abbé (Antoine) Martinet.

Religion in society; or, The solution of great problems, placed within the reach of every mind (Volume 1) online

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Shall the State, the government (that is, the individual
whom a coterie may elevate to the presidency of the coun-
cil of ministers), besides the power of administering what
have been hitherto called political affairs, with that omnipo-
tence which centralization gives, possess, also, the power of
controlling the intellect, and arbitrarily ruling thought ?

Will the State, which has already absorbed the communes
and the department to the advantage of an absurd social
unity, also annihilate the family, and, seizing the child when
it leaves its nurse's arms, will it assume the right of saying to
the father: "That being belongs to me; provide if you will
for its material future, but it belongs to me to form its mind
and heart ! "

Will the State, which converts everything into gold, make
the same use of knowledge ? Will she put a tariff on science ?
Will she say to the poor man: " Since you are poor, renounce
all idea of education and the hope of deliverance from your
misery ; if any one has the audacious charity to cherish
your talents, I shall check him"? Will she say to families
in easy circumstances : " I know that you regard my estab-
lishments for education as sinks of iniquity; but, if your
children do not attend them, they will be excluded from all

* Those who would still deceive themselves with regard to the des-
perate assaults which the university monopoly made on the public
rights, guaranteed by the charter to all Frenchmen, can disabuse them-
selves by reading the spirited reflections of un Ami de la Charte. (See
La Charte-VeritS, ou le Monopole devant les Chambres, Lyons,
Janvier, 1S44.)


Will the State, which has been made atheistical by the law,
and indifferent to every religious belief, undertake the absurd
mission of teaching religion to youth, or assume the right to
educate, in infidelity, a nation which cannot, without suicide,
cease to be Christian ?* Can she say to six millions of pa-
rents, to whom she has guaranteed the free exercise of their
religion : " I know the great influence of teachers over the
minds and hearts of their pupiis; I know that religion is
always indifferent to the man whose youth has not been in-
spired by it ; I intend, then, to entrust your children to mas-
ters who will, in various ways, inculcate upon them contempt
for all religion " ?

Will the State, in order to satisfy the low prejudices of a
tyrannical faction, have a right to destroy the religion of the
majority, by proscribing its dearest institutions ? Armed with
an inquisitorial power, will she boldly violate the asylum of
conscience, and, in defiance of the fundamental laws of uni-
versal opinion, confound the religious Catholic in the same
civil incapacity with the fugitive from justice, and the par-
doned criminal !

In short, will the French nation fall under the power of a
despotism without parallel, a Caliphate more degrading than
that which oppresses the followers of the Prophet ?

This is, indeed, the indelible disgrace which will be re-
served for her, if the public authorities, intimidated by the

* This was the idea of Napoleon whose name is much used by the
advocates of monopoly. Confiding his son to the care of Madame
Montesquiou, (governess of the king of Rome,) whose rare virtues and
deep piety he appreciated, he said to her : " Madame, I entrust to you
my child, upon whom depend the destinies of France, and perhaps of
all Europe ; make a good Christian of him." Some one smiled at this ;
and the enraged Emperor at once turned to him and addressed him thus :
" Yes, Sir, I know what I am saying, rny son must be made a good
Christian, for otherwise he cannot be a good Frenchman." (Fie dc
vVapolton, by M. Michaud, Biogr. , torn. Ixxv.)

VOL. II. 20


clamors of a faction which publicly names itself revolutionary,
imperialist, and Voltairean, remain deaf to the unanimous
voice of the Bishops speaking in the name of Catholic France.

And what do these eighty Bishops demand, whose words, it
would seem, have a little more power in the country than
those of Villemain and Thiers? They demand what all in-
dependent minds, whatever may be their religious designation,
demand, the free and loyal execution of the fundamental

It is a singular fact that the same clergy who were for a
long time accused of a secret antipathy to the charter, now
take upon themselves the defence of it, and with wonderful
energy solicit the natural and indispensable fulfilment of it!
It is the same clergy who were called the friends of privilege
and exception, who are now resisting with all their power,
privilege and exclusiveness, and demand liberty for all.

They are accused of taking upon themselves the charge
of education, and it is even feared that they may monopolise
it; but even if their penury did not render this fear absurd,
what means have they of rendering their co-operation with
the University formidable, except the confidence inspired by
their knowledge and virtue. Would such competition involve
anything disastrous for the state ? Would France be in peril,
if many heads of families preferring for the education of their
children the ministers of Jesus Christ to the followers of
Voltaire, the University should be itself brought back to the
principles of Christian instruction.

What, in fact, is proposed by excluding the clergy from the
education of youth ? Is it thought possible to form religious
men without the ministry of the priesthood, or govern a nation
of atheists. If the generation which in ten years will consti-
tute the French nation, remains subject to a teaching, the
immorality and irreligion of which are proved by an over-
whelming body of facts to which nothing has been opposed


but calumnious recrimination and insolent denial,* what hand
in ten years will be able to hold the reins of France ?

Napoleon himself did not believe it possible to re-organize
alone a society dissolved by Voltaire and Rousseau, and
esteeming his sword too light to balance so many unchained
passions, he summoned religion to the re-construction of the
State. Do the men of July believe themselves more powerful
than he ?

It excites an indescribable pity to see the presumption of
pretended statesmen who, after adding humiliation to humi-
liation, as the great captain added victory to victory, cast con-
tempt and disdain on that religion whose co-operation they
claimed, and boldly proclaim from the midst of a society in
ashes : " Let the priest guard their altars, we and our brave
followers will guard the state and the throne!"

This was said more than sixty years since when the Bishops
of France vainly contended with the rulers, that the altar was
indispensable to the support of the throne and of public
liberty. Are the events of that time already forgotten. The
altar was scarcely shaken, when the axe of the revolution
splintered the oldest throne of Europe, and five hundred
thousand swords protected the scaffold on which the heads
of kings, deputies, ministers, soldiers, citizens and priests
were thrown in confusion.

* This is in fact the only answer given, to this day, to the formal act
of accusation drawn up by the courageous author of the Monopole uni-
vcrsitaire destructeur de la Religion et des Lois, and whoever has
read the work, will acknowledge that the defenders of the University
were compelled to choose between silence and abuse.





RELIGION must assume a form if it would interest man,
and be apprehended by him. Eternal truth was compelled
to incarnate itself in order to subject itself to our sensual
intelligence. Her revelations would soon vanish, if entrusted
to a book, and confined within the dreamy regions of the in-
dividual thought, they were not embodied in the living words
of pastors, and the animated forms of public worship.

Endowed with understanding, imagination and sentiment,
the soul naturally feels the need of translating, and express-
ing the interior results of its three faculties, by words, images
and action. To forbid it the very expressive language of
signs and symbols, is doing violence to nature, and destroy-
ing thought and feeling ; for thought is neither well conceived,
nor developed, nor preserved without the aid of expression,
and symbols ; feeling can neither live nor communicate nor
perpetuate itself without its offspring gesture.

The human mind expanded, ennobled and spiritualised by
the sublime and touching faith of Christianity must re-produce
it in various ways, and demand from the fine arts, expressions,
images, and ceremonials worthy of the elevation of its
thoughts, the grandeur of its affections, its hopes and fears.
A glorious reflection of the light which enlightens every man
coming into this world, the Christian worship must be CathoHc
and universal, and surpass other worships by the variety, har-
mony and beauty of its forms, as Christian thought surpasses
all other thought. This it has done. Are not the noblest
inspirations of eloquence, poetry, music, architecture, painting
and sculpture, both Christian and Catholic ?


This is acknowledged ; homage is paid to the beauties of
the Catholic worship,* to the immense impulse it has given
at all periods to the fine arts. Hence philosophy with reason
accuses Protestantism of having disavowed and brutally vio-
lated by its false spiritualism one of the first laws of human
nature. The lover of the beautiful demands of it an account
of the master-pieces which its vandalism has destroyed, and
for those which it has checked in their birth, by proscribing
the great vehicle of genius imagination.]- Religious men.
reproach it with having dethroned piety by taking from it
its finest ornaments.

We must observe, however, with regard to this last reproach,

* " It must be acknowledged," says a Protestant minister, " that the
Catholic liturgy is incomparable, and that nothing is more desirable
than to approach it as nearly as possible. When we enter those vast
basilicks, at the moment of the celebration of the offices, with that
beautiful Gregorian music, which with the sound of instruments, fills
the whole extent of these immense edifices, and see here and there those
images of the prophets, saints, and seraphim, with their harps and
trumpets, that old priest with white locks, who entones the stanzas
from the depth of the sanctuary, those acolytes with their censers, and
the eagle rising towards heaven from the midst of the choristers, we
experience really the power of music and the language of religious
signs. Separated for a moment from the things of earth, we believe
ourselves transported into the midst of a vision of the Apocalypse.
This is a public worship worthy of Christianity, and of the gratitude
of a refined people who are indebted to it for their civilization." (M.
Muller, Des Beaux Jlrts et de la Ldngue dcs Signes, &c., p. 116.)

f " By subtracting the imagination from the faculties of man, it, (the
Reformation,) clipped the wings of genius and set it on its feet. Goethe
and Schiller did not appear until Protestantism, abjuring its dry and
morose spirit, returned towards the arts and subjects of the Catholic
religion. This last has covered the world with her monuments. Pro-
testantism sprung up just three centuries ago; it prevails in England,
Germany, and America; it is practised by millions of men. What has
it constructed ? It will show the ruins it has made, among which it
has planted some gardens or established some manufactures." (Chateau-
briand, Etudes Histor., preface.


that it is easy for the Reformation to justify itself by reply-
ing that its fundamental principle necessarily excludes public
worship, and that its only error in the matter is having pre-
served some fragments of it.

Indeed public worship being only the expression of public
belief or the symbolic language of the common faith, what
can be the public worship where there is neither common
faith, nor public belief, except a criminal mockery !

The Bible, and a silent Bible, is the only religious symbol
which Protestants can permit in their temples ; for religious
assemblies are very inconsistent with a religion which is es-
sentially individual.

Thus, nothing is more perfectly ridiculous than the enthu-
siasm of certain devotees of Germany and elsewhere, for the
restoration of Protestant worship. It certainly will be very
easy to re-establish in their temples what Protestantism form-
erly demolished as an obstacle to the adoration in spirit and in
truth, as an abominable invention of the Roman anti-Christ.

Images, statues of Jesus Christ, of the Apostles, the Cress,
candelabras and the censer will be restored. The organ
will mingle its majestic sounds with the voice of the choris-
ters ; a minister after many invectives against the papist
mass, will ascend the steps of a pretended altar, clothed
with a sort of chasuble, and offer an imitation of a sacrifice ;
after which, turning towards those present, he will invite them
to come and receive from the same hand, some the figure,
others the reality of the body of Christ.

These are the signs of life with which a dead body might
be surrounded in a chapel ; but to make Protestantism move,
preach, sing, sigh and pray is radically impossible ; a corpse
does nothing of all that.

It will be said: This is at least an edifying spectacle.
Spectacle it may be : but not edifying. Nothing can be less
edifying than a solemn public falsehood connected with mat-


lers of religion. As a spectacle, such a worship has not,
like profane spectacles, the advantage of interesting the
public by representing to them the passions whose language
every one comprehends. Exhibiting a religion which belongs
to no one, what can it be but an unintelligible pantomime, a
phantasmagoria no less sacrilegious than absurd ? And
moreover, what attracts to these temples but the charm of



I shall speak elsewhere of the civilizing influence of Ca-
tholic worship. I would here notice three reproaches that
are cast upon it. 1st, for multiplying its rites and ceremonies
so much as to conceal the substance under an oppressive
mass of forms ; 2d. for employing in its Liturgy a language
unknown to the people ; 3d. for giving too high a place to
the creature in an institution which has God for its object
(by this the worship of the Saints, and particularly of Mary,
is intended.)

I shall not give much attention to the first two objections,
upon which far less weight is laid since there has been an
opportunity of estimating the moral and artistic effect of
Liturgies in the vulgar tongue, and in a worship with scanty

If instead of condemning from the elevation of their igno-

* Stoves are necessary in Protestant temples, said a lively traveller,
M. Veuillot, Pelerinage en Suisse, torn, i., p. 27. Very well for win-
ter ! but in summer ? Perhaps ices may sometimes be distributed there '


ranee, the numerous ceremonies of the Catholic worship, the
objectors would take the pains to penetrate the deep signifi-
cance of them and study their vast and wonderful symbolism,
they would see that everything is perfectly connected in this
beautiful system, that every part has its reason and also its
effect, and that the skill with which the Church has intro-
duced so great a variety into the very limited plan of its
Liturgy cannot be sufficiently admired.

Indeed, what do we find in this series of mysterious pic-
tures which it presents to our eye in the course of the year ?
Nothing less than the history of the world, from the Word
which created heaven and earth, to the Word which is to
produce a new heaven, and a new earth ; the history of the
Redeemer, from the day he was promised to guilty man, to
the day when he will receive into his glory the last, in time,
of the elect; the history of the Christian Church, from the
period when it was sighing in the catacombs, to the final
period when pursued into the depths of the deserts by tri-
umphant impiety, it will see the banner of the spouse unfurled
in heaven and will entone an eternal Hosannah !

If the Catholic ceremonies are generally considered beau-
tiful and imposing by those who only comprehend the mate-
rial part of them, what effect would they not produce on those
who really understood the spirit of them ! Would the longest
office leave room for ennui if those present could follow the
thought of the Church?

Very few Christians indeed are sufficiently well instructed
to enjoy the internal beauties of the worship ; but because
many are too short-sighted to comprehend the whole extent
of this vast edifice, is this a reason that the Church should
demolish it? In an age like ours when so much is said of
the brotherhood of nations ; when wonderful inventions an-
nihilate distances and promise to make of the whole world
only one city, is there not some grandeur in the idea, vainly


cherished by Leibnitz,* of a universal language, which while
diffusing the alphabets of every nation over the world, should
also bestow upon it all the philosophers, historians, literati
and learned men, whom antiquity and our ancient Europe
can number? Would not its realisation be an immense step
towards the union of human families ?

This miracle has been worked long since by the Catholic
Church. Thanks to its contempt for the ridicule of heretics
and the blind counsels of some of its children, the elders of
all the nations of the globe now speak the language of Cicero,
Virgil, Livy, Tertullian, St. Augustine, Kepler, Descartes and

Must not such a result, which the Church alone could ob-
tain by rendering obligatory the use of Latin in its Liturgy,
show the disadvantage of singing the praises of God in
a language which is understood only by a few, especially
if it is easy to remedy this disadvantage by translations
which are in all hands and by the oral explanations of the

The following is the problem presented to the Church in
view of thousands of people who were divided by language
more than by space:

Must she procure for these nations the immense advantage
of understanding each other, by establishing the same reli-
gious language, at the risk that by inattention and ignorance
a few of the words should be lost which she addresses to
God in the name of this vast family ; or would it be better
for the good pleasure of those who cannot or will not read
their prayers at Mass that she should herself odopt the three
thousand five hundred idioms which the world speaks, and
leave these nations forever mute, and without the means of
communication with each other?

Have those who so lightly condemn the solution which

* See Esprit de Leibnitz, langue universelle, torn. iv. p. 202.


Rome has given to this problem, ever considered or even
looked at it !

" What a sublime idea," exclaims M. de Maistre, " is that
of a universal language for the Universal Church! From the
North Pole to the South, the Catholic who enters into a
church of his own ritual is at home and nothing is strange
in his eyes. On arriving he hears what he has heard all his
life ; and he can mingle his voice with those of his brethren.
He understands them, they understand him ; he can exclaim :
" Rome is entire in all places ; the whole of her is found where I am."

" The corruption of the age seizes continually certain words,
and spoils them for its amusement. If the Church spoke
our language, some bold free-thinker would be sure to render
the most sacred word of the Liturgy either ridiculous or in-
decent. On every account the religious language should be
put beyond the power of man."*




MOST Protestants at length candidly acknowledge that the
Catholic Church does not adore and has never adored the
saints, and the absurd accusation of idolatry is no longer met
with except in the scandalous pamphlets of the Bosts, Malans,
Monods and other traffickers in the scurrility of the old
Reformation. But we are reproached with giving to the
saints too high a place in our worship. Might we not ask of
them in our turn why they have not given them any ?

In their religious system, what has become of the great
* Du Pape, liv. i. ch. 20.


family of the children of God, united forever by the indisso-
luble ties of charity, and the elder brethren of which, fortu-
nate possessors of the celestial inheritance, employ their credit
with the common Father for the benefit of their brethren who
are still engaged in the conflicts of life ?

Was this consoling interchange of honors and merits, of
prayers and intercessions, between^the inhabitants of earth
and those of heaven, a belief which all Christian antiquity
professed in the creed by the expression communion of saints,
was it so offensive to God and injurious to men, as the pre-
tended Reformers affirmed it to be ? We must acknowledge,
however, that in this they showed themselves perfectly con-
sistent with their principles.

How could those who repudiate the visible hierarchy by
which Christ transmits to us his words and his sacraments,
how could they accept the invisible hierarchy which bears
our supplications to the foot of the eternal throne, and brings
down from it streams of grace ? Since God deigns to con-
verse with each of us and has appointed no one to explain to
us his word, why should we commission any one to present
to him our demands ? If he speaks to us without an inter-
preter, will he not hear us without an intercessor ?

Sad reasoning this, which separating the individual from
his kind, under pretext of uniting him more closely with God,
converts him into a savage as isolated from God as from
men ; for it is written : Wo to him who is alone ? *

And on what do these miserable cavillers depend in order
to destroy the magnificent spiritual city which faith offers to
our homage and our love ; an immense city, of which God
and his Christ are the chief, the corner-stone, of which Mary
is the Queen ; of which angels, prophets, apostles and all the
blessed are in different- degrees the ministers, the high offi-
cials, the adult citizens ; of which we ourselves are the new-
* Eccles. iv. 10.


born, still hovering between life and death?* Is it on the
Bible, to which they incessantly appeal ? But the Bible
everywhere represents to us God surrounded with his angels
and saints, as so many ministers and counsellors ; f honoring
them with the name of friends ; J making their names a title
of glory ; seating them on his throne, associating them in
the exercise of his sovereignty as he associates them with the
joys which the earth offers him ; [| placing individuals, cities
and kingdoms under their guardianship.lT

They seem to fear debasing God in the eyes of men by
elevating the saints ! This shows a very great ignorance of
God and man. What more sad, or less benevolent than this
isolated God, jealous of reform, eclipsing the saints by the
brilliancy of his glory, instead of making them shine as
suns,** and compelling them to be only automata in his

Transport the sun into empty space, extinguish those
floods of light with which he enriches our planet, how will
he appear to the eye of man ! It is the earth which makes
us admire the sun, and it is in his saints that God would
render himself admirable.ff

To allow the blessed an active part in the Divine govern-
ment, would be assuming, according to the objectors, that the
hand of the Most High is not strong enough to hold alone
the sceptre of the world.

What bar-room philosophy! Did it ever enter into the

* Ephes. ii. 19, 20 ; Hebr.i. 14 ; I. Peter ii. 2.
f Daniel vii. 10; III. Kings xxii. 19,4.

I Ps. cxxxviii. 17.
Exod. iii. 16.

|| Sap in. 8; Apoc. iii. 21.

II Daniel vii. 16 ; ix. 21 ; x. 13 ; xii. 1 ; Luke xv. 17.
** Justi fulgebunt sicut sol. (Matth. xiii. 43.)

tf Mirabilis Deus in sanctis suis. (Ps. Ixvii. 36.)

Online Libraryabbé (Antoine) MartinetReligion in society; or, The solution of great problems, placed within the reach of every mind (Volume 1) → online text (page 33 of 36)