta-
rian education at public expense implies a separate government ;
why not claim that ? The last Catholic general council at Balti-
more does claim this for church property, prisons, and public insti-
tutions, but we hear no noise about it in public. The fact is, the
priesthood are aware it is a large enterprise to claim all this. They
have seen what becomes of an aristocracy that claims to be exempt

^6 Religion in the

from our republican institutions, and they forbear. They know,
moreover, that the educational field is the key of the whole posi-
tion. Give up that, and all else follows of itself. IFe shall not
give that up.

But I deny that the common school is sectarian in any other
sense than the government and society of the United States are
sectarian. The people of the United States, first of all peoples,
declared that there is a religion that is not a sect, or an establish-
ment ; the worship of Almighty God, reverence for His law, and
the service of man. From this universal religion, the absolute
basis of all churches, creeds, and forms, the rights of man, and all
the distinctive principles of American society are derived. This is
the light, warmth, and atmosphere in which our republic lives and
moves. As far as men can overcome the obstacles to the applica-
tion of any great idea, they have applied this in every department
of state and national life. But the Catholic priesthood has always
resisted this American idea. It says there is but one religion, the
Catholic, and every other form is false, and exposes men to damna-
tion. It ridicules the pretensions of nine-tenths of the American
people to be religious at all, and denounces the recognition and pro-
tection of all denominations as religious bodies by the State. Of
course, to such a view, our common schools are sectarian and
atheistic at the same time, and will be so until they submit to the
infallible dictation of an obscure Italian prince who claims to be the
representative of Almighty God. Now, Americans are generous.
If this poor prince has a hard run upon his treasury, we in Cincin-
nati are willing to pass round the hat and send him $200,000 as a
donation, though we don't believe in supporting a government by a
subscription paper. But when this amiable old gentleman turns
upon us, and claims infallible authority to control the education of
American children, and demands the destruction of our common
school, we respectfully decline.

A portion of the Protestant clergy have always fallen into the
same error, insisting that their own sectarianism is the whole of
religion. But, while the priesthood is all-powerful in the Catholic,
the people is supreme in the Protestant church. While the
Catholic priesthood in America has followed the law of every aris-
tocracy,-and now ultimates itself in Romish infallibility, the Protest-
ant people have perpetually tended toward liberty, and forced their
clergy to follow them. Thus, every year, the grand ideal of our
fathers, of public religion divorced from sectarianism, has been
more nearly approached. There never was so little sectarianism in
public American affairs as to-day, and there will be less and less
with every coming year, unless some great excitement, provoked by
Catholic or Atheistic intolerance, forces a reaction in the public
mind. The American people do not expect to please the Catholic

Coinnhon Schools. 27

priesthood in this matter, but they do intend to guard all the rights
of Catholic, Hebrew, or Radical citizens as sacredly as the infirm-
ity of human affairs will permit. The new leaders of Catholic
religious reform in this country will learn in time that nothing is to
be hoped from Rome, but everything is to be hoped from Wash-
ington. Instead of chopping theological and political dialectics
with the Jesuits, if they will turn to their own people, disabuse
them of their prejudices against our common schools, show them
the real catholicity of the system, and persuade them to accept such
opportunities as the children of no generation have known before,
they will become the real benefactors of our adopted population.
The current of American civilization is tending irresistibly toward
all the freedom humanity can endure. It will not plunge into the
bottomless pit of Atheism to gratify any sect of philosophy. It
will not turn back and drown the nation in a stagnant flood of des-
potism, to please a visionary old gentleman at Rome. The people's
answer to all this labyrinth of Jesuitic and atheistic argumentation
on religion in the common schools is this : We have established
the American common school as a vital part of our political
institutions, the corner stone of our republican order of society.
As a part of American society, it recognizes the claims, and lives
in the atmosphere, of an unsectarian religion, and we intend neither
to be quibbled nor forced away from this central fortress of our
liberties. And the American people mean what they say, and have
learned how to dispose of all enemies to the Republic who push
their hostile theories into rebellious deeds.

But the Catholic priesthood do not rely upon argument to destroy
the common school. Their strong weapon is their policy, and that
policy is the same as of all despotism since the foundation of the
world : to divide, distract, and provoke bitter conflict between the
friends of this institution until it is destroyed, or so damaged that
they can come in and administer upon its remains. Liberty always
has this disadvantage: it is always agitated, and liable to be
divided by the freedom of speech, thought, and policy, among its
friends, and can only enforce anything by the power of an over-
whelming majority. Despotism moves like a fate, compact, deci-
sive, ready to strike its foe when least prepared and least united.
This policy the Catholic priesthood has always adopted in relation
to the common school. That institution has grown up to its pres-
ent magnificent estate in America through a cloud of controversy
and compromise which ^qw of us can realize. Let any man spend
three months in England, talking with all classes of English people
on educational affairs, beholding what a stormy ocean of prejudice
must be crossed before that nation can arrive at any practical sys-
tem for educating its ignorant multitudes, and he will admire the
wisdom and common Sjpnse that has carried us safe to our present

28 Reli^ioTo in the

glorious result. At every point in this creative enterprise the
people have seen this black brigade of the Catholic priesthood, now
striking an exposed point like a thunderbolt, now sWulking in a
covert and hinting the mischief it dare not attempt. The only
wonder is, that the people have kept their hands ofF an aristocracy
that has pursued their favorite institution with such a tireless hate.
But the people learn fast. An intelligent people, in the long run, is
more than a match for any aristocracy, and in this case the machin-
ations of the priesthood to destroy, divide and demoralize the com-
mon school will come to naught.

The history of our Cincinnati schools is full of warning on this
point. The one constant fact through all our educational progress
has been the attempt of the Catholic priesthood to capture the
institution, or, in the event of failure, to destroy it. Up to the year
1842, that priesthood hoped to gain control not only of the schools,
but the city. Their success in making proselytes in a few wealthy and
cultivated circles, and the general aristocratic state of society, were
encouraging. They therefore kept their children in what they now
call our sectarian and atheistic schools, hoping, like the slaveholders
in national affairs, to finally subjugate and govern the whole. But
for the last thirty years it has become more evident that Cincinnati
is to become a great northern metropolis, in all respects conformed
to American ideas, and the priesthood has acted accordingly. It
has been engaged in two operations: First. It has persist-^
ently pushed the building of Catholic school-houses by funds in
part extorted from the masses of the Catholic people. These
buildings are commonly adjacent to their churches, a part of the
sacred enclosure, and in no way adapted for our system of public
schools. As fast as completed they have been filled with Catholic
children, who are educated under the authority of the priests, the
expenses being met by a weekly tax upon the Catholic people.
They have just completed a great addition to the Jesuit college,
which is heavily endowed, and intended to supplant our system of
high schools and the McMicken university ; and they already own
the Catholic Institute, which can easily be changed to a library and
literary exchange of the town. It is probable that not fewer than
fifteen thousand children are either taught in these buildings or kept
away from the public schools by the influence of the priests. Sec-
ond. During all this time there has been but little public agitation
on the topic. The common schools have grown so fast and their
friends have been so occupied in their development, especially since

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Online LibraryA. D. (Amory Dwight) MayoReligion in the common schools. Three lectures delivered in the city of Cincinnati, in October, 1869 → online text (page 3 of 6)