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American ecclesiastical review, Volume 27 online

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calling, and it practically contains the terms of the pastoral elec-
tion and mission. ^ The words of Jeremias — of the priests that
were in Anathoth : The Lard put forth His hand and Uuched nty
fmautky and said $0 me: Lo, I have set thee this day aver the peo-
ple {the MotiaMS and kingdoms) ta root up, and to pull dawn,
and to lay waste, and ta destroy, and to build, and ta plant f " ^
The gentle son of the priestly house of Hdkias was to root up
the tares, to pull down the parasite vines, which, climbing around
the healthy tree, suck the juice from the trunk to feed their
pottonous growth ; he was to lay waste, that is, to cut and remove
the barren tree, and to destroy, that is, to burn the dry wood lest
it encumber the ground^ he was to build supports for the fruit-
bearing vegetation, and to plant fresh seeds for the growth of a
new generation.


To accomplish these various tasks as a representative of the
Divine Husbandman, it is quite necessary that a priest should stay
upon "the watch-towar of his vineyard," and closely observe
what goes on below among the flocks. To keep on good terms
with a community by ignoring their wrong-doings; to evade
trouble by pretending not to recognize the tracks which show the
devil's inroad upon a parish ; to keep ofl* under the plea that our
mterference will not be effective, is both unmanly and bad policy,
even if it were not a distinct dereliction of duty, for wUch, sooner
or later^ we shall have to make our report to headquarters.

What the priest must do, first of all, is to see and to note
closely what transpires within his proper field of pastoral opera-
tion. Indeed^ a part of his work may be justly compared to
that of a detective ; not one who endeavors to ensnare peq>le,
but one who, in the interest of common safety, seeks to acquire
legitimate knowledge regarding those who destroy the public
peace. Like a good officer of the state's secret service, the
priest must keep his tongue in control while he is learning. Like
an efficient detective, he must not show any temper, or seem wan-

*Jer. 1: 9, 10.

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tonly to intrude on anybody's premises. His first business is to
learn ; and for that he must simply observe and move about, and
be very quiet and patient until he has all his facts, and make no
alarm before he thoroughly knows the ground and the avenues
that lead to and from the territory which he has to deal with.

After thAt he will, like a good officer, con over and weigh the
items which he has learnt, and will bring them to headquarters to
consult with experts as to the best manner of dealing with them.
Priests, more than any other class of men, are apt to take the
position of accuser, advocate, and judge at the same time. The
reason of this is probably to be found in the circumstances which
compel them to act in each of the three capacities in turn. But
it is an error to confound these positions with reference to one
and the same case. Nevertheless, the mistake is easily made, and
the only way to avoid the awkward consequences which this lack
of taking objective position produces at times, is to consult with


To consult for the purpose of gaining knowledge and advice
does not mean to give one's own view of a situation in order to
have it approved by a superior. A detective's business requires
that he leave his heart — that is to say, his &mily likings, his
favorite views, his politics, and, above all, his sensitive self— out of
the account in the presentation of facts to those who are to advise
him. Superiors, perhaps less than friends, but superiors also fre-
quently humor our predisposition in matters of mere policy, when
they feel that we do not really want advice so much as a sort of
backing to a course on which we are determined beforehand.
A fellow-priest is a good adviser only if he have no weakness in
the same direction as ourselves, or if he be not an extremist in the
opposite direction. Age, too, is of itself no qualification for good
counsel ; nor is official position, unless it be a responsible position
at the same time.

All this, if observed, demands that we do our business with
deliberation, which implies patience. And the ruler, the divinely-
guided reformer, needs nothing so much as patience. If we could
always put ourselves in the reasonable attitude of a father who
loves his children, no matter how wayward they may be, we should

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never fail in feeling, saying, and doing the right thing when it
becomes our duty to correct others. The people show that they
expect this attitude in us when they address us as " Father." But
that should never in reality mean " Stepfather."


Correction is, as has been indicated, the main object of our
vigilance, unless in so far as the preservation of the existing good
is a concomitant aim and effect of priestly watchfulness. But the
pastoral method of correction is not of the penal sort The com-
parison between the secular detective system, with its worldly
wisdom, and the priestly activity, with its prudence of the serpent,
ends here. The word " correction " has an ecclesiastical as well
as a secular sense. In truth, the old Romans showed their instinct
of religiousness in the coining of this and similar words much
more than appears on the sur&ce ; and there is something provi-
dential in the chdce of Rome, not only as the local inheritance of
the Pontifex Maximus, but as the central teacher, whose language
has a wondrous fitness for the expression of religious and spiritual
thought. Comctio is a composite of can (or cum) and rego. It
means to rule, " to direct in harmony " with {cunC) some other
element This accompanying element is the feeling, the sensitive-
ness, the disposition — ^in short, the soul of the person corrected.
It means that the corrector is in thorough sympathy with him or
her whom he chides or directs.

This quality of sympathy, as an essential element of priestly,
pastoral, or &therly correction, ought to be unmistakably apparent
to all who witness the chastisement It must be felt, too, by the
person who is being corrected, even if his or her inborn pride
overcloud for the moment the better conviction and retard the
full disposition of making reparation or reform.

Accordingly the priest has to guard against two errors in his
censure of any wrong-doing if he means to change things. One is
the use of words, either ill-natured, bitter or sarcastic, which reveal
a personal resentment or even indifference. A pastor cannot afford
to have the name of being proud. Perhaps few of us realize the
fact, but a haughty, overbearing priest inspires a feeling aldn to
the paternal monster who despises his offspring. It is a fault that

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robs him of the public sympathy ami not only lowers meft*s esti-
mate of his judgment, but of his whole character. The jndge an
tk€ altar or in the pulpit deals with a cause ^ not with an individual
di his flock. The latter is judged in the confessional. Only in
the rarest possible cases does even the Supreme Authority of the
Church censure or excommunicate a person or a society by name
or in such a way that its identity is unmistakable. What the
pastor condemns is the evU, the abuse, the sin. People will all
too readily apply the lesson where it belong without our tearing
the mantle of charity and flaunting its shreds into the &ce of the
sinner l^ mention of names and places. Even when we condemn
a wrong it is requisite to be cautious in order to succeed with the
impression which we wish to create against wrong-doing or the
proximate danger of it Caution does not mean temporiztng or
minimiztng or excusing guilt. But it means that, in the first phce,
we must be sure of the evil and its effects before we attempt to cor-
rect it. Secondly, we must not exaggerate either the fact or the
penalty which divine sanction has placed upon the transgression.
If we find it stated in our text-book of mond theology that to neg-
lect baptism beyond a certain time constitutes a mortal sin for the
parents, we must not take this alone as an authorization to dog-
matize from the pulpit against parents who have omitted their
duty in this respect The manuals of theology are intended to
direct the judgment^ not the language^ of the preacher. He may
come to the conclusion that there is mortal sin in most of such
cases of neglect, and he may be correct ; but when he utters this
judgment in public and from the sacred chair he gives the force ot
a law to what was only intended to be an opinion, however proba-
ble. And since there are always possible exceptions, in which
stich a neglect is not wholly wilful, ht leaves a ¥frong impression
upon the hearers, perhaps to the personal injury of some of them.
It is much more in harmony with truth, and in reality also more
effective, to point out the great loss of grace and the ii^ury to the
child whose baptism is delayed than to denounce ignorant parents
who are probably not disposed to resist kindly and definite

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Some Other Evils Specified.

But if I set out to argue a method of correction as a means of
guarding public morality, it was with the ultimate object to indi-
cate some phases of the trust in which our guardianship is most
concerned These phases are certain public amusements in which
Catholics take sometimes a leading and sometimes a secondary
part ; but in either of which cases the priest bears the responsibil-
ity for the harm done, if harm be done, or for the failure to effect
certain reforms which not only the Church but the public at lai^e
expect from his personal influence.

There are various categories of parties and exhibitions in
which Catholics, and mostly Catholic youth, are exposed to the
danger of losing reverence for virtue. They may be grouped
under four heads :

1. Diversions, such as picnics, £urs, parties, under the nominal
auspices of the church or parish ;

2. Diversions, such as teas, dances, theatricals, arranged in the
home circle and under the control of parents ;

3. Diversions like the above, but organized by non-Catholic or
under sectarian control, in which at times sacrifices are demanded
from the Catholic who takes part in them, which are incompatible
with the high standard c^ morals and with the Catholic profession
of faith.

4. Diversions that are plainly anti-Catholic and immoral in
their suggesdveness, if not otherwise.

As to the last-mentioned class there can be no doubt regard-
ing the duty which tM^ry virtue-loving person has in restraining
our youth from these pitfalls that destroy the heart and render
later life a misery. If officers of the society for the repression of
vice or the prevention of public inmiorality are accorded respect
and support in carrying out the praiseworthy object of their
associations, a priest will with greater certainty conciliate public
esteem by maintaining an unequivocal stand against any attempt
to defile the moral atmosphere of his parish.

In regard to entertainments given for a pronouncedly sec-
tarian purpose, Catholics should be made to understand that their
cooperation is an injury to those who perhaps solicit it with the

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best intentions and under the most plausible plea. It is true
that charity is always Catholic, whatever name it may assume
in the mind or speech of those who practise it; we do not
ask die needy beggar what creed he professes, to determine our
willingness to help him. Yet, if our voluntary gift were so
directed by others as to foster the propagation of an error which
would seriously mislead them in an important matter, we should
withhold our gift, at least to the extent of encouraging the mis-
taken policy of living. If, during war-time, I should meet an im-
portunate friend who asked me for an endorsement of character
that he might obtain a position securing his livelihood, I should
surely be disposed to help him ; but if I found that the position
he sought was that of an important noilitary agency for the
enemy of my country, to the defence of which I am pledged by
my patriotic allegiance, I could not consistently help Um to the
position, because it would mean injury to my country. In like
manner we may have every reason for according to others a
genuine sympathy, yet not so far as to sustain the teaching and
fostering of a position both erroneous and dangerous because it
propagates error. In such circumstances no sharp line of duty
can, it is true, always be traced between the obligation of charity
which depends on the actual need of the person, and the loyalty
due to a faith which is equally the condition of obedience to
God's precept ; for as Catholics we hold fast to the sense of duty
to walk the way traced out for us by the law of Him who has
the right to direct our march toward Heaven. A wise discretion
will have to teach us where the balance of right lies, so that we
may help others without encouraging their false views of God's

There remain, as the subject of pastoral vigilance, the social
amusements which, without interfering with the doctrinal point of
view in matters of true faith, tend to lower the standard of ex-
ternal morality and as a consequence of virtuous living, either in
the home circle or within the parochial confines. The things
which people do in their homes are not ordinarily subject to the
inspection of the priest. They may come to his notice acci-
dentally, and he may make them in a general way the topic of
his sermons or of friendly interference ; or he may find oppor-

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tunity to correct them in the confessional. Reports of gambling,
lascivious dancing, excessive drinking, private theatricals which
serve as a disguise for indiscriminate love-making, spiritualistic
experiments, and other diversions of a question2U>le character,
cannot as a rule be lawfully made a pretext for invading the
privacy of the household, and must be counteracted by indirect
influence upon those who are concerned in such practices. If
the priest should be an accidental witness of these things he
would, of course, be bound to show his disapproval of them,
since his silence could mean nothing less in a Catholic circle than
either approval or lack of moral courage on his part, both of
which alternatives are degrading the sacred office which he holds
in trust

Church Festivals.

But there is such a thing as putting the stamp of legitimacy
upon amusements of a dangerous tendency by publicly tolerating
or encouraging them in connection with performances and festivals
that have their initiative in some undertaking intended to benefit
the Catholic cause. The false principle that the end justifies the
means is here fi^quently put in practice without its being recog-
nized as a doctrine. There are numerous occasions, such as
school commencement exercises, receptions to the clergy, per-
formances at fairs and picnics, organized with the single view of
honoring and fostering religion, which, nevertheless, serve directly
to destroy that very reserve and modesty on which all real relig-
ion is based. Years of pastoral labor bring about a scheme for
building up a system of education or charity on a foundation of
religion simply because the priest feels that there is no adequate
provision made for giving to his people that truly Catholic assist-
ance and atmosphere which would separate them from, or coun-
teract the contamination of, secular or sectarian ideals. With the
progress of his work comes the apparent need or desire to interest
the people, to swell the contributions. Flattery, vanity, popular
taste make their claim and gradually obscure the first object,
until finally they drive it entirely into the background. Thus an
institution intended to uplift and educate in virtue often becomes,
even before it has reached its material finish, a slow and indirect
means of lowering the sense of moral dignity by the sanction of

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what would, under other circumstances, be regarded as offensive
to the sense of propriety, if not of decaicy. I am not exagger-
ating, yet to mention instances is not desirable and probaUy not
necessary. Let every priest that reads these lines ask himself
whether or not he has at times felt the sting <^ conscience, or
experienced a sense of silent alarm at spectacles in which a
thoughtless crowd applauded vulgarities of song and scene that
the indiscreet readiness of some jovial manager had insinuated
into the service of ostensible charity. There are tintes when
priests feel that they are out of place in the midst of their own
young people. Why should this be ? Such demonstrations have
an effect which, though apparently passing, leaves its deep itiflu*
ence after the show has passed away. They fix a standard ; they
declare the lawfulness of things which in the pulpit and in the
catechism classes are stigmatized as sinful, or as direct occasions
of sin ; they make a time-server of the preacher, and they destroy
his ministerial work in many other directions by rendering his
sacred office, which is that of a watchman in the Church of
Christ, and a guardian c^ morality and virtue, in reality a stum-
bling-block and a source of scandal to many whom he could
have saved ; a husbandman who tears down but does not build
up, who lays waste but does not plant



The Protestant View.

A WELL-KNOWN Anglican clergyman, many years a^o,
made a statement in a letter to the present writer on the
subject of the cultus of the Saints, as practised in the Catholic
Church, that has remained ever since impressed on his memory.
It was to the effect that such worship was "a survival of the poly-
theism of the pagan."

However strange it may seem to the instructed Catholic that
anyone could entertain for a moment so grotesque a conception
of one of the most practical points of the Church's doctrine, it is
undeniable that my friend was not alone in his opinion. Perhaps

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the commonest stumbling-block in the way of acceptance of the
Catholic claims lies just in this — that they are taken to involve a
laistng of the creature to a level with the Creator.

The Saints seem to be regarded as inferior dddes sharing
essentially in the supreme attributes of God — inferior accidentally.
Has not die Catholic his special patron whom he venerates with
a peculiar love, and to whom he prays for ^ritual and temporal
benefits? Is not Mary placed before him as a protectress through
life and his consolation in the hour of death ? Does he not bend
his knee constantly before the images of the Blessed, like the
Roman in the Pantheon of old ?

And how, we are asked, can this practical part played by the
Saints in the economy of the Catholic religion be reconciled with
belief in the incommunicable dignity of God and the recognition
of that dignity by unique acts of worship ? Is there not an abro-
gation of the supreme honor due solely to the infinite Being,
when finite beings are worshipped in His place, and so far placed
on an equality with Him ?

A Misconception.

This widespread misconception of Catholic teaching is based
on a radically wrong assumption, viz., that it is possible to separate
the Saint from the Author of sanctity. There is a wrong and
idolatrous devotion of the creature at the expense of the Crea-
tor ; but it is not from the children of the Church, it is rather
from those who would honor Mary apart from Jesus — the Saints
outside of all relation to God ; who would sing the Magnificat
but omit the " Hail Mary — blessed is the fruit of thy womb," and
dedicate churches to those whom they feared to invoke lest they
should trench upon the prerogatives of God. By an attempted
separation of the Mother from her Divine Son, and of the Saints
from the King of Saints, non-Catholics have in reality been guilty
of the very extravagance that they wished to avoid. For the
limited and carefully guarded honor which they pay to the
Blessed in Paradise, equally with the half-starved, unnatural devo-
tion, fearful of loving her too much, offered to Blessed Mary, is
founded on an utterly false notion of the extent of God's supreme
Majesty in His relation to His creatures, their gifts, and powers.

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To suppose that holy men and women, whether on earth or in
heaven, can be reverenced and loved apart from all relation to
God ; to place a sharp line of demarcation between our religious
worship of the Infinite and our respect for finite beings who have
most nearly approached His perfection of sanctky,^ — ^is to do
nothing less than deny the absolute dependence of every crea-
ture, however holy, upon its Creator, the fount of holiness.
We can only honor the Saint if in the very act we honor God
whose grace has made the Saint.

They who cavil at what they term the "excessive honor"
offered by the Catholic Church to her holiest children, forget that
all reverence shown to the Saints is shown to God through them.
We cannot as Christians honor them at all unless we honor at
the same time Jesus whom they have shown forth in their lives ;
nor love them, even sparingly and fearfully, except for His sake.

The Catholic View.

This great truth of the all-pervading presence and power of
God, whereby alone the finite creature of a day can show forth
the excellence of a holy life, lies at the root of the Catholic doc-
trine of Saint-worship. The Church does not separate the gift
from the Giver, nor pay homage to any height of created perfec-
tion without acknowledging its source, and praising the infinite
Being who is in Himself all-perfect. For what is it to honor a
person ? By " honor '* is meant a man or woman's good name,
and by "honoring" a fellow-creature we recognize that excellence
which we perceive in him.

**Good name in man or woman
Is the immediate jewel of their souls.** •

Now this honor, this virtue that shines as the brightest jewel
in the diadem of personal character, comes from God, " the giver
of every good gift.'* ^ He is the Father of lights, from whose
unapproachable perfection every fitful gleam of human beauty —
whether of form or feature, or truer, because spiritual loveliness of

^ It will be seen later on in what sense the inferior Teneration of the Saints
differs from the supreme worship offered solely to God.

• Shakespeare, OthtUo, act III, scene III.

• St. James 1:17.

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soul — shines down upon us. All excellence in man is but the
faint reflection of the perfect excellence of God. Even as the fair
landscape on a summer's day— pasture-land, wooded slope, river
bank, gently flowing stream — ^mirrors the ageless beauty of the
infinite Creator, from whose mind it comes into being ; even as
the unsearchable wonders of the untravelled fields of measureless
s()ace that stretch before us in the heavens by night, show forth
His wisdom ; so do the qualities of mind, the beauties of soul, the
strength or attractiveness or winsomeness of character, the un-
utterable marvels of Divine grace on the soil of human nature,
derive all their worth from the God who embraces in Himself the
sum-total of perfection.

He reveals Himself to us in everything that He has made —
as much in human character as in physical nature — even " His
eternal power and Godhead." Nay, it is in a far higher degree
that the moral attributes of the saintly life manifest the nature of
God in all its holiness. " We find,'* it has been well said, " in the
world a progressive revelation. In the mechanical laws of inorganic
nature are manifested (God's) greatness, immortality, wisdom, and
power ; in the vital forms d" flower and animal He shews us that
He is alive ; in the thinking faculties, the conscience, will, love,
personality of man, we catch faint glimpses of^he Divine mind
and character." And a fortiori^ in the virtues of the Saints — ^their
self-abnegation, their heroic deeds for the welfare of men, their
close conmiunion with God — we see copies, as it were, of a great
original, showing forth faintly, but truly, the characteristics of the

Online LibraryCatholic University of AmericaAmerican ecclesiastical review, Volume 27 → online text (page 43 of 78)