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´╗┐Title: Explanation of Catholic Morals - A Concise, Reasoned, and Popular Exposition of Catholic Morals
Author: Stapleton, John H. (John Henry), 1873-
Language: English
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A Concise, Reasoned, and Popular Exposition of Catholic Morals



New York, Cincinnati, Chicago:
Benzinger Brothers
Printers to the Holy Apostolic See
Publishers of Benzinger's Magazine

Nihil Obstat.
_Censor Librorum_.

Archbishop of New York
New York, March 25, 1904
Copyright, 1904, by Benzinger Brothers.


THE contents of this volume appeared originally in The Catholic
Transcript, of Hartford, Connecticut, in weekly installments, from
February, 1901, to February, 1903. During the course of their
publication, it became evident that the form of instruction adopted was
appreciated by a large number of readers in varied conditions of life--
this appreciation being evinced, among other ways, by a frequent and
widespread demand for back-numbers of the publishing journal. The
management finding itself unable to meet this demand, suggested the
bringing out of the entire series in book-form; and thus, with very few
corrections, we offer the "Briefs" to all desirous of a better
acquaintance with Catholic Morals.


          I. Believing and Doing
         II. The Moral Agent
        III. Conscience
         IV. Laxity and Scruples
          V. The Law of God and Its Breach
         VI. Sin
        VII. How to Count Sins
       VIII. Capital Sins
         IX. Pride
          X. Covetousness
         XI. Lust
        XII. Anger
       XIII. Gluttony
        XIV. Drink
         XV. Envy
        XVI. Sloth
       XVII. What We Believe
      XVIII. Why We Believe
        XIX. Whence Our Belief: Reason
         XX. Whence Our Belief: Grace and Will
        XXI. How We Believe
       XXII. Faith and Error
      XXIII. The Consistent Believer
       XXIV. Unbelief
        XXV. How Faith May Be Lost
       XXVI. Hope
      XXVII. Love of God
     XXVIII. Love of Neighbor
       XXIX. Prayer
        XXX. Petition
       XXXI. Religion
      XXXII. Devotions
     XXXIII. Idolatry and Superstition
      XXXIV. Occultism
       XXXV. Christian Science
      XXXVI. Swearing
     XXXVII. Oaths
    XXXVIII. Vows
      XXXIX. The Professional Vow
         XL. The Profession
        XLI. The Religious
       XLII. The Vow of Poverty
      XLIII. The Vow of Obedience
       XLIV. The Vow of Chastity
        XLV. Blasphemy
       XLVI. Cursing
      XLVII. Profanity
     XLVIII. The Law of Rest
       XLIX. The Day of Rest
          L. Keeping the Lord's Day Holy
         LI. Worship of Sacrifice
        LII. Worship of Rest
       LIII. Servile Works
        LIV. Common Works
         LV. Parental Dignity
        LVI. Filial Respect
       LVII. Filial Love
      LVIII. Authority and Obedience
        LIX. Should We Help Our Parents?
         LX. Disinterested Love in Parents
        LXI. Educate the Children
       LXII. Educational Extravagance
      LXIII. Godless Education
       LXIV. Catholic Schools
        LXV. Some Weak Points in the Catholic School System
       LXVI. Correction
      LXVII. Justice and Rights
     LXVIII. Homicide
       LXIX. Is Suicide a Sin?
        LXX. Self-Defense
       LXXI. Murder Often Sanctioned
      LXXII. On the Ethics of War
     LXXIII. The Massacre of the Innocents
      LXXIV. Enmity
       LXXV. Our Enemies
      LXXVI. Immorality
     LXXVII. The Sink of Iniquity
    LXXVIII. Wherein Nature Is Opposed
      LXXIX. Hearts
       LXXX. Occasions
      LXXXI. Scandal
     LXXXII. Not Good to Be Alone
    LXXXIII. A Helping Hand
     LXXXIV. Thou Shalt Not Steal
      LXXXV. Petty Thefts
     LXXXVI. An Oft Exploited, But Specious Plea
    LXXXVII. Contumely
   LXXXVIII. Defamation
     LXXXIX. Detraction
         XC. Calumny
        XCI. Rash Judgment
       XCII. Mendacity
      XCIII. Concealing the Truth
       XCIV. Restitution
        XCV. Undoing the Evil
       XCVI. Paying Back
      XCVII. Getting Rid of Ill-Gotten Goods
     XCVIII. What Excuses From Restitution
       XCIX. Debts



MORALS pertain to right living, to the things we do, in relation to God
and His law, as opposed to right thinking, to what we believe, to
dogma. Dogma directs our faith or belief, morals shape our lives. By
faith we know God, by moral living we serve Him; and this double
homage, of our mind and our works, is the worship we owe our Creator
and Master and the necessary condition of our salvation.

Faith alone will save no man. It may be convenient for the easy-going
to deny this, and take an opposite view of the matter; but convenience
is not always a safe counsellor. It may be that the just man liveth by
faith; but he lives not by faith alone. Or, if he does, it is faith of
a different sort from what we define here as faith, viz., a firm assent
of the mind to truths revealed. We have the testimony of Holy Writ,
again and again reiterated, that faith, even were it capable of moving
mountains, without good works is of no avail. The Catholic Church is
convinced that this doctrine is genuine and reliable enough to make it
her own; and sensible enough, too. For faith does not make a man
impeccable; he may believe rightly, and live badly. His knowledge of
what God expects of him will not prevent him from doing just the
contrary; sin is as easy to a believer as to an unbeliever. And he who
pretends to have found religion, holiness, the Holy Ghost, or whatever
else he may call it, and can therefore no longer prevaricate against
the law, is, to common-sense people, nothing but a sanctified humbug or
a pious idiot.

Nor are good works alone sufficient. Men of emancipated intelligence
and becoming breadth of mind, are often heard to proclaim with a
greater flourish of verbosity than of reason and argument, that the
golden rule is religion enough for them, without the trappings of
creeds and dogmas; they respect themselves and respect their neighbors,
at least they say they do, and this, according to them, is the
fulfilment of the law. We submit that this sort of worship was in vogue
a good many centuries before the God-Man came down upon earth; and if
it fills the bill now, as it did in those days, it is difficult to see
the utility of Christ's coming, of His giving of a law of belief and of
His founding of a Church. It is beyond human comprehension that He
should have come for naught, labored for naught and died for naught.
And such must be the case, if the observance of the natural law is a
sufficient worship of the Creator. What reasons Christ may have had for
imposing this or that truth upon our belief, is beside the question; it
is enough that He did reveal truths, the acceptance of which glorifies
Him in the mind of the believer, in order that the mere keeping of the
commandments appear forthwith an insufficient mode of worship.

Besides, morals are based on dogma, or they have no basis at all;
knowledge of the manner of serving God can only proceed from knowledge
of who and what He is; right living is the fruit of right thinking. Not
that all who believe rightly are righteous and walk in the path of
salvation: losing themselves, these are lost in spite of the truths
they know and profess; nor that they who cling to an erroneous belief
and a false creed can perform no deed of true moral worth and are
doomed; they may be righteous in spite of the errors they profess,
thanks alone to the truths in their creeds that are not wholly
corrupted. But the natural order of things demands that our works
partake of the nature of our convictions, that truth or error in mind
beget truth or error correspondingly in deed and that no amount of
self-confidence in a man can make a course right when it is wrong, can
make a man's actions good when they are materially bad. This is the
principle of the tree and its fruit and it is too old-fashioned to be
easily denied. True morals spring from true faith and true dogma; a
false creed cannot teach correct morality, unless accidentally, as the
result of a sprinkling of truth through the mass of false teaching. The
only accredited moral instructor is the true Church. Where there is no
dogma, there can logically be no morals, save such as human instinct
and reason devise; but this is an absurd morality, since there is no
recognition of an authority, of a legislator, to make the moral law
binding and to give it a sanction. He who says he is a law unto himself
chooses thus to veil his proclaiming freedom from all law. His golden
rule is a thing too easily twistable to be of any assured benefit to
others than himself; his moral sense, that is, his sense of right and
wrong, is very likely where his faith is--nowhere.

It goes without saying that the requirements of good morals are a heavy
burden for the natural man, that is, for man left, in the midst of
seductions and allurements, to the purely human resources of his own
unaided wit and strength; so heavy a burden is this, in fact, that
according to Catholic doctrine, it cannot be borne without assistance
from on high, the which assistance we call grace. This supernatural aid
we believe essential to the shaping of a good moral life; for man,
being destined, in preference to all the rest of animal creation, to a
supernatural end, is thereby raised from the natural to a supernatural
order. The requirements of this order are therefore above and beyond
his native powers and can only be met with the help of a force above
his own. It is labor lost for us to strive to climb the clouds on a
ladder of our own make; the ladder must be let down from above. Human
air-ships are a futile invention and cannot be made to steer straight
or to soar high in the atmosphere of the supernatural. One-half of
those who fail in moral matters are those who trust altogether, or too
much, in their own strength, and reckon without the power that said
"Without Me you can do nothing."

The other half go to the other extreme. They imagine that the Almighty
should not only direct and aid them, but also that He should come down
and drag them along in spite of themselves; and they complain when He
does not, excuse and justify themselves on the ground that He does not,
and blame Him for their failure to walk straight in the narrow path.
They expect Him to pull them from the clutches of temptation into which
they have deliberately walked. The drunkard expects Him to knock the
glass out of his hand: the imprudent, the inquisitive and the vicious
would have it so that they might play with fire, yea, even put in their
hand, and not be scorched or burnt. 'Tis a miracle they want, a miracle
at every turn, a suspension of the laws of nature to save them from the
effects of their voluntary perverseness. Too lazy to employ the means
at their command, they thrust the whole burden on the Maker. God helps
those who help themselves. A supernatural state does not dispense us
from the obligation of practising natural virtue. You can build a
supernatural life only on the foundations of a natural life. To do away
with the latter is to build in the air; the structure will not stay up,
it will and must come down at the first blast of temptation.

Catholic morals therefore require faith in revealed truths, of which
they are but deductions, logical conclusions; they presuppose, in their
observance, the grace of God; and call for a certain strenuosity of
life without which nothing meritorious can be effected. We must be
convinced of the right God has to trace a line of conduct for us; we
must be as earnest in enlisting His assistance as if all depended on
Him; and then go to work as if it all depended on ourselves.


MORALS are for man, not for the brute; they are concerned with his
thoughts, desires, words and deeds; they suppose a moral agent.

What is a moral agent?

A moral agent is one who, in the conduct of his life, is capable of
good and evil, and who, in consequence of this faculty of choosing
between right and wrong is responsible to God for the good and evil he

Is it enough, in order to qualify as a moral and responsible agent, to
be in a position to respect or to violate the Law?

It is not enough; but it is necessary that the agent know what he is
doing; know that it is right or wrong; that he will to do it, as such;
and that he be free to do it, or not to do it. Whenever any one of
these three elements--knowledge, consent and liberty--is wanting in the
commission or omission of any act, the deed is not a moral deed; and
the agent, under the circumstances, is not a moral agent.

When God created man, He did not make him simply a being that walks and
talks, sleeps and eats, laughs and cries; He endowed him with the
faculties of intelligence and free will. More than this, He intended
that these faculties should be exercised in all the details of life;
that the intelligence should direct, and the free will approve, every
step taken, every act performed, every deed left undone. Human energy
being thus controlled, all that man does is said to be voluntary and
bears the peculiar stamp of morality, the quality of being good or evil
in the sight of God and worthy of His praise or blame, according as it
squares or not with the Rule of Morality laid down by Him for the
shaping of human life. Of all else He takes no cognizance, since all
else refers to Him not indifferently from the rest of animal creation,
and offers no higher homage than that of instinct and necessity.

When a man in his waking hours does something in which his intelligence
has no share, does it without being aware of what he is doing, he is
said to be in a state of mental aberration, which is only another name
for insanity or folly, whether it be momentary or permanent of its
nature. A human being, in such a condition, stands on the same plane
with the animal, with this difference, that the one is a freak and the
other is not. Morals, good or bad, have no meaning for either.

If the will or consent has no part in what is done, we do nothing,
another acts through us; 'tis not ours, but the deed of another. An
instrument or tool used in the accomplishment of a purpose possesses
the same negative merit or demerit, whether it be a thing without a
will or an unwilling human being. If we are not free, have no choice in
the matter, must consent, we differ in nothing from all brutish and
inanimate nature that follows necessarily, fatally, the bent of its
instinctive inclinations and obeys the laws of its being. Under these
conditions, there can be no morality or responsibility before God; our
deeds are alike blameless and valueless in His sight.

Thus, the simple transgression of the Law does not constitute us in
guilt; we must transgress deliberately, wilfully. Full inadvertence,
perfect forgetfulness, total blindness is called invincible ignorance;
this destroys utterly the moral act and makes us involuntary agents.
When knowledge is incomplete, the act is less voluntary; except it be
the case of ignorance brought on purposely, a wilful blinding of
oneself, in the vain hope of escaping the consequences of one's acts.
This betrays a stronger willingness to act, a more deliberately set

Concupiscence has a kindred effect on our reason. It is a consequence
of our fallen nature by which we are prone to evil rather than to good,
find it more to our taste and easier to yield to wrong than to resist
it. Call it passion, temperament, character, what you will,--it is an
inclination to evil. We cannot always control its action. Everyone has
felt more or less the tyranny of concupiscence, and no child of Adam
but has it branded in his nature and flesh. Passion may rob us of our
reason, and run into folly or insanity; in which event we are
unconscious agents, and do nothing voluntary. It may so obscure the
reason as to make us less ourselves, and consequently less willing. But
there is such a thing as, with studied and refined malice and
depravity, to purposely and artificially, as it were, excite
concupiscence, in order the more intensely and savagely to act. This is
only a proof of greater deliberation, and renders the deed all the more

A person is therefore more or less responsible according as what he
does, or the good or evil of what he does, is more or less clear to
him. Ignorance or the passions may affect his clear vision of right and
wrong, and under the stress of this deception, wring a reluctant
yielding of the will, a consent only half willingly given. Because
there is consent, there is guilt but the guilt is measured by the
degree of premeditation. God looks upon things solely in their relation
to Him. An abomination before men may be something very different in
His sight who searches the heart and reins of man and measures evil by
the malice of the evil-doer. The only good or evil He sees in our deeds
is the good or evil we ourselves see in them before or while we act.

Violence and fear may oppress the will, and thereby prove destructive
to the morality of an act and the responsibility of the agent. Certain
it is, that we can be forced to act against our will, to perform that
which we abhor, and do not consent to do. Such force may be brought to
bear upon us as we cannot withstand. Fear may influence us in a like
manner. It may paralyze our faculties and rob us of our senses.
Evidently, under these conditions, no voluntary act is possible, since
the will does not concur and no consent is given. The subject becomes a
mere tool in the hands of another.

Can violence and fear do more than this? Can it not only rob us of the
power to will, not only force us to act without consent, but also force
the will, force us to consent? Never; and the simple reason is that we
cannot do two contradictory things at the same time--consent and not
consent, for that is what it means to be forced to consent. Violence
and fear may weaken the will so that it finally yield. The fault, if
fault there be, may be less inexcusable by reason of the pressure under
which it labored. But once we have willed, we have willed, and
essentially, there is nothing unwilling about what is willingly done.

The will is an inviolable shrine. Men may circumvent, attack, seduce
and weaken it. But it cannot be forced. The power of man and devil
cannot go so far. Even God respects it to that point.

In all cases of pressure being brought to bear upon the moral agent for
an evil purpose, when resistance is possible, resistance alone can save
him from the consequences. He must resist to his utmost, to the end,
never yield, if he would not incur the responsibility of a free agent.
Non-resistance betokens perfect willingness to act. The greater the
resistance, the less voluntary the act in the event of consent being
finally given; for resistance implies reluctance, and reluctance is the
opposition of a will that battles against an oppressing influence. In
moral matters, defeat can never be condoned, no matter how great the
struggle, if there is a final yielding of the will; but the
circumstance of energetic defense stands to a man's credit and will
protect him from much of the blame and disgrace due to defeat.

Thus we see that the first quality of the acts of a moral agent is that
he think, desire, say and do with knowledge and free consent. Such
acts, and only such, can be called good or bad. What makes them good
and bad, is another question.


THE will of God, announced to the world at large, is known as the Law
of God; manifested to each individual soul, it is called conscience.
These are not two different rules of morality, but one and the same
rule. The latter is a form or copy of the former. One is the will of
God, the other is its echo in our souls.

We might fancy God, at the beginning of all things, speaking His will
concerning right and wrong, in the presence of the myriads of souls
that lay in the state of possibility. And when, in the course of time,
these souls come into being, with unfailing regularity, at every act,
conscience, like a spiritual phonograph, gives back His accents and
reechoes: "it is lawful," or "it is not lawful." Or, to use another
simile, conscience is the compass by which we steer aright our moral
lives towards the haven of our souls' destination in eternity. But just
as behind the mariner's compass is the great unseen power, called
attraction, under whose influence the needle points to the star; so
does the will or Law of God control the action of the conscience, and
direct it faithfully towards what is good.

We have seen that, in order to prevaricate it is not sufficient to
transgress the Law of God: we must know; conscience makes us know. It
is only when we go counter to its dictates that we are constituted
evil-doers. And at the bar of God's justice, it is on the testimony of
conscience that sentence will be passed. Her voice will be that of a
witness present at every deed, good or evil, of our lives.

Conscience should always tell the truth, and tell it with certainty.
Practically, this is not always the case. We are sometimes certain that
a thing is right when it is really wrong. There are therefore two kinds
of conscience: a true and a certain conscience, and they are far from
being one and the same thing. A true conscience speaks the truth, that
is, tells us what is truly right and truly wrong. It is a genuine echo
of the voice of God. A certain conscience, whether it speaks the truth
or not, speaks with assurance, without a suspicion of error, and its
voice carries conviction. When we act in accordance with the first, we
are right; we may know it, doubt it or think it probable, but we are
right in fact. When we obey the latter, we know, we are sure that we
are right, but it is possible that we be in error. A true conscience,
therefore, may be certain or uncertain; a certain conscience may be
true or erroneous.

A true conscience is not the rule of morality. It must be certain. It
is not necessary that it be true, although this is always to be
desired, and in the normal state of things should be the case. But true
or false, it must be certain. The reason is obvious. God judges us
according as we do good or evil. Our merit or demerit is dependent upon
our responsibility. We are responsible only for the good or evil we
know we do. Knowledge and certainty come from a certain conscience, and
yet not from a true conscience which may be doubtful.

Now, suppose we are in error, and think we are doing something good,
whereas it is in reality evil. We perceive no malice in the deed, and,
in performing it, there is consequently no malice in us, we do not sin.
The act is said to be materially evil, but formally good; and for such
evil God cannot hold us responsible. Suppose again that we err, and
that the evil we think we do is really good. In this instance, first,
the law of morality is violated,--a certain, though erroneous
conscience: this is sinful. Secondly, a bad motive vitiates an act even
if the deed in itself be good. Consequently, we incur guilt and God's
wrath by the commission of such a deed, which is materially good, but
formally bad.

One may wonder and say: "how can guilt attach to doing good?" Guilt
attaches to formal evil, that is, evil that is shown to us by our
conscience and committed by us as such. The wrong comes, not from the
object of our doing which is good, but from the intention which is bad.
It is true that nothing is good that is not thoroughly good, that a
thing is bad only when there is something lacking in its goodness, that
evil is a defect of goodness; but formal evil alone can be imputed to
us and material cannot. The one is a conscious, the other an
unconscious, defect. Here an erroneous conscience is obeyed; there the
same conscience is disregarded. And that kind of a conscience is the
rule of morality; to go against it is to sin.

There are times when we have no certitude. The conscience may have
nothing to say concerning the honesty of a cause to which we are about
to commit ourselves. This state of uncertainty and perplexity is called
doubt. To doubt is to suspend judgment; a dubious conscience is one
that does not function.

In doubt the question may be: "To do; is it right or wrong? May I
perform this act, or must I abstain therefrom?" In this case, we
inquire whether it be lawful or unlawful to go on, but we are sure that
it is lawful not to act. There is but one course to pursue. We must not
commit ourselves and must refrain from acting, until such a time, at
least, as, by inquiring and considering, we shall have obtained
sufficient evidence to convince us that we may allow ourselves this
liberty without incurring guilt. If, on the contrary, while still
doubting, we persist in committing the act, we sin, because in all
affairs of right and wrong we must follow a certain conscience as the
standard of morality.

But the question may be: "To do or not to do; which is right and which
is wrong?" Here we know not which way to turn, fearing evil in either
alternative. We must do one thing or the other. There are reasons and
difficulties on both sides. We are unable to resolve the difficulties,
lay the doubt, and form a sure conscience, what must we do?

If all action can be momentarily suspended, and we have the means of
consulting, we must abstain from action and consult. If the affair is
urgent, and this cannot be done; if we must act on the spot and decide
for ourselves, then, we can make that dubious conscience prudently
certain by applying this principle to our conduct: "Of two evils,
choose the lesser." We therefore judge which action involves the least
amount of evil. We may embrace the course thus chosen without a fear of
doing wrong. If we have inadvertently chosen the greater evil, it is an
error of judgment for which we are in nowise responsible before God.
But this means must be employed only where all other and surer means
fail. The certainty we thereby acquire is a prudent certainty, and is
sufficient to guarantee us against offending.


IN every question of conscience there are two opposing factors:
Liberty, which is agreeable to our nature, which allows us to do as we
list; and Law which binds us unto the observance of what is unpleasant.
Liberty and law are mutually antagonistic. A concession in favor of one
is an infringement upon the claims of the other.

Conscience, in its normal state, gives to liberty and to law what to
each is legitimately due, no more, no less.

Truth lies between extremes. At the two opposite poles of conscientious
rectitude are laxity and scruples, one judging all things lawful, the
other all things forbidden. One inordinately favors liberty, the other
the law. And neither has sufficient grounds on which to form a sound

They are counterfeit consciences, the one dishonest, the other
unreasonable. They do unlawful business; and because the verdict they
render is founded on nothing more solid than imaginations, they are in
nowise standards of morality, and should not be considered as such.

The first is sometimes known as a "rubber" conscience, on account of
its capacity for stretching itself to meet the exigencies of a like or
a dislike.

Laxity may be the effect of a simple illusion. Men often do wrong
unawares. They excuse themselves with the plea: "I did not know any
better." But we are not here examining the acts that can be traced back
to self-illusion; rather the state of persons who labor under the
disability of seeing wrong anywhere, and who walk through the
commandments of God and the Church with apparent unconcern. What must
we think of such people in face of the fact that they not only could,
but should know better! They are supposed to know their catechism. Are
there not Catholic books and publications of various sorts? What about
the Sunday instructions and sermons? These are the means and
opportunities, and they facilitate the fulfilment of what is in us a
bounden duty to nourish our souls before they die of spiritual hunger.

A delicate, effeminate life, spiritual sloth, and criminal neglect are
responsible for this kind of laxity.

This state of soul is also the inevitable consequence of long years
passed in sin and neglect of prayer. Habit blunts the keen edge of
perception. Evil is disquieting to a novice; but it does not look so
bad after you have done it a while and get used to it. Crimes thus
become ordinary sins, and ordinary sins peccadillos.

Then again there are people who, like the Pharisees of old, strain out
a gnat and swallow a camel. They educate themselves up to a strict
observance of all things insignificant. They would not forget to say
grace before and after meals, but would knife the neighbor's character
or soil their minds with all filthiness, without a scruple or a shadow
of remorse.

These are they who walk in the broad way that leadeth to destruction.
In the first place, their conscience or the thing that does duty for a
conscience, is false and they are responsible for it. Then, this sort
of a conscience is not habitually certain, and laxity consists
precisely in contemning doubts and passing over lurking, lingering
suspicions as not worthy of notice. Lastly, it has not the quality of
common prudence since the judgment it pronounces is not supported by
plausible reasons. Its character is dishonesty.

A scruple is a little sharp stone formerly used as a measure of weight.
Pharmacists always have scruples. There is nothing so torturing as to
walk with one or several of these pebbles in the shoe. Spiritual
scruples serve the same purpose for the conscience. They torture and
torment; they make devotion and prayer impossible, and blind the
conscience; they weaken the mind, exhaust the bodily forces, and cause
a disease that not infrequently comes to a climax in despair or

A scrupulous conscience is not to be followed as a standard of right
and wrong, because it is unreasonable. In its final analysis it is not
certain, but doubtful and improbable, and is influenced by the most
futile reasons. It is lawful, it is even necessary, to refuse assent to
the dictates of such a conscience. To persons thus afflicted the
authoritative need of a prudent adviser must serve as a rule until the
conscience is cured of its morbid and erratic tendencies.

It is not scruples to walk in the fear of God, and avoid sin and the
occasions thereof: that is wisdom; nor to frequent the sacraments and
be assiduous in prayer through a deep concern for the welfare of one's
soul: that is piety.

It is not scruples to be at a loss to decide whether a thing is wrong
or right; that is doubt; nor to suffer keenly after the commission of a
grievous sin; that is remorse.

It is not scruples to be greatly anxious and disturbed over past
confessions when there is a reasonable cause for it: that is natural.

A scrupulous person is one who, outside these several contingencies, is
continually racked with fears, and persists, against all evidence, in
seeing sin where there is none, or magnifies it beyond all proportion
where it really is.

The first feature--empty and perpetual fears--concerns confessions
which are sufficient, according to all the rules of prudence; prayers,
which are said with overwrought anxiety, lest a single distraction
creep in and mar them; and temptations, which are resisted with
inordinate contention of mind, and perplexity lest consent be given.

The other and more desperate feature is pertinacity of judgment. The
scrupulous person will ask advice and not believe a word he is told.
The more information he gets, the worse he becomes, and he adds to his
misery by consulting every adviser in sight. He refuses to be put under
obedience and seems to have a morbid affection for his very condition.

There is only one remedy for this evil, and that remedy is absolute and
blind obedience to a prudent director. Choose one, consult him as often
as you desire, but do not leave him for another. Then submit
punctiliously to his direction. His conscience must be yours, for the
time being. And if you should err in following him, God will hold him,
and not you, responsible.


WITHOUT going into any superflous details, we shall call the Law of God
an act of His will by which He ordains what things we may do or not do,
and binds us unto observance under penalty of His divine displeasure.

The law thus defined pertains to reasonable beings alone, and supposes
on our part, as we have seen, knowledge and free will. The rest of
creation is blindly submissive under the hand of God, and yields a
necessary obedience. Man alone can obey or disobey; but in this latter
case he renders himself amenable to God's justice who, as his Creator,
has an equal right to command him, and be obeyed.

The Maker first exercised this right when He put into His creature's
soul a sense of right and wrong, which is nothing more than conscience,
or as it is called here, natural law. To this law is subject every
human being, pagan, Jew and Christian alike. No creature capable of a
human act is exempt.

The provisions of this law consider the nature of our being, that is,
the law prescribes what the necessities of our being demand, and it
prohibits what is destructive thereof. Our nature requires physically
that we eat, drink and sleep. Similarly, in a moral sense, it calls for
justice, truthfulness, respect of God, of the neighbor, and of self.
All its precepts are summed up in this one: "Do unto others as you
would have them do unto you"--the golden rule. Thence flows a series of
deducted precepts calculated to protect the moral and inherent rights
of our nature.

But we are more concerned here with what is known as the positive Law
of God, given by Him to man by word of mouth or revelation.

We believe that God gave a verbal code to Moses who promulgated it in
His name before the Jewish people to the whole world. It was
subsequently inscribed on two stone tables, and is known as the
Decalogue or Ten Commandments of God. Of these ten, the first three
pertain to God Himself, the latter seven to the neighbor; so that the
whole might be abridged in these two words, "Love God, and love thy
neighbor." This law is in reality only a specified form of the natural
law, and its enactment was necessitated by the iniquity of men which
had in time obscured and partly effaced the letter of the law in their

Latterly God again spoke, but this time in the person of Jesus Christ.
The Saviour, after confirming the Decalogue with His authority, gave
other laws to men concerning the Church He had founded and the means of
applying to themselves the fruits of the Redemption. We give the name
of dogma to what He tells us to believe and of morals to what we must
do. These precepts of Jesus Christ are contained in the Gospel, and are
called the Evangelical Law. It is made known to us by the infallible
Church through which God speaks.

Akin to these divine laws is the purely ecclesiastical law or law of
the Church. Christ sent forth His Church clothed with His own and His
Father's authority. "As the Father sent me, so I send you." She was to
endure, perfect herself and fulfil her mission on earth. To enable her
to carry out this divine plan she makes laws, laws purely
ecclesiastical, but laws that have the same binding force as the divine
laws themselves, since they bear the stamp of divine authority. God
willed the Church to be; He willed consequently all the necessary means
without which she would cease to be. For Catholics, therefore, as far
as obligations are concerned, there is no practical difference between
God's law and the law of His Church. Jesus Christ is God. The Church is
His spouse. To her the Saviour said: "He that heareth you, heareth me,
and he that despiseth you despiseth Me."

A breach of the law is a sin. A sin is a deliberate transgression of
the Law of God. A sin may be committed in thought, in desire, in word,
or in deed, and by omission as well as by commission.

It is well to bear in mind that a thought, as well as a deed, is an
act, may be a human and a moral act, and consequently may be a sin.
Human laws may be violated only in deed; but God, who is a searcher of
hearts, takes note of the workings of the will whence springs all
malice. To desire to break His commandments is to offend Him as
effectually as to break them in deed; to relish in one's mind forbidden
fruits, to meditate and deliberate on evil purposes, is only a degree
removed from actual commission of wrong. Evil is perpetrated in the
will, either by a longing to prevaricate or by affection for that which
is prohibited. If the evil materializes exteriorly, it does not
constitute one in sin anew, but only completes the malice already
existing. Men judge their fellows by their works; God judges us by our
thoughts, by the inner workings of the soul, and takes notice of our
exterior doings only in so far as they are related to the will.
Therefore it is that an offense against Him, to be an offense, need not
necessarily be perpetrated in word or in deed; it is sufficient that
the will place itself in Opposition to the Will of God, and adhere to
what the Law forbids.

Sin is not the same as vice. One is an act, the other is a state or
inclination to act. One is transitory, the other is permanent. One can
exist without the other. A drunkard is not always drunk, nor is a man a
drunkard for having once or twice overindulged.

In only one case is vice less evil than sin, and that is when the
inclination remains an unwilling inclination and does not pass to acts.
A man who reforms after a protracted spree still retains an
inclination, a desire for strong drink. He is nowise criminal so long
as he resists that tendency.

But practically vice is worse than sin, for it supposes frequent wilful
acts of sin of which it is the natural consequence, and leads to many
grievous offenses.

A vice is without sin when one struggles successfully against it after
the habit has been retracted. It may never be radically destroyed.
There may be unconscious, involuntary lapses under the constant
pressure of a strong inclination, as in the vice of parsing, and it
remains innocent as long as it is not wilfully yielded to and indulged.
But to yield to the ratification of an evil desire or propensity,
without restraint, is to doom oneself to the most prolific of evils and
to lie under the curse of God.


IF the Almighty had never imposed upon His creatures a Law, there would
be no sin; we would be free to do as we please. But the presence of
God's Law restrains our liberty, and it is by using, or rather abusing,
our freedom, that we come to violate the Law. It is for this reason
that Law is said to be opposed to Liberty. Liberty is a word of many
meanings. Men swear by it and men juggle with it. It is the slogan in
both camps of the world's warfare. It is in itself man's noblest
inheritance, and yet there is no name under the sun in which more
crimes are committed.

By liberty as opposed to God's law we do not understand the power to do
evil as well as good. That liberty is the glory of man, but the
exercise of it, in the alternative of evil, is damnable, and debases
the creature in the same proportions as the free choice of good
ennobles him. That liberty the law leaves untouched. We never lose it;
or rather, we may lose it partially when under physical restraint, but
totally, only when deprived of our senses. The law respects it. It
respects it in the highest degree when in an individual it curtails or
destroys it for the protection of society.

Liberty may also be the equal right to do good and evil. There are
those who arrogate to themselves such liberty. No man ever possessed
it, the law annihilated it forever. And although we have used the word
in this sense, the fact is that no man has the right to do evil or ever
will have, so long as God is God. These people talk much and loudly
about freedom--the magic word!--assert with much pomp and verbosity the
rights of man, proclaim his independence, and are given to much like
inane vaunting and braggadocio.

We may be free in many things, but where God is concerned and He
commands, we are free only to obey. His will is supreme, and when it is
asserted, we purely and simply have no choice to do as we list. This
privilege is called license, not liberty. We have certain rights as
men, but we have duties, too, as creatures, and it ill-becomes us to
prate about our rights, or the duties of others towards us, while we
ignore the obligations we are under towards others and our first duty
which is to God. Our boasted independence consists precisely in this:
that we owe to Him not only the origin of our nature, but even the very
breath we draw, and which preserves our being, for "in Him we live,
move and have our being."

The first prerogative of God towards us is authority or the right to
command. Our first obligation as well as our highest honor as creatures
is to obey. And until we understand this sort of liberty, we live in a
world of enigmas and know not the first letter of the alphabet of
creation. We are not free to sin.

Liberty rightly understood, true liberty of the children of God, is the
right of choice within the law, the right to embrace what is good and
to avoid what is evil. This policy no man can take from us; and far
from infringing upon this right, the law aids it to a fuller
development. A person reading by candlelight would not complain that
his vision was obscured if an arc light were substituted for the
candle. A traveler who takes notice of the signposts along his way
telling the direction and distance, and pointing out pitfalls and
dangers, would not consider his rights contested or his liberty
restricted by these things. And the law, as it becomes more clearly
known to us, defines exactly the sphere of our action and shows plainly
where dangers lurk and evil is to be apprehended. And we gladly avail
ourselves of this information that enables us to walk straight and
secure. The law becomes a godsend to our liberty, and obedience to it,
our salvation.

He who goes beyond the bounds of true moral liberty, breaks the law of
God and sins. He thereby refuses to God the obedience which to Him is
due. Disobedience involves contempt of authority and of him who
commands. Sin is therefore an offense against God, and that offense is
proportionate to the dignity of the person offended.

The sinner, by his act of disobedience, not only sets at naught the
will of his Maker, but by the same act, in a greater or lesser degree,
turns away from his appointed destiny; and in this he is imitated by
nothing else in creation. Every other created thing obeys. The heavens
follow their designated course. Beasts and birds and fish are intent
upon one thing, and that is to work out the divine plan. Man alone sows
disorder and confusion therein. He shows irreverence for God's presence
and contempt for His friendship; ingratitude for His goodness and
supreme indifference for the penalty that follows his sin as surely as
the shadow follows its object. So that, taken all in all, such a
creature might fitly be said to be one part criminal and two parts
fool. Folly and sin are synonymous in Holy Writ. "The fool saith in his
heart there is no God."

Sin is essentially an offense. But there is a difference of degree
between a slight and an outrage. There are direct offenses against God,
such as the refusal to believe in Him or unbelief; to hope in Him, or
despair, etc. Indirect offenses attain Him through the neighbor or

All duties to neighbor or self are not equally imperious and to fail in
them all is not equally evil. Then again, not all sins are committed
through pure malice, that is, with complete knowledge and full consent.
Ignorance and weakness are factors to be considered in our guilt, and
detract from the malice of our sins. Hence two kinds of sin, mortal and
venial. These mark the extremes of offense. One severs all relation of
friendship, the other chills the existing friendship. By one, we incur
God's infinite hatred, by the other, His displeasure. The penalty for
one is eternal; the other can be atoned for by suffering.

It is not possible in all cases to tell exactly what is mortal and what
venial in our offenses. There is a clean-cut distinction between the
two, but the line of demarcation is not always discernible. There are,
however, certain characteristics which enable us in the majority of
cases to distinguish one from the other.

First, the matter must be grievous in fact or in intention; that is,
there must be a serious breach of the law of God or the law of
conscience. Then, we must know perfectly well what we are doing and
give our full consent. It must therefore be a grave offense in all the
plenitude of its malice. Of course, to act without sufficient reason,
with a well-founded doubt as to the malice of the act, would be to
violate the law of conscience and would constitute a mortal sin. There
is no moral sin without the fulfilment of these conditions. All other
offenses are venial.

We cannot, of course, read the soul of anybody. If, however, we suppose
knowledge and consent, there are certain sins that are always mortal.
Such are blasphemy, luxury, heresy, etc. When these sins are
deliberate, they are always mortal offenses. Others are usually mortal,
such as a sin against justice. To steal is a sin against justice. It is
frequently a mortal sin, but it may happen that the amount taken be
slight, in which case the offense ceases to be mortal.

Likewise, certain sins are usually venial, but in certain circumstances
a venial sin may take on such malice as to be constituted mortal.

Our conscience, under God, is the best judge of our malevolence and
consequently of our guilt.


THE number of sins a person may commit is well-nigh incalculable, which
is only one way of saying that the malice of man has invented
innumerable means of offending the Almighty--a compliment to our
ingenuity and the refinement of our natural perversity. It is not
always pleasant to know, and few people try very hard to learn, of what
kind and how many are their daily offenses. This knowledge reveals too
nakedly our wickedness which we prefer to ignore. Catholics, however,
who believe in the necessity of confession of sins, take a different
view of the matter. The requirements of a good confession are such as
can be met only by those who know in what things they have sinned and
how often.

There are many different kinds of sin. It is possible by a single act
to commit more than one sin. And a given sin may be repeated any number
of times.

To get the exact number of our misdeeds we must begin by counting as
many sins at least as there are kinds of sin. We might say there is an
offense for every time a commandment or precept is violated, for sin is
a transgression of the law. But this would be insufficient inasmuch as
the law may command or forbid more than one thing.

Let the first commandment serve as an example. It is broken by sins
against faith, or unbelief, against hope, or despair, against charity,
against religion, etc. All these offenses are specifically different,
that is, are different kinds of sin; yet but one precept is
transgressed. Since therefore each commandment prescribes the practice
of certain virtues, the first rule is that there is a sin for every
virtue violated.

But this is far from exhausting our capacity for evil. Our virtue may
impose different obligations, so that against it alone we may offend in
many different ways. Among the virtues prescribed by the first
commandment is that of religion, which concerns the exterior homage due
to God. I may worship false gods, thus offending against the virtue of
religion, and commit a sin of idolatry. If I offer false homage to the
true God, I also violate the virtue of religion, but commit a sin
specifically different, a sin of superstition. Thus these different
offenses are against but one of several virtues enjoined by one
commandment. The virtue of charity is also prolific of obligations; the
virtue of chastity even more so. One act against the latter may contain
a four-fold malice.

It would be out of place here to adduce more examples: a detailed
treatment of the virtues and commandments will make things clearer. For
the moment it is necessary and sufficient to know that a commandment
may prescribe many virtues, a virtue may impose many obligations, and
there is a specifically different sin for each obligation violated.

But we can go much farther than this in wrongdoing, and must count one
sin every time the act is committed.

"Yes, but how are we to know when there is one act or more than one
act! An act may be of long or short duration. How many sins do I commit
if the act lasts, say, two hours? And how can I tell where one act ends
and the other begins?"

In an action which endures an hour or two hours, there may be one and
there may be a dozen acts. When the matter a sinner is working on is a
certain, specified evil, the extent to which he prevaricates
numerically depends upon the action of the will. A fellow who enters
upon the task of slaying his neighbor can kill but once in fact; but he
can commit the sin of murder in his soul once or a dozen times. It
depends on the will. Sin is a deliberate transgression, that is, first
of all an act of the will. If he resolves once to kill and never
retracts till the deed of blood is done, he sins but once. If he
disavows his resolution and afterwards resolves anew, he repeats the
sin of murder in his soul as often as he goes through this process of
will action. This sincere retraction of a deed is called moral
interruption and it has the mysterious power of multiplying sins.

Not every interruption is a moral one. To put the matter aside for a
certain while in the hope of a better opportunity, for the procuring of
necessary facilities or for any other reason, with the unshaken purpose
of pursuing the course entered upon, is to suspend action; but this
action is wholly exterior, and does not affect the will. The act of the
will perseveres, never loses its force, so there is no moral, but only
a physical, interruption. There is no renewal of consent for it has
never been withdrawn. The one moral act goes on, and but one sin is

Thus, of two wretches on the same errand of crime, one may sin but
once, while the other is guilty of the same sin a number of times. But
the several sins last no longer than the one. Which is the more guilty?
That is a question for God to decide; He does the judging, we do the

This possible multiplication of sin where a single act is apparent
emphasizes the fact that evil and good proceed from the will. It is by
the will primarily and essentially that we serve or offend God, and,
absolutely speaking, no exterior deed is necessary for the
accomplishment of this end.

The exterior deed of sin always supposes a natural preparation of sin--
thought, desires, resolution,--which precede or accompany the deed, and
without which there would be no sin. It is sinful only inasmuch as it
is related to the will, and is the fruit thereof. The interior act
constitutes the sin in its being; the exterior act constitutes it in
its completeness.

All of which leads up to the conclusion, of a nature perhaps to
surprise some, that to resolve to sin and to commit the sin in deed are
not two different sins, but one complete sin, in all the fulness of its
malice. True, the exterior act may give rise to scandal, and from it
may devolve upon us obligations of justice, the reparation of injury
done; true, with the exterior complement the sin may be more grievous.
But there cannot be several sins if there be one single uninterrupted
act of the will.

An evil thing is proposed to your mind; you enjoy the thought of doing
it, knowing it to be wrong; you desire to do it and resolve to do it;
you take the natural means of doing it; you succeed and consummate the
evil--a long drawn out and well prepared deed, 'tis true, but only one
sin. The injustices, the scandal, the sins you might commit
incidentally, which do not pertain naturally to the deed, all these are
another matter, and are other kinds of sins; but the act itself stands
alone, complete and one.

But these interior acts of sin, whether or not they have reference to
external completion, must be sinful. The first stage is the suggestion
of the imagination or simple seeing of the evil in the mind, which is
not sinful; the next is the moving of the sensibility or the purely
animal pleasure experienced, in which there is no evil, either; for we
have no sure mastery over these faculties. From the imagination and
sensibility the temptation passes before the will for consent. If
consent is denied, there is no deadly malice or guilt, no matter how
long the previous effects may have been endured. No thought is a sin
unless it be fully consented to.


YOU can never cure a disease till you get at the seat or root of the
evil. It will not do to attack the several manifestations that appear
on the surface, the aches and pains and attendant disorders. You must
attack the affected organ, cut out the root of the evil growth, and
kill the obnoxious germ. There is no other permanent remedy; until this
is done, all relief is but temporary.

And if we desire to remove the distemper of sin, similarly it is
necessary to seek out the root of all sin. We can lay our finger on it
at once; it is inordinate self-love.

Ask yourself why you broke this or that commandment. It is because it
forbade you a satisfaction that you coveted, a satisfaction that your
self-love imperiously demanded; or it is because it prescribed an act
that cost an effort, and you loved yourself too much to make that
effort. Examine every failing, little or great, and you will trace them
back to the same source. If we thought more of God and less of
ourselves we would never sin. The sinner lives for himself first, and
for God afterwards.

Strange that such a sacred thing as love, the source of all good, may
thus, by abuse, become the fountainhead of all evil! Perhaps, if it
were not so sacred and prolific of good, its excess would not be so
unholy. But the higher you stand when you tumble, the greater the fall;
so the better a thing is in itself, the more abominable is its abuse.
Love directed aright, towards God first, is the fulfilment of the Law;
love misdirected is the very destruction of all law.

Yet it is not wrong to love oneself; that is the first law of nature.
One, and one only being, the Maker, are we bound to love more than
ourselves. The neighbor is to be loved as ourselves. And if our just
interests conflict with his, if our rights and his are opposed to each
other, there is no legitimate means but we may employ to obtain or
secure what is rightly ours. The evil of self-love lies in its abuse
and excess, in that it goes beyond the limits set by God and nature,
that it puts unjustly our interests before God's and the neighbor's,
and that to self it sacrifices them and all that pertains to them.
Self, the "ego," is the idol before which all must bow.

Self-love, on an evil day, in the garden of Eden, wedded sin, Satan
himself officiating under the disguise of a serpent; and she gave birth
to seven daughters like unto herself, who in turn became fruitful
mothers of iniquity. Haughty Pride, first-born and queen among her
sisters, is inordinate love of one's worth and excellence, talents and
beauty; sordid Avarice or Covetousness is excessive love of riches;
loathsome Lust is the third, and loves carnal pleasures without regard
for the law; fiery Anger, a counterpart of pride, is love rejected but
seeking blindly to remedy the loss; bestial Gluttony worships the
stomach; green-eyed Envy is hate for wealth and happiness denied;
finally Sloth loves bodily ease and comfort to excess. The infamous
brood! These parents of all iniquity are called the seven capital sins.
They assume the leadership of evil in the world and are the seven arms
of Satan.

As it becomes their dignity, these vices never walk alone or go
unattended, and that is the desperate feature of their malice. Each has
a cortege of passions, a whole train of inferior minions, that
accompany or follow. Once entrance gained and a free hand given, there
is no telling the result. Once seated and secure, the passion seeks to
satisfy itself; that is its business. Certain means are required to
this end, and these means can be procured only by sinning. Obstacles
often stand in the way and new sins furnish steps to vault over, or
implements to batter them down. Intricate and difficult conditions
frequently arise as the result of self-indulgence, out of which there
is no exit but by fresh sins. Hence the long train of crimes led by one
capital sin towards the goal of its satisfaction, and hence the havoc
wrought by its untrammeled working in a human soul.

This may seem exaggerated to some; others it may mislead as to the true
nature of the capital sins, unless it be dearly put forth in what their
malice consists. Capital sins are not, in the first place, in
themselves, sins; they are vices, passions, inclinations or tendencies
to sin, and we know that a vice is not necessarily sinful. Our first
parents bequeathed to us as an inheritance these germs of misery and
sin. We are all in a greater or lesser degree prone to excess and to
desire unlawful pleasures. Yet, for all that, we do not of necessity
sin. We sin when we yield to these tendencies and do what they suggest.
The simple proneness to evil, devoid of all wilful yielding is
therefore not wrong. Why? Because we cannot help it; that is a good and
sufficient reason.

These passions may lie dormant in our nature without soliciting to
evil; they may, at any moment, awake to action with or without
provocation. The sight of an enemy or the thought of a wrong may stir
up anger; pride may be aroused by flattery, applause or even
compliments; the demon of lust may make its presence known and felt for
a good reason, for a slight reason, or for no reason at all; gluttony
shows its head at the sight of food or drink, etc.

He who deliberately and without reason arouses a passion, and thus
exposes himself imprudently to an assault of concupiscence, is
grievously guilty; for it is to trifle with a powerful and dangerous
enemy and it betokens indifference to the soul's salvation.

Suggestions, seductions, allurements follow upon the awakening of these
passions. When the array of these forces comes in contact with the
will, the struggle is on; it is called temptation. Warfare is the
natural state of man on earth. Without it, the world here below would
be a paradise, but life would be without merit.

In this unprovoked and righteous battle with sin, the only evil to be
apprehended is the danger of yielding. But far from being sinful, the
greater the danger, the more meritorious the struggle. It matters not
what we experience while fighting the enemy. Imagination and sensation
that solicit to yielding, anxiety of mind and discouragement, to all
this there is no wrong attached, but merit.

Right or wrong depends on the outcome. Every struggle ends in victory
or defeat for one party and in temptation there is sin only in defeat.
A single act of the will decides. It matters not how long the struggle
lasts; if the will does not capitulate, there is no sin.

This resistance demands plenty of energy, a soul inured to like combats
and an ample provision of weapons of defense--faith, hatred of sin,
love of God. Prayer is essential. Flight is the safest means, but is
not always possible. Humility and self-denial are an excellent, even
necessary, preparation for assured victory.

No man need expect to make himself proof against temptation. It is not
a sign of weakness; or if so, it is a weakness common to all men. There
is weakness only in defeat, and cowardice as well. The gallant and
strong are they who fight manfully. Manful resistance means victory,
and victory makes one stronger and invincible, while defeat at every
repetition places victory farther and farther beyond our reach.

Success requires more than strength, it requires wisdom, the wisdom to
single out the particular passion that predominates in us, to study its
artifices and by remote preparation to make ourselves secure against
its assaults. The leader thus exposed and its power for evil reduced to
a minimum, it will be comparatively easy to hold in check all other
dependent passions.


EXCELLENCE is a quality that raises a man above the common level and
distinguishes him among his fellow-beings. The term is relative. The
quality may exist in any degree or measure. 'Tis only the few that
excel eminently; but anyone may be said to excel who is, ever so
little, superior to others, be they few or many. Three kinds of
advantages go to make up one's excellence. Nature's gifts are talent,
knowledge, health, strength, and beauty; fortune endows us with honor,
wealth, authority; and virtue, piety, honesty are the blessings of
grace. To the possession of one or several of these advantages
excellence is attached.

All good is made to be loved. All gifts directly or indirectly from God
are good, and if excellence is the fruit of these gifts, it is lawful,
reasonable, human to love it and them. But measure is to be observed in
all things. Virtue is righteously equidistant, while vice goes to
extremes. It is not, therefore, attachment and affection for this
excellence, but inordinate, unreasonable love that is damnable, and
constitutes the vice of pride.

God alone is excellent and all greatness is from Him alone. And those
who are born great, who acquire greatness, or who have greatness thrust
upon them, alike owe their superiority to Him. Nor are these advantages
and this preeminence due to our merits and deserts. Everything that
comes to us from God is purely gratuitous on His part, and undeserved
on ours. Since our very existence is the effect of a free act of His
will, why should not, for a greater reason, all that is accidental to
that existence be dependent on His free choice? Finally, nothing of all
this is ours or ever can become ours. Our qualities are a pure loan
confided to our care for a good and useful purpose, and will be
reclaimed with interest.

Since the malice of our pride consists in the measure of affection we
bestow upon our excellence, if we love it to the extent of adjudging it
not a gift of God, but the fruit of our own better selves; or if we
look upon it as the result of our worth, that is, due to our merits, we
are guilty of nothing short of downright heresy, because we hold two
doctrines contrary to faith. "What hast thou, that thou hast not
received?" If a gift is due to us, it is no longer a gift. This extreme
of pride is happily rare. It is directly opposed to God. It is the sin
of Lucifer.

A lesser degree of pride is, while admitting ourselves beholden to God
for whatever we possess and confessing His bounties to be undeserved,
to consider the latter as becoming ours by right of possession, with
liberty to make the most of them for our own personal ends. This is a
false and sinful appreciation of God's gifts, but it respects His and
all subordinate authority. If it never, in practice, fails in this
submission, there is sin, because the plan of God, by which all things
must be referred to Him, is thwarted; but its malice is not considered
grievous. Pride, however, only too often fails in this, its tendency
being to satisfy itself, which it cannot do within the bounds of
authority. Therefore it is that from being a venial, this species of
pride becomes a mortal offense, because it leads almost infallibly to
disobedience and rebellion. There is a pride, improperly so called,
which is in accordance with all the rules of order, reason and honor.
It is a sense of responsibility and dignity which every man owes to
himself, and which is compatible with the most sincere humility. It is
a regard, an esteem for oneself, too great to allow one to stoop to
anything base or mean. It is submissive to authority, acknowledges
shortcomings, respects others and expects to be respected in return. It
can preside with dignity, and obey with docility. Far from being a
vice, it is a virtue and is only too rare in this world. It is nobility
of soul which betrays itself in self-respect.

Here is the origin, progress and development of the vice. We first
consider the good that is in us, and there is good in all of us, more
or less. This consideration becomes first exaggerated; then one-sided
by reason of our overlooking and ignoring imperfections and
shortcomings. Out of these reflections arises an apprehension of
excellence or superiority greater than we really possess. From the mind
this estimate passes to the heart which embraces it fondly, rejoices
and exults. The conjoint acceptation of this false appreciation by the
mind and heart is the first complete stage of pride--an overwrought
esteem of self. The next move is to become self-sufficient,
presumptuous. A spirit of enterprise asserts itself, wholly out of
keeping with the means at hand. It is sometimes foolish, sometimes
insane, reason being blinded by error.

The vice then seeks to satisfy itself, craves for the esteem of others,
admiration, flattery, applause, and glory. This is vanity, different
from conceit only in this, that the former is based on something that
is, or has been done, while the latter is based on nothing.

Vanity manifested in word is called boasting; in deed that is true,
vain-glory; in deed without foundation of truth, hypocrisy.

But this is not substantial enough for ambition, another form of pride.
It covets exterior marks of appreciation, rank, honor, dignity,
authority. It seeks to rise, by hook or crook, for the sole reason of
showing off and displaying self. Still growing apace, pride becomes
indignant, irritated, angry if this due appreciation is not shown to
its excellence; it despises others either for antipathy or inferiority.
It believes its own judgment infallible and, if in the wrong, will
never acknowledge a mistake or yield. Finally the proud man becomes so
full of self that obedience is beneath him, and he no longer respects
authority of man or of God. Here we have the sin of pride in all the
plenitude of its malice.

Pride is often called an honorable vice, because its aspirations are
lofty, because it supposes strength, and tends directly to elevate man,
rather than to debase and degrade him, like the other vices. Yet pride
is compatible with every meanness. It lodges in the heart of the pauper
as well as in that of the prince. There is nothing contemptible that it
will not do to satisfy itself; and although its prime malice is to
oppose God it has every quality to make it as hideous as Satan himself.
It goeth before a fall, but it does not cease to exist after the fall;
and no matter how deep down in the mire of iniquity you search, you
will find pride nethermost. Other vices excite one's pity; pride makes
us shudder.


"WHAT is a miser?" asked the teacher of her pupils, and the bright boy
spoke up and answered: one who has a greed for gold. But he and all the
class were embarrassed as to how this greed for gold should be
qualified. The boy at the foot of the class came to the rescue, and
shouted out: misery.

Less wise answers are made every day in our schools. Misery is indeed
the lot, if not the vice, of the miser. 'Tis true that this is one of
the few vices that arrive at permanent advantages, the others offering
satisfaction that lasts but for a moment, and leaves nothing but
bitterness behind. Yet, the more the miser possesses the more
insatiable his greed becomes, and the less his enjoyment, by reason of
the redoubled efforts he makes to have and to hold.

But the miser is not the only one infected with the sin of avarice. His
is not an ordinary, but an extreme case. He is the incarnation of the
evil. He believes in, hopes in, and loves gold above all things; he
prays and sacrifices to it. Gold is his god, and gold will be his
reward, a miserable one.

This degree of the vice is rare; or, at least, is rarely suffered to
manifest itself to this extent; and although scarcely a man can be
found to confess to this failing, because it is universally regarded as
most loathsome and repulsive, still few there are who are not more or
less slaves to cupidity. Pride is the sin of the angels; lust is the
sin of the brute, and avarice is the sin of man. Scripture calls it the
universal evil. We are more prone to inveigh against it, and accuse
others of the vice than to admit it in ourselves.

Sometimes, it is "the pot calling the kettle black;" more often it is a
clear case of "sour grapes." Disdain for the dollars "that speak," "the
mighty dollars," in abundance and in superabundance, is rarely genuine.

There are, concerning the passion of covetousness, two notions as
common as they are false. It is thought that this vice is peculiar to
the rich, and is not to be met with among the poor. Now, avarice does
not necessarily suppose the possession of wealth, and does not consist
in the possession, but in the inordinate desire, or greed for, or the
lust of, riches. It may be, and is, difficult for one to possess much
wealth without setting one's heart on it. But it is also true that this
greed may possess one who has little or nothing. It may be found in
unrestrained excess under the rags of the pauper and beggar. They who
aspire to, or desire, riches with avidity are covetous whether they
have much, little, or nothing. Christ promised His kingdom to the poor
in spirit, not to the poor in fact. Spiritual poverty can associate
with abundant wealth, just as the most depraved cupidity may exist in

Another prejudice, favorable to ourselves, is that only misers are
covetous, because they love money for itself and deprive themselves of
the necessaries of life to pile it up. But it is not necessary that the
diagnosis reveal these alarming symptoms to be sure of having a real
case of cupidity. They are covetous who strive after wealth with
passion. Various motives may arouse this passion, and although they may
increase the malice, they do not alter the nature, of the vice. Some
covet wealth for the sake of possessing it; others, to procure
pleasures or to satisfy different passions. Avarice it continues to be,
whatever the motive. Not even prodigality, the lavish spending of
riches, is a token of the absence of cupidity. Rapacity may stand
behind extravagance to keep the supply inexhausted.

It is covetousness to place one's greatest happiness in the possession
of wealth, or to consider its loss or privation the greatest of
misfortunes; in other words, to over-rejoice in having and to
over-grieve in not having.

It is covetousness to be so disposed as to acquire riches unjustly
rather than suffer poverty.

It is covetousness to hold, or give begrudgingly, when charity presses
her demands.

There is, in these cases, a degree of malice that is ordinarily mortal,
because the law of God and of nature is not respected.

It is the nature of this vice to cause unhappiness which increases
until it becomes positive wretchedness in the miser. Anxiety of mind is
followed by hardening of the heart; then injustice in desire and in
fact; blinding of the conscience, ending in a general stultification of
man before the god Mammon.

All desires of riches and comfort are not, therefore, avarice. One may
aspire to, and seek wealth without avidity. This ambition is a laudable
one, for it does not exaggerate the value of the world's goods, would
not resort to injustice, and has not the characteristic tenacity of
covetousness. There is order in this desire for plenty. It is the great
mover of activity in life; it is good because it is natural, and
honorable because of its motives.


PRIDE resides principally in the mind, and thence sways over the entire
man; avarice proceeds from the heart and affections; lust has its seat
in the flesh. By pride man prevaricating imitates the angel of whose
nature he partakes; avarice is proper to man as being a composite of
angelic and animal natures; lust is characteristic of the brute pure
and simple. This trinity of concupiscence is in direct opposition to
the Trinity of God--to the Father, whose authority pride would destroy;
to the Son, whose voluntary stripping of the divinity and the poverty
of whose life avarice scorns and contemns to the Holy Ghost, to whom
lust is opposed as the flesh is opposed to the spirit. This is the
mighty trio that takes possession of the whole being of man, controls
his superior and inferior appetites, and wars on the whole being on
God. And lust is the most ignoble of the three.

Strictly speaking, it is not here question of the commandments. They
prescribe or forbid acts of sin--thoughts, words or deeds; lust is a
passion, a vice or inclination, a concupiscence. It is not an act. It
does not become a sin while it remains in this state of pure
inclination. It is inbred in our nature as children of Adam. Lust is an
appetite like any other appetite, conformable to our human nature, and
can be satisfied lawfully within the order established by God and
nature. But it is vitiated by the corruption of fallen flesh. This
vitiated appetite craves for unlawful and forbidden satisfactions and
pleasures, such as are not in keeping with the plans of the Creator.
Thus the vitiated appetite becomes inordinate. At one and the same
time, it becomes inordinate and sinful, the passion being gratified
unduly by a positive act of sin.

This depraved inclination, as everyone knows, may be in us, without
being of us, that is, without any guilt being imputed to us. This
occurs in the event of a violent assault of passion, in which our will
has no part, and which consequently does not materialize, exteriorly or
interiorly, in a human act forbidden by the laws of morality. Nor is
there a transgression, even when gratified, if reason and faith control
the inclination and direct it along the lines laid down by the divine
and natural laws. Outside of this, all manners, shapes and forms of
lust are grievous sins, for the law admits no levity of matter. No
further investigation, at the present time, into the essence of this
vice is necessary.

There is an abominable theory familiar to, and held by the dissolute,
who, not content with spreading the contagion of their souls, aim at
poisoning the very wells of morality. They reason somewhat after this
fashion: Human nature is everywhere the same. He knows others who best
knows himself. A mere glance at themselves reveals the fact that they
are chained fast to earth by their vile appetites, and that to break
these chains is a task too heavy for them to undertake. The fact is
overlooked that these bonds are of their own creation, and that every
end is beyond reach of him who refuses to take the means to that end.
Incapable, too, of conceiving a sphere of morality superior to that in
which they move, and without further investigation of facts to make
their induction good, they conclude that all men are like themselves;
that open profession of morality is unadulterated hypocrisy, that a
pure man is a living lie. A more wholesale impeachment of human
veracity and a more brutal indignity offered to human nature could
scarcely be imagined. Reason never argued thus; the heart has reasons
which the reason cannot comprehend. Truth to be loved needs only to be
seen. Adversely, it is the case with falsehood.

It is habitual with this passion to hide its hideousness under the
disguise of love, and thus this most sacred and hallowed name is
prostituted to signify that which is most vile and loathsome.
Depravity? No. Goodness of heart, generosity of affections, the very
quintessence of good nature! But God is love, and love that does not
see the image of the Creator in its object is not love, but the brutal

There are some who do not go so far as to identify vice with virtue,
but content themselves with esteeming that, since passion is so strong,
virtue so difficult and God so merciful to His frail creatures, to
yield a trifle is less a sin than a confession of native weakness. This
"weakness" runs a whole gamut of euphemisms; imperfections, foibles,
frailties, mistakes, miseries, accidents, indiscretions--anything to
gloss it over, anything but what it is. At this rate, you could efface
the whole Decalogue and at one fell stroke destroy all laws, human and
divine. What is yielding to any passion but weakness? Very few sins are
sins of pure malice. If one is weak through one's own fault, and
chooses to remain so rather than take the necessary means of acquiring
strength, that one is responsible in full for the weakness. The weak
and naughty in this matter are plain, ordinary sinners of a very sable

Theirs is not the view that God took of things when He purged the earth
with water and destroyed the five cities with fire. From Genesis to the
Apocalypse you will not find a weakness against which He inveighs so
strongly, and chastises so severely. He forbids and condemns every
deliberate yielding, every voluntary step taken over the threshold of
moral cleanness in thought, word, desire or action.

The gravity and malice of sin is not to be measured by the fancies,
opinions, theories or attitude of men. The first and only rule is the
will of God which is sufficiently clear to anyone who scans the sacred
pages whereon it is manifested. And the reason of His uncompromising
hostility to voluptuousness can be found in the intrinsic malice of the
evil. In man, as God created him, the soul is superior to the body, and
of its nature should rule and govern. Lust inverts this order, and the
flesh lords it over the spirit. The image of God is defiled, dragged in
the mire of filth and corruption, and robbed of its spiritual nature,
as far as the thing is possible. It becomes corporal, carnal, animal.
And thus the superior soul with its sublime faculties of intelligence
and will is made to obey under the tyranny of emancipated flesh, and
like the brute seeks only for things carnal.

It is impossible to say to what this vice will not lead, or to
enumerate the crimes that follow in its wake. The first and most
natural consequence is to create a distaste and aversion for prayer,
piety, devotion, religion and God; and this is God's most terrible
curse on the vice, for it puts beyond reach of the unfortunate sinner
the only remedy that could save him.

But if God's justice is so rigorous toward the wanton, His mercy is
never so great as toward those who need it most, who desire it and ask
it. The most touching episodes in the Gospels are those in which Christ
opened wide the arms of His charity to sinful but repentant creatures,
and lifted them out of their iniquity. That same charity and power to
shrive, uplift and strengthen resides to-day, in all its plenitude, in
the Church which is the continuation of Christ. Where there is a will
there is a way. The will is the sinner's; the way is in prayer and the


NEVER say, when you are angry, that you are mad; it makes you appear
much worse than you really are, for only dogs get mad. The rabies in a
human being is a most unnatural and ignoble thing. Yet common parlance
likens anger to it.

It is safe to say that no one has yet been born that never yielded,
more or less, to the sway of this passion. Everybody gets angry. The
child sulks, the little girl calls names and makes faces, the boy
fights and throws stones; the maiden waxes huffy, spiteful, and won't
speak, and the irascible male fumes, rages, and says and does things
that become him not in the least. Even pious folks have their tiffs and
tilts. All flesh is frail, and anger has an easy time of it; not
because this passion is so powerful, but because it is insidious and
passes for a harmless little thing in its ordinary disguise. And yet
all wrath does not manifest itself thus exteriorly. Still waters are
deepest. An imperturbable countenance may mask a very inferno of wrath
and hatred.

To hear us talk, there is no fault in all this, the greater part of the
time. It is a soothing tonic to our conscience after a fit of rage, to
lay all the blame on a defect of character or a naturally bad temper.
If fault there is, it is anybody's but our own. We recall the fact that
patience is a virtue that has its limits, and mention things that we
solemnly aver would try the enduring powers of the beatified on their
thrones in heaven. Some, at a loss otherwise to account for it, protest
that a particular devil got hold of them and made resistance

But it was not a devil at all. It was a little volcano, or better, a
little powder magazine hidden away somewhere in the heart. The imp
Pride had its head out looking for a caress, when it received a rebuff
instead. Hastily disappearing within, it spat fire right and left, and
the explosion followed, proportionate in energy and destructive power
to the quantity of pent-up self-love that served as a charge. Once the
mine is fired, in the confusion and disorder that follow, vengeance
stalks forth in quest of the miscreant that did the wrong.

Anger is the result of hurt pride, of injured self-love. It is a
violent and inordinate commotion of the soul that seeks to wreak
vengeance for an injury done. The causes that arouse anger vary
infinitely in reasonableness, and there are all degrees of intensity.

The malice of anger consists wholly in the measure of our deliberate
yielding to its promptings. Sin, here as elsewhere, supposes an act of
the will, A crazy man is not responsible for his deeds; nor is anyone,
for more than what he does knowingly.

The first movement or emotion of irascibility is usually exempt of all
fault; by this is meant the play of the passion on the sensitive part
of our nature, the sharp, sudden fit that is not foreseen and is not
within our control, the first effects of the rising wrath, such as the
rush of blood, the trouble and disorder of the affections,
surexcitation and solicitation to revenge. A person used to repelling
these assaults may be taken unawares and carried away to a certain
extent in the first storm of passion, in this there is nothing sinful.
But the same faultlessness could not be ascribed to him who exercises
no restraining power over his failing, and by yielding habitually
fosters it and must shoulder the responsibility of every excess. We
incur the burden of God's wrath when, through our fault, negligence or
a positive act of the will, we suffer this passion to steal away our
reason, blind us to the value of our actions, and make us deaf to all
considerations. No motive can justify such ignoble weakness that would
lower us to the level of the madman. He dishonors his Maker who throws
the reins to his animal instincts and allows them to gallop ahead with
him, in a mad career of vengeance and destruction.

Many do not go to this extent of fury, but give vent to their spleen in
a more cool and calculating manner. Their temper, for being less fiery,
is more bitter. They are choleric rather than bellicose. They do not
fly to acts but to desires and well-laid plans of revenge. If the
desire or deed lead to a violation of justice or charity, to scandal or
any notable evil consequence, the sin is clearly mortal; the more so,
if this inward brooding be of long duration, as it betrays a more
deep-seated malice.

Are there any motives capable of justifying these outbursts of passion?
None at all, if our ire has these two features of unreasonableness and
vindictiveness. This is evil. No motive, however good, can justify an
evil end.

If any cause were plausible, it would be a grave injury, malicious and
unjust. But not even this is sufficient, for we are forbidden to return
evil for evil. It may cause us grief and pain, but should not incite us
to anger, hatred and revenge. What poor excuses would therefore be
accidental or slight injuries, just penalties for our wrongdoings and
imaginary grievances! The less excusable is our wrath, the more serious
is our delinquency. Our guilt is double-dyed when the deed and the
cause of the deed are both alike unreasonable.

Yet there is a kind of anger that is righteous. We speak of the wrath
of God, and in God there can be no sin. Christ himself was angry at the
sight of the vendors in the temple. Holy Writ says: Be ye angry and sin
not. But this passion, which is the fruit of zeal, has three features
which make it impossible to confound it with the other. It is always
kept within the bounds of a wise moderation and under the empire of
reason; it knows not the spirit of revenge; and it has behind it the
best of motives, namely, zeal for the glory of God. It is aroused at
the sight of excesses, injustices, scandals, frauds; it seeks to
destroy sin, and to correct the sinner. It is often not only a
privilege, but a duty. It supposes, naturally, judgment, prudence, and
discretion, and excludes all selfish motives.

Zeal in an inferior and more common degree is called indignation, and
is directed against all things unworthy, low and deserving of contempt.
It respects persons, but loathes whatever of sin or vice that is in, or
comes from, unworthy beings. It is a virtue, and is the effect of a
high sense of respectability.

Impatience is not anger, but a feeling somewhat akin to it, provoked by
untoward events and inevitable happenings, such as the weather,
accidents, etc. It is void of all spirit of revenge. Peevishness is
chronic impatience, due to a disordered nervous system and requires the
services of a competent physician, being a physical, not moral,

Anger is a weakness and betrays many other weaknesses; that is why
sensible people never allow this passion to sway them. It is the last
argument of a lost cause: "You are angry, therefore you are wrong." The
great misery of it is that hot-tempered people consider their mouths to
be safety-valves, while the truth is that the wagging tongue generates
bile faster than the open mouth can give exit to it. St. Liguori
presented an irate scold with a bottle, the contents to be taken by the
mouthful and held for fifteen minutes, each time her lord and master
returned home in his cups. She used it with surprising results and went
back for more. The saint told her to go to the well and draw
inexhaustibly until cured.

For all others, the remedy is to be found in a meditation of these
words of the "Our Father:" "forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive
those who trespass against us." The Almighty will take us at our word.


SELF-PRESERVATION is nature's first law, and the first and essential
means of preserving one's existence is the taking of food and drink
sufficient to nourish the body, sustain its strength and repair the
forces thereof weakened by labor, fatigue or illness. God, as well as
nature, obliges us to care for our bodily health, in order that the
spirit within may work out on earth the end of its being.

Being purely animal, this necessity is not the noblest and most
elevating characteristic of our nature. Nor is it, in its imperious and
unrelenting requirements, far removed from a species of tyranny. A kind
Providence, however, by lending taste, savor and delectability to our
aliments, makes us find pleasure in what otherwise would be repugnant
and insufferably monotonous.

An appetite is a good and excellent thing. To eat and drink with relish
and satisfaction is a sign of good health, one of the precious boons of
nature. And the tendency to satisfy this appetite, far from being
sinful, is wholly in keeping with the divine plan, and is necessary for
a fulsome benefiting of the nourishment we take.

On the other hand, the digestive organism of the body is such a
delicate and finely adjusted piece of mechanism that any excess is
liable to clog its workings and put it out of order. It is made for
sufficiency alone. Nature never intended man to be a glutton; and she
seldom fails to retaliate and avenge excesses by pain, disease and

This fact coupled with the grossness of the vice of gluttony makes it
happily rare, at least in its most repulsive form; for, be it said, it
is here question of the excessive use of ordinary food and drink, and
not of intoxicants to which latter form of gluttony we shall pay our
respects later.

The rich are more liable than the poor to sin by gluttony; but gluttony
is fatal to longevity, and they who enjoy best life, desire to live
longest. 'Tis true, physicians claim that a large portion of diseases
are due to over-eating and over-drinking; but it must be admitted that
this is through ignorance rather than malice. So that this passion can
hardly be said to be commonly yielded to, at least to the extent of
grievous offending.

Naturally, the degree of excess in eating and drinking is to be
measured according to age, temperament, condition of life, etc. The
term gluttony is relative. What would be a sin for one person might be
permitted as lawful to another. One man might starve on what would
constitute a sufficiency for more than one. Then again, not only the
quantity, but the quality, time and manner, enter for something in
determining just where excess begins. It is difficult therefore, and it
is impossible, to lay down a general rule that will fit all cases.

It is evident, however, that he is mortally guilty who is so far buried
in the flesh as to make eating and drinking the sole end of life, who
makes a god of his stomach. Nor is it necessary to mention certain
unmentionable excesses such as were practiced by the degenerate Romans
towards the fall of the Empire. It would likewise be a grievous sin of
gluttony to put the satisfaction of one's appetite before the law of
the Church and violate wantonly the precepts of fasting and abstinence.

And are there no sins of gluttony besides these? Yes, and three rules
may be laid down, the application of which to each particular case will
reveal the malice of the individual. Overwrought attachment to
satisfactions of the palate, betrayed by constant thinking of viands
and pleasures of the table, and by avidity in taking nourishment,
betokens a dangerous, if not a positively sinful, degree of sensuality.
Then, to continue eating or drinking after the appetite is appeased, is
in itself an excess, and mortal sin may be committed even without going
to the last extreme. Lastly, it is easy to yield inordinately to this
passion by attaching undue importance to the quality of our victuals,
seeking after delicacies that do not become our rank, and catering to
an over-refined palate. The evil of all this consists in that we seem
to eat and drink, if we do not in fact eat and drink, to satisfy our
sensuality first, and to nourish our bodies afterwards; and this is
contrary to the law of nature.

We seemed to insist from the beginning that this is not a very
dangerous or common practice. Yet there must be a hidden and especial
malice in it. Else why is fasting and abstinence--two correctives of
gluttony--so much in honor and so universally recommended and commanded
in the Church? Counting three weeks in Advent, seven in Lent and three
Ember days four times a year, we have, without mentioning fifty-two
Fridays, thirteen weeks or one-fourth of the year by order devoted to a
practical warfare on gluttony. No other vice receives the honor of such
systematic and uncompromising resistance. The enemy must be worthy.

As a matter of fact, there lies under all this a great moral principle
of Christian philosophy. This philosophy sought out and found the cause
and seat of all evil to be in the flesh. The forces of sin reside in
the flesh while the powers of righteousness--faith, reason and will--
are in the spirit. The real issue of life is between these forces
contending for supremacy. The spirit should rule; that is the order of
our being. But the flesh revolts, and by ensnaring the will endeavors
to dominate over the spirit.

Now it stands to reason that the only way for the superior part to
succeed is to weaken the inferior part. Just as prayer and the grace of
the sacraments fortify the soul, so do food and drink nourish the
animal; and if the latter is cared for to the detriment of the soul, it
waxes strong and formidable and becomes a menace.

The only resource for the soul is then to cut off the supply that
benefits the flesh, and strengthen herself thereby. She acts like a
wise engineer who keeps the explosive and dangerous force of his
locomotive within the limit by reducing the quantity of food he throws
into its stomach. Thus the passions being weakened become docile, and
are easily held under sway by the power that is destined to govern, and
sin is thus rendered morally impossible.

It is gluttony that furnishes the passion of the flesh with fuel by
feeding the animal too well; and herein lies the great danger and
malice of this vice. The evil of a slight excess may not be great
in itself; but that evil is great in its consequences. Little
over-indulgences imperceptibly, but none the less surely, strengthen
the flesh against the spirit, and when the temptation comes the spirit
will be overcome. The ruse of the saints was to starve the enemy.


INTEMPERANCE is the immoderate use of anything, good or bad; here the
word is used to imply an excessive use of alcoholic beverages, which
excess, when it reaches the dignity of a habit or vice, makes a man a
drunkard. A drunkard who indulges in "highballs" and other beverages of
fancy price and name, is euphemistically styled a "tippler;" his
brother, a poor devil who swallows vile concoctions or red "pizen" is
called a plain, ordinary "soak." Whatever name we give to such
gluttons, the evil in both is the same; 'tis the evil of gluttony.

This vice differs from gluttony proper in that its object is strong
drink, while the latter is an abuse of food and nourishment necessary,
in regulated quantity, for the sustenance of the body. But alcohol is
not necessary to sustain life as an habitual beverage; it may
stimulate, but it does not sustain at all. It has its legitimate uses,
like strychnine and other poison and drugs; but being a poison, it must
be detrimental to living tissues, when taken frequently, and cannot
have been intended by the Creator as a life-giving nourishment. Its
habitual use is therefore not a necessity. Its abuse has therefore a
more far-fetched malice.

But its use is not sinful, any more than the use of any drug, for
alcohol, or liquor, is a creature of God and is made for good purposes.
Its use is not evil, whether it does little good, or no good at all.
The fact of its being unnecessary does not make it a forbidden fruit.
The habit of stimulants, like the habit of tobacco, while it has no
title to be called a good habit, cannot be qualified as an
intrinsically bad habit; it may be tolerated as long as it is kept
within the bounds of sane reason and does not give rise to evil
consequences in self or others. Apart, therefore, from the danger of
abuse--a real and fatal danger for many, especially for the young--and
from the evil effects that may follow even a moderate use, the habit is
like another; a temperate man is not, to any appreciable degree, less
righteous than a moderate smoker. The man who can use and not abuse is
just as moral as his brother who does not use lest he abuse. He must,
however, be said to be less virtuous than another who abstains rather
than run the risk of being even a remote occasion of sin unto the weak.

The intrinsic malice therefore of this habit consists in the disorder
of excess, which is called intoxication. Intoxication may exist in
different degrees and stages; it is the state of a man who loses, to
any extent, control over his reasoning faculties through the effects of
alcohol. There is evil and sin the moment the brain is affected; when
reason totters and falls from its throne in the soul, then the crime is
consummated. When a man says and does and thinks what in his sober
senses he would not say, do, or think, that man is drunk, and there is
mortal sin on his soul. It is not an easy matter to define just when
intoxication properly begins and sobriety ends; every man must do that
for himself. But he should consider himself well on the road to guilt
when, being aware that the fumes of liquor were fast beclouding his
mind, he took another glass that was certain to still further obscure
his reason and paralyze his will.

Much has been said and written about the grossness of this vice, its
baneful effects and consequences, to which it were useless here to
refer. Suffice it to say there is nothing that besots a man more
completely and lowers him more ignobly to the level of the brute. He
falls below, for the most stupid of brutes, the ass, knows when it has
enough; and the drunkard does not. It requires small wit indeed to
understand that there is no sin in the catalogue of crime that a person
in this state is not capable of committing. He will do things the very
brute would blush to do; and then he will say it was one of the devil's
jokes. The effects on individuals, families and generations, born and
unborn, cannot be exaggerated; and the drunkard is a tempter of God and
the curse of society.

Temperance is a moderate use of strong drink; teetotalism is absolute
abstention therefrom. A man may be temperate without being a
teetotaler; all teetotalers are temperate, at least as far as alcohol
is concerned, although they are sometimes, some of them, accused of
using temperance as a cloak for much intemperance of speech. If this be
true--and there are cranks in all causes--then temperance is itself the
greatest sufferer. Exaggeration is a mistake; it repels right-thinking
men and never served any purpose. We believe it has done the cause of
teetotalism a world of harm. But it is poor logic that will identify
with so holy a cause the rabid rantings of a few irresponsible fools.

The cause of total abstinence is a holy and righteous cause. It takes
its stand against one of the greatest evils, moral and social, of the
day. It seeks to redeem the fallen, and to save the young and
inexperienced. Its means are organization and the mighty weapon of good
example. It attracts those who need it and those who do not need it;
the former, to save them; the latter, to help save others. And there is
no banner under which Catholic youth could more honorably be enrolled
than the banner of total abstinence. The man who condemns or decries
such a cause either does not know what he is attacking or his mouthings
are not worth the attention of those who esteem honesty and hate
hypocrisy. It is not necessary to be able to practice virtue in order
to esteem its worth. And it does not make a fellow appear any better
even to himself to condemn a cause that condemns his faults.

Saloon-keepers are engaged in an enterprise which in itself is lawful;
the same can be said of those who buy and sell poisons and dynamite and
fire-arms. The nature of his merchandise differentiates his business
from all other kinds of business, and his responsibilities are of the
heaviest. It may, and often does, happen that this business is
criminal; and in this matter the civil law may be silent, but the moral
law is not. For many a one such a place is an occasion of sin, often a
near occasion. It is not comforting to kneel in prayer to God with the
thought in one's mind that one is helping many to damnation, and that
the curses of drunkards' wives and mothers and children are being piled
upon one's head. How far the average liquor seller is guilty, God only
knows; but a man with a deep concern for his soul's salvation, it seems
would not like to take the risk.


WHEN envy catches a victim she places an evil eye in his mind, gives
him a cud to chew, and then sends him gadding.

If the mind's eye feeds upon one's own excellence for one's own
satisfaction, that is pride; if it feeds upon the neighbor's good for
one's own displeasure and unhappiness, that is envy. It is not alone
this displeasure that makes envy, but the reason of this displeasure,
that is, what the evil eye discerns in the neighbor's excellence,
namely, a detriment, an obstacle to one's own success. It is not
necessary that another's prosperity really work injury to our own; it
is sufficient that the evil eye, through its discolored vision,
perceive a prejudice therein. "Ah!" says envy, "he is happy,
prosperous, esteemed! My chances are spoiled. I am overshadowed. I am
nothing, he is everything. I am nothing because he is everything."

Remember that competition, emulation, rivalry are not necessarily envy.
I dread to see my rival succeed. I am pained if he does succeed. But
the cause of this annoyance and vexation is less his superiority than
my inferiority. I regret my failure more than his success. There is no
evil eye. 'Tis the sting of defeat that causes me pain. If I regret
this or that man's elevation because I fear he will abuse his power; if
I become indignant at the success of an unworthy person; I am not
envious, because this superiority of another does not appear to me to
be a prejudice to my standing. Whatever sin there is, there is no sin
of envy.

We may safely assume that a person who would be saddened by the success
of another, would not fail to rejoice at that other's misfortune. This
is a grievous offense against charity, but it is not, properly
speaking, envy, for envy is always sad; it is rather an effect of envy,
a natural product thereof and a form of hatred.

This unnatural view of things which we qualify as the evil eye, is not
a sin until it reaches the dignity of a sober judgment, for only then
does it become a human act. Envy like pride, anger, and the other
vicious inclinations, may and often does crop out in our nature,
momentarily, without our incurring guilt, if it is checked before it
receives the acquiescence of the will, it is void of wrong, and only
serves to remind us that we have a rich fund of malice in our nature
capable of an abundant yield of iniquity.

After being born in the mind, envy passes to the feelings where it
matures and furnishes that supply of misery which characterizes the
vice. Another is happy at our expense; the sensation is a painful one,
yet it has a diabolical fascination, and we fondle and caress it. We
brood over our affliction to the embittering and souring of our souls.
We swallow and regurgitate over and over again our dissatisfaction, and
are aptly said to chew the cud of bitterness.

Out of such soil as this naturally springs a rank growth of uncharity
and injustice in thought and desire. The mind and heart of envy are
untrammeled by all bonds of moral law. It may think all evil of a rival
and wish him all evil. He becomes an enemy, and finally he is hated.
Envy points directly to hatred.

Lastly, envy is "a gadding passion, it walketh the street and does not
keep home." It were better to say that it "talketh." There is nothing
like language to relieve one's feelings; it is quieting and soothing,
and envy has strong feelings. Hence, evil insinuations, detraction,
slander, etc. Justice becomes an empty word and the seamless robe of
charity is torn to shreds. As an agent of destruction envy easily holds
the palm, for it commands the two strong passions of pride and anger,
and they do its bidding.

People scarcely ever acknowledge themselves envious. It is such a base,
unreasonable and unnatural vice. If we cannot rejoice with the
neighbor, why be pained at his felicity? And what an insanity it is to
imagine that in this wide world one cannot be happy without prejudicing
the happiness of another! What a severe shock it would be to the
discontented, the morosely sour, the cynic, and other human owls, to be
told that they are victims of this green-eyed monster. They would
confess to calumny, and hatred; to envy, never!

Envy can only exist where there is abundant pride. It is a form of
pride, a shape which it frequently assumes, because under this disguise
it can penetrate everywhere without being as much as noticed. And it is
so seldom detected that wherever it gains entrance it can hope to
remain indefinitely.

Jealousy and envy are often confounded; yet they differ in that the
latter looks on what is another's, while the former concerns itself
with what is in one's own possession. I envy what is not mine; I am
jealous of what is my own. Jealousy has a saddening influence upon us,
by reason of a fear, more or less well grounded, that what we have will
be taken from us. We foresee an injustice and resent it.

Kept within the limits of sane reason, jealousy is not wrong, for it is
founded on the right we have to what is ours. It is in our nature to
cling to what belongs to us, to regret being deprived of it, and to
guard ourselves against injustice.

But when this fear is without cause, visionary, unreasonable, jealousy
partakes of the nature and malice of envy. It is even more malignant a
passion, and leads to greater disorders and crimes, for while envy is
based on nothing at all, there is here a true foundation in the right
of possession, and a motive in right to repel injustice.


NOT the least, if the last, of capital sins is sloth, and it is very
properly placed; for who ever saw the sluggard or victim of this
passion anywhere but after all others, last!

Sloth, of course, is a horror of difficulty, an aversion for labor,
pain and effort, which must be traced to a great love of one's comfort
and ease. Either the lazy fellow does nothing at all--and this is
sloth; or he abstains from doing what he should do while otherwise
busily occupied--and this too, is sloth; or he does it poorly,
negligently, half-heartedly--and this again is sloth. Nature imposes
upon us the law of labor. He who shirks in whole or in part is

Here, in the moral realm, we refer properly to the difficulty we find
in the service of God, in fulfiling our obligations as Christians and
Catholics, in avoiding evil and doing good; in a word, to the discharge
of our spiritual duties. But then all human obligations have a
spiritual side, by the fact of their being obligations. Thus, labor is
not, like attendance at mass, a spiritual necessity; but to provide for
those who are dependent upon us is a moral obligation and to shirk it
would be a sin of sloth.

Not that it is necessary, if we would avoid sin, to hate repose
naturally and experience no difficulty or repugnance in working out our
soul's salvation. Sloth is inbred in our nature. There is no one but
would rather avoid than meet difficulties. The service of God is
laborious and painful. The kingdom of God suffers violence. It has
always been true since the time of our ancestor Adam, that vice is
easy, and virtue difficult; that the flesh is weak, and repugnance to
effort, natural because of the burden of the flesh. So that, in this
general case, sloth is an obstacle to overcome rather than a fault of
the will. We may abhor exertion, feel the laziest of mortals; if we
effect our purpose in spite of all that, we can do no sin.

Sometimes sloth takes on an acute form known as aridity or barrenness
in all things that pertain to God. The most virtuous souls are not
always exempt from this. It is a dislike, a distaste that amounts
almost to a disgust for prayer especially, a repugnance that threatens
to overwhelm the soul. That is simply an absence of sensible fervor, a
state of affliction and probation that is as pleasing to God as it is
painful to us. After all where would the merit be in the service of
God, if there were no difficulty?

The type of the spiritually indolent is that fixture known as the
half-baked Catholic--some people call him "a poor stick"--who is too
lazy to meet his obligations with his Maker. He says no prayers,
because he can't; he lies abed Sunday mornings and lets the others go
to mass--he is too tired and needs rest; the effort necessary to prepare
for and to go to confession is quite beyond him. In fine, religion is
altogether too exacting, requires too much of a man.

And, as if to remove all doubt as to the purely spiritual character of
this inactivity, our friend can be seen, without a complaint,
struggling every day to earn the dollar. He will not grumble about
rising at five to go fishing or cycling. He will, after his hard day's
work, sit till twelve at the theatre or dance till two in the morning.
He will spend his energy in any direction save in that which leads to

Others expect virtue to be as easy as it is beautiful. Religion should
conduce to one's comfort. They like incense, but not the smell of
brimstone. They would remain forever content on Tabor, but the dark
frown of Calvary is insupportable. Beautiful churches, artistic music,
eloquent preaching on interesting topics, that is their idea of
religion; that is what they intend religion--their religion--shall be,
and they proceed to cut out whatever jars their finer feelings. This is
fashionable, but it is not Christian: to do anything for God--if it is
easy; and if it is hard,--well, God does not expect so much of us.

You will see at a glance that this sort of a thing is fatal to the
sense of God in the soul; it has for its first, direct and immediate
effect to weaken little by little the faith until it finally kills it
altogether. Sloth is a microbe. It creeps into the soul, sucks in its
substance and causes a spiritual consumption. This is neither an acute
nor a violent malady, but it consumes the patient, dries him up, wears
him out, till life goes out like a lamp without oil.


OUR first duty to God, and the first obligation imposed upon us by the
First Commandment is Faith, or belief in God--we must know Him.

Belief is solely a manner of knowing. It is one way of apprehending, or
getting possession of, a truth. There are other ways of acquiring
knowledge; by the senses, for instance, seeing, hearing, etc., and by
our intelligence or reason. When truth comes to us through the senses,
it is called experience; if the reason presents it, it is called
science; if we use the faculty of the soul known as faith, it is

You will observe that belief, experience and science have one and the
same object, namely, truth. These differ only in the manner of
apprehending truth. Belief relies on the testimony of others;
experience, on the testimony of the senses; science, on that of the
reason. What I believe, I get from others; what I experience or
understand, I owe to my individual self. I neither believe nor
understand that Hartford exists--I see it. I neither understand nor see
that Rome exists--I believe it. I neither see nor believe that two
parallel lines will never meet--I reason it out, I understand it.

Now it is beside the question here to object that belief, or what we
believe, may or may not be true. Neither is all that we see, nor all
that our reason produces, true. Human experience and human reason, like
all things human, may err. Here we simply remark that truth is the
object of our belief, as it is the object of our experience and of
understanding. We shall later see that if human belief may err, faith
or divine belief cannot mislead us, cannot be false.

Neither is it in order here to contend that belief, of its very nature,
is something uncertain, that it is synonymous of opinion; or if it
supposes a judgment, that judgment is "formidolose," liable at any
moment to be changed or contradicted. The testimony of the senses and
of reason does not always carry certain conviction. We may or may not
be satisfied with the evidence of human belief. As for the divine, or
faith, it is certain, or it is not at all; and who would not be
satisfied with the guarantee offered by the Word of God!

And the truths we believe are those revealed by God, received by us
through a double agency, the written and the oral word, known as
Scripture and Tradition. Scripture is contained in the two Testaments;
Tradition is found in the bosom, the life of the Church of Christ, in
the constant and universal teachings of that Church.

The Scripture being a dead letter cannot explain or interpret itself.
Yet, since it is applied to the ever-varying lives of men, it needs an
explanation and an interpretation; it is practically of no value
without it. And in order that the truth thus presented be accepted by
men, it is necessary, of prime necessity, that it have the guarantee of
infallibility. This infallibility the Church of Christ possesses, else
His mission were a failure.

This infallibility is to control the vagaries of Tradition, for
Tradition, of its very nature, tends to exaggeration, as we find in the
legends of ancient peoples. Exaggerated, they destroy themselves, but
in the bosom of God's Church these truths forever retain their
character unchanged and unchangeable.

If you accept the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth as
revealed by God and delivered to man by the infallible Church from the
Bible and Tradition, you have what is called ecclesiastical, Catholic
or true faith. There is no other true faith. It is even an open
question whether there is any faith at all outside of this; for outside
the Church there is no reasonable foundation for faith, and our faith
must be reasonable.

However, granting that such a thing can be, the faith of him who takes
and leaves off the divine Word is called divine faith. He is supposed
to ignore invincibly a portion of revealed truth, but he accepts what
he knows. If he knew something and refused to embrace it, he would have
no faith at all. The same is true of one who having once believed,
believes no longer. He impeaches the veracity of God, and therefore
cannot further rely on His Word.

Lastly, it matters not at all what kind of truths we receive from God.
Truth is truth always and ever. We may not be able to comprehend what
is revealed to us, and little the wonder. Our intelligence is not
infinite, and God's is. Many things that men tell us we believe without
understanding; God deserves our trust more than men. Our incapacity for
understanding all that faith teaches us proves one thing: that there
are limits to our powers, which may be surprising to some, but is
nevertheless true.


BELIEF, we have said, is the acceptance of a truth from another. We do
not always accept what others present to us as truth, for the good
reason that we may have serious doubts as to whether they speak the
truth or not. It is for us to decide the question of our informant's
intellectual and moral trustworthiness. If we do believe him, it is
because we consider his veracity to be beyond question.

The foundation of our belief is therefore the veracity of him whose
word we take. They tell me that Lincoln was assassinated. Personally, I
know nothing about it. But I do know that they who speak of it could
know, did know, and could not lead us all astray on this point. I
accept their evidence; I believe on their word.

It is on the testimony of God's word that we believe in matters that
pertain to faith. The idea we have of God is that He is infinitely
perfect, that He is all-wise and all-good. He cannot, therefore, under
pain of destroying His very existence, be deceived or deceive us. When,
therefore, He speaks, He speaks the truth and nothing but the truth. It
would be a very stultification of our reason to refuse to believe Him,
once we admit His existence.

Now, it is not necessary for us to inquire into the things He reveals,
or to endeavor to discover the why, whence and wherefore. It is truth,
we are certain of it; what more do we need! It may be a satisfaction to
see and understand these truths, just as it is to solve a problem two
or three different ways. But it is not essential, for the result is
always the same--truth.

But suppose, with my senses and my reason, I come to a result at
variance with the first, suppose the testimony of God's word and that
of my personal observations conflict, what then? There is an error
somewhere. Either God errs or my faculties play me false. Which should
have the preference of my assent? The question is answered as soon as
it is put. I can conceive an erring man, but I cannot conceive a false
God. Nothing human is infallible; God alone is proof against all error.
This would not be my first offense against truth.

"Yes, all this is evident. I shall and do believe everything that God
deigns to reveal, because He says it, whether or not I see or
understand it. But the difficulty with me is how to know that God did
speak, what He said, what He meant. My difficulty is practical, not

And by the same token you have shifted the question from "Why we
believe" to "Whence we believe;" you no longer seek the authority of
your faith, but its genesis. You believe what God says, because He says
it; you believe He did say it because--the Church says it. You are no
longer dealing with the truth itself, but with the messenger that
brings the truth to be believed. The message of the Church is: these
are God's words. As for what these words stand for, you are not to
trust her, but Him. The foundation of divine belief is one thing; the
motives of credibility are another.

We should not confound these two things, if we would have a clear
notion of what faith is, and discover the numerous counterfeits that
are being palmed off nowadays on a world that desires a convenient,
rather than a genuine article.

The received manner of belief is first to examine the truths proposed
as coming from God, measure them with the rule of individual reason, of
expediency, feeling, fancy, and thus to decide upon their merits. If
this proposition suits, it is accepted. If that other is found wanting,
it is forthwith rejected. And then it is in order to set out and prove
them to be or not to be the word of God, according to their suitability
or non-suitability.

One would naturally imagine, as reason and common sense certainly
suggest, that one's first duty would be to convince oneself that God
did communicate these truths; and if so, then to accept them without
further dally or comment. There is nothing to be done, once God
reveals, but to receive His revelation.

Outside the Church, this procedure is not always followed, because of
the rationalistic tendencies of latter-day Protestantism. It is a
glaring fact that many do not accept all that God says because He says,
but because it meets the requirements of their condition, feelings or
fancy. They lay down the principle that a truth, to be a truth, must be
understood by the human intelligence. This is paramount to asserting
that God cannot know more than men--blasphemy on the face of it. Thus
the divine rock-bed of faith is torn away, and a human basis
substituted. Faith itself is destroyed in the process.

It is, therefore, important, before examining whence comes our faith,
to remember why we believe, and not to forget it. This much gained, and
for all time, we can go farther; without it, all advance is impossible.


MY faith is the most reasonable thing in the world, and it must needs
be such. The Almighty gave me intelligence to direct my life. When He
speaks He reveals Himself to me as to an intelligent being: and He
expects that I receive His word intelligently. Were I to abdicate my
reason in the acceptance of His truths, I would do my Maker as great an
injury as myself. All the rest of creation offers Him an homage of pure
life, of instinct or feeling; man alone can, and must, offer a higher,
nobler and more acceptable homage--that of reason.

My faith is reasonable, and this is the account my reason gives of my
faith: I can accept as true, without in the least comprehending, and
far from dishonoring my reason, with a positive and becoming dignity,--
I can accept!--but I must accept--whatever is confided to me by an
infallible authority, an authority that can neither deceive nor be
deceived. There is nothing supernatural about this statement.

That which is perfect cannot be subject to error, for error is evil and
perfection excludes evil. If God exists He is perfect. Allow one
imperfection to enter into your notion of God, and you destroy that
notion. When, therefore, God speaks He is an infallible authority. This
is the philosophy of common sense.

Now I know that God has spoken. The existence of that historical
personage known as Jesus of Nazareth is more firmly established than
that of Alexander or Caesar. Four books relate a part of His sayings
and doings; and I have infinitely less reason to question their
authenticity than I have to doubt the authenticity of Virgil or
Shakespeare. No book ever written has been subjected to such a
searching, probing test of malevolent criticism, at all times but
especially of late years in Germany and France. Great men, scholars,
geniuses have devoted their lives to the impossible task of explaining
the Gospels away, with the evident result that the position of the
latter remains a thousandfold stronger. Unless I reject all human
testimony, and reason forbids, I must accept them as genuine, at least
in substance.

These four books relate how Jesus healed miraculously the sick, raised
the dead to life, led the life of the purest, most honest and sagest of
men, claimed to be God, and proved it by rising from the dead Himself.
That this man is divine, reason can admit without being unreasonable,
and must admit to be reasonable; and revelation has nothing to do with
the matter.

A glaring statement among all others, one that is reiterated and
insisted upon, is that all men should share in the fruit of His life;
ana for this purpose He founded a college of apostles which He called
His Church, to teach all that He said and did, to all men, for all
time. The success of His life and mission depends upon the continuance
of His work.

Why did He act thus? I do not know. Are there reasons for this economy
of salvation? There certainly are, else it would not have been
established. But we are not seeking after reasons; we are gathering
facts upon which to build an argument, and these facts we take from the
authentic life of Christ.

Now we give the Almighty credit for wisdom in all His plans, the wisdom
of providing His agencies with the means to reach the end they are
destined to attain. To commission a church to teach all men without
authority, is to condemn it to utter nothingness from the very
beginning. To expect men to accept the truths He revealed, and such
truths! without a guarantee against error in the infallibility of the
teacher, is to be ignorant of human nature. And since at no time must
it cease to teach, it must be indefectible. Being true, it must be one;
the work of God, it must be holy; being provided for all creatures, it
must be Catholic or universal; and being the same as Christ founded
upon His Apostles, it must be apostolic. If it is not all these things
together, it is not the teacher sent by God to Instruct and direct men.

No one who seeks with intelligence, single-mindedness and a pure heart,
will fail to find these attributes and marks of the true Church of
Christ. Whether, after finding them, one will make an act of faith, is
another question. But that he can give his assent with the full
approval of his reason is absolutely certain. Once he does so, he has
no further use for his reason. He enters the Church, an edifice
illumined by the superior light of revelation and faith. He can leave
reason, like a lantern, at the door.

Therein he will learn many other truths that he never could have found
out with reason alone, truths superior, but not contrary, to reason.
These truths he can never repudiate without sinning against reason,
first, because reason brought him to this pass where he must believe
without the immediate help of reason.

One of the first things we shall hear from the Church speaking on her
own authority is that these writings, the four relations of Christ's
life, are inspired. However a person could discover and prove this
truth to himself is a mystery that will never be solved. We cannot
assume it; it must be proven. Unless it be proven, the faith based on
this assumption is not reasonable; and proven it can never be, unless
we take it from an authority whose infallibility is proven. That is why
we say that it is doubtful if non-Catholic faith is faith at all,
because faith must be reasonable; and faith that is based on an
assumption is to say the least doubtfully reasonable.


TO believe is to assent to a truth on the authority of God's word. We
must find that the truth proposed is really guaranteed by the authority
of God. In this process of mental research, the mind must be satisfied,
and the truth found to be in consonance with the dictates of right
reason, or at least, not contrary thereto.

But the fact that we can securely give our assent to this truth does
not make us believe. Something more than reason enters into an act of

Faith is not something natural, purely human, beginning and ending in
the brain, and a product thereof. This is human belief, not divine, and
is consequently not faith.

We believe that faith is, of itself, as far beyond the native powers of
a human being as the sense of feeling is beyond the power of a stone,
or intelligence, the faculty of comprehension, is beyond the power of
an animal. In other words, it is supernatural, above the natural
forces, and requires the power of God to give it existence. "No man can
come to me, unless the Father who has sent Me, draw him."

Some have faith, others have it not. Where did you get your faith? You
were not born with it, as you were with the natural, though dormant
faculties of speech, reason, and free will. You received it through
Baptism. You are a product of nature; therefore nature should limit
your existence. But faith aspires to, and obtains, an end that is not
natural but supernatural. It consequently must itself be supernatural,
and cannot be acquired without divine assistance.

Unless God revealed, you could not know the truths of religion. Unless
He established a court of final appeal in His Church, you could not be
sure what He did reveal or what He meant to say. Because of the
peculiar character of these truths and the nature the certitude we
possess, many would not believe all, if God's grace were not there to
help them, even though one could and would believe, there no divine
belief or faith proper until the soul lives the faculty from Him who
alone can give it.

The reason why many do not believe is not because God's grace is
wanting nor because their minds cannot be satisfied, not because they
cannot, but because they will not.

Faith is a gift of God, but not that alone; it is a conviction, but not
that alone. It is a firm assent of the will. We are free to believe or
not to believe.

"As one may be convinced and not act according to his conviction, so
may one be convinced and not believe according to his conviction. The
arguments of religion do not compel anyone to believe, just as the
arguments for good conduct do not compel anyone to obey. Obedience is
the consequence of willing to obey, and faith is the consequence of
willing to believe."

I am not obliged to receive as true any religious dogma, as I am forced
to accept the proposition that two and two are four. I believe because
I choose to believe. My faith is a submission of the will. The
authority of God is not binding on me physically, for men have refused
and still do refuse to submit to His authority and the authority He
communicated to His Church. And I know that I, too, can refuse and
perhaps more than once have been tempted to refuse, my assent to truths
that interfered too painfully with my interests and passions.

Besides, faith is meritorious, and in order to merit one must do
something difficult and be free to act. The difficulty is to believe
what we cannot understand, through pride of intelligence, and to bring
that stiff domineering faculty to recognize a superior. The difficulty
is to bend the will to the acceptance of truths, and consequent
obligations that gall our self-love and the flesh'. The believer must
have humility and self-denial. The grace of God follows these virtues
into a soul, and then your act of faith is complete.

Herein we discover the great wisdom of God who sets the price of faith,
and of salvation that depends on it, not on the mind, but on the will;
not on the intelligence alone, but on the heart. To no man is grace
denied. Every man has the will to grasp what is good. But though to all
He gives a will, all have not the same degree of intelligence; He does
not endow them equally in this respect. How then could He make
intelligence the first principle of salvation and of faith? God
searches the heart, not the mind. A modicum of wit is guaranteed to all
to know that they can safely believe. Be one ever so unlettered and
ignorant, and dull, faith and heaven are to him as accessible as to the
sage, savant and the genius. For all, the way is the same.


FAITH is the edifice of a Christian life. It is, of itself, a mere
shell, so to speak, for unless good works sustain and adorn it, it will
crumble, and the Almighty in His day will reduce it to ashes; faith
without works is of no avail. The corner stone of this edifice is the
authority of the word of God, while His gratuitous grace, our
intelligence and will furnish the material for building. Now, there are
three features of that spiritual construction that deserve a moment's

First, the edifice is solid; our faith must be firm. No hesitation, no
wavering, no deliberate doubting, no suspicion, no take-and-leave. What
we believe comes from God, and we have the infallible authority of the
Church for it, and of that we must be certain. That certainly must not
for a moment falter, and the moment it does falter, there is no telling
but that the whole edifice so laboriously raised will tumble down upon
the guilty shoulders of the imprudent doubter.

And of reasons for hesitating and disbelieving there is absolutely
none, once we have made the venture of faith and believe sincerely and
reasonably. No human power can in reason impugn revealed truths for
they are impervious to human intelligence. One book may not at the same
time be three books; but can one divine nature be at one and the same
time three divine persons? Until we learn what divinity and personality
are we can affirm nothing on the authority of pure reason. If we cannot
assert, how can we deny? And if we know nothing about it, how can we do
either? The question is not how is it, but if it is. While it stands
thus, and thus ever it must stand, no objection or doubt born of human
mind can influence our belief. Nothing but pride of mind and corruption
of heart can disturb it.

If you have a difficulty, well, it is a difficulty, and nothing more. A
difficulty does not destroy a thesis that is solidly founded. Once a
truth is clearly established, not all the difficulties in the world can
make it an untruth. A difficulty as to the truth revealed argues an
imperfect intelligence; it is idle to complain that we are finite. A
difficulty regarding the infallible Church should not make her less
infallible in our mind, it simply demands a clearing away-Theological
difficulties should not surprise a novice in theological matters; they
are only misunderstandings that militate less against the Church than
against the erroneous notions we have of her. To allow such
difficulties to undermine faith is like overthrowing a solid wall with
a soap-bubble. Common sense demands that nothing but clearly
demonstrated falsity should make us change firm convictions, and such
demonstration can never be made against our faith.

Not from difficulties, properly speaking, but from our incapacity for
understanding what we accept as true, results a certain obscurity,
which is another feature of faith. Believing is not seeing. Such
strange things we do believe! Who can unravel the mysteries of
religion? Moral certitude is sufficient to direct one's life, to make
our acts human and moral and is all we can expect in this world where
nothing is perfect. But because the consequences of faith are so
far-reaching, we would believe nothing short of absolute, metaphysical

But this is impossible. Hence the mist, the vague dimness that
surrounds faith, baffling every effort to penetrate it; and within, a
sense of rarefied perception that disquiets and torments unless
humility born of common sense be there to soothe and set us at rest.
Moral truths are not geometric theorems and multiplication tables, and
it is not necessary that they should be.

Of course, if, as in science so in faith, reason were everything, our
position would hardly be tenable, for then there should be no vagueness
but clear vision. But the will enters for something in our act of
faith. If everything we believe were as luminous as "two and two are
four," a special act of the will would be utterly uncalled for. We must
be able, free to dissent, and this is the reason of the obscurity of
our faith.

It goes without saying that such belief is meritorious. Christ Himself
said that to be saved it is necessary to believe, and no man is saved
but through his own merit. Faith is, therefore, gratuitous on His part
and meritorious on ours. It is in reality a good work that proceeds
from the will, under the dictates of right reason, with the assistance
of divine grace.


INTOLERANCE is a harsh term. It is stern, rigid, brutal, almost. It
makes no compromise, combats a outrance and exacts blind and absolute
obedience. Among individuals tolerance should prevail, man, should be
liberal with man, the Law of Charity demands it. In regard to
principles, there must and shall eternally be antagonism between truth
and error, justice demands it. It is a case of self-preservation; one
destroys the other. Political truth can never tolerate treason preached
or practised; neither can religious truth tolerate unbelief and heresy
preached or practised.

Now our faith is based on truth, the Church is the custodian of faith,
and the Church, on the platform of religious truth, is absolutely
uncompromising and intolerant, just as the State is in regard to
treason. She cannot admit error, she cannot approve error; to do so
would be suicidal. She cannot lend the approval of her presence, nay
even of her silence, to error. She stands aloof from heresy, must
always see in it an enemy, condemns it and cannot help condemning it,
for she stands for truth, pure and unalloyed truth, which error
pollutes and outrages.

Call this what you will, but it is the attitude of honesty first, and
of necessity afterwards. "He who is liberal with what belongs to him is
generous, he who undertakes to be generous with what does not belong to
him is dishonest." Our faith is not founded on an act or agreement of
men, but on the revelation of God. No human agency can change or modify
it. Neither Church nor Pope can be liberal with the faith of which they
are the custodians. Their sole duty is to guard and protect it as a
precious deposit for the salvation of men.

This is the stand all governments take when there is question of
political truth. And whatever lack of generosity or broadmindedness
there be, however contrary to the spirit of this free age it may seem,
it is nevertheless the attitude of God Himself who hates error, for it
is evil, who pursues it with His wrath through time and through
eternity. How can a custodian of divine truth act otherwise? Even in
human affairs, can one admit that two and three are seven?

We sometimes hear it said that this intolerance takes from Catholics
the right to think. This is true in the same sense that penitentiaries,
or the dread of them, deprive citizens of the right to act. Everybody,
outside of sleeping hours and with his thinking machine in good order,
thinks. Perhaps if there were a little more of it, there would be more
solid convictions and more practical faith. Holy Writ has it somewhere
that the whole world is given over to vice and sin because there is no
one who thinks.

But you have not and never had the right to think as you please, inside
or outside the Church. This means the right to form false judgments, to
draw conclusions contrary to fact. This is not a right, it is a defect,
a disease. Thus to act is not the normal function of the brain. It is
no more the nature of the mind to generate falsehoods than it is the
nature of a sewing machine to cut hair. Both were made for different
things. He therefore who disobeys the law that governs his mind
prostitutes that faculty to error.

But suppose, being a Catholic, I cannot see things in that true light,
what then? In such a case, either you persist, in the matter of your
faith, in being guided by the smoky lamp of your reason alone, or you
will be guided by the authority of God's appointed Church. In the first
alternative, your place is not in the Church, for you exclude yourself
by not living up to the conditions of her membership. You cannot deny
but that she has the right to determine those conditions.

If you choose the latter, then correct yourself. It is human to err,
but it is stupidity to persist in error and refuse to be enlightened.
If you cannot see for yourself, common sense demands that you get
another to see for you. You are not supposed to know the alpha and
omega of theological science, but you are bound to possess a
satisfactory knowledge in order that your faith be reasonable.

Has no one a right to differ from the Church? Yes, those who err
unconsciously, who can do so conscientiously, that is, those who have
no suspicion of their being in error. These the heavenly Father will
look after and bring safe to Himself, for their error is material and
not formal. He loves them but He hates their errors. So does the Church
abominate the false doctrines that prevail in the world outside her
fold, yet at the same time she has naught but compassion and pity and
prayers for those deluded ones who spread and receive those errors. To
her the individual is sacred, but the heresy is damnable.

Thus we may mingle with our fellow citizens in business and in
pleasure, socially and politically, but religiously--never. Our charity
we can offer in its fullest measure, but charity that lends itself to
error, loses its sacred character and becomes the handmaid of evil, for
error is evil.


THE intolerance of the Church towards error, the natural position of
One who is the custodian of truth, her only reasonable attitude, makes
her forbid her children to read, or listen to, heretical controversy,
or to endeavor to discover religious truth by examining both sides of
the question. This places the Catholic in a position whereby he must
stand aloof from all manner of doctrinal teaching other than that
delivered by his Church through her accredited ministers. And whatever
outsiders may think of the correctness of his belief and religious
principles, they cannot have two opinions as to the logic and
consistency of this stand he takes. They may hurl at him all the choice
epithets they choose for being a slave to superstition and erroneous
creeds; but they must give him credit for being consistent in his
belief; and consistency in religious matters is too rare a commodity
these days to be made light of.

The reason of this stand of his is that, for him, there can be no two
sides to a question which for him is settled; for him, there is no
seeking after the truth: he possesses it in its fulness, as far as God
and religion are concerned. His Church gives him all there is to be
had; all else is counterfeit. And if he believes, as he should and does
believe, that revealed truth comes, and can come, only by way of
external authority, and not by way of private judgment and
investigation, he must refuse to be liberal in the sense of reading all
sorts of Protestant controversial literature and listening to all kinds
of heretical sermons. If he does not this, he is false to his principles;
he contradicts himself by accepting and not accepting an infallible
Church; he knocks his religious props from under himself and stands--
nowhere. The attitude of the Catholic, therefore, is logical and
necessary. Holding to Catholic principles how can he do otherwise? How
can he consistently seek after truth when he is convinced that he holds
it? Who else can teach him religious truth when he believes that an
infallible Church gives him God's word and interprets it in the true
and only sense?

A Protestant may not assume this attitude or impose it upon those under
his charge. If he does so, he is out of harmony with his principles and
denies the basic rule of his belief. A Protestant believes in no
infallible authority; he is an authority unto himself, which authority
he does not claim to be infallible, if he is sober and sane. He is
after truth; and whatever he finds, and wherever he finds it, he
subjects it to his own private judgment. He is free to accept or
reject, as he pleases. He is not, cannot be, absolutely certain that
what he holds is true; he thinks it is. He may discover to-day that
yesterday's truths are not truths at all. We are not here examining the
soundness of this doctrine; but it does follow therefrom, sound or
unsound, that he may consistently go where he likes to hear religious
doctrine exposed and explained, he may listen to whomever has religious
information to impart. He not only may do it, but he is consistent only
when he does. It is his duty to seek after truth, to read and listen to
controversial books and sermons.

If therefore a non-Catholic sincerely believes in private judgment, how
can he consistently act like a Catholic who stands on a platform
diametrically opposed to his, against which platform it is the very
essence of his religion to protest? How can he refuse to hear Catholic
preaching and teaching, any more than Baptist, Methodist and
Episcopalian doctrines? He has no right to do so, unless he knows all
the Catholic Church teaches, which case may be safely put down as one
in ten million. He may become a Catholic, or lose all the faith he has.
That is one of the risks he has to take, being a Protestant.

If he is faithful to his own principles and understands the Catholic
point of view, he must not be surprised if his Catholic friends do not
imitate his so-called liberality; they have motives which he has not.
If he is honest, he will not urge or even expect them to attend the
services of his particular belief. And a Catholic who thinks that
because a Protestant friend can accompany him to Catholic services, he
too should return the compliment and accompany his friend to Protestant
worship, has a faith that needs immediate toning up to the standard of
Catholicity; he is in ignorance of the first principles of his religion
and belief.

A Catholic philosopher resumes this whole matter briefly, and clearly
in two syllogisms, as follows:

Major. He who believes in an infallible teacher of revelation cannot
consistently listen to any fallible teacher with a view of getting more
correct information than his infallible teacher gives him. To do so
would be absurd, for it would be to believe and at the same time not
believe in the infallible teacher.

Minor. The Catholic believes in an infallible teacher of revelation.

Conclusion. Therefore, the Catholic cannot listen to any fallible
teacher with a view of getting more correct information about revealed
truth than his Church gives him. To do so would be to stultify himself.

Major. He who believes in a fallible teacher--private judgment or
fallible church--is free, nay bound, to listen to any teacher who comes
along professing to have information to impart, for at no time can he
be certain that the findings of his own fallible judgment or church are
correct. Each newcomer may be able to give him further light that may
cause him to change his mind.

Minor. The Protestant believes in such fallible teacher--his private
judgment or church.

Conclusion. Therefore, the Protestant is free to hear, and in perfect
harmony with his principles, to accept the teaching of any one who
approaches him for the purpose of instructing him. He is free to hear
with a clear conscience, and let his children hear, Catholic teaching,
for the Church claiming infallibility is at its worst as good as his
private judgment is at best, namely, fallible.

Religious variations are so numerous nowadays that most people care
little what another thinks or believes. All they ask is that they may
be able to know at any time where he stands; and they insist, as right
reason imperiously demands, that, in all things, he remain true to his
principles, whatever they be. Honest men respect sincerity and
consistency everywhere; they have nothing but contempt for those who
stand, now on one foot, now on the other, who have one code for theory
and another for practice, who shift their grounds as often as
convenience suggests. The Catholic should bear this well in mind. There
can be no compromise with principles of truth; to sacrifice them for
the sake of convenience is as despicable before man as it is offensive
to God.


AN atheist in principle is one who denies the existence of God and
consequently of all revealed truth. How, in practice, a man endowed
with reason and a conscience can do this, is one of the unexplained
mysteries of life. Christian philosophers refuse to admit that an
atheist can exist in the flesh. They claim that his denial is fathered
by his desire and wish, that at most he only doubts, and while
professing atheism, he is simply an agnostic.

An agnostic does not know whether God exists or not--and cares less. He
does not affirm, neither does he deny. All arguments for and against
are either insufficient or equally plausible, and they fail to lodge
conviction in his mind of minds. Elevated upon this pedestal of wisdom,
he pretends to dismiss all further consideration of the First Cause.
But he does no such thing, for he lives as though God did not exist.
Why not live as though He did exist! From a rational point of view, he
is a bigger fool than his atheistic brother, for if certainty is
impossible, prudence suggests that the surer course be taken. On one
hand, there is all to gain; on the other, all to lose. The choice he
makes smacks of convenience rather than of logic or common sense.

No one may be accused of genuine, or as we call it--formal--heresy,
unless he persistently refuses to believe all the truths by God
revealed. Heresy supposes error, culpable error, stubborn and
pertinacious error. A person may hold error in good faith, and be
disposed as to relinquish it on being convinced of the truth. To all
exterior appearances, he may differ in nothing from a formal heretic,
and he passes for a heretic. In fact, and before God, he belongs to the
Church, to the soul of the Church; he will be saved if in spite of his
unconscious error he lives well. He is known as a material heretic.

An infidel is an unbaptized person, whose faith, even if he does
believe in God, is not supernatural, but purely natural. He is an
infidel whether he is found in darkest Africa or in the midst of this
Christian commonwealth, and in this latter place there are more
infidels than most people imagine. A decadent Protestantism rejects the
necessity of baptism, thereby ceasing to be Christian, and in its trail
infidelity thrives and spreads, disguised, 'tis true, but nevertheless
genuine infidelity. It is baptism that makes faith possible, for faith
is a gift of God.

An apostate is one who, having once believed, ceases to believe. All
heretics and infidels are not apostates, although they may be in
themselves or in their ancestors. One may apostatize to heresy by
rejecting the Church, or to infidelity by rejecting all revelation; a
Protestant may thus become an apostate from faith as well as a
Catholic. This going back on the Almighty--for that is what apostasy
is,--is, of all misfortunes the worst that can befall man. There may be
excuses, mitigating circumstances, for our greatest sins, but here it
is useless to seek for any. God gives faith. It is lost only through
our own fault. God abandons them that abandon Him. Apostasy is the most
patent case of spiritual suicide, and the apostate carries branded on
his forehead the mark of reprobation. A miracle may save him, but
nothing short of a miracle can do it, and who has a right to expect it?
God is good, but God is also just.

It is not necessary to pose as an apostate before the public. One may
be a renegade at heart without betraying himself, by refusing his inner
assent to a dogma of faith, by wilfully doubting and allowing such
doubts to grow upon him and form convictions.

People sometimes say things that would brand them as apostates if they
meant what they said. This or that one, in the midst of an orgy of sin,
or after long practical irreligion, in order to strangle remorse that
arises at an inopportune moment, may seem to form a judgment of
apostasy. This is treading on exceedingly thin glass. But it is not
always properly defection from faith. Apostasy kills faith as surely as
a knife plunged into the heart kills life.

A schismatic does not directly err in matters of faith, but rejects the
discipline of the Church and refuses to submit to her authority. He
believes all that is taught, but puts himself without the pale of the
Church by his insubordination. Schism is a grievous sin, but does not
necessarily destroy faith.

The source of all this unbelief is, of course, in the proud mind and
sensual heart of man. It takes form exteriorly in an interminable
series of "isms" that have the merit of appealing to the weaknesses of
man. They all mean the same thing in the end, and are only forms of
paganism. Rationalism and Materialism are the most frequently used
terms. One stands on reason alone, the other, on matter, and both have
declared war to the knife on the Supernatural. They tell us that these
are new brooms destined to sweep clean the universe, new lamps intended
to dissipate the clouds of ignorance and superstition and to purify
with their light the atmosphere of the world. But, truth to tell, these
brooms have been stirring up dust from the gutters of passion and sin,
and these lamps have been offending men's nostrils by their smoky
stench ever since man knew himself. And they shall continue to do
service in the same cause as long as human nature remains what it is.
But Christ did not bring His faith on earth to be destroyed by the
lilliputian efforts of man.


IT is part of our belief that no man can lose his faith without mortal
sin. The conscious rejection of all or any religious truth once
embraced and forming a part of Christian belief, or the deliberate
questioning of a single article thereof, is a sin, a sin against God's
light and God's grace. It is a deliberate turning away from God. The
moral culpability of such an act is great in the extreme, while its
consequences cannot be weighed or measured by any human norm or rule.

No faith was ever wrecked in a day; it takes time to come to such a
pass; it is by easy stages of infidelity, by a slow process of
half-denials, a constant fostering of habits of ignorance, that one
undermines, little by little, one's spiritual constitution. Taking
advantage of this state of debility, the microbe of unbelief creeps in,
eats its way to the soul and finally sucks out the very vitals of
faith. Nor is this growth of evil an unconscious one; and there lies
the malice and guilt. Ignorant pride, neglect of prayer and religious
worship, disorders, etc., these are evils the culprit knows of and
wills. He cannot help feeling the ravages being wrought in his soul; he
cannot help knowing that these are deadly perils to his treasure of
faith. He complacently allows them to run their course; and he wakes up
one fine morning to find his faith gone, lost, dead--and a chasm
yawning between him and his God that only a miracle can bridge over.

We mentioned ignorance: this it is that attacks the underpinning of
faith, its rational basis, by which it is made intelligent and
reasonable, without which there can be no faith.

Ignorance is, of course, a relative term; there are different degrees
and different kinds. An ignorant man is not an unlettered or uncultured
one, but one who does not know what his religion means, what he
believes or is supposed to believe, and has no reason to give for his
belief. He may know a great many other things, may be chock full of
worldly learning, but if he ignores these matters that pertain to the
soul, we shall label him an ignoramus for the elementary truths of
human knowledge are, always have been, and always shall be, the
solution of the problems of the why, the whence and the whither of life
here below. Great learning frequently goes hand in hand with dense
ignorance. The Sunday-school child knows better than the atheist
philosopher the answer to these important questions. There is more
wisdom in the first page of the Catechism than in all the learned books
of sceptics and infidels.

Knowledge, of course, a thorough knowledge of all theological science
will not make faith, any more than wheels will make a cart. But a
certain knowledge is essential, and its absence is fatal to faith.
There are the simple ignorant who have forgotten their Catechism and
leave the church before the instruction, for fear they might learn
something; who never read anything pertaining to religion, who would be
ashamed to be detected with a religious book or paper in their hands.
Then, there are the learned ignorant, such as our public schools turn
out in great numbers each year; who, either are above mere religious
knowledge-seeking and disdain all that smacks of church and faith; or,
knowing little or nothing at all, imagine they possess a world of
theological lore and know all that is knowable. These latter are the
more to be pitied, their ignorance doubling back upon itself, as it
were. When a man does not realize his own ignorance, his case is well
nigh hopeless.

If learning cannot give faith, neither can it alone preserve it.
Learned men, pillars of the Church have fallen away. Pride, you will
say. Yes, of course, pride is the cause of all evil. But we have all
our share of it. If it works less havoc in some than in others, that is
because pride is or is not kept within bounds. It is necessarily fatal
to faith only when it is not controlled by prayer and the helps of
practical religion. God alone can preserve our faith. He will do it
only at our solicitation.

If, therefore, some have not succeeded in keeping the demon of pride
under restraint, it is because they refused to consider their faith a
pure gift of God that cannot be safely guarded without God's grace; or
they forgot that God's grace is assured to no man who does not pray.
The man who thinks he is all-sufficient unto himself in matters of
religion, as in all other matters, is in danger of being brought to a
sense of his own nothingness in a manner not calculated to be
agreeable. No man who practised humble prayer ever lost hi& faith, or
ever can; for to him grace is assured.

And since faith is nothing if not practical, since it is a habit, it
follows that irreligion, neglect to practise what we believe will
destroy that habit. People who neglect their duty often complain that
they have no taste for religion, cannot get interested, find no
consolation therein. This justifies further neglect. They make a
pretence to seek the cause. The cause is lack of faith; the fires of
God's grace are burning low in their souls. They will soon go out
unless they are furnished with fuel in the shape of good, solid,
practical religion. That is their only salvation. Ignorance,
supplemented by lack of prayer and practice, goes a long way in the
destruction of faith in any soul, for two essentials are deficient.

Disorder, too, is responsible for the loss of much faith. Luther and
Henry might have retained their faith in spite of their pride, but they
were lewd, and avaricious; and there is small indulgence for such
within the Church. Not but that we are all human, and sinners are the
objects of the Church's greatest solicitude; but within her pale no
man, be he king or genius, can sit down and feast his passions and
expect her to wink at it and call it by another name than its own. The
law of God and of the Church is a thorn in the flesh of the vicious
man. The authority of the Church is a sword of Damocles held
perpetually over his head--until it is removed. Many a one denies God
in a moment of sin in order to take the sting of remorse out of it. One
gets tired of the importunities of religion that tell us not to sin, to
confess if we do sin.

When you meet a pervert who, with a glib tongue, protests that his
conscience drove him from the Church, that his enslaved intelligence
needed deliverance, search him and you will find a skeleton in his
closet; and if you do not find it, it is there just the same. A
renegade priest some years ago, held forth before a gaping audience, at
great length, on the reasons of his leaving the Church. A farmer
sitting on the last bench listened patiently to his profound
argumentation. When the lecturer was in the middle of his twelfthly,
the other arose and shouted to him across the hall: "Cut it short, and
say you wanted a wife." The heart has reasons which the reason does not

Not always, but frequently, ignorance, neglect and vice come to this.
The young, the weak and the proud have to guard themselves against
these dangers, hey work slowly, imperceptibly, but surely. Two things
increase the peril and tend to precipitate matters; reading and
companionship. The ignorant are often anxious to know the other side,
when they do not know their own. The consequence is that they will not
understand fully the question; and if they do, will not be able to
resolve the difficulty. They are handicapped by their ignorance and can
only make a mess out of it. The result is that they are caught by
sophistries like a fly in a web.

The company of those who believe differently, or not at all, is also
pernicious to unenlightened and weak faith. The example in itself is
potent for evil. The Catholic is usually not a persona grata as a
Catholic but for some quality he possesses. Consequently, he must hide
his religion under the bushel for fear of offending. Then a sneer, a
gibe, a taunt are unpleasant things, and will be avoided even at the
price of what at other times would look like being ashamed of one's
faith. If ignorant, he will be silent; if he has not prayed, he will be
weak; if vicious, he will be predisposed to fall.

If we would guard the precious deposit of faith secure against any
possible emergency, we must enlighten it, we must strengthen it, we
must live up to it.


THE First Commandment bids us hope as well as believe in God. Our trust
and confidence in His mercy to give us eternal life and the means to
obtain it,--this is our hope, founded on our belief that God is what He
reveals Himself to us, able and willing to do by us as we would have
Him do. Hope is the flower of our faith; faith is the substance of the
things we hope for.

To desire and to hope are not one and the same thing. We may long for
what is impossible of obtaining, while hope always supposes this
possibility, better, a probability, nay, even a moral certitude. This
expectation remains hope until it comes to the fruition of the things
hoped for.

The desire of general happiness is anchored in the human heart, deep
down in the very essence of our being. We all desire to be happy, We
may be free in many things; in this we are not free. We must have
happiness, greater than the present, happiness of one kind or another,
real or apparent. We may have different notions of this happiness; we
desire it according to our notions. Life itself is one, long, painful,
unsatisfied desire.

When that desire is centered in God and the soul's salvation, it
incontinently becomes hope, for then we have real beatitude before us,
and all may obtain it. It can be true hope only when founded on faith.

Not only is hope easy, natural, necessary, but it is essential to life.
It is the mainspring of all activity. It keeps all things moving, and
without it life would not be worth living. If men did not think they
could get what they are striving after, they would sit down, fold their
arms, let the world move, but they wouldn't.

Especially is Christian hope absolutely necessary for the leading of a
Christian life, and no man would take upon himself that burden, if he
did not confidently expect a crown of glory beyond, sufficient to repay
him for all the things endured here below for conscience's sake. Hope
is a star that beckons us on to renewed effort, a vision of the goal
that animates and invigorates us; it is also a soothing balm to the
wounds we receive in the struggle.

To be without this hope is the lowest level to which man may descend.
St. Paul uses the term "men without hope" as the most stinging reproach
he could inflict upon the dissolute pagans.

To have abandoned hope is a terrible misfortune--despair. This must not
be confounded with an involuntary perturbation, a mere instinctive
dread, a phantasmagoric illusion that involves no part of the will. It
is not even an excessive fear that goes by the name of pusillanimity.
It is a cool judgment like that of Cain: "My sin is too great that I
should expect forgiveness."

He who despairs, loses sight of God's mercy and sees only His stern,
rigorous justice. After hatred of God, this is perhaps the greatest
injury man can do to his Master, who is Love. There has always been
more of mercy than of justice in His dealings with men. We might say of
Him that He is all mercy in this world, to be all justice in the next.
Therefore while there is life, there is hope.

The next abomination is to hope, but to place our supreme happiness in
that which should not be the object of our hope. Men live for
pleasures, riches, and honors, as though these things were worthy of
our highest aspirations, as though they could satisfy the unappeasable
appetite of man for happiness. Greater folly than this can no man be
guilty of. He takes the dross for the pure gold, the phantom for the
reality. Few men theoretically belong to this class; practically it has
the vast majority.

The presumptuous are those who hope to obtain the prize and do nothing
to deserve it. He who would hope to fly without wings, to walk without
feet, to live without air or food would be less a fool than he who
hopes to save his soul without fulfiling the conditions laid down by
Him who made us. There is no wages without service, no reward without
merit, no crown without a cross.

This fellow's mistake is to bank too much on God's mercy, leaving His
justice out of the bargain altogether. Yet God is one as well as the
other, and both equally. The offense to God consists in making Him a
being without any backbone, so to speak, a soft, incapable judge, whose
pity degenerates into weakness. And certainly it is a serious offense.

No, hope should be sensible and reasonable. It must keep the middle
between two extremes. The measure of our hope should reasonably be the
measure of our efforts, for he who wishes the end wishes the means. Of
course God will make due allowances for our frailties, but that is His
business, not ours; and we have no right to say just how far that mercy
will go. Even though we lead the lives of saints, we shall stand in
need of much mercy. Prudence tells us to do all things as though it all
depended upon us alone; then God will make up for the deficiencies.


ONCE upon a time, there lived people who pretended that nothing had
existence outside the mind, that objects were merely fictions of the
brain; thus, when they gave a name to those objects, it was like
sticking a label in the air where they seemed to be. The world is not
without folks who have similar ideas concerning charity, to whom it is
a name without substance. Scarcely a Christian but will pretend that he
has the virtue of charity, and of course one must take his word for it,
and leave his actions and conduct out of all consideration. With him,
to love God is to say you do, whether you really do or not. This is
charity of the "sounding brass and tinkling cymbal" assortment.

To be honest about it, charity or love of God is nothing more or less,
practically, than freedom from, and avoidance of, mortal sin. "If any
one say, 'I love God' and hates his brother, (or otherwise sins) he is
a liar." Strong language, but straight to the point! The state of grace
is the first, fundamental, and essential condition to the existence of
charity. Charity and mortal sin are two things irreducibly opposed,
uncompromisingly antagonistic, eternally inimical. There is no charity
where there is sin; there is no sin where there is charity. That is why
charity is called the fulfilment of the law.

On the other hand, it sometimes happens that humble folks of the world,
striving against temptation and sin to serve the Master, imagine they
can hardly succeed. True, they rarely offend and to no great extent of
malice, but they envy the lot of others more advantageously situated,
they think, nearer by talent and state to perfection, basking in the
sunshine of God's love. Talent, position, much exterior activity, much
supposed goodness, are, in their eyes, titles to the kingdom, and
infallible signs of charity. And then they foolishly deplore their own
state as far removed from that perfection, because forsooth their minds
are uncultured, their faith simple, and their time taken up with the
drudgery of life.

They forget that not this gift or that work or anything else is
necessary. One thing alone is necessary, and that is practical love of
God. Nothing counts without it. And the sage over his books, the
wonder-worker at his task, the apostle in his wanderings and labors,
the very martyr on the rack is no more sure of having charity than the
most humble man, woman or child in the lowest walks of life who loves
God too much to offend Him. It is not necessary to have the tongues of
men and angels, or faith that will move mountains, or the fortitude of
martyrs; charity expressed in our lives and deeds rates higher than

A thing is good in the eyes of its maker if it accomplishes that for
which it was made. A watch that does not tell time, a knife that does
not cut, and a soul that does not love God are three utterly useless
things. And why? Because they are no good for what they were made. The
watch exists solely to tell the hour, the blade to cut and the soul to
love and serve its Maker. Failing in this, there is no more reason for
their being. Their utility ceasing, they themselves cease to exist to a
certain extent, for a thing is really no longer what it was, when it
fails to execute that for which it came into being.

Charity, in a word, amounts to this, that we love God, but to the
extent of not offending Him. Anything that falls short of such
affection is something other than charity, no matter how many tags and
labels it may wear. If I beheld a brute strike down an aged parent, I
would not for a moment think that affection was behind that blow; and I
could not conceive how there could be a spark of filial love in that
son's heart until he had atoned for his crime. Now love is not one
thing when directed towards God, and another where man is concerned.

The great hypocrisy of life consists in this that people make an
outward showing of loving God, because they know full well that it is
their first duty; yet, for all that, they do not a whit mend their
ways, and to sin costs them nothing. They varnish it over with an
appearance of honesty and decency, and fair-minded men take them for
what they appear to be, and should be, and they pass for such. These
watches are pretty to look upon, beautiful, magnificent, but they are
stopped, the interior is out of order, the main-spring is broken, the
hands that run across the face lie. These blades are bright and
handsome, but they are dull, blunt, full of nicks, good enough for
coarse and vulgar work, but useless for the fine, delicate work for
which they were made.

The master mechanic and artist of our souls who wants trustworthy
timepieces and keen blades, will not be deceived by these gaudy
trinkets, and will reject them. Others may esteem you for this or that
quality, admire this or that qualification you possess, be taken with
their superficial gloss and accidental usefulness. The quality required
by Him who made you is that your soul be filled with charity, and
proven by absence of sin.


THE precept, written in our hearts, as well as in the law, to love God,
commands us, at the same time, to love the neighbor. When you go to
confession, you are told to be sorry for your sins and to make a firm
purpose of amendment. These appear to be two different injunctions; yet
in fact and reality, they are one and the same thing, for it is
impossible to abhor and detest sin, having at the same moment the
intention of committing it. One therefore includes the other; one is
not sincere and true without the other; therefore one cannot be without
the other. So it is with love of God and of the neighbor; these two
parts of one precept are coupled together because they complete each
other, and they amount practically to the same thing.

The neighbor we are to love is not alone those for whom we naturally
have affection, such as parents, friends, benefactors, etc., whom it is
easy to love. But our neighbor is all mankind, those far and those
near, those who have blessed us and those who have wronged us, the
enemy as well as the friend; all who have within them, as we have, the
image and likeness of God. No human being can we put outside the pale
of neighborly love.

As for the love we bear others, it is of course one in substance, but
it may be different in degree and various in quality. It may be more or
less tender, intense, emphatic. Some we love more, others, less; yet
for all that, we love them. It is impossible for us to have towards any
other being the same feelings we entertain for a parent. The love a
good Christian bears towards a stranger is not the love he bears
towards a good friend. The love therefore that charity demands admits a
variety of shades without losing its character of love.

When it comes to loving certain ones of our neighbors, the idea is not
of the most welcome. What! Must I love, really love, that low rascal,
that cantankerous fellow, that repugnant, repulsive being? Or this
other who has wronged me so maliciously? Or that proud, overbearing
creature who looks down on me and despises me?

We have said that love has its degrees, its ebb and flow tide, and
still remains love. The low water mark is this: that we refuse not to
pray for such neighbors, that we speak not ill of them, that we refuse
not to salute them, or to do them a good turn, or to return a favor. A
breach in one of these common civilities, due to every man from his
fellow-man, may constitute a degree of hatred directly opposed to the
charity strictly required of us.

It is not however necessary to go on doing these things all during life
and at all moments of life. These duties are exterior, and are required
as often as a contrary bearing would betoken a lack of charity in the
heart. Just as we are not called upon to embrace and hug an uninviting
person as a neighbor, neither are we obliged to continue our civilities
when we find that they are offensive and calculated to cause trouble.
But naturally there must be charity in the heart.

We should not confound uncharity with a sort of natural repugnance and
antipathy, instinctive to some natures, betraying a weakness of
character, if you will, but hardly what one could call a clearly
defined fault. There are people who can forgive more easily than forget
and who succeed only after a long while in overcoming strong feelings.
In consequence of this state of mind, and in order to maintain peace
and concord, they prefer the absence to the presence of the objects of
their antipathy. Of course, to nourish this feeling is sinful to a
degree; but while striving against it, to remove prudently all
occasions of opening afresh the wound, if we act honestly, this does
not seem to have any uncharitable malice.

Now all this is not charity unless the idea of God enter therein. There
is no charity outside the idea of God. Philanthropy, humanity is one
thing, charity is another. The one is sentiment, the other is love--two
very different things. The one supposes natural motives, the other,
supernatural. Philanthropy looks at the exterior form and discovers a
likeness to self. Charity looks at the soul and therein discovers an
image of God, by which we are not only common children of Adam, but
also children of God and sharers of a common celestial inheritance.
Neither a cup of water nor a fortune given in any other name than that
of God is charity.

There are certain positive works of charity, such as almsgiving and
brotherly correction, etc., that may be obligatory upon us to a degree
of Serious responsibility. We must use prudence and intelligence in
discerning these obligations, but once they clearly stand forth they
are as binding on us as obligations of justice. We are our brothers'
keepers, especially of those whom misfortune oppresses and whose lot is
cast under a less lucky star.


NO word so common and familiar among Christians as prayer. Religion
itself is nothing more than a vast, mighty, universal, never ceasing
prayer. Our churches are monuments of prayer and houses of prayer. Our
worship, our devotions, our ceremonies are expressions of prayer. Our
sacred music is a prayer. The incense, rising in white clouds before
the altar, is symbolical of prayer. And the one accent that is dinned
into our ears from altar and pulpit is prayer.

Prayer is the life of the Christian as work is the life of the man;
without one and the other we would starve spiritually and physically.
If we live well, it is because we pray; if we lead sinful lives, it is
because we neglect to pray. Where prayer is, there is virtue; where
prayer is unknown, there is sin. The atmosphere of piety, sanctity, and
honesty is the atmosphere of prayer.

Strange that the nature and necessity of prayer are so often
misunderstood! Yet the definition in our Catechism is clear and
precise. There are four kinds of prayer; adoration, thanksgiving,
petition for pardon, and for our needs, spiritual and bodily.

One need be neither a Catholic nor a Christian to see how becoming it
is in us to offer to God our homage of adoration and thanksgiving; it
is necessary only to believe in a God who made us and who is infinitely
perfect. Why, the very heathens made gods to adore, and erected temples
to thank them, so deep was their sense of the devotion they owed the
Deity. They put the early Christians to death because the latter
refused to adore their gods. Everywhere you go, under the sun, you will
find the creature offering to the Creator a homage of worship.

He, therefore, who makes so little of God as to forget to adore and
thank Him becomes inferior to the very pagans who, sunk in the darkness
of corruption and superstition as they were, did not, however, forget
their first and natural duty to the Maker. Neglect of this obligation
in a man betrays an absence, a loss of religious instinct, and an
irreligious man is a pure animal, if he is a refined one. His
refinement and superiority come from his intelligence, and these
qualities, far from attenuating his guilt, only serve to aggravate it.

The brute eats and drinks; when he is full and tired he throws himself
down to rest. When refreshed, he gets up, shakes himself and goes off
again in quest of food and amusement. In what does a man without prayer
differ from such a being?

But prayer, strictly speaking, means a demand, a petition, an asking.
We ask for our needs and our principal needs are pardon and succor.
This is prayer as it is generally understood. It is necessary to
salvation. Without it no man can be saved. Our assurance of heaven
should be in exact proportion to our asking. "Ask and you shall
receive." Ask nothing, and you obtain nothing; and that which you do
not obtain is just what you must have to save your soul.

Here is the explanation of it in a nutshell. The doctrine of the Church
is that when God created man, He raised him from a natural to a
supernatural state, and assigned to him a supernatural end.
Supernatural means what is above the natural, beyond our natural powers
of obtaining. Our destiny therefore cannot be fulfilled without the
help of a superior power. We are utterly incapable by ourselves of
realizing the end to which we are called. The condition absolutely
required is the grace of God and through that alone can we expect to
come to our appointed end.

Here is a stone. That that stone should have feeling is not natural,
but supernatural. God, to give sensation to that stone, must break
through the natural order of things, because to feel is beyond the
native powers of a stone. It is not natural for an animal to reason, it
is impossible. God must work a miracle to make it understand. Well, the
stone is just as capable of feeling, and the animal of reasoning, as is
man capable of saving his soul by himself.

To persevere in the state of grace and the friendship of God, to
recover it when lost by sin, are supernatural works. Only by the grace
of God can this be effected. Will God do this without being asked? Say
rather will God save us in spite of ourselves, or unknown to ourselves.
He who does not ask gives no token of a desire to obtain.


FOR all spiritual needs, therefore, prayer is the one thing necessary.
I am in the state of sin. I desire to be forgiven. To obtain pardon is
a supernatural act. Alone I can no more do it than fly. I pray then for
the grace of a good confession--I prudently think myself in the state
of grace. Were I for a moment left to my depraved nature, to the mercy
of my passions, I should fall into the lowest depths of iniquity. The
holiest, saintliest of men are just as capable of the greatest
abominations as the blackest sinner that ever lived. If he does not
fall, and the other does, it is because he prays and the other does

Some people have certain spiritual maladies, that become second nature
to them, called dominant passions. For one, it is cursing and swearing;
for another vanity and conceit. One is afflicted with sloth, another
with uncleanness of one kind or another. To discover the failing is the
first duty, to pray against it is the next. You attack it with prayer
as you attack a disease with remedies. And if we only used prayer with
half the care, perseverance and confidence that we use medicines, our
spiritual distemper would be short-lived.

A person who passes a considerable time without prayer is usually in a
bad state of soul. There is probably no one, who, upon reflection, will
fail to discover that his best days were those which his prayers
sanctified, and his worst, those which had to get along without any.
And when a man starts out badly, the first thing he takes care to do is
to neglect his prayers. For praying is an antidote and a reminder; it
makes him feel uneasy while in sin, and would make him break with his
evil ways if he continued to pray. And since he does not wish to stop,
he takes no chances, and gives up his prayers. When he wants to stop,
he falls back on his prayers.

This brings us to the bodily favors we should ask for. You are sick.
You desire to get well, but you do not see the sense of praying for it;
for you say, "Either I shall get well or I shall not." For an ordinary
statement that is as plain and convincing as one has a right to expect;
it will stand against all argument. But the conclusion is not of a
piece with the premises. In that case why do you call in the physician,
why do you take nasty pills and swallow whole quarts of vile
concoctions that have the double merit of bringing distress to your
palate and your purse? You take these precautions because your most
elementary common sense tells you that such precautions as medicaments,
etc., enter for something of a condition in the decree of God which
reads that you shall die or not die. Your return to health or your
shuffling off of the mortal coil is subject to conditions of prudence,
and according as they are fulfiled or not fulfiled the decree of God
will go into effect one way or the other.

And why does not your sane common sense suggest to you that prayer
enters as just such a condition in the decrees of God, that your
recovery is just as conditional on the using of prayer as to the taking
of pills?

There are people who have no faith in drugs, either because they have
never used any or because having once used them, failed to get
immediate relief. Appreciation of the efficacy of prayer is frequently
based on similar experience.

To enumerate all the cures effected by prayer would be as bootless as
to rehearse all the miracles of therapeutics and surgery. The doctor
says: "Here, take this, it will do you good. I know its virtue." The
Church says likewise: "Try prayer, I know its virtue." Your faith in it
has all to do with its successful working.

As in bodily sickness, so it is in all the other afflictions that flesh
is heir to. Prayer is a panacea; it cures all ills. But it should be
taken with two tonics, as it were, before and after. Before: faith and
confidence in the power of God to cure us through prayer. After:
resignation to the will of God, by which we accept what it may please
Him to do in our case; for health is not the greatest boon of life, nor
are sickness and death the greatest evils. Sin alone is bad; the grace
of God alone is good. All other things God uses as means in view of
this supreme good and against this supreme evil. Faith prepares the
system and puts it in order for the reception of the remedy.
Resignation helps it work out its good effects, and brings out all its

Thus prayer is necessary to us all, whether we be Christians or pagans,
whether just or sinners, whether sick or well. It brings us near to
God, and God near to us, and thus is a foretaste and an image of our
union with Him hereafter.


AS far back as the light of history extends, it shows man, of every
race and of every clime, occupied in giving expression, in one way or
another, to his religious impressions, sentiments, and convictions. He
knew God; he was influenced by this knowledge unto devotion; and sought
to exteriorize this devotion for the double purpose of proving its
truth and sincerity, and of still further nourishing, strengthening,
safeguarding it by means of an external worship and sensible things.
Accordingly, he built temples, erected altars, offered sacrifices,
burnt incense; he sang and wept, feasted and fasted; he knelt, stood
and prostrated himself--all things in harmony with his hopes and fears.
This is worship or cult. We call it religion, distinct from interior
worship or devotion, but supposing the latter essentially. It is
commanded by the first precept of God.

He who contents himself with a simple acknowledgment of the Divinity in
the heart, and confines his piety to the realm of the soul, does not
fulfil the first commandment. The obligation to worship God was
imposed, not upon angels--pure spirits, but upon men--creatures
composed of a body as well as a soul. The homage that He had a right to
expect was therefore not a purely spiritual one, but one in which the
body had a part as well as the soul. A man is not a man without a body.
Neither can God be satisfied with man's homage unless his physical
being cooperate with his spiritual, unless his piety be translated into
acts and become religion, in the sense in which we use the word.

There is no limit to the different forms religion may take on as
manifestations of intense fervor and strong belief. Sounds, attitudes,
practices, etc., are so many vehicles of expression, and may be
multiplied indefinitely. They become letters and words and figures of a
language which, while being conventional in a way, is also natural and
imitative, and speaks more clearly and eloquently and poetically than
any other human language. This is what makes the Catholic religion so
beautiful as to compel the admiration of believers and unbelievers

Of course, there is nothing to prevent an individual from making
religion a mask of hypocrisy. If in using these practices, he does not
mean what they imply, he lies as plainly as if he used words without
regard for their signification. These practices, too, may become
absurd, ridiculous and even abominable. When this occurs, it is easily
explained by the fact that the mind and heart of man are never proof
against imbecility and depravity. There are as many fools and cranks in
the world as there are villains and degenerates.

The Church of God regulates divine worship for us with the wisdom and
experience of centuries. Her sacrifice is the first great act of
worship. Then there are her ceremonies, rites, and observances; the use
of holy water, blessed candles, ashes, incense, vestments; her chants,
and fasts and feasts, the symbolism of her sacraments. This is the
language in which, as a Church, and in union with her children, she
speaks to God her adoration, praise and thanksgiving. This is her
religion, and we practice it by availing ourselves of these things and
by respecting them as pertaining to God.

We are sometimes branded as idolaters, that is, as people who adore
another or others than God. We offer our homage of adoration to God who
is in heaven, and to that same God whom we believe to be on our altars.
Looking through Protestant spectacles, we certainly are idolaters, for
we adore what they consider as simple bread. In this light we plead
guilty; but is it simple bread? That is the question. The homage we
offer to everything and everybody else is relative, that is, it refers
to God, and therefore is not idolatry.

As to whether or not we are superstitious in our practices, that
depends on what is the proper homage to offer God and in what does
excess consist. It is not a little astonishing to see the no-creed,
dogma-hating, private-judgment sycophants sitting in judgment against
us and telling us what is and what is not correct in our religious
practices. We thought that sort of a thing--dogmatism--was excluded
from Protestant ethics; that every one should be allowed to choose his
own mode of worship, that the right and proper way is the way one
thinks right and proper. If the private-interpreter claims this freedom
for himself, why not allow it to us! We thought they objected to this
kind of interference in us some few hundred years ago; is it too much
if we object most strenuously to it in them in these days! It is
strange how easily some people forget first principles, and what a rare
article on the market is consistency.

The persons, places and things that pertain to the exterior worship of
God we are bound to respect, not for themselves, but by reason of the
usage for which they are chosen and set aside, thereby becoming
consecrated, religious. We should respect them in a spiritual way as we
respect in a human way all that belongs to those whom we hold dear.
Irreverence or disrespect is a profanation, a sacrilege.


THERE is in the Church an abundance and a rich variety of what we call
devotions--practices that express our respect, affection and veneration
for the chosen friends of God. These devotions we should be careful not
to confound with a thing very differently known as devotion--to God
Himself. This latter is the soul, the very essence of religion; the
former are sometimes irreverently spoken of as "frills."

Objectively speaking, these devotions find their justification in the
dogma of the Communion of Saints, according to which we believe that
the blessed in heaven are able and disposed to help the unfortunate
here below. Subjectively they are based on human nature itself. In our
self-conscious weakness and unworthiness, we choose instinctively to
approach the throne of God through His tried and faithful friends
rather than to hazard ourselves alone and helpless in His presence.

Devotion, as all know, is only another name for charity towards God,
piety, holiness, that is, a condition of soul resulting from, and at
the same time, conducive to, fidelity to God's law and the dictates of
one's conscience. It consists in a proper understanding of our
relations to God--creatures of the Creator, paupers, sinners and
children in the presence of a Benefactor, Judge and Father; and in
sympathies and sentiments aroused in us by, and corresponding with,
these convictions. In other words, one is devoted to a friend when one
knows him well, is true as steel to him, and basks in the sunshine of a
love that requites that fidelity. Towards God, this is devotion.

Devotions differ in pertaining, not directly, but indirectly through
the creature to God. No one but sees at once that devotion, in a
certain degree is binding upon all men; a positive want of it is
nothing short of impiety. But devotions have not the dignity of
entering into the essence of God-worship. They are not constituent
parts of that flower that grows in God's garden of the soul--charity;
they are rather the scent and fragrance that linger around its petals
and betoken its genuine quality. They are of counsel, so to speak, as
opposed to the precept of charity and devotion. They are outside all
commandment, and are taken up with a view of doing something more than
escaping perdition "quasi per ignem."

For human nature is rarely satisfied with what is rigorously
sufficient. It does not relish living perpetually on the ragged edge of
a scant, uncertain meagerness. People want enough and plenty, abundance
and variety. If there are many avenues that lead to God's throne, they
want to use them. If there are many outlets for their intense fervor
and abundant generosity, they will have them. Devotions answer these

Impossible to enumerate all the different practices that are in vogue
in the Church and go under the name of devotions. Legion is the number
of saints that have their following of devotees. Some are universal,
are praised and invoked the world over; others have a local niche and
are all unknown beyond the confines of a province or nation. Some are
invoked in all needs and distresses; St. Blase, on the other hand is
credited with a special power for curing throats, St. Anthony, for
finding lost things, etc. Honor is paid them on account of their
proximity to God. To invoke them is as much an honor to them as an
advantage to us.

If certain individuals do not like this kind of a thing, they are under
no sort of an obligation to practise it. If they can get to heaven
without the assistance of the saints, then let them do so, by all
means; only let them be sure to get there. No one finds devotions
repugnant but those who are ignorant of their real character and
meaning. If they are fortunate enough to make this discovery, they
then, like nearly all converts, become enthusiastic devotees, finding
in their devotions new beauties, and new advantages every day.

And it is a poor Catholic that leaves devotions entirely alone, and a
rare one. He may not feel inclined to enlist the favor of this or that
particular saint, but he usually has a rosary hidden away somewhere in
his vest pocket and a scapular around his neck, or in his pocket, as a
last extreme. If he scorns even this, then the chances are that he is
Catholic only in name, for the tree of faith is such a fertile one that
it rarely fails to yield fruit and flowers of exquisite fragrance.

Oh! of course the lives of all the saints are not history in the
strictest sense of the word. But what has that to do with the Communion
of Saints? If simplicity and naivete have woven around some names an
unlikely tale, a fable or a myth, it requires some effort to see how
that could affect their standing with God, or their disposition to help
us in our needs.

Devotions are not based on historical facts, although in certain facts,
events or happenings, real or alleged, they may have been furnished
with occasions for coming into existence. The authenticity of these
facts is not guaranteed by the doctrinal authority of the Church, but
she may, and does, approve the devotions that spring therefrom.
Independently of the truth of private and individual revelations,
visions and miracles, which she investigates as to their probability,
she makes sure that there is nothing contrary to the deposit of faith
and to morals, and then she gives these devotions the stamp of her
approval as a security to the faithful who wish to practise them. A
Catholic or non-Catholic may think what he likes concerning the
apparitions of the Virgin at Lourdes; if he is dense enough, he may
refuse to believe that miracles have been performed there. But he
cannot deny that the homage offered to Our Lady at Lourdes, and known
as devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes, is in keeping with religious
worship as practised by the Church and in consonance with reason
enlightened by faith, and so with all other devotions.

A vase of flowers, a lamp, a. burning candle before the statue of a
saint is a prayer whose silence is more eloquent than all the sounds
that ever came from the lips of man. It is love that puts it there,
love that tells it to dispense its sweet perfume or shed its mellow
rays, and love that speaks by this touching symbolism to God through a
favorite saint.


THE first and greatest sinner against religion is the idolater, who
offers God-worship to others than God. There are certain attributes
that belong to God alone, certain titles that He alone has a right to
bear, certain marks of veneration that are due to Him alone. To ascribe
these to any being under God is an abomination, and is called idolatry.

The idols of paganism have long since been thrown, their temples
destroyed; the folly itself has fallen into disuse, and its
extravagances serve only in history "to point a moral or adorn a tale."
Yet, in truth, idolatry is not so dead as all that, if one would take
the pains to peruse a few pages of the current erotic literature
wherein people see heaven in a pair of blue eyes, catch inspired words
from ruby lips and adore a well trimmed chin-whisker. I would sooner,
with the old-time Egyptians, adore a well-behaved cat or a toothsome
cucumber than with certain modern feather-heads and gum-drop hearts,
sing hymns to a shapely foot or dimpled cheek and offer incense to
"divinities," godlike forms, etc. The way hearts and souls are thrown
around from one to another is suggestive of the national game; while
the love they bear one another is always infinite, supreme, without
parallel on earth or in heaven.

No, perhaps they do not mean what they say; but that helps matters very
little, for the fault lies precisely in saying what they do say; the
language used is idolatrous. And a queer thing about it is that they do
mean more than half of what they say. When degenerate love runs riot,
it dethrones the Almighty, makes gods of clay and besots itself before

What is superstition and what is a superstitious practice? It is
something against the virtue of religion; it sins, not by default as
unbelief, but by excess. Now, to be able to say what is excessive, one
must know what is right and just, one must have a measure. To attempt
to qualify anything as excessive without the aid of a rule or measure
is simply guesswork.

The Yankee passes for a mighty clever guesser, outpointing with ease
his transatlantic cousin. Over there the sovereign guesses officially
that devotion to the Mother of God is a superstitious practice. This
reminds one of the overgrown farmer boy, who, when invited by his
teacher to locate the center of a circle drawn on the blackboard, stood
off and eyed the figure critically for a moment with a wise squint; and
then said, pointing his finger to the middle or thereabouts: "I should
jedge it to be about thar'." He was candid enough to offer only an
opinion. But how the royal guesser could be sure enough to swear it,
and that officially, is what staggers plain people.

Now right reason is a rule by which to judge what is and what is not
superstitious. But individual reason or private judgment and right
reason are not synonyms in the English or in any other language that is
human. When reasoning men disagree, right reason, as far as the debated
question is concerned, is properly said to be off on a vacation, a
thing uncommonly frequent in human affairs. In order, therefore that
men should not be perpetually at war concerning matters that pertain to
men's salvation, God established a competent authority which even
simple folks with humble minds and pure hearts can find. In default of
any adverse claimant the Catholic Church must be adjudged that
authority. The worship, therefore, that the Church approves as worthy
of God is not, cannot be, superstition. And what is patently against
reason, or, in case of doubt, what she reproves and condemns in
religion is superstitious.

Leaving out of the question for the moment those species of
superstition that rise to the dignity of science, to the accidental
fame and wealth of humbugs and frauds, the evil embraces a host of
practices that are usually the result of a too prevalent psychological
malady known as softening of the brain. These poor unfortunates imagine
that the Almighty who holds the universe in the hollow of His hand,
deals with His creatures in a manner that would make a full-grown man
pass as a fool if he did the same. Dreams, luck-pieces, certain
combinations of numbers or figures, ordinary or extraordinary events
and happenings--these are the means whereby God is made to reveal to
men secrets and mysteries as absurd as the means, themselves. Surely
God must have descended from His throne of wisdom.

Strange though it appear, too little religion--and not too much--leads
to these unholy follies. There is a religious instinct in man. True
religion satisfies it fully. Quack religion, pious tomfoolery, and
doctrinal ineptitude foisted upon a God-hungry people end by driving
some from one folly to another in a pitiful attempt to get away from
the deceptions of man and near to God. Others are led on by a sinful
curiosity that outweighs their common-sense as well as their respect
for God. These are the guilty ones.

It has been said that there is more superstition--that is belief and
dabbling in these inane practices--to-day in one of our large cities
than the Dark Ages ever was afflicted with. If true, it is one sign of
the world's spiritual unrest, the decay of unbelief; and irreligion
thus assists at its own disintegration. The Church swept the pagan
world clean of superstition once; she may soon be called upon to do the
work over again.


SPIRITISM as a theory, a science, a practice, a religion, or--I might
add--a profitable business venture, is considered an evil thing by the
Church, and by her is condemned as superstition, that is, as a false
and unworthy homage to God, belittling His majesty and opposed to the
Dispensation of Christ, according to which alone God can be worthily
honored. This evil has many names; it includes all dabbling in the
supernatural against the sanction of Church authority, and runs a whole
gamut of "isms" from fake trance-mediums to downright diabolical

The craft found favor with the pagans and flourished many years before
the Christian era. Wondrous things were wrought by the so-called
pythonic spirit; evidently outside the natural order, still more
evidently not by the agency of God, and of a certainty through the
secret workings of the "Old Boy" himself. It was called Necromancy, or
the Black Art. It had attractions for the Jews and they yielded to some
extent to the temptation of consulting the Python. For this reason
Moses condemned the evil as an abomination. These are his words, taken
from Deuteronomy:

"Neither let there be found among you any one that consulteth
soothsayers, or observeth dreams and omens; neither let there be any
wizard, nor charmer, nor any one that consulteth pythonic spirits or
fortune tellers, or that seeketh the truth from the dead. For the Lord
abhorreth all these things; and for these abominations He will destroy

The Black Art had its votaries during the Middle Ages and kept the
Church busy warning the faithful against its dangers and its evils.
Even so great a name as that of Albert the Great has been associated
with the dark doings of the wizard, because, no doubt, of the marvelous
fruits of his genius and deep learning, which the ignorant believed
impossible to mere human agency. As witchcraft, it nourished during the
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The excesses to which it gave rise
caused severe laws to be enacted against it and stringent measures were
taken to suppress it. Many were put to death, sometimes after the most
cruel tortures. As is usually the case, the innocent suffered with the
guilty. The history of the early New England settlers makes good
reading on the subject.

Some people claim that the spiritism of to-day is only a revival of
old-time witchery and necromancy, that it is as prevalent now as it was
then, perhaps more prevalent. "Only," as Father Lambert remarks, "the
witch of to-day instead of going to the stake as formerly, goes about
as Madam So-and-So, and is duly advertised in our enlightened press as
the great and renowned seeress or clairvoyant, late from the court of
the Akoorid of Swat, more recently from the Sublime Porte, where she
was in consultation with the Sultan of Turkey, and more recently still
from the principal courts of Europe. As her stay in the city will be
brief, those who wish to know the past or future or wish to communicate
with deceased friends, are advised to call on her soon. Witchcraft is
as prevalent as it ever was, and the witches are as real. They may not
have cats on their shoulders or pointed caps, or broomsticks for quick
transit, but they differ from the witches of the past only in being
liberally paid, instead of liberally punished."

The Church does not deny the possibility of intercourse between the
living and the souls of the dead; she goes farther and admits the fact
that such intercourse has taken place, pointing, as well she may, to
the Scriptures themselves wherein such facts are recorded. The lives of
her saints are not without proof that this world may communicate with
the unknown. And this belief forms the groundwork, furnishes the basic
principles, of Spiritism.

Nevertheless, the Church condemns all attempts at establishing such
communication between the living and the dead, or even claiming, though
falsely, such intercourse. If this is done in the name of religion, she
considers it an insult to God, Who thereby is trifled with and tempted
to a miraculous manifestation of Himself outside the ordinary channels
of revelation. As an instrument of mere human curiosity, it is
criminal, since it seeks to subject Him to the beck and call of a
creature. In case such practices succeed, there is the grave danger of
being mislead and deceived by the evil spirit, who is often permitted,
as the instrument of God, to punish guilty men. When resorted to, as a
means of relieving fools of their earnings, it is sacrilegious; and
those who support such impious humbugs can be excused from deadly sin
only on the grounds of lunacy.

Hypnotism and Mesmerism differ from Spiritism in this, that their
disciples account for the phenomena naturally and lay no claim to
supernatural intervention. They produce a sleep in the subject, either
as they claim, by the emanation of a subtile fluid from the operator's
body, or by the influence of his mind over the mind of the subject They
are agreed on this point, that natural laws could explain the
phenomenon, if these laws were well understood.

With this sort of a thing, as belonging to the domain of science and
outside her domain, the Church has nothing whatever to do. This is a
theory upon which it behooves men of science to work; they alone are
competent in the premises. But without at all encroaching on their
domain, the Church claims the right to pronounce upon the morality of
such practices and to condemn the evils that flow therefrom. So great
are these evils and dangers, when unscrupulous and ignorant persons
take to experimenting, that able and reliable physicians and statesmen
have advocated the prohibition by law of all such indiscriminate
practices. Crimes have been committed on hypnotized persons and crimes
have been committed by them. It is a dangerous power exercised by men
of evil mind and a sure means to their evil ends. It is likewise
detrimental to physical and moral health. Finally, he who subjects
himself to such influence commits an immoral act by giving up his will,
his free agency, into the hands of another. He does this willingly, for
no one can be hypnotized against his will; he does it without reason or
just motive. This is an evil, and to it must be added the
responsibility of any evil he may be made to commit whilst under this
influence. Therefore is the Church wise in condemning the
indiscriminate practice of hypnotism or mesmerism; and therefore will
her children be wise if they leave it alone. It is not superstition,
but it is a sin against man's individual liberty over which he is
constituted sole guardian, according to the use and abuse of which he
will one day be judged.


A RECENTLY discovered sin against the First Commandment is the worship
of Mrs. Eddy, and it is commonly called Christian Science. This
sacrilegious humbug was conceived in the brain of an old woman up in
New Hampshire and, like the little demon of error that it is, it leaped
forth, after a long period of travail, full-fledged and panoplied, and
on its lips were these words: "What fools these mortals be!" Dame Eddy
gets good returns from the sacrilegio-comic tour of her progeny around
the country. Intellectual Boston is at her feet, and Boston pays well
for its amusements.

It is remarkable for an utter lack of anything like Christianity or
science. It is as Christian as Buddhism and as scientific as the
notions of our early forefathers concerning the automobile. It is a
parody on both and like the usual run of parodies, it is a success.

The average man should not attempt to delve down into the mysterious
depths of mind and matter which form the basis of this system. In the
first place, it is an impossible task for an ordinary intelligence;
then, again, it were labor lost, for even if one did get down far
enough one could get nothing satisfactory out of it. The force of
Eddyism lies in its being mysterious, incomprehensible and
contradictory. These qualities would kill an ordinary system, but this
is no ordinary system. The only way to beat the Christian Scientist is
to invite him to focus all the energy of his mind on a vulgar lamp-post
and engrave thereon the name of the revered Eddy--this to show the
power of mind. Then to prove the non-existence of matter, ask him to
consent to your endeavoring to make a material impression on his head
with an immaterial hammer.

Of course this is not what he meant; but what he did mean will become
by no means clearer after the wearisome, interminable lengths to which
he will go to elucidate. The fact is that he does not know it himself,
and no one can give what he does not possess. True philosophy tells us
to define terms and never to employ expressions of more than one
meaning without saying in what sense we use them. Contempt of this rule
is the salvation of Christian Science, and that is where we lose.

Yet there is something in this fad after all. Total insanity is never
met with outside state institutions, and these people are at large. The
ravings of a delirious patient are often a monstrous mass of wild
absurdities; but, if you question the patient when convalescent, you
will sometimes be surprised to find they were all founded on facts
which had become exaggerated and distorted. There is no such thing as
pure unadulterated error. All of which is meant to convey the idea that
at the bottom of all fraud and falsehood there is some truth, and the
malice of error is always proportionate with the amount of truth it has

The first truth that has been exaggerated beyond recognition is this,
that a large proportion of human diseases are pure fiction of morbid
imaginations, induced by the power of the mind. That such is the case,
all medical men admit. Thus, the mind may often be used as a
therapeutic agent, and clever physicians never fail to employ this kind
of Christian Science. Mrs. Eddy is therefore no more the discoverer of
the "malade imaginaire" than Moliere. When you' distort this truth and
write books proclaiming the fact that all ills are of this sort, then
you have Eddyism up to date. Mrs. Eddy gathers her skirts in her hand
and leaps over the abyss between "some ills" and "all ills" with the
agility of a gazelle. Yes, the mind has a wonderful power for healing,
but it will make just as much impression on a broken leg as on a block
of granite. So much for the scientific part of the theory.

The method of healing of Jesus Christ and that of the foundress of
Christian Science are not one and the same method, although called by
the name of faith they appear at first sight to the unwary to be
identical. There is a preliminary act of the intelligence in both;
there is the exercise of the will power; and a mention of God in
Eddyism makes it look like a divine assistance. To the superficial
there is no difference between a miracle performed at Lourdes by God at
the intercession of the Blessed Virgin and a "cure" effected by the
Widow of New Hampshire hills.

Yet there is a wide difference, as wide as the abyss between error and
truth. In faith healing, God interposes and alone does the healing. It
is a miracle, a suspension of the ordinary laws of nature. Faith is not
a cause, but an essential condition. In Christian Science, it is the
mind of the patient or of Mrs. Eddy that does the work. It is God only
in the sense that God is one with the patient. Mind is the only thing
that exists, and the human mind is one with the Mind which is God. Then
again this cure instead of being in opposition to the normal state of
things like a miracle, itself establishes a normal state, for disease
is abnormal and in contradiction with the natural state of man. Mental
healing, according to this system sets the machine going regularly;
miracles put it out of order for the moment. Christian Science
therefore, repudiates the healing method of Jesus by faith and sets up
one of its own, thereby forfeiting all title to be called Christian.

Being, therefore, neither Christian nor scientific, this new cult is
nothing but pure nonsense, like all superstitions; the product of a
diseased mind swayed by the demon of pride, and should be treated
principally as a mental disorder. The chief, and only, merit of the
system consists in illustrating the truth, as old as the world, that
when men wander from the House where they are fed with a celestial
nourishment, they will be glad to eat any food offered them that has a
semblance of food, even though it be but husks and refuse. Man is a
religious animal; take away the true God, and he will adore anything or
everything, even to a cucumber. However limited otherwise, there is no
limit to his religious folly.


"THOU shalt not take the name of the Lord, thy God in vain."

A name is a sign, and respect for God Himself, as prescribed by the
First Commandment through faith, hope, charity, prayer and religion,
naturally implies respect for the name that stands for and signifies
God. Your name may, of itself, be nothing more than mere sound; but
used in relation to what it represents, it is as sacred, and means as
much to you, as your very person, for whatever is addressed to your
name, whether of praise or blame, is intended to reach, and does
effectively reach, yourself, to your honor or dishonor. You exact
therefore of men, as a right, the same respect for your name as for
your person; and that is what God does in the Second Commandment.

The name of God represents all that He is. He who profanes that name
profanes a sacred thing, and is guilty of what is, in reality, a
sacrilege. To use it with respect and piety is an act of religion which
honors God. Men use and abuse this holy name, and first of all, by
swearing, that is, by taking oaths.

In the early history of mankind, we are told, swearing was unknown. Men
were honest, could trust each other and take each other's word. But
when duplicity, fraud and deception rose out of the corrupt heart of
man, when sincerity disappeared, then confidence disappeared also, no
man's word was any longer good. Then it was that, in order to put an
end to their differences, they called upon God by name to witness the
truth of what they affirmed. They substituted God's unquestioned
veracity for their own questioned veracity, and incidentally paid
homage to His truth; God went security for man. Necessity therefore
made man swear; oaths became a substitute for honesty.

A reverent use of the name of God, for a lawful purpose, cannot be
wrong; on the contrary, it is good, being a public recognition of the
greatest of God's attributes--truth. But like all good things it is
liable to be abused. A too frequent use of the oath will easily lead to
irreverence, and thence to perjury. It is against this danger, rather
than against the fact itself of swearing, that Christ warns us in a
text that seems at first blush to condemn the oath as evil. The common
sense of mankind has always given this interpretation to the words of

An oath, therefore, is a calling upon God to witness the truth of what
we say, and it means that we put our veracity on a par with His and
make Him shoulder the responsibility of truthfulness.

To take an oath we must swear by God. To swear by all the saints in the
calendar would not make an oath. Properly speaking, it is not even
sufficient to simply say: "I swear," we must use the name of God. In
this matter, we first consider the words. Do they signify a swearing,
by God, either in their natural sense or in their general acceptation?
Or is there an intention of giving them this signification? In
conscience and before God, it is only when there is such an intention
that there is a formal oath and one is held to the conditions and
responsibilities thereof.

Bear in mind that we are here dealing for the moment solely with lawful
swearing. There are such things as imprecation, blasphemy, and general
profanity, of which there will be question later, and which have this
in common with the oath, that they call on the name of God; the
difference is the same that exists between bad and good, right and
wrong. These must therefore be clearly distinguished from religious and
legal swearing.

There is also a difference between a religious and a legal oath. The
religious oath is content with searching the conscience in order to
verify the sincerity or insincerity of the swearer. If one really
intends to swear by God to a certain statement, and employs certain
words to express his intention, he is considered religiously to have
taken an oath. If he pronounces a formula that expresses an oath,
without the intention of swearing, then he has sworn to nothing. He has
certainly committed a sin, but there is no oath. Again, if a man does
not believe in God, he cannot swear by Him; and in countries where God
is repudiated, all attempts at administering oaths are vain and empty.
You cannot call, to attest the truth of your words, a being that does
not exist, and for him who does not believe in God, He does not exist.

The purely legal oath considers the fact and supposes the intention. If
you swear without deliberation, then, with you lies the burden of
proving it; since the law will allow it only on evidence and will hold
you bound until such evidence is shown. When a person is engaged in a
serious affair, he is charitably supposed to know what he is talking
about; if it happens that he does not, then so much the worse for him.
In the case of people who protest beforehand that they are infidels or
agnostics, or who being sworn on the New Testament, disclaim all belief
in Christ, there is nothing to be done, except it be to allow them to
attest by the blood of a rooster or by the Great Horn Spoon. Then,
whatever way they swear, there is no harm done.


THE first quality of an oath is that it be true. It is evident that
every statement we make, whether simple or sworn, must be true. If we
affirm what we know to be false we lie, if we swear to what we know to
be false, we perjure ourselves. Perjury is a sacrilegious falsehood,
and the first sin against the Second Commandment.

If, while firmly believing it to be true, what we swear to happens to
be false, we are not guilty of perjury, for the simple reason that our
moral certitude places us in good faith, and good faith guarantees us
against offending. The truth we proclaim under oath is relative not
absolute, subjective rather than objective, that is to say, the
statement we make is true as far as we are in a position to know. All
this holds good before the bar of conscience, but it may be otherwise
in the courts where something more than personal convictions, something
more akin to scientific knowledge, is required.

He who swears without sufficient certitude, without a prudent
examination of the facts of the question, through ignorance that must
be imputed to his guilt, that one takes a rash oath--a sin great or
small according to the gravity of the circumstances. It is not
infrequently grievous.

Some oaths, instead of being statements, are promises, sworn promises.
That of which we call God to witness the truth is not something that
is, but something that will be. If one promises under oath, and has no
intention of redeeming his pledge; or if he afterwards revokes such an
intention without serious reasons, and fails to make good his sworn
promise, he sins grievously, for he makes a fool and a liar of Almighty
God who acts as sponsor of a false pledge. Concerning temperance
pledges, it may here be said that they are simple promises made to God,
but not being sworn to, are not oaths in any sense of the word.

Then, again, to be lawful, an oath must be necessary or useful,
demanded by the glory of God, our own or our neighbor's good; and it
must be possible to fulfil the promise within the given time.
Otherwise, we trifle with a sacred thing, we are guilty of taking vain
and unnecessary oaths. There can be no doubt but that this is highly
offensive to God, who is thus made little of in His holy name.

This is the most frequent offense against the Second Commandment, the
sin of profane swearing, the calling upon God to witness the truth of
every second word we utter. It betrays in a man a very weak sense of
his own honesty when he cannot let his words stand for themselves. It
betokens a blasphemous disrespect for God Himself, represented by that
name which is made a convenient tool to further every vulgar end. It is
therefore criminal and degrading, and the guilt thereby incurred cannot
be palliated by the plea of habit. A sin is none the less a sin because
it is one of a great many. Vice is criminal. The victim of a vice can
be considered less guilty only on condition of seriously combating that
vice. Failing in this, he must bear the full burden of his guilt.

Are we bound to keep our oaths? If valid, we certainly are. An oath is
valid when the matter thereof is not forbidden or illicit. The matter
is illicit when the statement or promise we make is contrary to right.
He who binds himself under oath to do evil, not only does not sin in
fulfiling his pledge, but would sin if he did redeem it. The sin he
thus commits may be mortal or venial according to the gravity of the
matter of the oath. He sinned in taking the oath; he sins more
grievously in keeping it.

The binding force of an oath is also destroyed by fraud and deception.
Fear may have a kindred effect, if it renders one incapable of a human
act. Likewise a former oath may annul a subsequent oath under certain

Again, no man in taking an oath intends to bind himself to anything
physically or morally impossible, or forbidden by his superiors; he
expects that his promise will be accepted by the other party, that all
things will remain unchanged, that the other party will keep faith, and
that there will be no grave reason for him to change his mind. In the
event of any of these conditions failing of fulfilment his intention is
not to be held by his sworn word, and his oath is considered
invalidated. He is to be favored in all doubts and is held only to the
strict words of his promise.

The least therefore we have to do with oaths, the better. They are
things too sacred to trifle with. When necessity demands it, let our
swearing honor the Almighty by the respect we show His holy name.


VOWS are less common than oaths, and this is something to be thankful
for, since being even more sacred than oaths, their abuse incidental to
frequent usage would be more abominable. The fact that men so far
respect the vow as to entirely leave it alone when they feel unequal to
the task of keeping it inviolate, is a good sign--creditable to
themselves and honorable to God.

People have become accustomed to looking upon vows as the exclusive
monopoly of the Catholic Church and her religious men and women. Such
things are rarely met with outside monasteries and convents, except in
the case of secular priests. 'Tis true, one hears tell occasionally of
a stray unfortunate who has broken away from a state voluntarily,
deliberately, chosen and entered upon, and who struggles through life
with a violated vow saddled upon him. But one does not associate the
sacred and heroic character of the vow with such pitiable specimens of
moral worth.

The besom of Protestant reform thought to sweep all vows off the face
of the earth, as immoral, unlawful, unnatural or, at least, useless
things. The first Coryphei broke theirs; and having learned from
experience what troublesome things they are, instiled into their
followers a salutary distaste for these solemn engagements that one can
get along so well without. From disliking them in themselves, they came
to dislike them in others, and it has come to this that the Church has
been obliged to defend against the change of immorality an institution
that alone makes perfection possible. Strange, this! More sad than

First of all, what is a vow? It is a deliberate promise made to God by
which we bind ourselves to do something good that is more pleasing to
Him than its omission would be. It differs from a promissory oath in
this, that an oath makes God a witness of a promise made to a third
party, while in a vow there is no third party, the promise being made
directly to God. In a violated oath, we break faith with man; in a
broken vow, we are faithless to God. The vow is more intimate than the
oath, and although sometimes the words are taken one for the other, in
meaning they are widely different.

Resolutions or purposes, such as we make in confession never to sin
again, or in moments of fervor to perform works of virtue, are not
vows. A promise made to the Blessed Virgin or the saints is not a vow;
it must be made directly to God Himself.

A promise made to God to avoid mortal sin is not a vow, in the strict
sense of the word; or rather such a promise is outside the ordinary
province of the vow, which naturally embraces works of supererogation
and counsel. It is unnecessary and highly imprudent to make such
promises under vow. A promise to commit sin is a blasphemous outrage.
If what we promise to do is something indifferent, vain and useless,
opposed to evangelical counsels or generally less agreeable to God than
the contrary, our promise is null and void as far as the having the
character of a vow is concerned.

Of course, in taking a vow we must know what we are doing and be free
to act or not to act. If then the object of the vow is matter on which
a vow may validly be taken, we are bound in conscience to keep our
solemn engagement. What we forbid ourselves to do may be perfectly
lawful and innocent, but by that vow we forfeit the right we had to do
it, and for us it has become sinful. The peculiar position in which a
vow places a man in relation to his fellow-men concerning what is right
and wrong, is the characteristic of the vow that makes it the object of
much attention. But it requires something lacking in the outfit of an
intelligent man to perceive therein anything that savors of the
unnatural, the unlawful or the immoral.

Concerning those whom a vow has constituted in a profession, we shall
have a word to say later. Right here the folly, to say nothing
stronger, of those who contract vows without thinking, must be apparent
to all. No one should dare take upon himself or herself such a burden
of his or her own initiative. It is an affair that imperiously demands
the services of an outside, disinterested, experienced party, whose
prudence will well weigh the conditions and the necessity of such a
step. Without this, there is no end to the possible misery and dangers
the taking of a vow may lead to.

If through an act of unthinking foolishness or rash presumption, you
find yourself weighed down with the incubus of a vow not made for your
shoulders, the only way out is to make a clean breast of the matter to
your confessor, and follow his directions.


THE professional vow is a triple one, and embraces the three great
evangelical counsels of perfect chastity, poverty and obedience. The
cloister is necessary for the observance of such engagements as these,
and it were easier for a lily to flourish on the banks of the Dead Sea,
or amid the fiery blasts of the Sahara, than for these delicate flowers
of spirituality to thrive in the midst of the temptations, seductions
and passions of the every day world of this life. Necessity makes a
practice of these virtues a profession.

It is good to be chaste, good to be obedient, good to be voluntarily
poor. What folly, then, to say that it is unlawful to bind oneself by
promises of this kind, since it is lawful to be good--the only thing
that is lawful! It is not unlawful, if you will, to possess riches, to
enjoy one's independence, to wed; but there is virtue in foregoing
these pleasures, and virtue is better than its defect, and it is no
more unlawful to do better than to do good.

If it is lawful to contract a solemn engagement with man, why not with
God? If it is lawful for a short time, why not for a long time? If it
is lawful for two years, why not for ten, and a lifetime! The
engagement is no more unlawful itself than that to which we engage

The zealous guardians of the rights of man protest that, nevertheless,
vows destroy man's liberty, and should therefore be forbidden, and the
profession suppressed. It is along this line that the governmental
machine is being run in France at present. If the vow destroys liberty,
these fanatics are doing what appears dangerously near being the same

There is a decided advantage in being your own slave-master over having
another perform that service for you. If I do something which before
God and my conscience I have a perfect right to do, if I do it with
deliberate choice and affection, it is difficult to see wherein my
liberty suffers. Again, if I decide not to marry--a right that every
man certainly has--and in this situation engage myself by vow to
observe perfect chastity--which I must do to retain the friendship of
God--I do not see how I forfeit my liberty by swearing away a right I
never had.

In all cases, the more difficult an enterprise a man enters upon and
pursues to a final issue, the more fully he exercises his faculty of
free will. And since the triple vow supposes nothing short of heroism
in those who take it, it follows that they must use the very plenitude
of their liberty to make the thing possible.

The "cui bono" is the next formidable opponent the vow has to contend
with. What's the good of it? Where is the advantage in leading such an
impossible existence when a person can save his soul without it? All
are not damned who refuse to take vows. Is it not sufficient to be
honest men and women?

That depends upon what you mean by an honest man. A great saint once
said that an honest man would certainly not be hanged, but that it was
by no means equally certain that he would not be damned. A man may do
sundry wicked and crooked things and not forfeit his title to be called
honest. The majority of Satan's subjects were probably honest people in
their day.

The quality of being an honest man, according to many people, consists
in having the privilege of doing a certain amount of wickedness without
prejudice to his eternal salvation. The philosophy of this class of
people is summed up in these words: "Do little and get much; make a
success of life from the standpoint of your own selfishness, and then
sneak into heaven almost by stealth and fraud." That is one way of
doing business with the Lord. But, there are greater things in heaven
and on earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy, Horatio.

Human natures differ as much as pebbles on the sea shore. One man's
meat has often proven poison to another. In the religion of Jesus
Christ there is something more than the Commandments given to Moses.
Love of God has degrees of intensity and perfection. Such words as
sacrifice, mortification, self-denial have a meaning as they have
always had. God gives more to some, less to others; He demands
corresponding returns. These are things Horatio ignores. Yet they are
real, real as his own empty and conceited wisdom.


ONE of the advantages of the monastic life, created by vows, is that it
is wholly in keeping with human nature such as God created it. Men
differ in their spiritual complexion more widely even than they do in
mental caliber and physical make-up. All are not fitted by character
and general condition for the same 'career; we are "cut out" for our
peculiar tasks. It is the calling of one to be a soldier, of another to
be a statesman, because each is best fitted by nature for this
particular walk of life. The born poet, if set to put together a
machine, will, in the majority of cases, make a sorry mess of the job,
and a bricklayer will usually prove to be an indifferent story-writer.

So also one is called to be a good Christian, while his brother may be
destined for a more perfect life. If there are vocations in the natural
life, why should there not be in the supernatural, which is just as
truly a life? If variety of aptitudes and likes determine difference of
calling, why should this not hold good for the soul as well as for the
body and mind? If one should always follow the bent of one's
legitimately natural inclinations, no fault can reasonably be found if
another hearkens to the voice of his soul's aspirations and elect a
career in harmony with his nature.

There are two roads on which all men must travel to their destiny. One
is called the way of Precept, the other the way of Counsel. In each the
advantages and inconveniences are about equally balanced. The former is
wide and level with many joys and pleasures along the way; but there
are many pitfalls and stumbling blocks, while on one side is a high,
steep precipice over which men fall to their eternal doom. Those
destined by Providence to go over this road are spiritually shod for
the travel; if they slip and tumble, it is through their own neglect.

Some there are to whom it has been shown by experience--very little
sometimes suffices--that they have, for reasons known alone to God,
been denied the shoe that does not slip; and that if they do not wish
to go over the brink, they must get off the highway and follow a path
removed from this danger, a path not less difficult but more secure for
them. Their salvation depends on it. This inside path, while it insures
safety for these, might lead the others astray. Each in his respective
place will be saved; if they exchange places, they are lost.

Then again, if you will look at it from another standpoint, there
remains still on earth such a thing as love of God, pure love of God.
And this love can be translated into acts and life. Love, as all well
know, has its degrees of intensity and perfection. All well-born
children love their parents, but they do not all love them in the same
degree. Some are by nature more affectionate, some appreciate favors
better, some receive more and know that more is expected of them.

In like manner, we who are all children of the Great Father are not all
equally loving and generous. What therefore is more natural than that
some should choose to give themselves up heart, soul and body to the
exclusive service of God? What is there abnormal in the fact that they
renounce the world and all its joys and legitimate pleasures, fast,
pray and keep vigil, through pure love of God? There is only one thing
they fear, and that is to offend God. By their vows they put this
misfortune without the pale of possibility, as far as such a thing can
be done by a creature endowed with free will.

Of course there are those for whom all this is unmitigated twaddle and
bosh. To mention abnegation, sacrifice, etc., to such people is to
speak in a language no more intelligible than Sanskrit. Naturally one
of these will expect his children to appreciate the sacrifices he makes
for their happiness, but with God they think it must be different.

There was once a young man who was rich. He had never broken the
Commandments of God. Wondering if he had done enough to be saved, he
came to the Messiah and put the question to Him. The answer he received
was, that, if he were sinless, he had done well, but that there was a
sanctity, not negative but positive, which if he would acquire, would
betoken in him a charity becoming a follower of a Crucified God. Christ
called the young man to a life of perfection. "If thou wilt be perfect,
go, sell what thou hast, give to the poor, then come, and follow me."
It is not known whether this invitation was accepted by the young man;
but ever since then it has been the joy of men and women in the
Catholic Church to accept it, and to give up all in order to serve the

Scoffers and revilers of monasticism are a necessary evil. Being given
the course of nature that sometimes runs to freaks, they must exist.
Living, they must talk, and talking they must utter ineptitudes. People
always do when they discourse on things they do not comprehend. But let
this be our consolation: monks are immortal. They were, they are, they
ever shall be. All else is grass.


OWING to the disturbance over things religious in France, vows and
those who exemplify them in their lives are receiving of late a large
share of public attention. On this topic, it seems, every one is
qualified to speak; all sorts of opinions have been ventilated in the
religious, the non-religious, and the irreligious press, for the
benefit of those who are interested in this pitiful spasm of Gallic
madness against the Almighty and His Church. The measure of
unparalleled tyranny and injustice, in which antipathy to religious
orders has found expression, is being favorably and unfavorably
commented upon. But since monks, friars and nuns seldom find favor with
the non Catholic world, the general verdict is that the religious, like
the anarchist, must go; society is afraid of both and is safe from

To Catholics who understand human nature and have read history, this
condition of things is not surprising; it is, we might venture to say,
the normal state of mind in relation to things so intensely Catholic is
religious vows. Antagonism against monasticism was born the day Luther
decided to take a wife; and as long as that same spirit lingers on
earth we shall expect this antagonism to thrive and prosper. Not only
that, but we shall never expect the religious to get a fair hearing
for their cause. The hater, open or covert, of the habit and cowl is
whole-souled or nothing in his convictions. And he believes the devil
should be fought with his own weapons.

We do not expect all men to think as we do concerning the merits of the
religious profession. To approve it without restriction would be to
approve the Church. To find no wrong in it would be indicative of a
dangerous Romish tendency. And we are not prepared to assert that any
such symptoms exist to an alarming extent in those who expatiate on
religious topics these latter days. There will be differences of
opinion on this score, as on many others, and one fellow's opinion is
as good, to himself, as another's.

There are even objections, to many an honest man, serious objections,
that may be brought up and become legitimate matter for discussion. We
take it for granted that intelligent men do not oppose an institution
as venerable as monasticism without reasons. Contention between people
who respect intelligence is always based on what has at least a
semblance of truth, and has for its object to detect reality and label
it as distinct from appearance.

We go farther, and admit that there have been abuses in this system of
perfection, abuses that we were the first to detect, the first to
deplore and feel the shame of it. But before we believed it, we
investigated and made sure it was so. We found out very often that the
accusations were false. Scandalmongers and dishonest critics noted the
charges, but forgot to publish the verdict, and naturally with the
public these charges stand. No wonder then that such tales breed
antipathy and hatred among those who are not in position to control

A queer feature about this is that people do not give religious credit
for being human. That they are flesh and blood, all agree; that they
should err, is preposterous. A hue-and-cry goes up when it becomes
known that one of these children of Adam has paid the penalty of being
human. One would think an angel had fallen from heaven. We notice in
this attitude an unconscious recognition of the sanctity of the
religious state; but we see behind it a Pharisaic spirit that
exaggerates evil at the expense of justice.

Now, if the principle that abuse destroys use is applied to all things,
nothing will remain standing, and the best will go first. Corruptio
optimi pessima. Everything human is liable to abuse; that which is
not, is divine. Religious and laymen, mortals all, the only time it
is beyond our power to do wrong is when we are dead, buried, and
twenty-four hours underground. If in life we make mistakes, the fault
lies, not in our being of this or that profession, but in being human.
Whatever, therefore, the excesses that religious can be proven guilty
of, the institution itself must not be held responsible, unless it can
be shown that there exists a relation of cause and effect. And whoever
reasons otherwise, abuses the intelligence of his listeners.

We desire, in the name of honesty and fairness, to see less of that
spirit that espies all manner of evil beneath the habit of a religious;
that discovers in convents and monasteries plotting against the State
in favor of the Papacy, the accumulation of untold wealth by oppression
and extortion for the satisfaction of laziness and lust, iniquity of
the deepest dye allied to general worthlessness. Common sense goes a
long way in this world. If it were only a less rare commodity, and if
an effective tribunal could be erected for the suppression of
mendacity, the religious would appear for the first time in history in
their true colors before the world, and light would shine in darkness.


ONE objection to the vow of poverty that has a serious face on it, and
certainly looks wicked, is that it does not prevent the accumulation of
great wealth, as may be seen in the cases of the Philippine Friars and
the French orders. This is one difficulty; here is another and quite
different: the wealth of the religious is excessive, detrimental to the
well-being of the people and a menace to the State. Taken separately,
it is easy to dispose of these charges and to explain them away. But if
you put them together in one loose, vague, general imputation of
avarice, extortion and injustice, and hurl the same at a person unable
to make distinctions, the shock is apt to disconcert him for a moment.

The first indictment seems to hint at a contradiction, or at least an
incompatibility, between the profession of poverty and the fact of
possessing wealth. We claim that the one does not affect the' other,
that a religious may belong to a rich order and still keep his vow
inviolate. The vow in the religious is individual and personal; the
riches collective. It is the physical person that is poor; the moral
being has the wealth. Men may club together, put their means into a
common fund, renounce all personal claim thereto, live on a meagre
revenue and employ the surplus for various purposes other than their
needs. The personal poverty of such as these is real.

This is the case of the religious. Personally they do not own the
clothes on their backs. The necessaries of life are furnished them out
of a common fund. What remains, goes through their hands for the glory
of God and in charity to fellow-man. The employment to which these men
devote their lives, such as prayer, charity, the maintenance and
conducting of schools and hospitals, is not lucrative to any great
extent. And since very few Orders resort to begging, the revenue from
capital is the only means of assuring existence. It is therefore no
more repugnant for religious to depend on funded wealth than it was for
the Apostolic College to have a common purse. The secret reason for
this condition of things is that works of zeal rarely yield abundant
returns, and man cannot live on the air of heaven.

As to the extent of such wealth and its dangers, it would seem that if
it be neither ill gotten nor employed for illegitimate purposes, in
justice and equity, there cannot be two opinions on the subject. Every
human being has a right to the fruit of his industry and activity. To
deny this is to advocate extreme socialism and anarchy and, he who puts
this doctrine into practice, destroys the principle on which society
rests. The law that strikes at religious corporations whose wealth
accrues from centuries of toil and labor, may to-morrow consistently
confiscate the goods and finances of every other corporation in the
realm. If you force the religious out of land and home, why not force
Morgan, Rockefeller & Co., out of theirs! The justice in one case is as
good as in the other.

It is difficult to see how the people suffer from accumulated wealth,
the revenues from which are almost entirely devoted to the relief of
misery and the instruction of the ignorant. The people are the sole
beneficiaries. There is here none of the arrogance and selfishness that
usually characterize the possession of wealth to the embitterment of
misery and misfortune. The religious, by their vow and their means, can
share the condition of the poor and relieve it. If there is any
institution better calculated to promote the well-being of the common
people, it should be put to work. When the moneyed combinations whose
rights are respected, show themselves as little prejudicial to the
welfare of the classes, the religious will be prepared to go out of

Everyone is inclined to accept as true the statement, on record as
official, that the wealth of the Religious Orders in France is at the
bottom of the trouble. We are not therefore a little astonished to
learn from other sources that it is rather their poverty, which is
burdensome to the people. The religious are not too rich, but too poor.
They cannot support themselves, and live on the enforced charity of the
laborer. French parents, not being equal to the task of maintaining
monasteries and supporting large families, limited the number of their
children. The population fell off in consequence. The government came
to the relief of the people and cast out the religious.

And here we have the beautiful consistency of those who believe that
any old reason is better than none at all. The religious are too poor,
their poverty is a burden on the people; the religious are too rich,
their riches are prejudicial to the welfare of the people. One reason
is good; two are better. If they contradict, it is only a trifling
matter. As for us, we don't know quite where we stand. We can hear well
enough, amid the din of denunciation, the conclusion that the religious
must go; but we cannot, for the life of us, catch the why and
wherefore. Is it because they are too poor? or because they are too
rich? or because they are both? We might be justified in thinking:
because they are neither, but because they are what they are--
religious, devoted to the Church and champions of Her cause. This
reason is at least as good as the two that contradict and destroy each
other. In this sense, is monastic poverty a bad and evil thing?


WHAT kind of obedience is that which makes religious "unwilling to
acknowledge any superior but the Pope?" We have been confidently
informed this is the ground given in several instances for their
removal. And we confess that, if the words "acknowledge" and "superior"
are used in certain of the meanings they undoubtedly have, there is
good and sufficient ground for such removal. At the same time we submit
that the foregoing phrase is open to different interpretations of
meaning, several of which would make out this measure of repression to
be one of rank injustice.

The studied misrule and abuse of language serves a detestable purpose
that is only too evident. A charge like the above is true and false,
that is to say, it is neither true nor false; it says nothing, unless
explained, or unless you make it say what you wish. It is a sure, safe,
but cowardly way of destroying an enemy without being obliged to admit
the guilt to oneself.

Now the religious, and Catholic laity as well, never think of
acknowledging, in the full acceptation of the word, any other spiritual
superior than the Pope, and there can be nothing in this deserving
repression. Again, no Catholic may consistently with Catholic
principles, refuse to accept as legitimate the legally constituted
authority of the country in which he resides. As to a man's views on
the different forms of government, that is nobody's business but his
own. But whether he approves or disapproves in theory, his life and
conduct must conform with the laws justly enacted under the form of
Government that happens to be accepted. To depart from this rule is to
go counter to Catholic teaching, and no religious order does so without
incurring strict censure.

The vow of obedience in a religious respects Caesar as well as God. It
cannot validly bind one to violate the laws of State any more than to
violate the law of God. This vow does not even concern itself with
civil and political matters; by it the religious alone is affected, the
citizen looks out for himself. But the citizen is already bound by his
conscience and the laws of the Church to respect and obey lawful

A good religious is a good citizen, and he cannot be the former, if he
is not the latter. As a mere Catholic, he is more liable to be always
found on the side of good citizenship, because in his religion he is
taught, first of all, to respect authority on which all his religious
convictions are based. There is a natural tendency in a Protestant, who
will have nothing to do with authority in spiritual matters, to bring
this state of mind over with him into temporary affairs; being
self-willed in greater things, he is fore-inclined to be self-willed
in lesser. The Catholic and, for a greater reason, the religious knows
less of this temptation; and the better Catholic and religious he is,
the farther removed he is from possible revolt against, or even
disrespect of, authority.

Against but one Order of all those repressed can the charge of
insubordination be brought with any show of truth. The Assumptionists
made the mistake of thinking that they could with impunity criticise
the doings of the Government, just as it is done in Paris every day by
the boulevard press. It is generally conceded that, considering the
well-known attitude of the Government towards the order, this was a
highly imprudent course for a religious paper to pursue. But their
right to do so is founded on the privilege of free speech. It takes
very little to find abuse of free speech in the utterances of the
clergy or religious in France. They are safe only when they are silent.
If there were less docility and more defiance in their attitude, if the
French Catholics relied less on God and more on man for redress, they
would receive more justice than they have been receiving.

The punishment meted out to the religious for their insubordination has
had, we are told, a doleful effect on the temporal power of the Pope,
an interesting patch of which has been broken up by the new French law.
It is a mystery to us how this law can affect the temporal power of the
Pope any more than the political status of Timbuctoo. It is passably
difficult to make an impression on what has ceased to exist these
thirty years. We thought the temporal power was dead. This bit of news
has been dinned into our ears until we have come to believe. No
conference, synod or council is considered by our dissenting friends
without a good strong sermon on this topic. Strange that it should
resurrect just in time to lose "an interesting patch" of itself! This
is cruelty. Why not respect the grave? We recommend the perusal of the
obituary of the temporal power written in Italian politics since the
year 1870. We believe the tomb is carefully guarded.


RELIGIOUS are sometimes called celibates. Now, a celibate, one of the
bachelor persuasion, is a person who considers himself or herself good
enough company in this life, and chooses single blessedness in
preference to the not unmixed joys of wedlock. This alone is sufficient
to make one a celibate, and nothing more is required. Religious do not
wed; but, specifically, that is all there is in common between them.
All celibates are not chaste; celibacy is not necessarily chastity, by
a large majority. Unless something other than selfishness suggests this
choice of life, the word is apt to be a misnomer for profligacy. And
one who takes the vow of celibacy does not break it by sinning against
the Sixth Commandment; he is true to it until he weds. The religious
vow is something more than this.

Again, chastity, by itself, does not properly designate the state of
religious men and women. Chastity is moral purity, but purity is a
relative term, and admits of many degrees. It is perfect or imperfect.
There is a conjugal chastity; while in single life, it may concern
itself with the body, with or without reference to the mind and heart.
Chastity reaches its highest form when it excludes everything carnal,
what is lawful as well as what is unlawful, thoughts and desires as
well as deeds.

This is the chastity that is proper to religious, and it is more
correctly called virginity. This is the natural state of spirits who
have no bodies; cultivated in the frail flesh of children of Adam, it
is the most delicate flower imaginable. Considering the incessant
struggle it supposes in those who take such a vow against the spirit
within us that is so strong, the taking and keeping of it indicate a
degree of fortitude little short of heroism. Only the few, and that few
relying wholly on the grace of God, can aspire to this state.

From a spiritual point of view, there can be no question as to the
superiority of this state of life over all others. The teaching of St.
Paul to the Corinthians is too plain to need any comment, not to
mention the example of Christ, His Blessed Mother, His disciples and
all those who in the course of time have loved God best and served Him
most generously.

Prescinding from all spiritual considerations and looking at things
through purely human eyes, vows of this sort must appear prejudicial to
the propagation of the species. In fact, they go against the law of
nature which says: increase and multiply, so we are told.

If that law is natural as well as positive, it is certain that it
applies to man collectively, and not individually. It is manifested
only in the instinct that makes this duty a pleasure. Where the
inclination is lacking, the obligation is not obvious. That which is
repugnant is not natural, in any true sense of the word; whether this
repugnance be of the intellectual or spiritual order, it matters not,
for our nature is spiritual as truly as it is animal. The law of nature
forces no man into a state that is not in harmony with his sympathies
and affections.

Nevertheless, it must be admitted that to a certain extent the race
suffers numerically from an institution that fosters abstention from
marriage. To what extent, is an entirely different question. Not all
laymen marry. It is safe to say that the vast majority of religious
men, vow or no vow, would never wed; so that the vow is not really to
blame for their state, and the consequences thereof. As for women,
statistics show it to be impossible for all to marry since their number
exceeds that of men.

Now, marriage with the fair sex, is very often a matter of competition.
Talent, beauty, character, disposition and accomplishments play a very
active role in the acquisition of a husband. Considering that the
chances of those who seek refuge under the veil are not of the poorest,
since they are the fairest and best endowed of our daughters, it would
seem to follow that their act is a charity extended to their less
fortunate sisters who are thereby aided to success, instead of being
doomed to failure by the insufficiency of their own qualifications.

Be this as it may, what we most strenuously object to, is that vows be
held responsible for the sins of others. In some countries and sections
of countries, the population is almost stationary in marked contrast to
that of others. Looking for the cause for this unnatural phenomenon,
there are who see it in the spread of monasticism, with its vow of
chastity. They fail to remark that not numerous, but large families are
the best sign of vigor in a nation. Impurity, not chastity, is the
enemy of the race. Instead of warring against those whose lives are
pure, why not destroy that monster that is gnawing at the very vitals
of the race, sapping its strength at the very font of life, that modern
Moloch, to whom fashionable society offers sacrifice more abominable
than the hecatombs of Carthage. This iniquity, rampant wherever the
sense of God is absent, and none other, is the cause which some people
do not see because they have good reasons for not wanting to see. It is
very convenient to have someone handy to accuse of one's own faults. It
is too bad that the now almost extinct race of Puritans did not have a
few monks around to blame for the phenomenon of their failure to keep
abreast of the race.

If celibacy, therefore, means untrammeled vice, and marriage
degenerates into New Englandism, the world will get along better with
less of both. Vows, if they have no other merit, respect at least the
law of God, and this world is run according to that law.


TO blaspheme is to speak ill of God; blasphemy is an utterance
derogatory to the respect and honor due to God. Primarily, it is a sin
of the tongue; but, like all other sins, it draws its malice from the
heart. Thus, a thought may be blasphemous, even though the blasphemy
remain unexpressed; and a gesture, oftentimes more expressive than a
word, may contain all the malice of blasphemy. This impiety therefore
may be committed in thought, in word and in deed.

Blasphemy addresses itself directly to God, to His attributes and
perfections which are denied, or ridiculed; to Jesus Christ and the
Blessed Sacrament; indirectly, through His Mother and His saints,
through Holy Scripture and religion, through the Church and her
ministers in their quality of ministers,--all of which, being
intimately and inseparably connected with the idea of God, cannot be
vilified without the honor of God being affected; and, consequently,
all contempt and irreverence addressed to them, takes on the nature of
blasphemy. An indirect sin of blasphemy is less enormous than a direct
offense, but the difference is in degree, not in kind.

All error that affects God directly, or indirectly through sacred
things, is blasphemy whether the error consist in a denial of what is
true, or an attribution of what is false. Contempt, ridicule, scoffing
and sneering, where are concerned the Holy and things holy, are
blasphemous. He also blasphemes who attributes to a creature what
belongs to God alone, or can be said only of holy things, who drags
down the sacred to the level of the profane.

Revilings against God are happily rare; when met with, they are
invariably the mouthings of self-styled atheists or infidels whose
sanity is not always a patent fact. Heretics are usually blasphemous
when they treat of anything outside Jesus Christ and the Bible; and not
even Christ and Scripture escape, for often their ideas and utterances
concerning both are as injurious to God as they are false and
erroneous. Finally, despair and anger not infrequently find
satisfaction in abusing God and all that pertains to Him.

Nothing more abominable can be conceived than this evil, since it
attacks, and is in opposition to, God Himself. And nothing shows up its
malice so much as the fact that blasphemy is the natural product and
offspring of hate; it goes to the limit of human power in revolt
against the Maker. It is, however, a consolation to know that, in the
majority of cases, blasphemy is found where faith is wanting or
responsibility absent, for it may charitably be taken for granted that
if the blasphemer really knew what he was saying, he would rather cut
out his tongue than repeat it. So true is it that the salvation of many
depends almost as much on their own ignorance as on the grace of God.

There is a species of blasphemy, not without its degree of malice,
found sometimes in people who are otherwise God-fearing and religious.
When He visits them with affliction and adversity, their self-conscious
righteousness goes out and seeks Comparison with prosperous
ungodliness, and forthwith comments on strange fact of the deserving
suffering while the undeserving are spared. They remark to themselves
that the wicked always succeed, and entertain a strong suspicion that
if they were as bad as others certain things would not happen.

All this smacks dangerously of revolt against the Providence of God.
Job's problem is one that can be solved only by faith and a strong
spiritual sense. He who has it not is liable to get on the wrong side
in the discussion; and it is difficult to go very far on that side
without finding Providence at fault and thus becoming guilty of
blasphemy. For, to mention partiality in the same breath with God's
care of the universe, is to deny Him.

The daily papers, a few years ago, gave public notoriety to two
instances of blasphemy, and their very remarkable punishment, for it is
impossible not to see the hand of God in what followed so close upon
the offending. A desperate gambler called upon the Almighty to strike
him dumb, if in the next deal a certain card turned up. It did turn up,
and at the last accounts the man had not yet spoken. Another cast from
his door a vendor of images and crucifixes with a curse and the remark
that he would rather have the devil in his house than a crucifix. The
very next day, he became the father of what came as near being the
devil as anything the doctors of that vicinity ever saw. These are not
Sunday-school stories invented to frighten children; the facts
occurred, and were heralded broadcast throughout the land.

Despair urged the first unfortunate to defy the Almighty. In the other
'twas hatred for the Church that honors the image of Christ crucified
as one honors the portrait of a mother. The blasphemy in the second
case reached God as effectively as in the first, and the outrage
contained in both is of an order that human language is incapable of


TO bless one is not merely to wish that one well, but also to invoke
good fortune upon his head, to recommend him to the Giver of all goods.
So, too, cursing, damning, imprecation, malediction--synonymous terms--
is stronger than evil wishing and desiring. He who acts thus invokes a
spirit of evil, asks God to visit His wrath upon the object cursed, to
inflict death, damnation, or other ills. There is consequently in such
language at least an implicit calling upon God, for the evil invoked is
invoked of God, either directly or indirectly. And that is why the
Second Commandment concerns itself with cursing.

Thus it will be seen that this abuse of language offends against
religion and charity as well. To the malice of calling down evil upon a
brother's head is added the impiety of calling upon God to do it, to
curse when He should be prayed to bless.

Of course all depends on what is the object of our imprecations. One
species of this vice contains blasphemy pure and simple, that is, a
curse which attains something that refers to God in an especial manner,
and as such is cursed. The idea of God cannot be separated from that of
the soul, of faith, of the Church, etc. Malediction addressed to them
reaches God, and contains all the malice of blasphemy.

When the malediction falls on creatures, without any reference to their
relationship to God, we have cursing in its proper form with a special
malice of its own. Directly, charity alone is violated, but charity has
obligations which are binding under pain of mortal sin. No man can sin
against himself or against his neighbor without offending God.

A curse may be, and frequently is, emphasized with a vow or an oath.
One may solemnly promise God in certain contingencies that he will damn
another to hell; or he may call upon God to witness his execrations.
The malice of two specific sins is here accumulated, the offense is
double in this one abominable utterance; nothing can be conceived more
horrible, unless it be the indifferent frequency with which it is

The guilt incurred by those who thus curse and damn, leaving aside the
scandal which is thereby nearly always given, is naturally measured by
the degree of advertence possessed by such persons. Supposing full
deliberation, to curse a fellow-man or self, if the evil invoked be of
a serious nature, is a mortal sin.

Passion or habit may excuse, if the movement is what is called "a first
movement," that is, a mechanical utterance without reflection or
volition; also, if the habit has been retracted and is in process of
reform. If neither damnation nor death nor infamy nor any major evil is
invoked, the sin may be less grievous, but sin it always is. If the
object anathematized is an animal, a thing, a vice, etc., there may be
a slight sin or no sin at all. Some things deserved to be cursed. In
damning others, there may be disorder enough to constitute a venial
sin, without any greater malice.

Considering the case of a man who, far removed from human hearing,
should discover too late, his forgetfulness to leave the way clear
between a block and a fast-descending and ponderous ax, and, in a fit
of acute discomfort and uncontrollable feeling consequential to such
forgetfulness, should consign block, ax, and various objects in the
immediate vicinity to the nethermost depths of Stygian darkness: in
such a case, we do not think there would be sin.

On the other hand, they in whose favor such attenuating circumstances
do not militate, do the office of the demons. These latter can do
nothing but curse and heap maledictions upon all who do not share their
lot. To damn is the office of the damned. It is therefore fitting that
those who cease not to damn while on earth be condemned to damn
eternally and be damned in the next life. And if it is true that "the
mouth speaks out of the abundance of the heart," to what but to hell
can be compared the inner soul of him whose delight consists in
vomiting forth curses and imprecations upon his fellow-men?


PROFANITY is not a specific sin. Under this general head come all
blasphemy, false, rash, unjust and unnecessary oaths, rash and violated
vows, and cursing:--called profanity, because in each case the name of
God is profaned, that is to say, is made less holy, by its application
to unworthy objects and in unbecoming circumstances; profanity, because
it has to do with the Holy Name, and not profanation, which looks to
sacred things. Although language lends itself to many devices and is
well nigh inexhaustible in its resources, this category of sins of
profanity embraces about all modes of offending against the Holy Name,
and consequently against the Second Commandment.

We have already examined the different species of profanity. But it is
not always easy to classify certain utterances and expressions that
savour of profanity, to determine the specific nature of their malice,
especially the guilt incurred by the speaker. First of all, the terms
used are often distorted from their original signification, or require
that words left understood be supplied; as they stand, they are often
as meaningless to the speaker as to the general uninitiated public. To
get at the formal malice of such utterances is still more difficult,
for it becomes necessary to interpret the intentions of the speaker.
Thus, in one case, words that contain no evident insult to God may be
used with all the vehemence of profanity, to which guilt is certainly
attached; in another, the most unholy language may be employed in
ignorance of its meaning, with no evil intent, the only danger of
malice being from habit, passion or scandal.

This brings us to consider certain ejaculatory or exclamatory
expressions such as: God! good God! Lord! etc., employed by persons of
very different spiritual complexion. Evidently, these words may be
employed in good and in evil part; whether in one or the other, depends
on the circumstances of their using. They may proceed from piety and
true devotion of the heart, out of the abundance of which the mouth
speaks. Far from being wrong, this is positively good and meritorious.

If this is done through force of habit, or is the result of levity,
without the least interior devotion or affection, it is a mitigated
form of profanity. To say the least, no honor accrues to God from such
language and such use of His name; and where He is concerned, not to
honor Him is dangerously near dishonoring Him. If contempt of God or
scandal result from such language, the offense may easily be mortal.

Finally, excited feelings of passion or wrath vent themselves in this
manner, and here it is still more easy to make it a grievous offending.
About the only thing that can excuse from fault is absolute

Again, without implying any malediction, prescinding altogether from
the supernatural character of what they represent, as ejaculations
only, we come across the use of such words as hell, devil, damnation,
etc. Good ethics condemn such terms in conversation; hearing them used
people may be scandalized, especially the young; if one uses them with
the mistaken idea that they contain blasphemy, then that one is
formally guilty of blasphemy; finally, it is vulgar, coarse and
unmannerly to do so. But all this being admitted, we do not see any
more moral iniquity in the mention of these words than of their
equivalents: eternal fire, Satan, perdition, etc. We do not advise or
encourage the use of such terms, but it sometimes jars one's sense of
propriety to see people hold up their hands in holy horror at the sound
of these words, as if their mention were something unspeakably wicked,
while they themselves would look fornication, for instance, straight in
the face without a shudder or a blush.

Profanity is certainly a sin, sometimes a grievous sin; but in our
humble opinion, the fiat of self-righteous Pharisaism to the contrary
notwithstanding, it is a few hundred times oftener no sin at all, or a
very white sin, than the awful crime some people see in it. If a fellow
could quote classical "Mehercule," and Shakespearean cuss-words, he
would not perhaps be so vulgar as to say "hell." But not having such
language at his command, and being filled with strong feelings that
clamor for a good substantial expression, if he looks around and finds
these the strongest and only available ones, and uses them,--it is
necessity and human nature, we wot, more than sacrilegious profanity.
It were better if his speech were aye, aye and nay, nay; but it does
not make it look any better to convict him of the blackest sin on the
calendar just because he mentioned a place that really exists, if it is
hot, and which it is well to have ever before our eyes against the
temptations of life.


THE last of the three Commandments that refer directly to God,
prescribes a rest from toil, and profane works; and in commemoration of
the mystical repose of the Lord after the six days' creation,
designates the Sabbath or seventh day as a day that shall be set apart
and made sacred to God. The peculiarity of the commandment is that it
interferes with the occupations of man, intrudes upon his individual
affairs and claims a worship of works. The others do not go thus far,
and are satisfied with a worship of the heart and tongue, of affections
and language.

Leaving aside for the moment the special designation of a day devoted
to this worship, the law of rest itself deserves attention. Whether the
Saturday or Sunday be observed, whether the rest be long or brief, a
day or an hour, depends entirely on the positive will of God. More than
this must be said of the command of rest; that law grows out of our
relations with God, is founded in nature, is according to the natural
order of things.

This repose means abstention from bodily activity.. The law does not go
so far as to prescribe stagnation and sloth, but it is satisfied with
such abstention as is compatible with the reasonable needs of man. Of
its nature, it constitutes an exterior, public act of religion. The
question is: Does the nature of our relations with God demand this sort
of worship? Evidently, yes. Else God, who created the whole man, would
not receive a perfect worship. If God made man, man belongs to Him; if
from that possession flows a natural obligation to worship with heart
and tongue, why not also of the body? God has a Maker's right over us,
and without some acknowledgment on the part of the body of this right,
there would be no evidence that such a right existed. There is no doubt
but that the law of our being requires of us an interior worship. Now,
if that spirit of homage within us is sincere, it will naturally seek
to exteriorize itself; if it is to be preserved, it must "out." We are
not here speaking of certain peculiarly ordered individuals, but of the
bulk of common humanity. Experience teaches that what does not come out
either never existed or is not assured of a prolonged existence. Just
as the mind must go out of itself for the substance of its thoughts, so
must the heart go out to get relief from the pressure of its feelings.
God commanded this external worship because it alone could preserve
internal affections.

Again, there are many things which the ordinary man ignores concerning
God, which it is necessary for him to know, and which do not come by
intuition. In other words, he must be taught a host of truths that he
is incapable of finding out by himself. Education and instruction in
religious matters are outside the sphere of his usual occupations.
Where will he ever get this necessary information, if he is not taught?
And how can he be taught, if he does not lay aside occupations that are
incompatible with the acquisition of intellectual truths? He is
therefore forced by the law of his being, and the obligation he owes
his Maker, to rest from his every-day labors, once in awhile, in order
to learn his full duty, if for nothing else.

Pagans, who never knew the law of Moses, serve neither Saturday nor
Sunday; neither do they give an entire day, at fixed intervals to the
exterior worship of the Deity, as we do. But a case will not be found
where they did not on certain occasions rest from work in order to
offer the homage of their fidelity to their gods, and to listen, to
instruction and exhortation from their holy men. These pagans follow
the natural law written in their souls, and it is there they discover
the obligation they are under to honor God by rest from labor and to
make holy unto Him a certain space of time.


THE third article of the Mosaic Code not only enunciates the law of
rest, but says just how much time shall be given to its observance; it
prescribes neither a week nor a few hours, but one day in seven. If you
have a taste for such things and look well, you will find several
reasons put forth as justifying this special designation of one day in
seven. The number seven the Jews regarded as a sacred number; the
Romans, as the symbol of perfection. Students of antiquity have
discovered that among nearly all peoples this number in some way or
other refers to the Deity. Science finds that nature prefers this
number; light under analysis reveals seven colors, and all colors refer
to the seven orders of the solar spectrum; the human voice has seven
tones that constitute the scale of sound; the human body is renewed
every seven years. Authorities on hygiene and physiology teach that one
day in six is too much, one day in eight is too little, but that one
day in seven is sufficient and necessary for the physical needs of man.

These considerations may or may not carry conviction to the average
mind. On the face of it, they confirm rather than prove. They do not
reveal the necessity of a day of rest so much as show its
reasonableness and how it harmonizes with nature in its periodicity,
its symmetry and its exact proportion to the strength of man. As for
real substantial reasons, there is but one,--a good and sufficient,--
and that is the positive will of God. He said: keep this day holy;
such is His command; no man should need a better reason.

The God-given law of Moses says Saturday, Christians say Sunday.
Protestants and Catholics alike say Sunday, and Sunday it is. But this
is not a trifling change; it calls for an explanation. Why was it made?
What is there to justify it? On what authority was it done? Can the
will of God, unmistakably manifested, be thus disregarded and put aside
by His creatures? This is a serious question.

One of the most interesting things in the world would be to hear a
Protestant Christian, on Protestant grounds, justify his observance of
the Sunday instead of the Sabbath, and give reasons for his conduct.
"Search the Scriptures." Aye, search from Genesis to Revelations, the
Mosaic prescriptions will hold good in spite of all your researches.
Instead of justification you will find condemnation. "The Bible, the
Bible alone" theory hardly fits in here. Are Papists the only ones to
add to the holy writings, or to go counter to them? Suppose this change
cannot be justified on Scriptural grounds, what then? And the fact is,
it cannot.

It is hardly satisfactory to remark that this is a disciplinary
injunction, and Christ abrogated the Jewish ceremonial. But if it is
nothing more than this, how came it to get on the table of the Law? Its
embodiment in the Decalogue makes it somewhat different from all other
ceremonial prescriptions; as it stands, it is on a par with the veto to
kill or to steal. Christ abolished the purely Jewish law, but he left
the Decalogue intact.

Christ rose from the dead on Sunday, 'tis true; but nowhere in writing
can it be found that His resurrection on that day meant a change in the
Third Commandment. In the nature of the event, there is absolutely no
relation between it and the observance of Sunday.

Where will our friend find a loop-hole to escape? Oh! as usual, for the
Sunday as for the Bible, he will have to fall back on the old Church.
What in the world could he do without her? He will find there an
authority, and he is obliged to recognize it, even if he does on
ordinary occasions declaim against and condemn it. Incidentally, if his
eyes are open, he will discover that his individually interpreted Bible
has failed most woefully to do its work; it condemns the Protestant

This day was changed on the sole authority of the Holy Roman Catholic
Church, as the representative of God on earth, to whose keeping was
confided the interpretation of God's word, and in whose bosom is found
that other criterion of truth, called tradition. Tradition it is that
justifies the change she made. Deny this, and there is no justification
possible, and you must go back to the Mosaic Sabbath. Admit it, and if
you are a Protestant you will find yourself in somewhat of a mess.

A logical Protestant must be a very uneasy being. If the Church is
right in this, why should she not be right in defining the Immaculate
Conception? And if she errs here, what assurance is there that she does
not err there? How can he say she is right on one occasion, and wrong
on another? What kind of nonsense is it that makes her truthful or
erring according to one's fancy and taste? Truly, the reformer
blundered when he did not treat the Sunday as he treated the Pope and
all Church authority, for it is papistical to a degree.


THE Third Commandment bids us sanctify the Lord's day; but in what that
sanctification shall consist, it does not say. It is certain, however,
that it is only by worship, of one kind or another, that the day can be
properly kept holy to the Lord; and since interior worship is
prescribed by the First Commandment, exterior and public worship must
be what is called for. Then, there are many modes of worship; there is
no end to the means man may devise of offering homage to the Creator.

The first element of worship is abstention from profane labor; rest is
the first condition of keeping the Sabbath. The word Sabbath itself
means cessation of work. You cannot do two things at the same time, you
cannot serve God and Mammon. Our everyday occupations are not, of their
nature, a public homage of fidelity to God. If any homage is to be
offered, as a preliminary, work must cease. This interruption of the
ordinary business of life alone makes it possible to enter seriously
into the more important business of God's service, and in this sense it
is a negative worship.

Yet, there is also something positive about it, for the simple fact of
desisting from toil contains an element of direct homage. Six days are
ours for ourselves. What accrues from our activity on those days is our
profit. To God we sacrifice one day and all it might bring to us, we
pay to Him a tithe of our time, labor and earnings. By directing aright
our intentions, therefore, our rest assumes the higher dignity of
explicit, emphatic religion and reverence, and in a fuller manner
sanctifies the day that is the Lord's.

We should, however, guard ourselves against the mistaken notion that
sloth and idleness are synonymous of rest. It is not all activity, but
the ordinary activity of common life, that is forbidden. It were a
sacrilegious mockery to make God the author of a law that fosters
laziness and favors the sluggard. Another extreme that common sense
condemns is that the physical man should suffer martyrdom while the
soul thus communes with God, that promenades and recreation should be
abolished, and social amenities ignored, that dryness, gloom,
moroseness and severity are the proper conditions of Sabbatical

In this respect, our Puritan ancestors were the true children of
Pharisaism, and their Blue Laws more properly belong in the Talmud than
in the Constitution of an American Commonwealth. God loves a cheerful
giver, and would you not judge from appearances that religion was
painful to these pious witch-burners and everything for God most
grudgingly done? Sighs, grimaces, groans and wails, this is the homage
the devils in hell offer to the justice of God; there is no more place
for them in the religion of earth than in the religion of heaven.

Correlative with the obligation of rest is that of purely positive
worship, and here is the difficulty of deciding just what is the
correct thing in religious worship. The Jews had their institutions,
but Christ abolished them. The Pagans had their way--sacrifice;
Protestants have their preaching and hymn-singing. Catholics offer a
Sacrifice, too, but an unbloody one. Later on, we shall hear the Church
speak out on the subject. She exercised the right to change the day
itself; she claims naturally the right to say how it should be
observed, because the day belongs to her. And she will impose upon her
children the obligation to attend mass. But here the precepts of the
Church are out of the question.

The obligation, however, to participate in some act of worship is
plain. The First Commandment charges every man to offer an exterior
homage of one kind or another, at some time or another. The Third sets
aside a day for the worship of the Divinity. Thus the general command
of the first precept is specified. This is the time, or there is no
time. With the Third Commandment before him, man cannot arbitrarily
choose for himself the time for his worship, he must do it on Sunday.

Public worship being established in all Christian communities, every
Christian who cannot improve upon what is offered and who is convinced
that a certain mode of worship is the best and true, is bound by the
law to participate therein. The obligation may be greater if he ignores
the principles of religion and cannot get information and instruction
outside the temple of religion. For Catholics, there is only one true
mode of public worship, and that is the Sacrifice of the Mass. No
layman is sufficient unto himself to provide such an act of religion.
He has, therefore, no choice, he must assist at that sacrifice if he
would fulfil the obligation he is under of Sunday worship.


WE Catholics contend, and our contention is based on a law of nature
that we glean from the history of man, that sacrifice is the soul of
religion, that there never was a universally and permanently accepted
religion--and that there cannot be any such religion--without an altar,
a victim, a priest, and a sacrifice. We claim that reason and
experience would bear us out in this contention, even without the
example and teaching and express commands of Jesus Christ, who, in
founding a new and the only true religion, Himself offered sacrifice
and left a sacrifice to be perpetually offered in His religion; and
that sacrifice constitutes the high worship we owe to the Creator.

It is our conviction that, when man came into the presence of the
Almighty, his first impulse was to speak to Him, and his first word was
an act of adoration. But human language is a feeble medium of
communication with the Almighty. Man talks to man. To talk with God, he
sought out another language; and, as in the case of Adam's sons, he
discovered in sacrifice a better and stronger mode of expressing his
religious feelings. He therefore offered sacrifice, and sacrifice
became the language of man in his relations with the Deity.

In its simplest definition, sacrifice is the offering to God of a
victim, by one authorized for that task. It supposes essentially the
destruction of the victim; and the act is an eloquent acknowledgment,
in language that is as plain as it possibly can be made, that God is
the supreme Lord of life and death, that all things that exist come
from Him, and revert to Him as to their natural end.

The philosophy of sacrifice is that man, in some manner or other, had
incurred the wrath of the Almighty. The pagan could not tell hi just
what his offense consisted; but there is nothing plainer than the fact
that he considered himself under the ban of God's displeasure, and that
sin had something to do with it; and he feared the Deity accordingly.
We know that original sin was the curse under which he labored.

Whatever the offense was, it was in the flesh, the result of weakness
rather than malice. There was something in his nature that inclined to
evil and was responsible for sin. The better part tried to serve, but
the inferior man revolted. Flesh, therefore, was wicked and sinful; and
since all offense must be atoned for, the flesh should pay the penalty
of evil. The wrath of God could be appeased, and sacrifice was the
thing that could do it.

Another thing most remarkable among those who worshiped by sacrifice in
the early times, is that they believed firmly in the reversibility of
merit, that is, that the innocent could atone for the wicked. Somehow,
they acquired the notion that stainless victims were more agreeable to
God than others. God sanctioned this belief among the Jews, and most
strikingly on the hill of Calvary.

This being the case, man being guilty and not having the right to
inflict the supreme penalty upon himself, the natural thing to do was
to substitute a victim for himself, to put the flesh of another in the
place of his own and to visit upon it the punishment that was due to
himself. And he offered to God this vicarious atonement. His action
spoke in this wise: "My God, I am a sinner and deserve Thy wrath. But
look upon this victim as though it were myself. My sins and offenses I
lay upon its shoulders, this knife shall be the bolt of Thy vengeance,
and it shall make atonement in blood." This is the language of
sacrifice. As we have said, it supposes the necessity of atonement and
belief in the reversibility of merit.

Now, if we find in history, as we certainly do find,--that all peoples
offered sacrifice of this kind, we do not think we would be far from
the truth if we deduced therefrom a law of nature; and if it is a law
of nature, it is a law of God. If there is no religion of antiquity
that did not offer sacrifice, then it would seem that the Almighty had
traced a path along which man naturally trod and which his natural
instinct showed him.

We believe in the axiom of St. Augustine: "securus judicet orbis
terrarum, a universally accepted judgment can be safely followed."
Especially do we feel secure with the history of the chosen people of
God before us arid its sacrifice ordained by the law; with the sanction
of Christ's sacrifice in our mind, and the practice of the divinely
inspired Church which makes sacrifice the soul of her worship.

The victim we have is Jesus Christ Himself, and none other than He. He
gave us His flesh and blood to consume, with the command to consume.
Our sacrifice, therefore, consists in the offering up of this Victim to
God and the consuming of it. Upon the Victim of the altar, as upon the
Victim of the Cross, we lay our sins and offenses, and, in one case as
in the other, the sacred blood, in God's eyes, washes our iniquity

Of course, it requires faith to believe, but religion is nothing if it
is not whole and entire a matter of faith. The less faith you have, the
more you try to simplify matters. Waning faith began by eliminating
authority and sacrifice and the unwritten word. Now the written word is
going the same way. Pretty soon we shall hear of the Decalogue's being
subjected to this same eliminating process. After all, when one gets
started in that direction, what reason is there that he should ever


PARTICIPATION in public worship is the positive obligation flowing from
the Third Commandment; abstention from labor is what is negatively
enjoined. Now, works differ as widely in their nature as differ in form
and dimension the pebbles on the sea-shore. There are works of God and
works of the devil, and works which, as regards spirituality, are
totally indifferent, profane works, as distinguished from sacred and
sinful works. And these latter may be corporal or intellectual or both.
Work or labor or toil, in itself, is a spending of energy, an exercise
of activity; it covers a deal of ground. And since the law simply says
to abstain from work, it falls to us to determine just what works are
meant, for it is certain that all works, that is, all that come under
the general head of work, do not profane the Lord's day.

The legislation of the Church, which is the custodian of the Sunday, on
this head commends itself to all thoughtful men; while, for those who
recognize the Church as the true one, that legislation is authority.
The Church distinguishes three kinds of profane works, that is, works
that are neither sacred nor iniquitous of their nature. There is one
kind which requires labor of the mind rather than of the body. These
works tend directly to the culture or exercise of the mind, and are
called liberal works, because under the Romans, freemen or "liberi"
almost exclusively were engaged therein. Such are reading, writing,
studying, music, drawing--in general, mental occupations in whole, or
more mental than corporal. These works the Church does not consider the
law includes in its prohibition, and they are consequently not

It is impossible here to enumerate all that enters into this class of
works; custom has something to say in determining what is liberal in
our works; and in investigating, we must apply to each case the general
principle. The labor in question may be gratuitous or well paid; it may
cause fatigue or afford recreation: all this is not to the point. The
question is, outside the danger of omitting divine service, scandal or
circumstances that might lead to the annoyances and distraction of
others--the question is: does this work call for exercise of the mind
more than that of the body? If the answer is affirmative, then the work
is liberal, and as such it is not forbidden on Sunday, it is not
considered a profanation of the Lord's day.

On the other extreme are what go by the name of servile works, which
call forth principally bodily effort and tend directly to the advantage
of the body. They are known also as works of manual labor. Before the
days of Christianity, slaves alone were thus employed, and from the
word "servi" or slaves these are called servile works.

Here again it is the nature of the work that makes it servile. It may
be remunerative or not, recreative or not, fatiguing or not; it may be
a regular occupation, or just taken up for the moment; it may be,
outside cases of necessity, for the glory of God or for the good of the
neighbor. If it is true that the body has more part therein than the
mind, then it is a servile work and it is forbidden. Of course there
are serious reasons that dispense us from our obligation to this law,
but we are not talking about that just at present.

The reason of the proscription is, not that such works are evil, but
that they interfere with the intention we should give to the worship we
owe to God, and that, without this cessation of labor, our bodily
health would be impaired: these are the two motives of the law. But
even if it happened, in an individual case, that these inconveniences
were removed, that neither God's reverence nor one's own health
suffered from such occupations as the law condemns, the obligation
would still remain to abstain therefrom, for it is general and
absolute, and when there is question of obeying a law, the subject has
a right to examine the law, but not the motives of the law.

We shall later see that there are other works, called common, which
require activity of the mind and of the body in about an equal measure
or which enter into the common necessities of life. These are not
forbidden in themselves, although in certain contingencies they may be
adjudged unlawful; but, in the matter of servile works, nothing but
necessity, the greater glory of God, or the good of the neighbor, can
allow us to consider the law non-binding. To break it is a sin, slight
or grievous, according to the nature of the offense.


BUT, if servile works are prohibited on the Lord's day, it must be
remembered that "the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the
Sabbath," that, for certain good and sufficient reasons, the law ceases
to oblige; and, in these circumstances, works of a purely servile
nature are no longer unlawful. This is a truth Christ made very clear
to the straight-laced Pharisees of the old dispensation who interpreted
too rigorously the divine prohibition; and certain Pharisees of the new
dispensation, who are supposed assiduously to read the Bible, should
jog their memories on the point in order to save themselves from the
ridicule that surrounds the memory of their ancestors of Blue-Law fame.
The Church enters into the spirit of her divine Founder and recognizes
cases in which labor on Sunday may be, and is, more agreeable to God,
and more meritorious to ourselves, than rest from labor.

The law certainly does not intend to forbid a kind of works,
specifically servile in themselves, connected with divine worship,
required by the necessities of public religion, or needed to give to
that worship all the solemnity and pomp which it deserves; provided, of
course, such things could not well be done on another day. All God's
laws are for His greater glory, and to assert that works necessary for
the honoring of God are forbidden by His law is to be guilty of a
contradiction in terms. All things therefore needed for the preparation
and becoming celebration of the rites of religion, even though of a
servile nature, are lawful and do not come under the head of this

The law ceases likewise to bind when its observance would prevent an
act of charity towards the neighbor in distress, necessity, or pressing
need. If the necessity is real and true charity demands it, in matters
not what work, not intrinsically evil, is to be done, on what day or
for how long a time it is to be done; charity overrides every law, for
it is itself the first law of God. Thus, if the neighbor is in danger
of suffering, or actually suffers, any injury, damage or ill, God
requires that we give our services to that neighbor rather than to
Himself. As a matter of fact, in thus serving the neighbor, we serve
God in the best possible way.

Finally, necessity, public as well as personal, dispenses from
obligation to the law. In time of war, all things required for its
carrying on are licit. It is lawful to fight the elements when they
threaten destruction, to save crops in an interval of fine weather when
delay would mean a risk; to cater to public conveniences which custom
adjudges necessary,--and by custom we mean that which has at least the
implicit sanction of authority,--such as public conveyances,
pharmacies, hotels, etc. Certain industries run by steam power require
that their fires should not be put out altogether, and the labor
necessary to keep them going is not considered illicit. In general, all
servile work that is necessary to insure against serious loss is

As for the individual, it is easier to allow him to toil on Sunday,
that is, a less serious reason is required, if he assists at divine
worship, than in the contrary event. One can be justified in omitting
both obligations only in the event of inability otherwise to provide
for self and family. He whose occupation demands Sunday labor need not
consider himself guilty so long as he is unable to secure a position
with something like the same emoluments; but it is his duty to regret
the necessity that prevents him from fulfiling the law, and to make
efforts to better his condition from a spiritual point of view, even if
the change does not to any appreciable extent better it financially; a
pursuit equally available should be preferred. Neglect in seeking out
such an amelioration of situation would cause the necessity of it to
cease and make the delinquent responsible for habitual breach of the

If it is always a sin to engage without necessity in servile works on
Sunday, it is not equally sinful to labor little or labor much. Common
sense tells us that all our failings are not in the same measure
offensive to God, for they do not all contain the same amount of malice
and contempt of authority. A person who resolves to break the law and
persists in working all day long, is of a certainty more guilty than he
who after attending divine service fails so far as to labor an hour.
The question therefore is, how long must one work on Sunday to be
guilty of a mortal sin.

The answer to this question is: a notable time; but that does not throw
a very great abundance of light on the subject. But surely a fourth of
the whole is a notable part. Now, considering that a day's work is, not
twenty-four hours, but ten hours, very rarely twelve, frequently only
eight, it will be seen to follow that two hours' work would be
considered a notable breach of the law of rest. And this is the
decision of competent authority. Not but that less might make us
grievously guilty, but we may take it as certain that he who works
during two full hours, at a labor considered servile, without
sufficient reason, commits a mortal sin.


THERE is a third sort of works to be considered in relation to Sunday
observance, which, being of their nature neither liberal nor servile,
go by the specific name of common works. This class embraces works of
two kinds, viz., those which enter into the common, daily, inevitable
necessities of life, and those in which the mind and body are exerted
in an equal measure.

The former are not considered servile because they are necessary, not
in certain circumstances, but at all times, for all persons, in all
conditions of life. Activity of this kind, so universally and
imperiously demanded, does not require dispensation from the law, as in
the case of necessary servile works properly so-called; but it stands
outside all legislation and is a law unto itself.

These works are usually domestic occupations, as cooking and the
preparation of victuals, the keeping of the house in becoming tidiness,
the proper care of children, of beasts of burden and domestic animals.
People must eat, the body must be fed, life requires attention on
Sunday as well as on the other six days; and in no circumstances can
this labor be dispensed with. Sometimes eatables for Sunday consumption
may be prepared on the previous day; if this is not done, whether
through forgetfulness, neglect or indifference, it is lawful on Sunday
to prepare a good table, even one more sumptuous than on ordinary days.
For Sunday is a day of festival, and without enthusing over the fact,
we must concede that the words feast and festival are synonymous in
human language, that the ordinary and favorite place for human
rejoicing is the table, and in this man differs not from the other
animals of creation. This may not be aesthetic but it is true.

In walking, riding, games, etc., the physical and mental forces of man
are called into play in about equal proportion, or at least, these
occupations can be called neither liberal arts nor manual labor; all
manners of persons engage therein without respect to condition or
profession. These are also called common works; and to them may be
added hunting and fishing, when custom, rightly understood, does not
forbid them, and in this region custom most uniformly does so forbid.

These occupations are looked upon as innocent pastime, affording relief
to the body and mind, and in this respect should be likened to the
taking of food. For it is certain that sanitary conditions often as
imperiously demand recreation as nourishment. Especially is this the
case with persons given to sedentary pursuits, confined during the week
to shops, factories and stores, and whose only opportunity this is to
shake off the dull monotony of work and to give the bodies and minds
necessary relaxation and distraction. It is not physical rest that such
people require so much as healthy movement of a pleasing kind, and
activity that will draw their attention from habitual channels and thus
break the strain that fatigues them. Under these conditions, common
works are not only allowed, but they are to be encouraged.

But it must not be lost sight of that these pursuits are permitted as
long as they remain common works, that is, as long as they do not
accidentally become servile works, or go contrary to the end for which
they are allowed. This may occur in three different manners, and when
it does occur, the works known as common are forbidden as servile

1. They must not expose us to the danger of omitting divine service.
The obligation to positively sanctify the day remains intact. Sin may
be committed, slight or grievous, according as the danger to which we
expose ourselves, by indulging in these pursuits, of missing public
worship, is more or less remote, more or less probable.

2. These works become illicit when they are excessive, when too much
time is given to them, when the body receives too large a share of the
exercise, when accompanied by overmuch application, show or fatigue. In
these cases, the purpose of the law is defeated, the works are
considered no longer common and fall under the veto that affects
servile works. An aggravating circumstance is that of working for the
sole purpose of gain, as in the case of professional baseball, etc.

3. Lastly, there are exterior circumstances that make these occupations
a desecration of the Lord's day, and as such evidently they cannot be
tolerated. They must not be boisterous to the extent of disturbing the
neighbor's rest and quiet, or detracting from the reverence due the
Sabbath; they must not entice others away from a respectful observance
of the Lord's day or offer an opportunity or occasion for sin, cursing,
blasphemy and foul language, contention and drunkenness; they must not
be a scandal for the community. Outside these contingencies of
disorder, the Sabbath rest is not broken by indulgence in works
classified as common works. Such activity, in all common sense and
reason, is compatible with the reverence that God claims as His due on
His day.


WE have done with the three commandments that refer directly to God.
The second Table of the Law contains seven precepts that concern
themselves with our relations to God, indirectly, through the creature;
they treat of our duties and obligations toward the neighbor. As God
may be honored, so He may be dishonored, through the works of His hand;
one may offend as effectively by disregard for the law that binds us to
God's creatures as for that which binds us to the Creator Himself.

Since parents are those of God's creatures that stand nearest to us,
the Fourth Commandment immediately orders us to honor them as the
authors of our being and the representatives of divine authority, and
it prescribes the homage we owe them in their capacity of parents. But
that which applies to fathers and mothers, applies in a certain degree
to all who have any right or authority to command; consequently, this
law also regulates the duties of superiors and inferiors in general to
one another.

The honor we owe to our parents consists in four things: respect for
their dignity, love for their beneficence, obedience to their authority
and assistance in their needs. Whoever fails in one of these
requirements, breaks the law, offends God and sins. His sin may be
mortal, if the quality of the offense and the malice of the offender be
such as to constitute I serious breach of the law.

'Tis the great fault of our age to underrate parental dignity. In the
easy-going world, preference is given to profligate celibacy over
honorable wedlock; marriage itself is degraded to the level of a purely
natural contract, its bond has lost its character of indissolubility
and its obligations are shirked to meet the demands of fashion and
convenience. When parents, unworthy ones, do not appreciate their own
dignity, how will others, their children, appreciate it? And parenthood
will never be esteemed while its true nature and sanctity are ignored
and contemned; there is no dignity where the idea of God is excluded.

After God had created man, He left him to work out his destiny in a
natural way; and immediately man assumed towards his offspring the
relation that God first held towards himself--he assumed the
prerogatives of paternity and of authority. All paternity belongs to
God, and to Him alone; yet man is delegated to that lofty, quasi-divine
function. God alone can create; yet so near does the parental office
approach to the power of creation that we call it pro-creation.

Tis true, this privilege man holds in common with the rest of animated
nature, but with this difference: that the fruit of his loins is a
child of God, with an immortal soul, an heir to heaven where its
destiny is to glorify the Eternal during all eternity. And thus, man,
in his function of parent, is as far differentiated from the rest of
animal nature as the act by which God created man is superior to all
His other creative acts.

If the tempter, when working out his plan for the fall of our first
parents, had simply and unconditionally said: "Ye shall be as gods,"
his utterance would have in it more truth than he intended, for the
mantle of parenthood that was soon to fall upon them made them like
unto God. The children that romped around them, looked up to them even,
almost, as they were accustomed to look up to the Creator. And little
the wonder, since to their parents they owed their very existence.

As depositaries of authority, there is no human station, however
exalted, comparable to theirs. Children are not merely subjects, they
belong to their parents. Church and State, under God, may see to it
that that authority is not abused; but within the bounds of right, they
are held to respect it; and their acts that go contrary to the exercise
of parental authority are, by the fact of such opposition, null and
void. Before the State or Church, the family was; its natural rights
transcend theirs, and this bowing, as it were, of all constituted human
authority before the dominion of parents is evidence enough of their

"God could not be everywhere, therefore he made parents--fathers and
mothers"--that is how the pagans used to put it. However theologically
unsound this proposition may appear, it is a beautiful attempt at a
great truth, viz., that parents towards us stand in God's stead. In
consequence of this eminent dignity that is theirs, they deserve our
respect. They not only deserve it, but God so ordains it.


WORTHY of honor are they whom the Lord sees fit to honor. In the
exalted station to which they have been called and in the express
command made by the Lord to honor them, we see evidence of the dignity
of parents; and the honor we owe them for this dignity is the honor of
respect. By respect, we mean the recognition of their superiority, the
reverence, veneration and awe all well-born men instinctively feel for
natural worth that transcends their own, the deference in tone, manner
and deportment that naturally belongs to such worth.

It is much easier to say in what respect does not consist than to
define the term itself. If it really exists in the heart--and there it
must exist, to be at all--it will find expression in a thousand
different ways, and will never be at a loss to express itself. Books
will give you the laws of etiquette and will tell you how to be polite;
but the laws that govern respect are graven on the heart, and he whose
heart is in the right place never fails to read and interpret them
correctly. Towards all, at all times and in all places, he will conform
the details of his life with the suggestions of his inner
consciousness--this is respect.

Respect has no substitute; neither assistance nor obedience nor love
can supply it or take its place It may happen that children are no
longer obliged to help their parents; they may be justified in not
obeying them; the circumstances may be such that they no longer have
love or affection for them; but respect can never be wanting without
serious guilt. The reason is simple: because it is due in justice,
because it is founded on natural rights that can never be forfeited,
even when parents themselves lose the sense of their own dignity.

Sinful, wicked and scandalous parents there have been, are, and will
be. But just as they do not owe the excellence to any deed of their
own, but to the free choice of the Almighty, so it depends not on
themselves to forfeit it. God made them parents without respect for
their personal worth. He is the custodian of their dignity. Good or
bad, they are parents and remain parents. Woe unto those who despise
the authors of their days!

Respect overlooks an innocent joke at the expense of a parent, when
absolutely no malice is intended, when on both sides it is looked upon
as a matter of good-natured pleasantry. It brooks humor. Not all
familiarity breeds contempt.

But contempt, which is directly opposed to respect, is a sin that is
never anything but mortal. It refuses honor, belittles dignity and
considers parents beneath esteem. It is contempt to laugh at, to mock,
to gibe and insult parents; it is contempt to call them vile,
opprobrious names, to tell of their faults; it is contempt, and the
height of contempt, to defy them, to curse them or to strike them. It
is bad enough when this sort of thing is directed against an equal; but
when parents are made the objects of contempt, it acquires a dignity
that is infernal.

The malediction of Heaven, the almighty wrath of God follows him or her
who despises a parent. We are repeatedly told in Holy Writ that such
offenders "shall die the death." Scorn of parents is looked upon as a
crime almost on a par with hatred of God. Pagans frequently punished it
with death. Among Christians it is left to the avenging wrath of God
who is pledged to defend the dignity of His delegated paternity.

It is not a rare occurrence to see just retribution visited upon
parents who in their day were undutiful, unworthy and unnatural
children. The justice of Heaven often permits it to be done unto us as
we do unto others. Our children will treat us as we shall have treated
our parents; their hands will be raised against us and will smite us on
the cheek to avenge the grandsire's dishonor and tears, and to make us
atone in shame for our sins against our parents. If we respect others,
they will respect us; if we respect our parents, our children will
respect us.


HE who has a heart, and has it properly located, will not fail to love
that which is good; he will have no difficulty in so doing, it will
require neither command nor persuasion to make him do so. If he proves
refractory to this law of nature, it is because he is not like the rest
of mortals, because he is inhuman; and his abnormal condition is due,
not to nature's mistakes, but to his own. And no consideration under
heaven will be equal to the task of instilling affection into a stone or
a chunk of putty.

That is good which is desirable, or which is the source of what is
desirable. God alone is absolutely good, that is to say, good in
Himself and the cause of all good. Created things are good in the
proportion of their furnishing us with things desirable, and are for
that reason called relatively good. They confer benefits on one and not
perhaps on another. When I say: this or that is good, I mean that it is
useful to me, and is productive of comfort, happiness and other
desirable things. Because we are naturally selfish, our appreciation of
what is good depends on what we get out of it.

Therefore, it is that a child's first, best and strongest love should
be for its parents, for the greatest good it enjoys, the thing of all
others to be desired, the essential condition of all else, namely its
existence, it owes to its parents. Life is the boon we receive from
them; not only the giving, but the saving in more than one instance,
the fostering and preserving and sustaining during long years of
helplessness, and the adorning of it with all the advantages we
possess. Nor does this take into account the intimate cost, the
sufferings and labors, the cares and anxieties, the trouble and
worriment that are the lot of devoted parenthood. It is life spent and
given for life. Flesh and blood, substance, health and comfort,
strength of body and peace of soul, lavished with unstinted generosity
out of the fulness of parental affection--these are things that can
never be repaid in kind, they are repaid with the coin of filial piety
and love, or they remain dead debts.

Failure to meet these obligations brands one a reprobate. There is not,
in all creation, bird or beast, but feels and shows instinctive
affection towards those to whom it owes its being. He, therefore, who
closes his heart to the promptings of filial love, has the consolation
of knowing that, not only he does not belong to the order of human
beings, but he places himself outside the pale of animal nature itself,
and exists in a world of his own creation, which no human language is
able to properly qualify.

The love we owe to our parents is next in quality to that which we owe
to God and to ourselves. Love has a way of identifying its object and
its subject; the lover and the beloved become one, their interests are
common, their purpose alike. The dutiful child, therefore, looks upon
its parent as another self, and remains indifferent to nothing that for
weal or for woe affects that parent. Love consists in this community of
feeling, concern and interest. When the demon of selfishness drives
gratitude out of the heart and the ties of natural sympathy become
strained, and love begins to wane; when they are snapped asunder, love
is dead.

The love of God, of course, primes all other love. "He who loves father
or mother more than me," says the Saviour, "is not worthy of me."
Filial love, therefore, must not conflict with that which we owe to
God; it must yield, for it draws its force from the latter and has no
meaning without it. In normal conditions, this conflict never occurs;
it can occur only in the event of parents overriding the law that
governs their station in life. To make divine love wait on the human is

It may, and no doubt does, happen that parents become unlovable beings
through disregard for the moral law. And because love is not a
commodity that is made to order, children may be found who justify on
these grounds their absence of affection or even their positive hatred
for such parents. A drunken parent, one who attacks the life, virtue or
reputation of his offspring, a low brute who has neither honor nor
affection, and whose office it is to make home a living hell, such a
one can hardly be loved.

But pity is a form of love; and just as we may never despise a fallen
parent, just so do we owe him or her, even in the depths of his or her
degradation, a meed of pity and commiseration. There is no erring soul
but may be reclaimed; every soul is worth the price of its redemption,
and there is no unfortunate, be he ever so low, but deserves, for the
sake of his soul, a tribute of sympathy and a prayer for his
betterment. And the child that refuses this, however just the cause of
his aversion, offends against the law of nature, of charity and of God.


AUTHORITY means the right to command; to command is to exact obedience,
and obedience is submission of one's will to that of another, will is a
faculty that adores its own independence, is ambitious of rule and
dominion, and can hardly bear to serve. It is made free, and may not
bend; it is proud, and hates to bend; some will add, it is the dominant
faculty in man, and therefore should not bend.

Every man for himself; we are born free; all men are equal, and no one
has the right to impose his will upon another; we are directly
responsible to God, and "go-betweens" are repudiated by the common
sense of mankind,--this is good Protestant theory and it is most
convenient and acceptable to the unregenerate heart of man. We
naturally like that kind of talk; it appeals to us instinctively. It is
a theory that possesses many merits besides that of being true in a
sense in which only one takes it out of fifty who advocate it.

But these advocates are careful--and the reason of their solicitude is
anything but clear--to keep within the religious lines, and they never
dare to carry their theory into the domain of political society; their
hard common sense forbids. And they are likewise careful to prevent
their children from practicing the doctrine within the realm of
paternal authority, that is, if they have any children. Society calls
it anarchy, and parents call it "unnatural cussedness;" in religion it
is "freedom of the children of God!"

If there is authority, there must be obedience; if one has the right to
command, there arises in others the correlative duty and obligation to
submit. There is no question of how this will suit us; it simply does
not, and will not, suit us; it is hard, painful and humiliating, but it
is a fact, and that is sufficient.

Likewise, it is a fact that if authority was ever given by God to man,
it was given to the parent; all men, Protestants and anarchists alike,
admit this. The social being and the religious being may reject and
repudiate all law, but the child is subject to its parents, it must
obey. Failing in this, it sins.

Disobedience is always a sin, if it is disobedience, that is, a refusal
to submit in things that are just, to the express command of paternal
authority. The sin may be slight or grievous, the quality of its malice
depending on the character of the refusal, of the things commanded and
of the command itself. In order that the offense may be mortal, the
refusal must be deliberate, containing an element of contempt, as all
malicious disobedience does. The command must be express, peremptory,
absolute. And nothing must be commanded done that may not reasonably be
accomplished or is not within the sphere of parental jurisdiction or is
contrary to the law of God.

An order that is unreasonable or unlawful is invalid. Not only it may,
but it should be, disregarded. It is not sufficient for a parent,
wishing to oblige under pain of grievous sin, that he ask a thing done,
that he express his mind on the matter; he must order it and leave no
room to doubt that he means what he says. There may be disobedience
without this peremptoriness of command, but it cannot be a serious
fault. It is well also to make certain allowance for the levity and
thoughtlessness of youth, especially in matters whose importance is
beyond their comprehension.

It is generally admitted that parental authority, exercised in things
that concern good morals and the salvation of the soul, can scarcely
ever be ignored without mortal offending. This means that besides the
sin committed--if the prohibition touches matters of sin--there is a
sin specifically different and a grievous one, of disobedience; by
reason of the parental prohibition, there are two sins, instead of one.
This should be remembered by those who, against the express command of
their parents, frequent bad companions, remain on the street at night,
neglect their religious duty, etc.

Parents have nothing to say in the choice their children make of a
state in life, that is, they may suggest, but must not coerce. This is
a matter that depends on personal tastes and the inner voicings of the
spirit; having come to the age of manhood or womanhood, the party
interested knows best what walk of life will make him or her happy and
salvation easier. It is therefore for them to choose, and their choice
must be respected. In this they are not bound to obey the will of their
parents, and if disinclined to do so, should not.


THERE are few things more evident to natural reason than the obligation
children are under to assist their parents when necessity knocks at
their door, and finding them unable to meet its harsh demands, presses
them with the goad of misery and want. Old age is weak and has to lean
on strength and youth for support; like childhood, it is helpless.
Accidentally, misfortune may render a parent dependent and needy. In
such contingencies, it is not for neighbors, friends or relatives to
come in and lend a helping hand; this duty devolves on the offspring,
on them first and on them alone.

Charity is not alone to prescribe this office of piety. A stronger law
than charity has a claim in the matter, and that is the law of justice.
Justice demands a "quid pro quo," it exacts a just compensation for
services rendered. Even though there be no agreement between parents
and offspring, and the former gave without a thought of return, nature
records a contract, by the terms of which parents in want are entitled
to the same support from their children as the latter received from
them in the days of their helplessness.

Those who do not live up to the terms of this natural contract stand
amenable to the justice of Heaven. The obligation follows them during
life, wherever they go; and they can no more shirk it than they can
efface the characters that declare it, graven on their hearts. Nothing
but sheer impossibility can dispense them.

So sacred and inviolable is this obligation that it passes before that
of assisting wife and children, the necessity being equal; for filial
obligations enjoy the distinction of priority. Not even engagements
contracted before God hold against the duty of relieving parental
distress and want, for vows are of counsel and must yield to the
dictates of natural and divine law.

Of course, the gravity of this obligation is proportionate to the
stress of necessity under which parents labor. To constitute a mortal
sin of neglect, it is not necessary that a parent be in the extreme of
privation and beggary. It is not easy to draw the line between slight
and grievous offending in this matter, but if some young men and women
examined their conscience as carefully as they do their new spring
suits and hats, they would find material for confession the avowal of
which might be necessary to confessional integrity.

It has become the fashion with certain of the rising generation, after
draining the family exchequer for some sixteen or eighteen years, to
emancipate themselves as soon as their wages cover the cost of living,
with a little surplus. They pay their board, that is to say, they stand
towards their parents as a stranger would, and forgetting the debt
their younger years have piled up against them, they hand over a
miserable pittance just enough to cover the expenses of bed and board.
This might, and possibly does, make them "feel big," but that feeling
is a false one, and the "bigness" experienced is certainly not in their
moral worth, in many cases such conduct is a prevarication against the
law of God. This applies with equal force to young women whose vanity
overrides the claims of charity and justice, and who are said to "put
all their earnings on their backs," while they eat the bread that
another earns.

Frequently children leave home and leave all their obligations to their
parents behind them at home. If their letters are rare, enclosed checks
are still rarer. They like to keep the old folks informed of the fact
that it costs a good deal to live away from home. They sometimes come
home on a visit; but these are visits; and visitors, even if they do
stay quite a while, do not pay board.

But pecuniary assistance is not all; it is occasionally care and
attention an aged parent requires, the presence of a daughter who
prefers the gaiety of the city to the quiet of the old homestead that
is imperiously demanded. If the parent be feeble or sick, the undutiful
child is criminally negligent; the crime is still greater if there be
danger through that absence of the parent's dying without religious

I have said nothing of that unnatural specimen of humanity, sometimes
called a "loafer," and by still more ignoble names, who, to use a
vulgar term, "grubs" on his parents, drinks what he earns and befouls
the home he robs, with his loathsome presence and scandalous living.
The least said of him the better. He exists: 'tis already too much


LOVE seems to resume all the obligations of parents toward their
offspring; certainly, it directs all their actions, and they fulfil
these obligations ill or well according to the quality of that love.
But love is not sufficient; love is of two kinds, the right and the
wrong; nothing good comes of an affection that is not properly ordered.
In itself, parental love is natural, instinctive; therefore it is not
meritorious to any high degree. But there is much merit in the proper
kind of parental affection, because it requires sacrifice.

There may be too little love, to the neglect and misfortune of
children. There may be too much, to their spoiling and utter
perversion. Again there may be affection that is partial, that singles
out one for caresses and favors to the exclusion of the others; hence
discord and dissensions in the family. The first two forms of
inordinate affection are equally bad, while the last combines both and
contains the double evil thereof. It is hard to say which is the worse
off, the child that receives too much or the one that receives too
little of that love which to be correct should avoid extremes.

Parents are apt, under the sway of natural affection, to overlook the
fact that God has rights over the children, and that the welfare and
interests of the children must not be left outside all consideration:
herein lies the root of all the evil that befalls the family through
degenerate love. What is commonly, but improperly, called love is
either pagan fondness or simon-pure egotism and self-love.

When a vain person looks into a mirror, she (if it be a "she") will
immediately fall in love with the image, because it is an image of
herself. And a selfish parent sees in his child, not another being, but
himself, and he loves it for himself. His affection is not an act of
generosity, as it should be, but an act of self-indulgence. He does not
seek to please another, he seeks to please himself. His love,
therefore, is nothing but concentrated vanity--and that is the wrong

Such a parent will neglect a less favored child, and he will so far
dote on the corporal and physical object of his devotion as to forget
there is a soul within. He will account all things good that flatter
his conceit, and all things evil that disturb the voluptuousness of his
attachment. He owns that child, and he is going to make it the object
of his eternal delights, God's rights and the child's own interests to
the contrary notwithstanding. This fellow is not a parent; he is a pure
animal, and the cub will, one day make good returns for services

A parent with a growing-up family, carefully reared and expensively
educated, will often lay clever plans and dream elaborate dreams of a
golden future from which it would almost be cruelty to awake him. He
sees his pains and toils requited a thousand fold, his disbursements
yielding a high rate of interest and the name his children bear--his
name--respected and honored. In all this there is scarcely anything
blameworthy; but the trouble comes when the views of the Almighty fail
to square with the parental views.

Symptoms of the malady then reveal themselves. Misfortunes are met with
complaints and murmurings against Providence and the manner in which it
runs the cosmic machine. Being usually self-righteous, such parents
bring up the old discussion as to the justice of the divine plan by
which the good suffer and the wicked prosper in this world. Sorrow in
bereavement is legitimate and sacred, but when wounded love vents its
wrath on the Almighty, the limit is passed, and then we say: "Such love
is love only in name, love must respect the rights of God; if it does
not, it is something else." The Almighty never intended children to be
a paying investment; it belongs to Him to call children to Himself as
well as parents themselves, when He feels like it. Parents who ignore
this do not give their children the love the latter have a right to

Intelligent and Christian parents, therefore, need to understand the
true status of the offspring, and should make careful allowance for
children's own interests, both material and spiritual, and for the
all-supreme rights of God in the premises. Since true love seeks to do
good, in parents it should first never lose sight of the child's soul
and the means to help him save it. Without this all else is labor lost.
God frowns on such unchristian affection, and He usually sees to it
that even in this world the reaping be according to the sowing.

The rearing of a child is the making or unmaking of a man or woman.
Love is the motive power behind this enterprise. That is why we insist
on the disinterestedness of parental love, before touching on the
all-important question of education.


BEFORE reaching the age of reason, the child's needs are purely animal;
it requires to be fed, clothed and provided with the general
necessities of life. Every child has a natural right that its young
life be fostered and protected; the giver must preserve his gift,
otherwise his gift is vain. To neglect this duty is a sin, not
precisely against the fourth, but rather against the fifth, commandment
which treats of killing and kindred acts.

When the mind begins to open and the reasoning faculties to develop,
the duty of educating the child becomes incumbent on the parent. As its
physical, so its intellectual, being must be trained and nourished. And
by education is here meant the training of the young mind, the bringing
out of its mental powers and the acquisition of useful knowledge,
without reference to anything moral or religious. This latter feature--
the most important of all deserves especial attention.

Concerning the culture of the mind, it is a fact, recognized by all,
that in this era of popular rights and liberties, no man can expect to
make anything but a meagre success of life, if he does that much,
without at least a modicum of knowledge and intellectual training. This
is an age in which brains are at a high premium; and although brains
are by no means the monopoly of the cultured class, they must be
considered as non-existent if they are not brought out by education.
Knowledge is what counts nowadays. Even in the most common walks of
life advancement is impossible without it. This is one reason why
parents, who have at heart the future success and well-being of their
children, should strive to give them as good an education as their
means allow.

Their happiness here is also concerned. If he be ignorant and untaught,
a man will be frowned at, laughed at, and be made in many ways, in
contact with his fellow-men, to feel the overwhelming inferiority of
his position. He will be made unhappy, unless he chooses to keep out of
the way of those who know something and associate with those who know
nothing--in which case he is very liable to feel lonesome.

He is moreover deprived of the positive comforts and happiness that
education affords. Neither books nor public questions will interest
him; his leisure moments will be a time of idleness and unbearable
tedium; a whole world--the world of the mind--will be closed to him,
with its joys, pleasures and comforts which are many.

Add to this the fact that the Maker never intended that the noble
faculty of the intelligence should remain an inert element in the life
of His creature, that this precious talent should remain buried in the
flesh of animal nature. Intelligence alone distinguishes us from the
brute; we are under obligation to perfect our humanity. And since
education is a means of doing this, we owe it to our nature that we
educate ourselves and have educated those who are under our care.

How long should the child be kept at school? The law provides that
every child attend school until it reaches the age of fourteen. This
law appears to be reasonable and just, and we think that in ordinary
circumstances it has the power to bind in conscience. The parent
therefore who neglects to keep children at school we account guilty of
sin, and of grievous sin, if the neglect be notable.

Outside this provision of the law, we think children should be kept at
school as long as it is possible and prudent to do so. This depends, of
course, on the means and resources of the parents. They are under no
obligation to give to their children an education above what their
means allow. Then, the aptitudes, physical and mental, of the child are
a factor to be considered. Poor health or inherited weakness may forbid
a too close application to studies, while it may be a pure waste of
time and money to keep at school a child that will not profit by the
advantage offered. It is better to put such a child at work as soon as
possible. As says the philosopher of Archey Road: "You may lead a young
man to the university, but you cannot make him learn."

Outside these contingencies, we think every child has a right to a
common school education, such as is given in our system under the high
school, whether it be fourteen years of age or over. Reading and
writing, grammar and arithmetic, history and geography, these are the
fundamental and essential elements of a common school education; and in
our time and country, a modicum of information on these subjects is
necessary for the future well-being, success and happiness of our
children. And since parents are bound to care for the future of their
children, we consider them likewise bound to give them such an
education as will insure these blessings.


OUR public educational system is made up of a grammar and a high school
course, the latter consisting of a four years term of studies, devoted
in part, to a more thorough grounding in the essentials of education;
the other part--by far the more considerable, according to the
consensus of opinion--is expended on educational frills and vanities.
These "trimmings" are given gratis, the public bearing the burden of
expense, which foots up to a very respectable total.

For a certain class of people--the people of means--this sort of a
thing has not many disadvantages; it is in a line with the future
occupation or profession of their offspring. But for the bulk of the
children who attend our free schools and on whose parents educational
taxes are levied, it has serious inconveniences, is not in line with
their future occupation or profession, is not only superfluous, but
detrimental. It is for them so much time lost--precious time, that were
better spent learning a trade or otherwise fitting themselves for their
life work. Herein therefore we discover a double extravagance: that of
parents who provide unwisely for their children's future and that of
the municipality which offers as popular an education that is anything
but popular, since only the few can enjoy it while all must bear the
burden alike.

There is much in getting a start in life, in beginning early; a delay
is often a handicap hard to overcome. With very few exceptions, our
children gain their livelihood with their hands and eyes and ears, and
not solely with their brains; they therefore require title most
practical education imaginable. They need intellectual tools to work
with, and not a smattering of science, botany, drawing and political
philosophy to forget as soon as possible. Pure culture studies are not
a practical gain for them, while the time consumed in pursuing these is
so much taken away from a thorough training in the essentials. Lectures
on science, elementary experiments in chemistry, kindergarten
instructions in water color painting, these are as much in their place
in the education of the average child as an ivory-handled gold pen in
the hand that wields the pick-ax.

A boy is better off learning a trade than cramming his head full of
culture fads; he is then doing something useful and profitable on which
the happiness and success of his life will depend. By the time his
companions have done dabbling in science and have come to the
conclusion that they are simply being shown how ignorant they are--not
a very consoling conclusion after all--he will have already laid the
foundation of his career and be earning enough to settle down in life.
He may not be able to talk on an infinity of subjects about which he
knows nothing at all, but he will be able to earn his own living, which
is something worth while.

If the free high school were more of a business school, people would
get better returns for their money. True, some would then be obliged to
pay for the expensive fads that would be done away with; but since they
alone enjoy these things, why should others be made to pay for them who
cannot enjoy them? Why should the poor be taxed to educate the rich?
Why not give the poor full value for their share of the burden? Why not
provide them with intellectual tools that suit their condition, just as
the rich are being provided for in the present system? The parochial
high school has, in several places we know of, been made to serve as a
protest against such evils and as an example that has already been
followed in more than one instance by the public schools. Intelligent
and energetic pastors, knowing full well the conditions and needs of
their people, offer the children a course in business methods as being
more suitable, more profitable and less extravagant than four years
spent in acquiring a smattering of what they will never possess
thoroughly and never need in their callings in life. It is better to
fill young minds with the useful than with the agreeable, when it is
impossible to furnish both. Results already bespeak the wisdom of this
plan and reflect no small honor on its originators.

Parents therefore should see to it that their children get the kind of
education they need, the kind that will serve them best in after life.
They should not allow the precious time of youth to be whiled' away in
trifles and vanities. Children have a right: to be educated in a manner
in keeping with their conditions in life, and it is criminal in parents
to neglect the real needs of their children while trying: to fit them
for positions they will never occupy.

In the meantime, let them protest against the extravagance of
educational enthusiasts and excessive State paternalism. Let them ask
that the burden of culture studies be put where it belongs, that is, on
the shoulders of those who are the sole beneficiaries; and that free
popular education be made popular, that is, for all, and not for an
elite of society. The public school system was called into existence to
do one work, namely, to educate the masses: it was never intended to
furnish a college education for the benefit of the rich men's sons at
the expense of the poor. As it stands to-day, it is an unadulterated


THE other defect, respecting education as found in the public schools
of the land, is that it leaves the soul out of all consideration and
relegates the idea of God to a background of silent contempt. On this
subject we can do no better than quote wisdom from the Fathers of the
Third Plenary Council of Baltimore.

"Few, if any, will deny that a sound civilization must depend upon
sound popular education." But education, in order to be sound and to
produce "beneficial results, must develop what is best in man, and make
him not only clever, but good. A one-sided education will develop a
one-sided life; and such a life will surely topple over, and so will
every social system that is built up of such lives. True civilization
requires that not only the physical and intellectual, but also the
moral and religious, well-being of the people should be improved, and
at least with equal care.

"It cannot be desirable or advantageous that religion should be
excluded from the school. On the contrary, it ought to be there one of
the chief agencies for moulding the young life to all that is true and
virtuous, and holy. To shut religion out of the school, and keep it for
home and the Church, is, logically, to train up a generation that will
consider religion good for home and the Church, but not for the
practical business of real life. A life is not dwarfed, but ennobled,
by being lived in the presence of God.

"The avowed enemies of Christianity in some European countries are
banishing religion from the schools (they have done it since) in order
to eliminate it gradually from among the people. In this they are
logical. Take away religion from the school, and you take it away from
the people. Take it away from the people, and morality will soon
follow; morality gone, even their physical condition will ere long
degenerate into corruption which breeds decrepitude, while their
intellectual attainments would only serve as a light to guide them to
deeper depths of vice and ruin. A civilization without religion would
be a civilization of 'the struggle for existence, and the survival of
the fittest,' in which cunning and strength would become the
substitutes for principle, virtue, conscience and duty."

One of the things the Catholic Church fears least in this country is
Protestantism. She considers it harmless, moribund, in the throes of
disintegration. It never has, cannot and never will thrive long where
it has to depend on something other than wealth and political power. It
has unchurched millions, is still unchurching at a tremendous rate, and
will end by unchurching itself. The godless school has done its work
for Protestantism, and done it well. Its dearest enemy could not wish
for better results.

Popular education comes more and more to mean popularized irreligion.
The future struggles of the Church will be with Agnosticism and
Infidelity--the product of the godless public school. And without
pretending to be prophets or sons of prophets, we Catholics can foresee
the day when godless education, after making bad Christians, will make
bad citizens. And because no civilization worthy of the name has ever
subsisted, or can subsist, without religion, the maintenance of this
system of popular and free government will devolve on the product of
Christian education, and its perpetuity will depend upon the
generations turned out of the religious school.

The most substantial protest the Catholic Church offers against godless
education is the system of her parochial schools; and this alone is
sufficient to give an idea of the importance of this question. From
headquarters comes the order to erect Catholic schools in every parish
in this land as soon as the thing can be done. This means a tremendous
amount of work, and a tremendous expense. It means a competition on
educational grounds with the greatest, richest and most powerful nation
in the world. The game must be worth the candle; there must be some
proportion between the end and the means.

The Catholic Church has the wisdom of ages to learn from; and when she
embarks on an enterprise of this kind, even her bitterest enemies can
afford to take it for granted that there is something behind it. And
there is. There is her very life, which depends on the fidelity of her
children. And her children are lost to her and to God unless she
fosters religion in her young. Let parents share this solicitude of the
Church for the little ones, and beware of the dangers of the godless


THE Catholic school system all over this land has been erected and
stands dedicated to the principle that no child can be properly,
thoroughly and profitably--for itself--educated, whose soul is not fed
with religion and morality while its intelligence is being stocked with
learning and knowledge. It is intended, and made, to avoid the two
defects under which our public school system labors--the one
accidental, the other fundamental--namely, extravagance and
godlessness. The child is taught the things that are necessary for it
to know; catechism and religion take the place of fads and costly

The Catholic school does not lay claim to superiority over another on
purely secular lines, although in many cases its superiority is a very
patent fact; it repudiates and denies charges to the effect that it is
inferior, although this may be found in some cases to be true. It
contends that it is equal to, as good as, any other; and there is no
evidence why this should not be so. But it does pretend to give a more
thorough education in the true sense of the word, if education really
means a bringing out of that which is best in our nature.

Neither do we hold that such a training as our schools provide will
assure the faith and salvation of the children confided to our care.
Neither church, nor religion, nor prayer, nor grace, nor God Himself
will do this alone. The child's fidelity to God and its ultimate reward
depends on that child's efforts and will, which nothing can supply. But
what we do guarantee is that the child will be furnished with what is
necessary to keep the faith and save its soul, that there will be no
one to blame but itself if it fails, and that such security it will not
find outside the Catholic school. It is for just such work that the
school is equipped, that is the only reason for its existence, and we
are not by any means prepared to confess that our system is a failure
in that feature which is its essential one.

That every Catholic child has an inherent right to such a training, it
is not for one moment permitted to doubt; there is nothing outside the
very bread that keeps its body and soul together to which it has a
better right. Intellectual training is a very secondary matter when the
immortal soul is concerned. And if the child has this right, there is a
corresponding duty in the parent to provide it with such; and since
that right is inalienable, that duty is of the gravest. Hence it
follows that parents who neglect the opportunity they enjoy of
providing their offspring with a sound religious and moral training in
youth, and expose them, unprepared, to the attacks, covert and open, of
modern indifferentism, while pursuing secular studies, display a woeful
ignorance of their obligations and responsibilities.

This natural right of the child to a religious education, and the
authority of the Church which speaks in no uncertain accents on the
subject go to make a general law that imposes a moral obligation upon
parents to send their children to Catholic schools. Parents who fail in
this simply do wrong, and in many cases cannot be excused from mortal
offending. And it requires, according to the general opinion, a very
serious reason to justify non-compliance with this law.

Exaggeration, of course, never serves any purpose; but when we consider
the personal rights of children to have their spiritual life well
nurtured, and the general evils against which this system of education
has been judged necessary to make the Church secure, it will be easily
seen that there is little fear of over-estimating the importance of the
question and the gravity of the obligations under which parents are

Moreover, disregard for this general law on the part of parents
involves contempt of authority, which contempt, by reason of its being
public, cannot escape the malice of scandal. Even when the early
religious education of the child is safeguarded by excellent home
training and example and no evil effects of purely secular education
are to be feared, the fact of open resistance to the direction of
Church authority is an evil in itself; and may be the cause of leading
others in the same path of revolt--others who have not like
circumstances in their favor.

About the only person I know who might be justified in not sending his
children to Catholic schools is the "crank," that creature of mulish
propensities, who balks and kicks and will not be persuaded to move by
any method of reasoning so far discovered. He usually knows all that is
to be learned on the school question--which is a lie; and having
compared the parochial and the public school systems in an intelligent
and disinterested manner--which is another--he finds that the Catholic
school is not the place for his children. If his children are like
himself, his conclusion is wisely formed, albeit drawn from false
premises. In him, three things are on a par; his conceit, his ignorance
and his determination. From these three ingredients results a high
quality of asininity which in moral theology is called invincible
ignorance and is said to render one immune in matters of sin. May his
tribe decrease!


SOME parents claim that their children do not learn anything in the
Catholic school. It is good policy always to accept this statement as
true in all its parts; it may be true, and it is never good to deny the
truth. All are not equally endowed with brains in this world. If a
child has it dinned into his ears that the school he attends is
inferior, he will come to be convinced of the fact; and being
convinced, he will set to work verifying it, in his case, at least.
Heredity may have something to do with it; children are sometimes
"chips of the old block,"--a great misfortune in many cases,
handicapping them in the race of life. It is well, therefore, not to
claim too much for our schools. We concede the point.

Another parent thinks that because he went through the public schools
and kept the faith in his day, his children may be trusted to do the
same. This objection has a serious front to it. It does seem strange
that children should not walk in the footsteps of their worthy parents;
but the fact is, and facts are stubborn things, the fact is that they
do not always act thus. And they might tell you, to justify their
unseemly conduct, that the conditions that obtained in life in olden
days are not the same as at present; that there were no parochial
schools then to offer a choice in matters of education and that kind
Providence might have taken this into consideration: that it was the
custom in those days for children to imitate the rugged virtues of
their parents struggling against necessity on one hand and bigotry on
the other; but that through the powerful influence of money, the
progeny of the persecuted may now hobnob with the progeny of the bigot,
and the association is not always the best thing in the world for the
faith and religious convictions of the former, unless these convictions
are well grounded in youth. The parent therefore who kept the faith
with less had a very considerable advantage over his child who
apparently has more privileges, but also more temptations and dangers.
The objection does not look so serious now.

Of course there is the question of social standing--a very important
matter with some parents of the "nouveau riche" type. A fop will gauge
a man's worth by the size of his purse or the style and cut of the coat
he wears. There are parents who would not mind their children's sitting
beside a little darkey, but who do object most strenuously to their
occupying the same bench with a dirty little Irish child. A calico
dress or a coat frayed at the edges are certainly not badges of high
social standing, but they are not incompatible with honesty, purity,
industry and respect for God, which things create a wholesome
atmosphere to live in and make the world better in every sense of the
word. There is no refinement in these little ones, to speak of, not
even the refinement of vice. There is something in the air they breathe
that kills the germ of vice. The discipline considers sin a worse evil
than ignorance of social amenities, and virtue and goodness as far
superior to etiquette and distinction of manners. If a different
appreciation of things is entertained, we grant the inferiority of our

"But then, it is so very un-American, you know, to maintain separate
schools in opposition to an institution so intensely American as our
public school system. This state of affairs fosters creed prejudices
that it is the duty of every true American to help destroy. The age of
religious differences is past, and the parochial school is a perpetual
reminder of things of the past that were best forgotten."

We deny that the system that stands for no religious or moral training
is intensely American. This is a Christian land. If our denial cannot
be sustained, we consider such a system radically wrong and detrimental
to the best interests of the country; and we protest against it, just
as some of us protest against imperialism, high tariff and
monometalism. It is wrong, bad, therefore un-American.

We also claim that the Protestant propaganda that is being carried on
under the guise of non-sectarian education is unspeakably unjust and
outrageous. Protestantism is not a State institution in this country. A
stranger might think so by the way public shekels are made to serve the
purposes of proselytism; but to make the claim, in theory, or in
practise, is to go counter to the laws of this land, and is un-American
to a degree. That is another un-Americanism we protest against.

We teach truth, not creed prejudices; we train our children to have and
always maintain a strong prejudice for religious truth, and that kind
of prejudice is the rock-bed of all that is good and holy and worth
living for. We teach dogma. We do not believe in religion without
dogma, any more than religion without truth. "That kind of religion has
not been invented, but it will come in when we have good men without
convictions, parties without principles and geometry without theories."

If there is anything un-American in all this, it is because the term is
misunderstood and misapplied. We are sorry if others find us at odds on
religious grounds. The fact of our existence will always be a reminder
of our differences with them in the past. But we are not willing to
cease to exist on that account.


AMONG the many things that are good for children and that parents are
in duty bound to supply is--the rod! This may sound old-fashioned, and
it unfortunately is; there is a new school of home discipline in vogue

Slippers have outgrown their usefulness as implements of persuasion,
being now employed exclusively as foot-gear. The lissom birch thrives
ungarnered in the thicket, where grace and gentleness supply the whilom
vigor of its sway. The unyielding barrel-stave, that formerly occupied
a place of honor and convenience in the household, is now relegated, a
harmless thing, to a forgotten corner of the cellar, and no longer
points a moral but adorns a wood-pile. Disciplinary applications of the
old type have fallen into innocuous desuetude; the penny now tempts,
the sugar candy soothes and sugar-coated promises entice when the rod
should quell and blister. Meanwhile the refractory urchin, with no fear
to stimulate his sluggish conscience, chuckles, rejoices and is glad,
and bethinks himself of some uninvented methods of devilment.

Yes, it is old-fashioned in these days to smite with the rattan as did
the mighty of yore. The custom certainly lived a long time. The author
of the Proverbs spoke of the practise to the parents of his generation,
and there is no mistaking the meaning of his words. He spoke with
authority, too; if we mistake not, it was the Holy Ghost that inspired
his utterances. Here are a few of his old-fashioned sayings: "Spare the
rod and spoil the child; he who loves his child spares not the rod;
correction gives judgment to the child who ordinarily is incapable of
reflection; if the child be not chastised, it will bring down shame and
disgrace upon the head of its parent." It is our opinion that authority
of this sort should redeem the defect of antiquity under which the
teaching itself labors. There are some things "ever ancient, ever new;"
this is one of them.

The philosophy of correction may be found in the doctrine of original
sin. Every child of Adam has a nature that is corrupted; it is a soil
in which pride in all its forms and with all its cortege of vices takes
strong and ready root. This growth crops out into stubbornness,
selfishness, a horror of restraint, effort and self-denial; mischief,
and a spirit of rebellion and destruction. In its native state,
untouched by the rod of discipline, the child is wild. Now, you must
force a crooked tree to grow straight; you must break a wild colt to
domesticate it, and you must whip a wild boy to make him fit for the
company of civilized people. Being self-willed, he will seek to follow
the bent of his own inclinations; without intelligence or experience
and by nature prone to evil, he will follow the wrong path; and the
habits acquired in youth, the faults developed he will carry through
life to his own and the misery of others. He therefore requires
training and a substitute for judgment; and according to the Holy
Ghost, the rod furnishes both. In the majority of cases nothing can
supply it.

This theory has held good in all the ages of the world, and unless the
species has "evolved" by extraordinary leaps and bounds within the last
fifty years, it holds good to-day, modern nursery milk-and-honey
discipline to the contrary notwithstanding. It may be hard on the
youngster--it was hard on us!--but the difficulty is only temporary;
and difficulty, some genius has said, is the nurse of greatness, a
harsh nurse, who roughly rocks her foster-children into strength and
athletic proportions.

The great point is that this treatment be given in time, when it is
possible to administer it with success and fruit. The ordinary child
does not need Oft-repeated doses; a firm hand and a vigorous
application go a long way, in most cases. Half-hearted, milk-and-water
castigation, like physic, should be thrown to the dogs. Long
threatenings spoil the operation; they betray weakness which the child
is the first to discover. And without being brutal, it is well that the
chastisement be such as will linger somewhat longer in the memory than
in the sensibility.

The defects that deserve this corrective especially are
insubordination, sulkiness and sullenness; it is good to stir up
the lazy; it is necessary to instil in the child's mind a saving
sense of its own inferiority and to inculcate lessons of humility,
self-effacement and self-denial. It should scourge dishonesty and lying.
The bear licks its cub into shape; let the parent go to the bear,
inquire of its ways and be wise. His children will then have a moral
shape and a form of character that will stand them in good stead in
after life; and they will give thanks in proportion to the pain
inflicted during the process of formation.


JUSTICE is a virtue by which we render unto every man that which to him
is due. Among equals, it is called commutative justice, the which alone
is here in question. It protects us in the enjoyment of our own rights,
and imposes upon us the obligation of respecting the rights of our
fellow-men. This, of course, supposes that we have certain rights and
that we know what a right is. But what is a right?

The word itself may be clearer in the minds of many than its
definition; few ignore what a right is, and fewer still perhaps could
say clearly and correctly what they mean by the word. A right is not
something that you can see and feel and smell: it is a moral faculty,
that is, a recognized, inviolable power or liberty to do something, to
hold or obtain possession of something. Where the right of property is
concerned, it supposes a certain relation or connection between a
person and an object; this may be a relation of natural possession, as
in the case of life or reputation, a relation of lawful acquisition, as
that of the goods of life, etc. Out of this relation springs a title,
just and proper, by which I may call that object "mine," or you,
"yours;" ownership is thereby established of the object and conceded to
the party in question. This party is therefore said to have a right to
the object; and the right is good, whether he is in possession or not
thereof. Justice respects this right, respects the just claims and
titles of the owner, and forbids every act injurious thereto.

All this pre-supposes the idea of God, and without that idea, there can
be no justice and no rights, properly so-called. Justice is based on
the conformity of all things with the will of God. The will of God is
that we attain to everlasting happiness in the next world through the
means of an established order of things in this life. This world is so
ruled, and our nature is such, that certain means are either absolutely
or relatively necessary for the attaining of that end; for example,
life, reputation, liberty, the pursuit of happiness in the measure of
our lawful capacity. The obligation therefore to reach that end gives
us the right to use these means; and God places in every soul the
virtue of justice so that this right may be respected.

But it must be understood that the rights of God towards us transcend
all other rights that we may have towards our fellow-men; ours we enjoy
under the high dominion of Him who grants all rights. Consequently, in
the pursuit of justice for ourselves, our rights cease the moment they
come into antagonism with the superior rights of God as found in His
Law. No man has a right to do what is evil, not even to preserve that
most inalienable and sacred of all rights, his right to life. To deny
this is to destroy the very notion of justice; the restrictions of our
rights are more sacred than those rights themselves.

Violation of rights among equals is called injustice. This sin has a
triple malice; it attacks the liberty of fellow-men and destroys it; it
attacks the order of the world and the basis of society; it attacks the
decree and mandate of the Almighty who wills that this world shall be
run on the plan of justice. Injustice is therefore directly a sin
against man, and indirectly a crime against God.

So jealous is God of the rights of His creatures that He never remains
satisfied until full justice is done for every act of injustice.
Charity may be wounded, and the fault condoned; but only reparation in
kind will satisfy justice. Whatever is mine is mine, and mine it will
ever remain, wherever in this world another may have betaken himself
with it. As long as it exists it will appeal to me as to its master and
owner; if justice is not done in this world, then it will appeal to the
justice of Heaven for vengeance.

The six last commandments treat of the rights of man and condemn
injustice. We are told to respect the life, the virtue, the goods and
the reputation of our fellow-men; we are commanded to do so not only in
act, but also in thought and desire. Life is protected by the fifth,
virtue by the sixth and ninth, property by the seventh and tenth, and
reputation by the eighth. To sin against any of these commandments is
to sin against justice in one form or another.

The claims, however, of violated justice are not such as to exact the
impossible in order to repair an injury done. A dead man cannot be
brought back to life, a penniless thief cannot make restitution unless
he steals from somebody else, etc., etc. But he who finds himself thus
physically incapable of undoing the wrongs committed must have at least
the will and intention of so doing: to revoke such intention would be
to commit a fresh sin of injustice. The alternative is to do penance,
either willingly in this life, or forcibly in the purging flames of the
suffering Church in the next. In that way, some time or other, justice,
according to the plan of God, will be done; but He will never be
satisfied until it is done.


TO kill is to take life, human or animal. It was once thought by a sect
of crazy fanatics, that the Fifth Commandment applied to the killing of
animals as well as of men. When a man slays a man, he slays an equal;
when he kills an animal, he kills a creature made to serve him and to
be his food; and raw meat is not always palatable, and to cook is to
kill. "Everything that moves and lives," says Holy Writ, "shall be unto
you as food."

The killing therefore herein question is the taking of human life, or
homicide. There can be no doubt but that life is man's best and most
precious possession, and that he has an inborn right to live as long as
nature's laws operate in his favor. But man is not master of that gift
of life, either in himself or in others. God, who alone can give, alone
may take it away. Sole master of life, He deals it out to His creatures
as it pleases Him; and whoever tampers with human life intrudes upon
the domain of the Divinity, violating at the some time the first right
of his fellow-man.

We have an instinctive horror of blood, human blood. For the ordinary
individual the Mosaic enactment that forbids murder is almost
superfluous, so deeply has nature graven on our hearts the letter of
that law. Murder is abominable, for the very reason that life is
precious; and no reasonable being, civilized or savage, dealing death
unjustly unto a fellow-man, can have any other conviction in his soul
than that he is committing a crime and incurring the almighty wrath of
the Deity. If such killing is done by a responsible agent, and against
the right of the victim, the crime committed is murder or unjustifiable

Which supposes that there is a kind of homicide that is justifiable, in
seeming contradiction of the general law of God and nature, which
specifies no exception. But there is a question here less of exception
than of distinction. The law is a general one, of vast comprehension.
Is all killing prohibited? Evidently no. It is limited to human beings,
in the first place; to responsible agents, in the next; and thirdly, it
involves a question of injustice. What is forbidden is the voluntary
and unjust killing of a human being. Having thus specified according to
the rules of right reasoning, we find we have a considerable margin
left for the taking of life that is justifiable. And the records of
Divine revelation will approve the findings of right reason.

We find God in the Old Law, while upholding His fifth precept,
commanding capital punishment and sanctioning the slaughter of war; He
not only approved the slaying of certain persons, but there are
instances of His giving authority to kill. By so doing He delegated His
supreme right over life to His creatures. "Whoever sheds human blood,
let his blood be shed." In the New Testament the officer of the law is
called the minister of God and is said not without cause to carry the
sword; and the sword is the symbol of the power to inflict death.

The presence of such laws as that of capital punishment, of war and of
self-defense, in all the written codes of civilized peoples, as well as
in the unwritten codes of savage tribes, can be accounted for only by a
direct or indirect commission from the Deity. A legal tradition so
universal and so constant is a natural law, and consequently a divine
law. In a matter of such importance all mankind could not have erred;
if it has, it is perfectly safe to be with it in its error.

These exceptions, if we may call them exceptions, suppose the victim to
have forfeited his right to live, to have placed himself in a position
of unjust aggression, which aggression gives to the party attacked the
right to repel it, to protect his own life even at the cost of the life
of the unjust aggressor. This is an individual privilege in only one
instance, that of self-defence; in all others it is invested in the
body politic or society which alone can declare war and inflict death
on a capital offender.

Of course it may be said that in moral matters, like does not cure
like, that to permit killing is a strange manner of discouraging the
same. But this measure acts as a deterrent; it is not a cure for the
offender, or rather it is, and a radical one; it is intended to instil
a salutary dread into the hearts of those who may be inclined to play
too freely with human life. This is the only argument assassins
understand; it is therefore the only one we can use against them.


MOST people no doubt remember how, a short time previous to his death,
Col. Robert Ingersoli, the agnostic lecturer, gave out a thesis with
the above title, offering a negative conclusion. Some discussion ensued
in public print; the question was debated hotly, and whole columns of
pros and cons were inflicted on the suffering public by the theologues
who had taken the matter seriously.

We recall, too, how, in the height of the discussion, a poor devil of
an unfortunate was found in one of the parks of the Metropolis with an
empty pistol in his clinched fist, a bullet in his head and in his
pocket a copy of the thesis: Is suicide a sin?

To a Christian, this theorizing and speculation was laughable enough;
but when one was brought face to face with the reality of the thing, a
grim humor was added to the situation. Comedy is dangerous that leads
to tragedy.

The witty part of the matter was this: Ingersoli spoke of sin. Now,
what kind of an intelligible thing could sin be in the mind of a
blasphemous agnostic? What meaning could it have for any man who
professes not to know, or to care, who or what God is?

If there is no Legislator, there is no Law; if no Law, then no
violation of the Law. If God does not exist, there can be no offending
Him. Eliminate the notion of God, and there is no such thing as sin.
Sin, therefore, had no meaning for Ingersoli; his thesis had no
meaning, nothing he said had any meaning. Yet, people took him
seriously! And at least one poor wretch was willing to test the truth
of the assertion and run his chances.

Some people, less speculative, contend that the fact of suicide is
sufficient evidence of irresponsibility, as no man in his right senses
would take his own life. This position is both charitable and
consoling; unfortunately, certain facts of premeditation and clear
mindedness militate so strongly against such a general theory that one
can easily afford to doubt its soundness. That this is true in many
cases, perhaps in the majority of cases, all will admit; in all cases,
few will admit it. However, the question here is one of principle, and
not of fact.

The prime evil at the bottom of all killing is that of injustice; but
in self-destruction where the culprit and the victim are one and the
same person, there can be no question of injustice. Akin to, and a
substitute for, the law of justice is that of charity, by which we are
bound to love ourselves and do ourselves no harm or injury. The saying
"charity begins at home" means that we ourselves are the first objects
of our charity. If therefore we must respect the life of our neighbor,
the obligation is still greater to respect our own.

Then there is the supreme law of justice that reposes in God. We should
remember that God is the supreme and sole Master of life. Man has a
lease of life, but it does not belong to him to destroy at his own
will. He did not give it to himself; and he cannot take it away.
Destruction supposes an authority and dominion that does not belong to
any man where life is concerned. And he who assumes such a prerogative
commits an act of unquestionable injustice against Him whose authority
is usurped.

By indirect killing we mean the placing of an act, good or at least
morally indifferent, from which may result a benefit that is intended,
but also an evil--death--which is not intended but simply suffered to
occur. In this event there is no sin, provided there be sufficient
reason for permitting said evil effect. The act may be an operation,
the benefit intended, a cure; the evil risked, death. The misery of ill
health is a sufficient reason for risking the evil of death in the hope
of regaining strength and health. To escape sure death, to escape from
grave danger or ills, to preserve one's virtue, to save another's life,
to assure a great public benefit, etc., these are reasons proportionate
to the evil of risking life; and in these and similar cases, if death
results, it is indirect suicide, and is in nowise criminal.

The same cannot be said of death that results from abuses or excesses
of any kind, such as dissipation or debauchery; from risks that are
taken in a spirit of bravado or with a view to winning fame or lucre.
For a still better reason this cannot be said of those who undergo
criminal operations: it is never permitted to do what is intrinsically
evil that good may come therefrom.

All this applies to self-mutilation as well as to self-destruction; as
parts of the whole, one's limbs should be the objects of one's charity,
and God's law demands that we preserve them as well as the body itself.
It is lawful to submit to the maiming process only when the utility of
the whole body demands it; otherwise it is criminal.

One word more. What about those who call upon, and desire death? To
desire evil is sinful. Yes, but death is a moral evil when its mode is
contrary to the laws of God and of nature. Thus, with perfect
acquiescence to order of Divine Providence, if one desire death in
order to be at rest with God, that one desires a good and meritorious
thing and with perfect regularity; it is less meritorious to desire
death with the sole view of escaping the ills and troubles of life; it
would even be difficult to convict one of mortal offending if he
desired death for a slight and futile reason, if there be due respect
for the will of God. The sin of such desires consists in rebellion
against the divine Will and opposition to the providence of God; in
such cases the sin is never anything but grievous.


THE thought is a terrible one--and the act is desperate in itself--of a
man, however justified his conduct may be, slaying with his own hand a
fellow being and sending his soul, unprepared perhaps, before its
Maker. But it is a still more desperate thing, because it strikes us
nearer home, to yield up one's life into the hands of an agent of
injustice. There is here an alternative of two very great evils; it is
a question of two lives, his and mine; I must slay or I must die
without having done anything to forfeit my life.

But the law of charity, founded in nature, makes my life more precious
to me than his, for charity begins at home. Then, to save his life, I
must give mine; and he risks his to take mine! I do not desire to kill
my unjust aggressor, but I do intend, as I have a perfect right, to
protect my own life. If he, without cause, places his existence as an
obstacle to my enjoyment of life, then I shall remove that obstacle,
and to do it, I shall kill. Again, a desperate remedy, but the
situation is most terribly desperate. Being given law of my being, I
can not help the inevitable result of conditions of which I am nowise
responsible. The man who attacks my life places his own beyond the
possibility of my saving it.

This, of course, supposes a man using the full measure of his rights.
But is he bound to do this, morally? Not if his charity for another be
greater than that which he bears towards himself, if he go beyond the
divine injunction to love his neighbor as himself and love him better
than himself; if he feel that he is better prepared to meet his God
than the other, if he have no one dependent on him for maintenance and
support. Even did he happen to be in the state of mortal sin, there is
every reason to believe that such charity as will sacrifice life for
another, greater than which no man has, would wash away that sin and
open the way of mercy; while great indeed must be the necessity of the
dependent ones to require absolutely the death of another.

The aggression that justifies killing must be unjust. This would not be
the case of a criminal being brought to justice or resisting arrest.
Justice cannot conflict with itself and can do nothing unjust in
carrying out its own mandates. The culprit therefore has no grounds to
stand upon for his defense.

Neither is killing justifiable, if wounding or mutilation would effect
the purpose. But here the code of morals allows much latitude on
account of the difficulty of judging to a nicety the intentions of the
aggressor, that is, whether he means to kill or not; and of so
directing the protecting blow as to inflict just enough, and no more
disability than the occasion requires.

Virtue in woman is rightly considered a boon greater than life; and for
that matter, so is the state of God's friendship in the soul of any
creature. Then, here too applies the principle of self-defense. If I
may kill to save my life, 1 may for a better reason kill to save my
soul and to avoid mortal offense. True, the loss of bodily integrity
does not necessarily imply a staining of the soul; but human nature is
such as to make the one an almost fatal consequence of the other. The
person therefore who kills to escape unjust contamination acts within
his or her rights and before God is justified in the doing.

We would venture to say the same thing of a man who resorts to this
extreme in order to protect his rightly gotten goods, on these two
conditions, however: that there be some kind of proportion between the
loss and the remedy he employs to protect himself against it; and that
he have well grounded hope that the remedy will be effective, that it
will prevent said loss, and not transform itself into revenge.

And here a last remark is in order. The killing that is permitted to
save, is not permitted to avenge loss sustained; the law sanctions
self-defense, but not vengeance. If a man, on the principle of
self-defense, has the right to kill to save his brother, and fails to
do so, his further right to kill ceases; the object is past saving and
vengeance is criminal. If a woman has been wronged, once the wrong
effected, there can be no lawful recourse to slaying, for what is lost
is beyond redemption, and no reason for such action exists except
revenge. In these cases killing is murder, pure and simple, and there
is nothing under Heaven to justify it.

Remembering the injunction to love our neighbor as ourself, we add that
we have the same right to defend our neighbor's life as we have to
defend our own, even to protect his or her innocence and virtue and
possessions. A husband may defend the honor of his wife, which is his
own, even though the wife be a party to the crime and consent to the
defilement; but the right is only to prevent, and ceases on the event
of accomplishment, even at the incipient stage.


ALL injury done to another in order to repair an insult is criminal,
and if said injury result in death, it is murder.

Here we consider an insult as an attack on one's reputation or
character, a charge or accusation, a slurring remark, etc., without
reference to the truth or falsity thereof. It may be objected that
whereas reputation, like chastity and considerable possessions, is
often valued as high as life itself, the same right exists to defend it
even at the cost of another's life. But it must be remembered that the
loss of character sustained in consequence of an insult of this kind is
something very ephemeral and unsubstantial; and only to a mind
abnormally sensitive can any proportion be perceived between the loss
and the remedy. This is especially true when the attack is in words and
goes no farther than words: for "sticks and stones will break your
bones, but names will never hurt you," as we used to say when we were
boys. Then, words are such fleeting things that the harm is done,
whatever harm there is, before any remedy can be brought to bear upon
it; which fact leaves no room for self-defense.

In such a case, the only redress that can be had is from the courts of
justice, established to undo wrongs as far as the thing can be done.
The power to do this belongs to the State alone, and is vested in no
private individual. To assume the prerogative of privately doing
oneself justice, when recourse can be had to the tribunals of justice,
is to sin, and every act committed in this pursuit of justice is
unlawful and criminal.

This applies likewise to all the other cases of self-defense wherein
life, virtue and wealth are concerned, if the harm is already done, or
if legal measures can prevent the evil, or undo it. It may be that the
justice dealt out by the tribunal, in case of injury being done to u's,
prove inferior to that which we might have obtained ourselves by
private methods. But this is not a reason for one to take the law into
one's own hands. Such loss is accidental and must be ascribed to the
inevitable course of human things.

Duelling is a form of murder and suicide combined, for which there can
possibly be no justification. The code of honor that requires the
reparation of an insult at the point of the sword or the muzzle of a
pistol has no existence outside the befogged intelligence of godless
men. The duel repairs nothing and aggravates the evil it seeks to
remedy. The justice it appeals to is a creature dependent on skill and
luck; such justice is not only blind, but crazy as well.

That is why the Church anathematizes duelling. The duel she condemns is
a hand-to-hand combat prearranged as to weapons, time and place, and it
is immaterial whether it be to the death or only to the letting of
first blood. She fulminates her major excommunication against
duellists, even in the event of their failing to keep their agreement.
Her sentence affects seconds and all those who advise or favor or abet,
and even those whose simple presence is an incentive and encouragement.
She refuses Christian burial to the one who falls, unless before dying
he shows certain dispositions of repentance.

Prize fighting, however brutal and degrading, must not be put in the
category of duelling. Its object is not to wipe out an insult, but to
furnish sport and to reap the incidental profits. In normal conditions
there is no danger to life or limb. Sharkey might stop with the point
of his chin a blow that would send many another into kingdom come; but
so long as Sharkey does the stopping the danger remains non-existent.
If, however, hate instead of lucre bring the men together, that motive
would be sufficient to make the game one of blood if not of death.

Lynching, is another kind of murder, and a cowardly, brutal kind, at
that. No crime, no abomination on the part of the victim, however
great, can justify such an inhuman proceeding. It brands with the crime
of wilful murder every man or woman who has a hand in it. To defend the
theory of lynching-is as bad as to carry it out in practice. And it is
greatly to be feared that the Almighty will one day call this land to
account for the outrageous performances of unbridled license and
heartless cruelty that occur so frequently in our midst.

The only plea on which to ground an excuse for such exhibitions of
brutality and disrespect for order and justice would be the inability
of established government to mete out justice to the guilty; but this
is not even the case, for government is defied and lawful authority
capable and willing to punish is spurned; the culprit is taken from the
hands of the law and delivered over to the vengeance of a mob. However
popular the doctrine of Judge Lynch may be in certain sections of the
land, it is nevertheless reprobated by the law of God and stands
condemned at the bar of His justice.


IN these days, since we have evolved into a fighting nation, our young
men feel within them the instinct of battle, which, like Job's steed,
"when it heareth the trumpet, saith: 'ha, ha'; that smelleth the battle
afar off, the encouraging of the captains, the shouting of the army."
Military trappings are no longer looked upon as stage furniture, good
only for Fourth-of-July parades and sham manoeuvers. War with us has
become a stern reality, and promises to continue such, for people do
not yield up willingly their independence, even to a world-power with a
providential "destiny" to fulfil. And since war is slaughter, it might
be apropos to remark on the morality of such killing as is done on the
field of battle and of war in general.

In every war there is a right side and a wrong side; sometimes,
perhaps, more frequently, there is right and wrong on both sides, due
to bungling diplomacy and the blindness of prejudice. But in every case
justice demands the triumph of one cause and the defeat of the other.
To determine in any particular case the side of right and justice is a
very difficult matter. And perhaps it is just as well that it is so;
for could this be done with truth and accuracy, frightful
responsibilities would have to be placed on the shoulders of somebody;
and we shrink instinctively from the thought of any one individual or
body of individuals standing before God with the crime of war on his or
their souls.

Therefore it is that grave men are of the opinion that such a
tremendous event as war is not wholly of man's making, but rather an
act of God, like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and the like; which
things He uses as flails to chastise His people, or to bring them to a
sense of their own insignificance in His sight. Be this as it may, it
is nevertheless true that a private individual is rarely, if ever,
competent to judge rightly by himself of the morality of any given
cause, until such time at least as history has probed the matter and
brought every evidence to light. In case, therefore, of doubt, every
presumption should favor the cause of one's own country. If, in my
private opinion, the cause of my country is doubtfully wrong, then that
doubt should yield to the weight of higher authoritative opinion.
Official or popular judgment will be authority for me; on that
authority I may form a strong probable opinion, at least; and this will
assure the morality of my taking up my country's cause, even though it
be doubtful from my personal point of view. If this cannot be done and
one's conscience positively reprove such a cause, then that one cannot,
until a contrary conviction is acquired, take any part therein. But he
is in no wise bound to defend with arms the other side, for his
convictions are subjective and general laws do not take these into

Who are bound to serve? That depends on the quality of danger to which
the commonwealth is exposed. First, the obligation is for those who can
do so easily; young men, strong, unmarried, with a taste for such
adventure as war affords. The greater the general peril, the less
private needs should be considered. The situation may be such as to
call forth every able-bodied man, irrespective of family necessities.
To shirk this duty when it is plainly a duty--a rare circumstance,
indeed--is without doubt a sin.

Obedience to orders is the alpha and omega of army discipline; without
it a cause is lost from the beginning. Numbers are nothing compared to
order; a mob is not a fighting machine; it is only a fair target. The
issue of a battle, or even of a whole war, may depend on obedience to
orders. Army men know this so well that death is not infrequently the
penalty of disobedience. Consequently, a violation of discipline is
usually a serious offense; it may easily be a mortal sin.

War being slaughter, the soldier's business is to kill or rather to
disable, as many of the enemy as possible on the field of battle. This
disabling process means, of course, and necessarily, the maiming unto
death of many. Such killing is not only lawful, but obligatory. War,
like the surgeon's knife, must often lop off much in order to save the
whole. The best soldier is he who inflicts most damage on the enemy.

But the desire and intention of the soldier should not be primarily to
kill, but only to put the enemy beyond the possibility of doing further
harm. Death will be the result of his efforts in many cases, and this
he suffers to occur rather than desires and intends. He has no right to
slay outside of battle or without the express command of a superior
officer; if he does so, he is guilty of murder. Neither must there be
hate behind the aim that singles out a foe for destruction; the general
hatred which he bestows on the opposing cause must respect the
individual enemy.

It is not lawful to wantonly torture or maim an enemy, whoever or
whatever he may be, however great his crime. Not even the express
command of a superior officer can justify such doings, because it is
barbarity, pure and unmitigated. In war these things are morally just
what they would be if they were perpetrated in the heart of peace and
civilization by a gang of thugs. These are abominations that, not only
disgrace the flag under which they are committed, but even cry to
Heaven for vengeance.


HEROD, the Bloody, slew all under two. A modern Moloch, a creature of
lust and blood, disguised often under the cloak of respectability,
stalks through a Christian land denying the babe the right to be born
at all, demanding that it be crushed as soon as conceived. There is
murder and murder; but this is the most heartless, cowardly and brutal
on the catalogue of crime.

It is bad enough to cut down an enemy, to shoot him in the back; but
when it comes to slaying a victim as helpless as a babe, incapable of
entering a protest, innocent of all wrong save that of existing; when
even baptism is denied it, and thereby the sight of God for all
eternity; when finally the victim is one's own flesh and blood, the
language of hell alone is capable of qualifying such deeds.

Do not say there is no injustice. Every innocent human being, at every
stage of its existence, from the first to the last, born or unborn, has
a natural and inalienable right to live, as long as nature's laws
operate in its favor. Being innocent it cannot forfeit that right. God
is no exceptor of persons; a soul is a soul, whether it be the soul of
a pontiff, a king or a sage, or the soul of the unborn babe of the last
woman of the people. In every case, the right to live is exactly the

The circumstances, regular or irregular, of its coming into life, not
being of its own making, do not affect the right in the least. It
obeyed the law by which every man is created; it could not disobey, for
the law is fatal. Its presence therefore, cannot be morally obnoxious,
a crime on its part. Whether its presence is a joy or a shame, that
depends solely on the free act of others than itself; and it is for
them to enjoy the privilege or bear the disgrace and burden. That
presence may occasion poverty, suffering, it may even endanger life;
what if it does! Has a person in misfortune the right to strike down
another who has had no part in making that misfortune?

Life does not begin at birth, but precedes it; prenatal life is truly
life. That which is conceived, is; being, it lives as essentially as a
full-grown man in the prime of life. Being the fruit of humanity it is
human at every instant of its career; being human, it is a creature of
God, has an immortal soul with the image of the Maker stamped thereon.
And the veto of God, "Thou shalt not kill," protects that life, or it
has no meaning at all.

The psychological moment of incipient life, the instant marked by the
infusion of soul into body, may furnish a problem of speculation for
the savant; but even when certitude ends and doubt begins, the law of
God fails not to protect. No man who doubts seriously that the act he
is about to perform is a crime, and is free to act or not to act, is
anything but a criminal, if he goes ahead notwithstanding and does the
deed. If I send a bullet into a man's head doubting whether or not he
be dead, I commit murder by that act, and it matters not at all in
point of fact whether said person were really dead or not before I made
sure. In the matter, therefore, which concerns us here, doubt will not
make killing justifiable. The law is: when in doubt, do not act.

Then, again, as far as guilt is concerned, it makes not a particle of
difference whether results follow or not. Sin, you know, is an act of
the will; the exterior deed completes, but does not make, the crime. If
I do all in my power to effect a wrong and fail in the attempt through
no fault of my own, I am just as guilty before God as if I perpetrated
the crime in deed. It is more than a desire to commit sin, which is
sinful; it is a specific sin in itself, and in this matter, it is
murder pure and simple.

This applies with equal force to the agent who does the deed, to the
principal who has it done or consents to its being done, to those who
advise, encourage, urge or co-operate in any way therein, as well as to
those who having authority to prevent, neglect to use it. The stain of
blood is on the soul of every person to whom any degree of
responsibility or complicity can be attached.

If every murderer in this enlightened Christian land of ours received
the rope which is his or her due, according to the letter of the law,
business would be brisk for quite a spell. It is a small town that has
not its professional babe-slaughterer, who succeeds in evading the law
even when he contrives to kill two at one time. He does not like to do
it, but there is money in it, you know; and he pockets his unholy blood
money without a squirm. Don't prosecute him; if you do, he will make
revelations that will startle the town.

As for the unnatural mother, it is best to leave her to listen in the
dead of night to the appealing voice of her murdered babes before the
tribunal of God's infinite justice. Their blood calls for vengeance.


KILLING is not the only thing forbidden by the Fifth Commandment:
thereby are prescribed all forms of enmity, of which killing is one,
that attack either directly or indirectly, in thought or desire, as
well as in deed, the life, limbs or health of the neighbor. The fifth
precept protects the physical man; everything therefore that partakes
of the nature of a design on the body of another is an offense against
this commandment. All such offenses are not equally grievous, but each
contains a malice of its own, which is prescribed under the head of

Enmity that takes the form of fighting, assault and battery, is clearly
a breach of the law of God. It is lawful to wound, maim and otherwise
disable an assailant, on the principle of self-defense, when there is
no other means of protecting oneself against attack. But outside this
contingency, such conduct is ruffianism before man, and sin before God.
The State alone has the right to inflict penalties and avenge wrongs;
to turn this right over to every individual would be destructive of
society. If this sort of a thing is unlawful and criminal when there
might be some kind of an excuse for it on the ground of injury
received, the malice thereof is aggravated considerably by the fact of
there being no excuse at all, or only imaginary ones.

There is another form of enmity or hatred that runs not to blows but to
words. Herein is evil, not because of any bodily injury wrought, of
which there is none, but because of the diabolical spirit that
manifests itself, a spirit reproved by God and which, in given
circumstances, is ready to resort to physical injury and even to the
letting of blood. There can be no doubt that hatred in itself is
forbidden by this commandment, for "whosoever hateth his brother is a
murderer," according to St. John. It matters little, therefore, whether
such hatred be in deeds or in words; the malice is there and the sin is
consummated. A person, too weak to do an enemy bodily harm, may often
use his or her tongue to better effect than another could his fists,
and the verbal outrage thus committed may be worse than a physical one.

It is not even necessary that the spirit of enmity show itself at all
on the outside for the incurring of such guilt as attends the violation
of this commandment. It is sufficient that it possess the soul and go
no farther than a desire to do harm. This is the spirit of revenge, and
it is none the less sinful in the eyes of God because it lacks the
complement of exterior acts. It is immoral to nourish a grudge against
a fellow-man. Such a spirit only awaits an occasion to deal a blow,
and, when that occasion shows itself, will be ready, willing and
anxious to strike. The Lord refuses the gifts and offerings and prayers
of such people as these; they are told to go and become reconciled with
their brother and lay low the spirit that holds them; then, and only
then, will their offerings be acceptable.

Even less than this suffices to constitute a breach of the Fifth
Commandment. It is the quality of such passions as envy and jealousy to
sometimes be content with the mere thought of injury done to their
object, without, even going so far as to desire to work the evil
themselves. These passions are often held in check for a time; but, in
the event of misfortune befalling the hated rival, there follows a
sense of complacency and satisfaction which, if entertained, has all
the malice of mortal sin. If, on the contrary, the prosperity of
another inspire us with a feeling of regret and sadness, which is
deliberately countenanced and consented to, there can be no doubt as to
the grievous malice of such a failing.

Finally recklessness may be the cause of our harming another. It is a
sound principle of morals that one is responsible for his acts in the
measure of his foreseeing, and consenting to, the results and
consequences. But there is still another sound principle according to
which every man is accountable, at least indirectly, for the evil
consequences of his actions, even though they be unforeseen and
involuntary, in the measure of the want of ordinary human prudence
shown in his conduct. A man with a loaded revolver in his hand may not
have any design on the lives of his neighbors; but if he blazes away
right and left, and happens to fill this or that one with lead, he is
guilty, if he is in his right mind; and a sin, a mortal sin, is still a
sin, even if it is committed indirectly. Negligence is often culpable,
and ignorance frequently a sin.

Naturally, just as the soul is superior to the body, so evil example,
scandal, the killing of the soul of another is a crime of a far greater
enormity than the working of injury unto the body. Scandal comes
properly under the head of murder; but it is less blood than lust that
furnishes it with working material. It will therefore be treated in its
place and time.


WHAT is an enemy? A personal, an individual enemy is he who has done us
a personal injury. The enemy, in a general or collective sense, are
they--a people, a class or party--who are opposed to our interests,
whose presence, doings or sayings are obnoxious to us for many natural
reasons. Concerning these latter, it might be said that it is natural,
oftentimes necessary and proper, to oppose them by all legitimate
means. This opposition, however lawful, is scarcely ever compatible
with any high degree of charity or affection. But whatever of aversion,
antipathy or even hatred is thereby engendered, it is not of a personal
nature; it does not attain the individual, but embraces a category of
beings as a whole, who become identified with the cause they sustain
and thereby fall under the common enmity. The law that binds us unto
love of our enemy operates only in favor of the units, and not of the
group as a group.

Hatred, aversion, antipathy, such as divides peoples, races and
communities, is one, though not the highest, characteristic of
patriotism; it may be called the defect of a quality. When a man is
whole-souled in a cause, he will brook with difficulty any system of
ideas opposed to, and destructive of, his own. Anxious for the triumph
of what he believes the cause of right and justice, he will rejoice
over the discomfiture of his rivals and the defeat of their cause. Wars
leave behind an inheritance of hatred; persecution makes wounds that
take a long time to heal. The descendants of the defeated, conquered or
persecuted will-look upon the generations of their fathers' foes as
typifying oppression, tyranny and injustice, will wish them all manner
of evil and gloat over their downfall. Such feelings die hard. They
spring from convictions. The wounds made by injustice, fancied or real,
will smart; and just as naturally will men retain in their hearts
aversion for all that which, for them, stands for such injustice. This
is criminal only when it fails to respect the individual and become
personal hate.

Him who has done us a personal injury we must forgive. Pardon drives
hatred out of the heart. Love of God is incompatible with personal
enmity; therefore such enmity must be quelched. He who says he loves
God and hates his brother is a liar, according to divine testimony.
What takes the place of this hate? Love, a love that is called common
love, to distinguish it from that special sort of affection that we
have for friends. This is a general kind of love that embraces all men,
and excludes none individually. It forbids all uncharity towards a man
as a unit, and it supposes a disposition of the soul that would not
refuse to give a full measure of love and assistance, if necessity
required it. This sort of love leaves no room for hatred of a personal
nature in the heart.

Is it enough to forgive sincerely from the heart? It is not enough; we
must manifest our forgiveness, and this for three good reasons: first,
in order to secure us against self-illusion and to test the sincerity
of our dispositions; secondly, in order to put an end to discord by
showing the other party that we hold no grudge; lastly, in order to
remove whatever scandal may have been given by our breach of
friendship. The disorder of enmity can be thoroughly cured and healed
only by an open renewal of the ties of friendship; and this is done by
the offering and acknowledgment of the signs of friendship.

The signs of friendship are of two sorts, the one common, the other
special. Common tokens of friendship are those signs which are current
among people of the same condition of life; such as saluting, answering
a question, dealing in business affairs, etc. These are commonly
regarded as sufficient to take away any reasonable suspicion of hatred,
although, in matter of fact, the inference may be false. But the
refusal to give such tokens of pardon usually argues the presence of an
uncharitable feeling that is sinful; it is nearly always evidence of an
unforgiving spirit. There are certain cases wherein the offense
received being of a peculiar nature, justifies one in deferring such
evidence of forgiveness; but these cases are rare.

If we are obliged to show by unmistakable signs that we forgive a wrong
that has been done, we are in nowise bound to make a particular friend
of the person who has been guilty of the wrong. We need not go out of
our way to meet him, receive or visit him or treat him as a long lost
brother. He would not expect it, and we fulfil our obligations toward
him by the ordinary civilities we show him in the business of life.

If we have offended, we must take the first step toward reconciliation
and apologize; that is the only way we have of repairing the injury
done, and to this we are held in conscience. If there is equal blame on
both sides, then both are bound to the same duty of offering an
apology. To refuse such advances on the part of one who has wronged us
is to commit an offense that might very easily be grievous.

All this, of course, is apart from the question of indemnification in
case of real damage being sustained. We may condone an offense and at
the same time require that the loss suffered be repaired. And in case
the delinquent refuse to settle amicably, we are justified in pursuing
him before the courts. Justice is not necessarily opposed to charity.


THE natural order of things brings us to a consideration of the Sixth
Commandment, and at the same time, of the Ninth, as treating of the
same matter--a matter so highly immoral as to deserve the specific
appellation of immorality.

People, as a rule, are tolerably well informed on this subject. It is a
knowledge acquired by instinct, the depraved instinct of our fallen
nature, and supplemented by the experiences weaned from the daily
sayings and doings of common life. Finally, that sort of journalism
known as the "yellow," and literature called pornographic, serve to
round off this education and give it the finishing touches.

But, on the other hand, if one considers the innocent, the young and
inexperienced, who are not a few; and likewise the morbidly curious of
sensual tendencies, who are many, this matter must appear as a high
explosive, capable of doing any amount of damage, if not handled with
the utmost care and caution.

Much, therefore, must be left unsaid, or half-said; suggestion and
insinuation must be trusted to go far enough, in order that, while the
knowing understand, the ignorant may be secure in the bliss of their
ignorance and be not prematurely informed.

They, for whom such language is insufficient, know where to go for
fuller information. Parents are the natural teachers; the boy's father
and the girl's mother know what to say, how and when to say it; or at
least should know. And if parents were only more careful, in their own
way, to acquaint their children with certain facts when the time comes
for it, much evil would be avoided, both moral and physical.

But there are secrets too sacred even for parents' ears, that are
confided only to God, through His appointed minister. Catholics know
this man is the confessor, and the place for such information and
counsel, the holy tribunal of penance. These two channels of knowledge
are safe; the same cannot be said of others.

As a preliminary, we would remark that sins, of the sort here in
question as well as all kinds of sin, are not limited to deeds.
Exterior acts consummate the malice of evil, but they do not constitute
such malice; evil is generated in the heart. One who desires to do
wrong offends God as effectively as another who does the wrong in deed.
Not only that, but he who makes evil the food of his mind and ponders
complacently on the seductive beauty of vice is no less guilty than he
who goes beyond theory into practice. This is something we frequently
forget, or would fain forget, the greed of passion blinding us more or
less voluntarily to the real moral value of our acts.

As a consequence of this self-illusion many a one finds himself far
beyond his depth in the sea of immorality before he fully realizes his
position. It is small beginnings that lead to lasting results; it is by
repeated acts that habits are formed; and evil grows on us faster than
most of us are willing to acknowledge. All manner of good and evil
originates in thought; and that is where the little monster of
uncleanness must be strangled before it is full-grown, if we would be
free from its unspeakable thralldom.

Again, this is a matter the malice and evil of which very, very rarely,
if ever, escapes us. He who commits a sin of impurity and says he did
not know it was wrong, lies deliberately, or else he is not in his
right frame of mind. The Maker has left in our souls enough of natural
virtue and grace to enable us to distinguish right and wrong, clean and
unclean; even the child with no definite knowledge of the matter,
meeting it for the first time, instinctively blushes and recoils from
the moral hideousness of its aspect. Conscience here speaks in no
uncertain accents; he alone does not hear who does not wish to hear.

Catholic theologians are even more rigid concerning the matter itself,
prescinding altogether from our perception of it. They say that here no
levity of matter is allowed, that is to say, every violation, however
slight, of either of these two commandments, is a sin. You cannot even
touch this pitch of moral defilement without being yourself defiled. It
is useless therefore to argue the matter and enter a plea of triviality
and inconsequence; nothing is trivial that is of a nature to offend God
and damn a soul.

Weakness has the same value as an excuse as it has elsewhere in moral
matters. Few sins are of pure malice; weakness is responsible for the
damnation of all, or nearly all, the lost. That very weakness is the
sin, for virtue is strength. To make this plea therefore is to make no
plea at all, for we are all weak, desperately weak, especially against
the demon of the flesh, and we become weaker by yielding. And we are
responsible for the degree of moral debility under which we labor just
as we are for the degree of guilt we have incurred.

Finally, as God, is no exceptor of persons, He does not distinguish
between souls, and sex makes no difference with Him. In this His
judgment differs from that of the world which absolves the man and
condemns the woman. There is no evident reason why the violation of a
divine precept should be less criminal in one human creature than in
another. And if the reprobation of society does not follow both
equally, the wrath of God does, and He will render unto every one
according to his and her works.


THE malice of lust consists in the abuse of a natural, a quasi-divine
faculty, which is prostituted to ignoble purposes foreign to the ends
by the Creator established. The lines along which this faculty may be
legitimately exercised, are laid down by natural and divine laws,
destined to preserve God's rights, to maintain order in society and to
protect man against himself. The laws result in the foundation of a
state, called matrimony, within which the exercise of this human
prerogative, delegated to man by the Creator, receives the sanction of
divine authority, and becomes invested with a sacred character, as
sacred as its abuse is abominable and odious.

To disregard and ignore this condition of things and to seek
satisfaction for one's passions outside the domain of lawful wedlock,
is to revolt against this order of creative wisdom and to violate the
letter of the law. But the intrinsic malice of the evil appears in the
nature of this violation. This abuse touches life; not life in its
being, but in its source, in the principle that makes all vitality
possible, which is still more serious. Immorality is therefore a moral
poisoning of the wells of life. It profanes and desecrates a faculty
and prerogative so sacred that it is likened to the almighty power of
the Creator.

A manifold malice may attach to a single act in violation of the law of
moral purity. The burden of a vow in either party incurring guilt,
whether that vow be matrimonial or religious, is a circumstance that
adds injustice or sacrilege to the crime, according to the nature of
that vow; and the double guilt is on both parties. If the vow exists in
one and the other delinquent, then the offense is still further
multiplied and the guilt aggravated. Blood-relationship adds a specific
malice of its own, slight or grievous according to the intimacy of said
relationship. Fornication, adultery, sacrilege and incest--these, to
give to things their proper names, are terms that specify various
degrees of malice and guilt in this matter; and although they do not
sound well or look well in print, they have a meaning which sensible
folks should not ignore.

A lapse from virtue is bad; the habit or vice, voluntarily entertained,
is infinitely worse. If the one argues weakness, even culpable, the
other betrays a studied contempt for God and the law, an utter
perversion of the moral sense that does not even esteem virtue in
itself; an appalling thralldom of the spirit to the flesh, an appetite
that is all ungodly, a gluttony that is bestial. Very often it supposes
a victim held fast in the clutches of unfeeling hoggishness, fascinated
or subjugated, made to serve, while serviceable; and then cast off
without a shred of respectability for another. It is an ordinary
occurrence for one of these victims to swallow a deadly potion on being
shown her folly and left to its consequences; and the human ogre rides
triumphantly home in his red automobile.

But the positions may be reversed; the victim may play the role of
seductress, and displaying charms that excite the passions, ensnare the
youth whose feet are not guided by the lamp of experience, wisdom and
religion. This is the human spider, soulless and shameless, using
splendid gifts of God to form a web with which to inveigle and entrap a
too willing prey. And the dead flies, who will count them!

The climax of infamy is reached when this sort of a thing is made, not
a pastime, but a business, when virtue is put on the market with its
fixed value attached and bartered for a price. There is no outrage on
human feeling greater than this. We are all born of woman; and the
sight of womanhood thus degraded and profaned would give us more of a
shock if it were less common. The curse of God is on such wretches as
ply this unnatural trade and live by infamy; not only on them, but on
those also who make such traffic possible and lucrative. Considering
all things, more guilty the latter than the former, perhaps. Active
co-operation in evil makes one a joint partner in guilt; to encourage
infamy is not only to sin, but also to share all the odium thereof;
while he who contributes to the perpetuation of an iniquity of this
nature is, in a sense, worse than the unfortunates themselves.

The civil law which seeks to eliminate the social evil of prostitution
by enactment and process, gives rise, by enactment and process, to
another evil almost as widespread. Divorce is a creature of the law,
and divorce opens the door to concubinage, legalized if you will, but
concubinage just the same. The marriage tie is intact after as well as
before the decree of divorce; no human power can break that bond. The
permission therefore to re-marry is permission to live in adultery, and
that permission is, of its very nature, null and void. They who avail
themselves of such a permission and live in sin, may count on the
protection of the law, but the law will not protect them against the
wrath of the Almighty who condemns their immoral living.


CERTAIN excesses, such as we have already alluded to, however base and
abominable in themselves and their effects, have nevertheless this to
their credit that, while violating the positive law of God, they
respect at least the fundamental laws of nature, according to which the
universe is constructed and ordered. To satisfy one's depraved
appetites along forbidden but natural lines, is certainly criminal; but
an unnatural and beastly instinct is sometimes not-satisfied with such
abuse and excess; the passion becomes so blinded as to ignore the
difference of sex, runs even lower, to the inferior order of brutes.
This is the very acme of ungodliness.

There are laws on the statute books against abominations of this sort;
and be it said to the shame of a Christian community, said laws find an
only too frequent application. Severe as are the penalties, they are
less an adequate punishment than a public expression of the common
horror inspired by the very mention of crimes they are destined to
chastise. To attain this depth of infamy is at one and the same time to
sin and to receive the penalty of sin. Here culminates repeated
violence to the moral law. When one is sated with ordinary lusts and is
bent on sweeping the whole gamut of mundane experiences and
excitations, that one invariably descends to the unnatural and
extraordinary, and lives a life of protest against nature.

St. Paul confirms this. According to him, God, in punishment for sin
delivers over people to shameful affections, to a reprobate sense; he
suffers them to be a hell unto themselves. And nature seldom fails to
avenge herself for the outrages suffered. She uses the flail of disease
and remorse, of misery and disgust, and she scourges the culprit to the
verge of the grave, often to the yawning pit of hell.

People shudder at the very thought of such unmentionable things: but
there are circles in society in which such sanctimonious shuddering is
a mighty thin veil of hypocrisy. Infinitely more common, and little, if
any, less unnatural and abominable are the crimes that are killing off
the old stock that once possessed the land and making the country
dependent for increase of population on the floods of immigration. The
old Puritan families are almost extinct; Boston is more Irish than
Dublin. The phenomenon is so striking here that it is called New
Englandism. Why are there so few large families outside the Irish and
Canadian elements? Why are there seen so few children in the
fashionable districts of our large cities? Why this blast of sterility
with which the land is cursed? Look behind the phenomenon, and you will
find the cause; and the finding will make you shudder. And if only
those shudder who are free from stain, the shuddering will be scarcely
audible. Onan and Malthus as household gods are worse than the gods of

Meanwhile, the unit deteriorates alongside the family, being given over
to a reprobate sense that is centered in self, that furnishes, against
all law, its own satisfactions, and reaps, in all justice, its
inevitable harvest of woe. To what extent this vice is common it would
serve no purpose to examine; students of criminology have more than
once made known their views on the matter. The character of its malice,
both moral and physical, needs no comment; nature is outraged. But it
has this among its several features; the thralldom to which it subjects
its victim has nothing outside itself to which it may be compared.
Man's self is his own greatest tyrant; there are no tortures so
exquisite as those we provide for ourselves. While therefore we reprove
the culprit, we commiserate with the unfortunate victim, and esteem
that there is none more worthy of sympathy, conditioned, of course, on
a state of mind and soul on his part that seeks relief and freedom;
otherwise, it were pity wasted.

We have done with this infernal category of sin and filth. Yet we would
remark right here that for the most part, as far as they are general
and common, these excesses are the result of one cause; and that cause
is everyday systematic Godlessness such as our public schools are
largely responsible for. This system is responsible for a want of vital
Christianity, of a lack of faith and religion that penetrates the human
fibre and makes God and morality a factor in every deed. Deprived of
this, youth has nothing to fall back on when the hour of temptation
comes; and when he falls, nothing to keep him from the bottom of the

It is impossible to put this argument in detail before the Christian
and Catholic parent. If the parent docs not see it, it is because that
parent is deficient in the most essential quality of a parent. Nothing
but the atmosphere of a religious school can save our youth from being
victims of that maelstrom of impurity that sweeps the land. And that
alone, with the rigid principles of morality there inculcated, can save
the parents of to-morrow from the blight and curse of New Englandism.


THE heart, the seat of the affections, is, after the mind whose
authority and direction it is made to obey, man's noblest faculty; but
it may, in the event of its contemning reason's dictates, become the
source and fountain-head of inordinate lust and an instrument of much
moral disaster and ruin. When the intelligence becomes powerless to
command and to say what and when and how the affections shall disport
themselves, then man becomes a slave to his heart and is led like an
ass by the nose hither and thither; and when nature thus runs
unrestrained and wild, it makes for the mudholes of lust wherein to
wallow and besot itself.

The heart is made to love what is good; now, good is real or apparent.
Love is blind, and needs reason to discern for it what is good and what
is not, reason to direct its affections into their legitimate channels.
But the heart may refuse to be thus controlled, swayed by the
whisperings of ignorant pride and conceit; or it may be unable to
receive the impulse of the reason on account of the unhealthy fumes
that arise from a too exuberant animal nature unchastened by
self-denial. Then it is that, free to act as it lists, it accepts
indiscriminately everything with an appearance of good, in which gets
mixed up much of that which appeals to the inferior appetites. And in
the end it gets lost.

Again, the heart is a power for good or evil; it may be likened to a
magazine, holding within its throbbing sides an explosive deposit of
untold energy and puissance, capable of all things within the range of
the human. While it may lift man to the very pinnacle of goodness, it
may also sink him to the lowest level of infamy. Only, in one case, it
is spiritualized love, in the other, it is carnal; in one case it obeys
the spirit, in the other, the flesh; in one case its true name is
charity, in the other, it is animal, sexual instinct, and it is only
improperly called love. For God is love. Love therefore is pure. That
which is not pure is not love.

People who trifle with the affections usually come to woe sooner or
later, sooner rather than later; affairs of the heart are always
morally malodorous affairs. Frequently there is evil on one side at
least, in intention, from the start. The devil's game is to play on the
chaste attachment, and in an unguarded moment, to swing it around to
his point. If the victim does not balk at the first shock and surprise,
the game is won; for long experience has made him confident of being
able to make the counterfeit look like the real; and it requires, as a
general rule, little argument to make us look at our faults in their
best light.

Many a pure love has degenerated and many a virtue fallen, why? because
people forget who and what they are, forget they are human, forget they
are creatures of flesh and blood, predisposed to sin, saturated with
concupiscence and naturally frail as a reed against the seductions of
the wily one. They forget this, and act as though theirs were art
angelic, instead of a human, nature. They imagine themselves proof
against that which counts such victims as David and Solomon, which
would cause the fall of a Father of the desert, or even of an angel
from heaven encumbered with the burden we carry, if he despised the
claims of ordinary common sense.

And this forgetfulness on their part, let it be remembered, is wholly
voluntary and culpable, at least in its cause. They may not have been
attentive at the precise moment that the flames of passion reached the
mine of their affections; but they were well aware that things would
come inevitably to such a pass. And when the mine went up, as it was
natural, what wonder if disaster followed! Who is to blame but
themselves? People do not play with matches around a powder magazine;
and if they do, very little consolation comes with the knowledge of
their folly when they are being picked up in sections from out of the

Of course there are easier victims than these, such as would not
recognize true inter-sexual love if they saw it through a magnifying
glass; everything of the nature of a fancy or whim, of a sensation or
emotion with them is love. Love-sick maidens are usually soft-brained,
and their languorous swains, lascivious. The latter pose as "killers;"
the former wear their heart on their sleeve, and are convinced that
every second man they meet who treats them gallantly is smitten with
their charms and is passionately in love with them.

Some go in for excitement and novelty, to break the monotony of
virtuous restraint. They are anxious for a little adventure and
romance. A good thing, too, to have these exploits to narrate to their
friends. But they do not tell all to their friends; they would be
ashamed to. If said friends are wise they can supply the deficiencies.
And when it is all over, it is the same old story of the man that did
not know the gun was loaded.

They therefore who would remain pure must of all necessity keep custody
over their heart's affections, make right reason and faith their guide
and make the will force obedience thereto. If wrong attachments are
formed, then there is nothing to do but to eradicate them, to cut, tear
and crush; they must be destroyed at any cost. A pennyweight of
prudence might have prevented the evil; it will now take mortification
in large and repeated doses to undo it. In this alone is there


OCCASIONS of sin are persons, places or things that may easily lead us
into sin: this definition of the little catechism is simple and clear
and requires no comment. It is not necessary that said places or
things, or even said persons, be evil in themselves; it is sufficient
that contact with, or proximity to, them induce one to commit an evil.
It may happen, and sometimes does, that a person without any evil
design whatever become an occasion of sin for another. The blame
therefore does not necessarily lie with objects, but rather with the

Occasions are of two kinds: the remote or far and the proximate or
near; they differ in the degree of facility with which they furnish
temptation, and in the quality and nature of such temptation. In the
former, the danger of falling is less, in the latter it is more,
probable. In theory, it is impossible to draw the line and say just
when an occasion ceases to be proximate and becomes remote; but in the
concrete the thing is easy enough. If I have a well-grounded fear, a
fear made prudent by experience, that in this or that conjuncture I
shall sin, then it is a near occasion for me. If, however, I can feel
with knowledge and conviction that I am strong enough to overcome the
inevitable temptation arising from this other conjunction of
circumstances, the occasion is only remote.

Thus, since danger in moral matters is nearly always relative; what is
a remote occasion for one may be a proximate occasion for another.
Proneness to evil is not the same in us all, for we have not all the
same temperament and the same virtue. Two individuals may assist at a
ball or a dance or a play, the one secure from sin, immune against
temptation, the other a manifold victim of his or her folly. The dance
or spectacle may not be bad in itself, it is not bad in fact for one,
it is positively evil for the other and a near occasion of sin.

Remote occasions cannot always be avoided, they are so numerous and
frequent; besides the evil they contain is a purely imaginative, and
therefore negligible, quantity. There may be guilt however, in seeking
such occasions and without reason exposing ourselves to their possible
dangers; temerity is culpable; he that loves danger shall perish.

With the other kind, it is different. The simple fact of embracing a
proximate occasion of sin is a grievous fault, even in the event of our
accidentally not succumbing to the temptation to which we are exposed.
There is an evil in such rashness independent of its consequences. He
therefore who persists in visiting a place where there is every
facility for sinning and where he has frequently sinned, does a deed of
crime by going there; and whatever afterwards occurs, or does not
occur, affects that crime not in the least. The same is true of reading
certain books, novels and love-stories, for people of a certain
spiritual complexion. The same is true of company-keeping,
street-walking, familiarity and loose conversation. Nor can anything
different be said of such liberties, consented to or merely tolerated,
as embracing and kissing, amorous effusions and all perilous amusements
of this nature. When experience shows these things to be fraught with
danger, then they become sinful in themselves, and can be indulged in
only in contempt of the law of God and to our own serious spiritual

But suppose I cannot avoid the occasion of sin, cannot remove it. What

If it is a clear case of proximate occasion of sin, and all means fail
to change it, then the supposition of impossibility is a ridiculous
one. It is paramount to asserting that sin and offense of God is
sometimes necessary; and to talk thus is to talk nonsense. Sin is a
deliberate act of a free will; mention necessity in the same breath,
and you destroy the notion of sin. There can never be an impossibility
of avoiding sin; consequently, there can never be an impossibility of
avoiding a near occasion of sin.

It may be hard, very difficult; but that is another thing. But, as we
have already said, the difficulty is rather within than without us, it
arises from a lack of will power. But hard or easy, these occasions
must nevertheless be removed. Let the suffering entailed be what it
may, the eye must be plucked out, the arm must be lopped off, to use
the Saviour's figurative language, if in no other way the soul can be
saved from sin. Better to leave your father's house, better to give up
your very life, than to damn your soul for all eternity. But extremes
are rarely called for; small sacrifices often cost more than great
ones. A good dose of ordinary, everyday mortification and penance
goes a long way toward producing the necessary effect. An ounce of
self-denial will work miracles in a sluggard, cowardly soul.

It would be well on occasion to remember this, especially when one in
such a state is thinking seriously of going to confession: if he is not
prepared to make the required effort, then he had better stay away
until such a time as he is willing. For if he states his case
correctly, he will not receive absolution; if his avowal is not
according to fact, his confession is void, perhaps sacrilegious. Have
done with sin before you can expect to have your sins forgiven.


ON only rare occasions do people who follow the bent of their unbridled
passions bethink themselves of the double guilt that frequently
attaches to their sins. Seemingly satisfied with the evil they have
wrought unto their own souls, they choose to ignore the wrong they may
have done unto others as a consequence of their sinful doings. They
believe in the principle that every soul is personally responsible for
its own damnation: which is true; but they forget that many elements
may enter as causes into such a calamity. We are in nowise isolated
beings in this world; our lives may, and do, affect the lives of
others, and influence them sometimes to an extraordinary extent. We
shall have, each of us, to answer one day for results of such
influence; there is no man but is, in this sense, his brother's

There are, who deny this, like Cain. Yet we Icnow that Jesus Christ
spoke clearly His mind in regard to scandal, and the emphasis He lays
on His anathemas leaves no room to doubt of His judgment on the
subject. Scandal, in fact, is murder; not corporal murder, which is a
vengeance-crying abomination, but spiritual murder, heinous over the
other in the same measure as the soul's value transcends that of the
body. Kill the body, and the soul may live and be saved; kill the soul
and it is lost eternally.

Properly speaking, scandal is any word or deed, evil or even with an
appearance of evil, of a nature to furnish an occasion of spiritual
downfall, to lead another info sin. It does not even matter whether the
results be intended or merely suffered to occur; it does not even
matter if no results follow at all. It is sufficient that the
stumbling-block of scandal be placed in the way of another to his
spiritual peril, and designed by nature to make him fall; on him who
placed it, is the guilt of scandal.

The act of scandal consists in making sin easier to commit--as though
it were not already easy enough to sin--for another. Natural grace, of
which we are not totally bereft, raises certain barriers to protect and
defend the weak and feeble. Conspicuous among these are ignorance and
shame; evil sometimes offers difficulties, the ones physical, the
others spiritual, such as innate delicacy, sense of dignity, timidity,
instinctive repugnance for filth, human respect, dread of consequences,
etc. These stand on guard before the soul to repel the first advances
of the tempter which are the most dangerous; the Devil seldom unmasks
his heavy batteries until the advance-posts of the soul are taken. It
is the business of scandal to break down these barriers, and for
scandal this work is as easy as it is nefarious. For curiosity is a
hungering appetite, virtue is often protected with a very thin veil,
and vice can be made to lose its hideousness and assume charms, to
untried virtue, irresistible. There is nothing doing for His Satanic
Majesty while scandal is in the field; he looks on and smiles.

There may be some truth in the Darwinian theory after all, if we judge
from the imitative propensities of the species, probably an inherited
trait of our common ancestor, the monkey. At any rate, we are often
more easily led by example than by conviction; example leads us against
our convictions. Asked why we did this or that, knowing we should not
have done it, we answer with simian honesty, "because such a one did
it, or invited us to do it." We get over a good many old-fashioned
notions concerning modesty and purity, after listening to the
experiences of others; we forget to be ashamed in the presence of the
brazen, the unabashed and the impudent. We feel partially justified in
doing what we see done by One to whom we are accustomed to look up. "If
he acts thus," we say, "how can it be so very wrong in me; and if
everybody--and everybody sometimes means a very few--if everybody does
so, it cannot be so bad as I first imagined." Thus may be seen the
workings of scandal in the mind and soul of its victim. Remembering our
natural proneness to carnal indulgence, it is not surprising that the
victims of scandal are so many. But this cannot be taken as an apology
for the scandal-giver; rather the contrary, since the malice of his sin
has possibilities so unbounded.

Scandal supposes an inducement to commit sin, which is not the case
when the receiver is already all disposed to sin and is as bad as the
giver. Nor can scandal be said properly to be given when those who
receive it are in all probability immune against the evil. Some people
say they are scandalized when they are only shocked; if what shocked
them has nothing in it to induce them into sinning, then their received
scandal is only imaginative, nor has any been given. Then, the number
of persons scandalized must be considered as an aggravating
circumstance. Finally, the guilt of scandal is greater or less
according to the helplessness of the victim or intended victim, and to
the sacredness of his or her right to immunity from temptation,
children being most sacred in this respect.

Of course God is merciful and forgives us our offenses however great
'they may be. We may undo a deal of wrong committed by us in this life,
and die in the state of grace, even after the most abominable crimes.
Theologically, therefore, the idea has little to commend itself, but it
must have occurred to more than one: how does one feel in heaven,
knowing that there is in hell, at that moment, one or many through his
or her agency! How mysterious is the justice of God to suffer such a
state of affairs! And although theoretically possible, how can anyone
count on such a contingency in his or her particular case! If the
scandalous would reflect seriously on this, they would be less willing
to take the chances offered by a possibility of this nature.


A MAN may come to discover that the state in which he finds himself
placed, is not the one for which he was evidently intended by the
Maker. We do not all receive the same gifts because our callings are
different; each of us is endowed in accordance and in harmony with the
ends of the Creator in making us. Some men should marry, others may
not; but the state of celibacy is for the few, and not for the many,
these few depending solely on an abundant grace of God.

Again, one may become alive to the fact that to remain in an abnormal
position means to seriously jeopardize his soul's salvation; celibacy
may, as for many it does, spell out for him, clearly and plainly,
eternal damnation. It is to no purpose here to examine the causes of,
and reasons for, such a condition of affairs. We take the fact as it
stands, plain and evident, a stern, hard fact that will not be downed,
because it is supported by the living proof of habit and conduct;
living and continuing to live a celibate, taking him as he is and as
there is every token of his remaining without any reasonable ground for
expecting a change, this man is doomed to perdition. His passions have
made him their slave; he cannot, it is morally impossible for him to do
so, remain continent.

Suppose again that the Almighty has created the state of wedlock for
just such emergencies, whereby a man may find a remedy for his
weaknesses, an outlet for his passions, a regulator of his life here
below and a security against damnation hereafter; and this is precisely
the case, for the ends of marriage are not only to perpetuate the
species, but also to furnish a remedy for natural concupiscence and to
raise a barrier against the flood of impurity.

Now, the case being as stated, need a Catholic, young or--a no longer
young--man look long or strive hard to find his path of duty already
clearly traced? And in making this application we refer to man, not to
woman, for reasons that are obvious; we refer, again, to those among
men whose spiritual sense is not yet wholly dead, who have not entirely
lost all respect for virtue in itself: who still claim to have an
immortal soul and hope to save it; but who have been caught in the
maelstrom of vice and whose passions and lusts have outgrown in
strength the ordinary resisting powers of natural virtue and religion
incomplete and half-hearted. These can appreciate their position; it
would be well for them to do so; the faculty for so doing may not
always be left with them.

The obligation to marry, to increase and multiply, was given to mankind
in general, and applies to man as a whole, and not to the individual;
that is, in the common and ordinary run of human things. But the
circumstances with which we are dealing are outside the normal, sphere;
they are extraordinary, that is say, they do not exist in accordance
with the plan and order established by God; they constitute a disorder
resulting from unlawful indulgence and wild impiety. It may therefore
be, and it frequently is the case, that the general obligation to marry
particularize itself and fall with its full weight on the individual,
this one or that one, according to the circumstances of his life. Then
it is that the voice of God's authority reaches the ear of the unit and
says to him in no uncertain accents: thou shalt marry. And behind that
decree of God stands divine justice to vindicate the divine right.

We do not deny but that, absolutely speaking, recourse to this remedy
may not be imperiously demanded; but we do claim that the absolute has
nothing whatever to do with the question which is one of relative
facts. What a supposed man may do in this or that given circumstance
does not in the least alter the position of another real, live man who
will not do this or that thing in a given circumstance; he will not,
because, morally speaking, he cannot; and he cannot, simply because
through excesses he has forgotten how. And of other reasons to justify
non-compliance with the law, there can be none; it is here a. question
of saving one's soul; inconveniences and difficulties and obstacles
have no meaning in such a contingency.

And, mind you, the effects of profligate celibacy are farther-reaching
than many of us would suppose at first blush. The culprit bears the
odium of it in his soul. But what about the state of those--or rather
of her, whoever she may be, known or unknown--whom he, in the order of
Providence, is destined to save from the precariousness of single life?
If it is his duty to take a wife, whose salvation as well as his own,
perhaps depends on the fulfilment of that duty, and if he shirks his
duty, shall he not be held responsible for the results in her as well
as in himself, since he could, and she could not, ward off the evil?

It has come to such a pass nowadays that celibacy, as a general thing,
is a misnomer for profligacy. Making all due allowance for honorable
exceptions, the unmarried male who is not well saturated with
spirituality and faith is notoriously gallinaceous in his morals. In
certain classes, he is expected to sow his wild oats before he is out
of his teens; and by this is meant that he will begin young to tear
into shreds the Sixth Commandment so as not to be bothered with it
later in life. If he married he would be safe.

Finally what kind of an existence is it for any human being, with power
to do otherwise, to pass through life a worthless, good-for-nothing
nonentity, living for self, shirking the sacred duties of paternity,
defrauding nature and God and sowing corruption where he might be
laying the foundation of a race that may never die? There is no one to
whom he has done good and no one owes him a tear when his barren
carcass is being given over as food to the worms. He is a rotten link
on the chain of life and the curse of oblivion will vindicate the
claims of his unborn generations. Young man, marry, marry now, and be
something in the world besides an eyesore of unproductiveness and
worthlessness; do something that will make somebody happy besides
yourself; show that you passed, and leave something behind that will
remember you and bless your name.


THE moralist is usually severe, and the quality of his censure is
merciless, when he attempts to treat the unwholesome theme of moral
deformity; and all his efforts are mere attempts, for no human language
can do full justice to such a theme, or fully express the contempt such
excesses deserve. It is just, then, that, when he stands in the
presence of the moral leper who blushes not for his degradation, he
flay with the whip of scorn and contempt, scourge with anathema and
brand him with every stigma of infamy, in order that the load of
opprobrium thus heaped upon his guilty head may at least deter the
clean from such defilement.

But, if guilt is always guilt, the quality of guilt is varied. Just as
all virtue is not equally meritorious, so to other sources than
personal unworthiness may often be traced moral debility that strives
against natural causes, necessary conditions of environment and an
ever-present and ever-active influence for evil. A fall does not always
betoken profound degradation nor a stain, acute perversity of the will.
Those therefore who wrestle manfully with the effects of regretted
lapses or weaknesses, who fight down, sometimes perhaps unsuccessfully,
the strong tendencies of a too exuberant animal nature, who strive to
neutralize an influence that unduly oppresses them,--against these,
guilty though they may have been, is not directed the moralist's
unmeasured censure. His reproaches in such cases tend less to condemn
than to awake to a sense of moral responsibility; earnestness in
pointing out remedy and safeguards takes the place of severity against
wilfulness. For he knows that not a few sentences of condemnation
Christ writes on the sands, as He did in a celebrated case, and many an
over-zealous accuser he has confounded, like the villainous Pharisees
whom He challenged to show a hand white enough to be worthy to cast the
first stone.

Evidently such pity and commiseration should not serve to make vice
less unlovely and thus undo the very work it is intended to perform. It
should not have the characteristics of certain books and plays that
pretend to teach morality by exposing vice in all its seductiveness.
Over-sensitive and maudlin sympathy is as ridiculous as it is
unhealthy; its tendency is principally to encourage and spoil. But a
judicious, discreet and measured sympathy will lift up the fallen,
strengthen the weak and help the timorous over many a difficulty. It
will suggest, too, the means best calculated to insure freedom from
slavery of the passions.

The first of these is self-denial, which is the inseparable companion
of chastity; when they are not found together, seldom does either
exist. And by self-denial is here meant the destruction of that eternal
r reference for self, that is at the bottom of all uncleanness, that
makes all things, however sacred, subservient to one's own pleasures,
that considers nothing unlawful but what goes against the grain of
natural impulse and natural appetites. There may be other causes, but
this self-love is a primary one. Say what you will, but one does not
fall from his own level; the moral world is like the physical; if you
are raised aloft in disregard for the laws of truth, you are going to
come down with a thud. If you imagine all the pleasures of life made
for you, and become lawful because your nature craves for them, you are
taking a too high estimate of yourself; you are going before a fall He
who takes a correct measure of himself, gets his bearings in relation
to God, comes to realize his own weak points and several deficiencies,
and acknowledges the obligations such a state of affairs places upon
him, that one may sin, but he will not go far.

He may fall, because he is human, because strength sufficient to guard
us against the assaults of impurity is not from us, but from God. The
spirit of humility, therefore, which makes known to him his own
insufficiency, must be fortified with the spirit of faith which makes
him ask for support through prayer. It is faith that makes prayer
possible, and living faith, the spirit of faith, that makes us pray
aright. This kind of prayer need not express itself in words; it may be
a habit, a long drawn out desire, an habitual longing for help coupled
with firm confidence in God's mercy to grant our request. No state of
soul however disordered can long resist such a power, and no habit of
evil but in time will be annihilated by it.

The man or woman who undertakes to keep himself or herself pure, or to
rise out of a habit of sin without the liberal use of divine
supplication has in hand a very ungrateful task, and he or she will
realize it before going far. And unless that prayer is sincere and
heartfelt, a prayer full of faith that will not entertain the thought
of failure, every effort will be barren of results. You must speak to
God as to one near you, and remember that He is near you all the time.

Then there are the sacraments to repair every breach and to heal every
wound. Penance will cleanse you, communion will adorn and equip you
anew. Confession will give you a better knowledge of yourself every
time you go; the Food of God will strengthen every fibre of your soul
and steel you against the seductions that otherwise would make you a
ready victim. Don't go once a year, go ten, twenty times and more, if
necessary, go until you feel that you own yourself, that you can
command and be obeyed. Then you will not have to be told to stop; you
will be safe.


THE Seventh Commandment is protective of the right of property which is
vested in every human being enjoying the use of reason. Property means
that which belongs to one, that which is one's own, to have and to
hold, or to dispose of, at one's pleasure, or to reclaim in the event
of actual dispossession. The right of property embraces all things to
which may be affixed the seal of ownership; and it holds good until the
owner relinquishes his claim, or forfeits or loses his title without
offense to justice. This natural faculty to possess excludes every
alien right, and supposes in all others the duty and obligation to
respect it. The respect that goes as far as not relieving the owner of
his goods is not enough; it must safeguard him against all damage and
injury to said goods; otherwise his right is non-existent.

All violations of this right come under the general head of stealing.
People call it theft, when it is effected with secrecy and slyness;
robbery, when there is a suggestion of force or violence. The swindler
is he who appropriates another's goods by methods of gross deception or
false pretenses while the embezzler transfers to himself the funds
entrusted to his care. Petty thieving is called pilfering or filching;
stealing on a large scale usually has less dishonorable qualificatives.
Boodling and lobbying are called politics; watering stock, squeezing
out legitimate competition, is called financiering; wholesale
confiscation and unjust conquest is called statesmanship. Give it
whatever name you like, it is all stealing; whether the culprit be
liberally rewarded or liberally punished, he nevertheless stands
amenable to God's justice which is outraged wherever human justice

Of course the sin of theft has its degrees of gravity, malice and
guilt, to determine which, that is, to fix exactly the value of stolen
goods sufficient to constitute a grievous fault, is not the simplest
and easiest of moral problems. The extent of delinquency may be
dependent upon various causes and complex conditions. On the one hand,
the victim must be considered in himself, and the amount of injury
sustained by him; on the other, justice is offended generally in all
cases of theft, and because justice is the corner stone of society, it
must be protected at all hazards. It is only by weighing judiciously
all these different circumstances that we can come to enunciate an
approximate general rule that will serve as a guide in the ordinary
contingencies of life.

Thus, of two individuals deprived by theft of a same amount of worldly
goods, the one may suffer thereby to a much greater extent than the
other; he who suffers more is naturally more reluctant to part with his
goods, and a greater injustice is done to him than to the other. The
sin committed against him is therefore greater than that committed
against the other. A rich man may not feel the loss of a dollar,
whereas for another less prosperous the loss of less than that sum
might be of the nature of a calamity. To take therefore unjustly from a
person what to that person is a notable amount is a grievous sin. It is
uniformly agreed that it is a notable loss for a man to be unduly
deprived of what constitutes a day's sustenance. This is the minimum of
grievous matter concerning theft.

But this rule will evidently not hold good applied on a rising scale to
more and more extensive fortunes; for a time would come when it would
be possible without serious guilt to appropriate good round sums from
those abundantly blessed with this world's goods.

The disorders necessarily attendant on such a moral rule are only too
evident; and it is plain that the law of God cannot countenance abuses
of this nature. Justice therefore demands that there be a certain fixed
sum beyond which one may not go without incurring serious guilt; and
this, independent of the fortune of the person who suffers. Theologians
have fixed that amount approximately, in this country, at five dollars.
This means that when such a sum is taken, in all cases, the sin is
mortal. It is not always necessary, it is seldom necessary, that one
should steal this much in order to offend grievously; but when the
thief reaches this amount, be his victim ever so wealthy, he is guilty
of grave injustice.

This rule applies to all cases in which the neighbor is made to suffer
unjustly in his lawful possessions; and it effects all wrongdoers
whether they steal or destroy another's goods or co-operate
efficaciously in such deeds of sin. It matters not whether the harm be
wrought directly or indirectly, since in either case there may be moral
fault; and it must be remembered that gross negligence may make one
responsible as well as malice aforethought.

The following are said to co-operate in crime to the extent of becoming
joint-partners with the principal agent in guilt: those in whose name
the wrong is done, in obedience to their orders or as a result of any
other means employed; those who influence the culprit by suggesting
motives and reasons for his crime or by pointing out efficient means of
arriving thereat; those who induce others to commit evil by playing on
their weaknesses thereby subjecting them to what is known as moral
force; those who harbor the thief and conceal his stolen property
against their recovery; those whose silence is equivalent to
approbation, permission or official consent; those finally who before,
during or after the deed, abstain from performing a plain duty in
preventing, deterring or bringing to justice the guilty party. Such
persons as the foregoing participate as abettors in crime and share all
the guilt of the actual criminals; sometimes the former are even more
guilty than the latter.

The Tenth Commandment which forbids us to covet our neighbor's goods,
bears the same relation to the Seventh as the Ninth does to the Sixth.
It must, however, be borne in mind that all such coveting supposes
injustice in desire, that is, in the means by which we desire to obtain
what is not ours. To wish for, to long ardently for something that
appeals to one's like and fancy is not sinful; the wrong consists in
the desire to acquire it unjustly, to steal it, and thereby work damage
unto the neighbor. It is a natural weakness in man to be dissatisfied
with what he has and to sigh after what he has not; very few of us are
free from this failing. But so long as our cravings and hankerings are
not tainted with injustice, we are innocent of evil.


A QUESTION may arise as to petty thefts, venial in themselves, but oft
repeated and aggregating in the long run a sum of considerable value:
how are we to deal with such cases? Should peculations of this sort be
taken singly, and their individual malice determined, without reference
to the sum total of injustice caused; or should no severe judgment be
passed until such a time as sufficient matter be accumulated to make
the fault grievous? In other words, is there nothing but venial sin in
thefts of little values, or is there only one big sin at the end? The
difficulty is a practical one.

If petty thefts are committed with a view to amass a notable sum, the
simple fact of such an intention makes the offense a mortal one. For,
as we have already remarked in treating of the human act, our deeds may
be, and frequently are, vitiated by the intention we have in performing
them. If we do something with evil intent and purpose, our action is
evil whether the deed in itself be indifferent or even good. Here the
intention is to cause a grave injustice; the deed is only a petty
theft, but it serves as a means to a more serious offense. The act
therefore takes its malice from the purpose of the agent and becomes
sinful in a high degree.

As to each repeated theft, that depends again on the intention of the
culprit. If in the course of his pilferings he no longer adverts to his
first purpose and has no intention in stealing beyond that of helping
himself to a little of his neighbor's goods, he is guilty of nothing
more than a venial sin. If, however, the initial purpose is present at
every act, if at every fresh peculation the intention to accumulate is
renewed explicitly or implicitly, then every theft is identical with
the first in malice, and the offender commits mortal sin as often as he
steals. Thus the state of soul of one who filches after this fashion is
not sensibly affected by his arriving at a notable sum of injustice in
the aggregate. The malice of his conduct has already been established;
it is now completed in deed.

A person who thievishly appropriates small sums, but whose pilferings
have no moral reference to each other, will find himself a mortal
offender the moment his accumulated injustices reach the amount we have
qualified as notable, provided he be at that moment aware of the fact,
or even if he only have a doubt about the matter. And this is true
whether the stolen sums be taken from one or from several persons. Even
in the latter case, although no one person suffers serious damage or
prejudice, justice however is seriously violated and the intention of
the guilty party is really to perpetrate grave injustice.

However, such thefts as these which in the end become accumulative,
must of their nature be successive and joined together by some bond of
moral union, otherwise they could never be considered a. whole. By this
is meant that there must not exist between the different single thefts
an interruption or space of time such as to make it impossible to
consider reasonably the several deeds as forming one general action.
The time generally looked upon as sufficient to prevent a moral union
of this kind is two months. In the absence therefore of a specific
intention to arrive at a large amount by successive thefts, it must be
said that such thefts as are separated by an intervening space of two
months can never be accounted as parts of one grave injustice, and a
mortal sin can never be committed by one whose venial offenses are of
this nature. Of course if there be an evil purpose, that alone is
sufficient to establish a moral union between single acts of theft
however considerable the interval that separates them.

Several persons may conspire to purloin each a limited amount. The
circumstance of conspiracy, connivance or collusion makes each
co-operator in the deed responsible for the whole damage done; and if
the amount thus defrauded be notable, each is guilty of mortal sin.

We might here add in favor of children who take small things from their
parents and of wives who sometimes relieve their husbands of small
change, that it is natural that a man be less reluctant to being
defrauded in small matters by his own than by total Strangers. It is
only reasonable therefore that more latitude be allowed such
delinquents when there is question of computing the amount to be
considered notable; perhaps the amount might be doubled in their favor.
The same might be said in favor of those whose petty thefts are
directed against several victims instead of one, since the injury
sustained individually is less.

The best plan is to leave what does not belong to one severely alone.
In other sins there may be something gained in the long run, but here
no such illusion can be entertained, for the spectre of restitution, as
we shall see, follows every injustice as a shadow follows its object,
and its business is to see that no man profit by his ill-gotten goods.


IT is not an infrequent occurrence for persons given to the habit of
petty thefts and fraud, to seek to justify their irregular conduct by a
pretense of justice which they call secret compensation. They stand
arraigned before the bar of their conscience on the charge of niching
small sums, usually from their employers; they have no will to desist;
they therefore plead not guilty, and have nothing so much at heart as
to convince themselves that they act within their rights. They
elaborate a theory of justice after their ideas, or rather, according
to their own desires; they bolster it up with facts that limp all the
way from half-truths to downright falsities; and thus acquit themselves
of sin, and go their way in peace. A judge is always lenient when he
tries his own case.

Secret compensation is the taking surreptitiously from another of the
equivalent of what is due to one, of what has been taken and is kept
against all justice, in order to indemnify oneself for losses
sustained. This sort of a thing, in theory at least, has a perfectly
plausible look, nor, in fact, is it contrary to justice, when all the
necessary conditions are fulfilled to the letter. But the cases in
which these conditions are fulfilled are so few and rare that they may
hardly be said to exist at all. It is extremely difficult to find such
A case, and nearly always when this practice is resorted to, the order
of justice is violated.

And if common sense in the case of any given individual fail to show
him this truth, we here quote for his benefit an authority capable of
putting all his doubts at rest. The following proposition was advanced:
"Domestic servants who adjudge themselves underpaid for services
rendered, may appropriate to themselves by stealth a compensation."
This proposition has received the full weight of papal condemnation. It
cannot be denied that it applies to all who engage their services for
hire. To maintain the contrary is to revolt against the highest
authority in the Church; to practise it is purely and simply to Sin.

A case is often made out on the grounds that wages are small, work very
hard and the laborer therefore insufficiently remunerated. But to
conclude therefrom the right to help oneself to the employer's goods,
is a strange manner of reasoning, while it opens the door to all manner
of injustice. Where is there a man, whatever his labor and pay, who
could not come to the same conclusion? Who may not consider himself
ill-paid? And who is there that really thinks he is not worth more than
he gets? There is no limit to the value one may put on one's own
services; and he who is justified to-day in taking a quarter of a
dollar, would be equally justified to-morrow in appropriating the whole
concern. And then what becomes of honesty, and the right of property?
And what security can anyone have against the private judgment of his

And what about the contract according to the terms of which you are to
give your services and to receive in return a stipulated amount? Was
there any clause therein by which you are entitled to change the terms
of said contract without consulting the other party interested? You
don't think he would mind it. You don't think anything of the kind; you
know he will and does mind it. He may be generous, but he is not a

"But I make up for it. I work overtime, work harder, am more attentive
to my work; and thereby save more for my employer than I take." Here
you contradict yourself. You are therefore not underpaid. And if you
furnish a greater amount of labor than is expected of you, that is your
business and your free choice. And the right you have to a compensation
for such extra labor is entirely dependent on the free will of your
employer. People usually pay for what they call for; services uncalled
for are gratuitous services. To think otherwise betokens a befuddled
state of mind.

"But I am forced to work harder and longer than we agreed." Then it is
up to you to remonstrate with your employer, to state the case as it is
and to ask for a raise. If he refuses, then his refusal is your cue to
quit and go elsewhere. It means that your services are no longer
required. It means, at any rate, that you have to stand the cut or seek
to better your condition under other employers. It is hard! Of course
it is hard, but no harder than a great many other things we have to put
up with.

If my neighbor holds unjustly what belongs to me, or if he has failed
to repair damages caused, to recover my losses by secret compensation
has the same degree of malice and disorder. The law is instituted for
just such purposes; you have recourse thereto. You may prosecute and
get damages. If the courts fail to give you justice, then perhaps there
may be occasion to discuss the merits of the secret compensation
theory. But you had better get the advice of some competent person
before you attempt to put it in practice; otherwise you are liable to
get into a bigger hole than the one you are trying to get out of.

Sometimes the bold assertion is advanced that the employer knows
perfectly that he is being systematically robbed and tolerates it. It
is incumbent on this party to prove his assertion in a very simple way.
Let him denounce himself to his employer and allow the truth or falsity
thereof hang on the result. If he does not lose his job inside of
twenty-four hours after the interview, he may continue his peculations
in perfect tranquillity of conscience. If he escapes prosecution
through the consideration of his former employer, he must take it for
granted that the toleration he spoke of was of a very general nature,
the natural stand for a man to take who is being robbed and cannot help
it. To justify oneself on such a principle is to put a premium on
shrewd dishonesty.


THE Eighth Commandment concerns itself with the good name of the
neighbor; in a general way, it reproves all sins of the tongue, apart
from those already condemned by the Second and Sixth commandments, that
is to say, blasphemous and impure speech. It is as a weapon against the
neighbor and an instrument of untruth that the tongue is here

By a good name is here intended the esteem in which a person is held by
his fellow-men. Call it reputation, character, fame, renown, etc., a
good name means that the bearer is generally considered above reproach
in all matters of honesty, moral integrity and worth. It does not
necessarily imply that such esteem is manifested exteriorly by what is
technically known as honor, the natural concomitant of a good name; it
simply stands for the knowledge entertained by others of our
respectability and our title to honor. A good name is therefore one
thing; honor is another. And honor consists precisely in that
manifestation on the part of our fellows of the esteem and respect in
which they hold us, the fruit of our good name, the homage rendered to
virtue, dignity and merit. As it may therefore be easily seen, these
two things--a good name and honor--differ as much as a sign differs
from the thing signified.

The Eighth Commandment protects every man's honor; it condemns
contumely which is an attack upon that honor. Contumely is a sign of
contempt which shows itself by attempting to impair the honor one duly
receives; it either strives to prevent that honor being paid to the
good name that naturally deserves it, or it tries to nullify it by
offering just the contrary, which is contumely, more commonly called
affront, outrage, insult.

Now, contumely, as you will remark, does not seek primarily to deprive
one of a good name; which it nearly always succeeds in doing, and this
is called detraction; but its object is to prevent your good name from
getting its desert of respect, your character supposedly remaining
intact. The insult offered is intended to effect this purpose. Again,
all contumely presupposes the presence of the party affronted; the
affront is thrown in one's face, and therein consists the shocking
indecency of the thing and its specific malice.

It must be remembered that anger, hatred, the spirit of vengeance or
any other passion does not excuse one from the guilt of contumely. On
the other hand, one's culpability is not lessened by the accidental
fact of one's intended insults going wide of the mark and bearing no
fruit of dishonor to the person assailed. To the malice of contumely
may, and is often, added that of defamation, if apart from the dishonor
received one's character is besmirched in the bargain. Contumely
against parents offends at the same time filial piety; against God and
His saints, it is sacrilegious; if provoked by the practice of religion
and virtue, it is impious. If perpetrated in deed, it may offend
justice properly so called; if it occasion sin in others, it is
scandalous; if it drive the victim to excesses of any kind, the guilt
thereof is shared by the contumelious agent.

Sometimes insult is offered gratuitously, as in the case of the weak,
the old, the cripple and other unfortunates who deserve pity rather
than mockery; the quality of contumely of this sort is brutal and
fiendish. Others will say for justification: "But he said the same, he
did the same to me. Can I not defend myself?" That depends on the sort
of defense you resort to. All weapons of defense are not lawful. If a
man uses evil means to wrong you, there is no justification, in
Christian ethics, for you to employ the same means in order to get
square, or even to shelter yourself from his abuse. The "eye-for-eye"
principle is not recognized among civilized and Christian peoples.

This gross violation of personal respect may be perpetrated in many
ways; any expression of contempt, offered to your face, or directed
against you through a representative, is contumely. The usual way to do
this is to fling vile epithets, to call opprobrious names, to make
shameful charges. It is not always necessary that such names and
epithets be inapplicable or such charges false, if, notwithstanding,
the person in question has not thereby forfeited his right to respect.
In certain circumstances, the epithet "fool" may hold all the
opprobriousness of contumely: "thief" and "drunkard" and others of a
fouler nature may be thus malicious for a better reason. An accusation
of immorality in oneself or in one's parents is contumelious in a high
degree. Our mothers are a favorite target for the shafts of contumely
that through them reach us. Abuse is not the only vehicle of contumely;
scorn, wanton ridicule, indecent mockery and caricature that cover the
unfortunate victim with shame and confusion serve the purpose as well.
To strike one, to spit on one and other ignoble attacks and assaults
belong to the same category of crime.

The malice of contumely is not, of course, equal in all cases;
circumstances have a great deal to do in determining the gravity of
each offense. The more conspicuous a person is in dignity and the more
worthy of respect, the more serious the affront offered him; and still
more grave the offense, if through him many others are attainted. If
again no dishonor is intended and no offense taken, or could reasonably
be taken, there is no sin at all. There may be people very low on the
scale of respectability as the world judges respectability; but it can
never be said of a man or woman that he or she cannot be dishonored,
that he or she is beneath contempt. Human nature never forfeits all
respect; it always has some redeeming feature to commend it.


DEFAMATION differs from contumely in that the one supposes the absence,
the other, the presence, of the person vilified; and again, in that the
former asperses the reputation of the victim while the latter attacks
the honor due or paid to said reputation. A good name is, after the
grace of God, mans most precious possession; wealth is mere trash
compared with it. You may find people who think otherwise, but the
universal sentiment of mankind stigmatizes such baseness and buries it
under the weight of its opprobrium. Nor is it impossible that honor be
paid where a good character no longer exists; but this is accidental.
In the nature of things, reputation is the basis of all honor; if you
destroy character, you destroy at the same time its fruit, which is
honor. Thus will be seen the double malice of defamation.

To defame therefore is to lessen or to annul the estimation in which a
person is held by his fellow-men. This crime may be perpetrated in two
different manners: by making known his secret faults, and this is
simple detraction; and by ascribing to him faults of which he is
innocent, and this is calumny or slander. Thus it appears that a man's
character may suffer from truth as well as from falsehood. Truth is an
adorable thing, but it has its time and place; the fact of its being
truth does not prevent it from being harmful. On the other hand, a lie,
which is evil in itself, becomes abominable when used to malign a

There is one mitigating and two aggravating forms of defamation. Gossip
is small talk, idle and sufficiently discolored to make its subject
appear in an unfavorable light. It takes a morbid pleasure in speaking
of the known and public faults of another. It picks at little things,
and furnishes a steady occupation for people who have more time to mind
other people's business than their own. It bespeaks small-ness in
intellectual make-up and general pusillanimity. That is about all the
harm there is in it, and that is enough.

Libel supposes a wide diffusion of defamatory matter, written or
spoken. Its malice is great because of its power for evil and harm.
Tale-bearing or backbiting is what the name implies. Its object is
principally to spread discord, to cause enmity, to break up
friendships; it may have an ulterior purpose, and these are the means
it employs. No limit can be set to its capacity for evil, its malice is
especially infernal.

It is not necessary that what we do or say of a defamatory nature
result, as a matter of fact, in bringing one's name into disfavor or
disrepute; it is sufficient that it be of such a nature and have such a
tendency. If by accident the venomous shaft spend itself before
attaining the intended mark, no credit is due therefore to him who shot
it; his guilt remains what it was when he sped it on its way. Nor is
there justification in the plea that no harm was meant, that the deed
was done in a moment of anger, jealousy, etc., that it was the result
of loquacity, indulged in for the simple pleasure of talking. These are
excuses that excuse not.

There are those who, speaking in disparagement of the neighbor, speak
to the point, directly and plainly; others, no less guilty, do it in a
covert manner, have recourse to subterfuge and insinuation. They
exaggerate faults and make them appear more odious, they put an evil
interpretation on the deed or intention; they keep back facts that
would improve the situation; they remain silent when silence is
condemnatory; they praise with a malignant praise. A mean, sarcastic
smile or a significant reticence often does the work better than many
words and phrases. And all this, as we have said, independently of the
truth or falsehood of the impression conveyed.

Listeners share the guilt of the defamers on the principle that the
receiver is as bad as the thief. This supposes of course that you
listen, not merely hear; that you enjoy this sort of a thing and are
willing and ready to receive the impression derogatory to the
neighbor's esteem and good name. Of course, if mere curiosity makes us
listen and our pleasure and amusement are less at the expense of the
neighbor's good name than excited by the style of the narrator or the
singularity of the facts alleged, the fault is less; but fault there
nevertheless is, since such an attitude serves to encourage the
traducer and helps him drive his points home. Many sin who could and
should prevent excesses of this kind, but refrain from doing so; their
sin is greater if, by reason of their position, they are under greater
obligations of correction.

Although reputation is a priceless boon to all men, there are cases
wherein it has an especial value on account of the peculiar
circumstances of a man's position. It not infrequently happens that the
whole success of a man's life depends on his good name. Men in public
life, in the professions, religious and others similarly placed,
suffer from defamation far more than those in the ordinary walks of
life; and naturally those who injure them are guilty of more grievous
wrong. And it goes without saying that a man can stand an immoral
aspersion better than a woman. In all cases the malice is measured by
the injury done or intended.


TO absolve oneself of the sin of detraction on the ground that nothing
but the truth was spoken is, as we have seen, one way of getting around
a difficulty that is no way at all. Some excuses are better than none,
others are not. It is precisely the truth of such talk that makes it
detraction; if it were not true, it would not be detraction but
calumny--another and a very different fault. It would be well for such
people to reflect for a moment, and ask themselves if their own
character would stand the strain of having their secret sins and
failings subjected to public criticism and censure, their private
shortcomings heralded from every housetop. Would they, or would they
not, consider themselves injured by such revelations? Then it would be
in order for them to use the same rule and measure in dealing with

He who does moral evil offends in the sight of God and forfeits God's
esteem and friendship. But it does not follow that he should also
forfeit the esteem of his fellow-men. The latter evil is nothing
compared with the first; but it is a great misfortune nevertheless. If
a man's private iniquity is something that concerns himself and his
God, to the exclusion of all others, then whosoever presumes to judge
and condemn him trespasses on forbidden ground, and is open to judgment
and condemnation himself before his Maker.

All do not live in stone mansions who throw stones. If there is a mote
in the neighbor's eye, perhaps there is a very large piece of timber in
your own. Great zeal in belaboring the neighbor for his faults will not
lessen your own, nor make you appear an angel of light before God when
you are something very different. If you employed this same zeal
towards yourself, you would obtain more consoling results, for charity
begins at home. One learns more examining one's own conscience than
dissecting and flaying others alive.

It may be objected that since detraction deals with secret sins, if the
facts related are of public notoriety, there is no wrong in speaking of
them, for you cannot vilify one who is already vilified. This is true;
and then, again, it depends. First, these faults must be of public
notoriety. A judicial sentence may make them such, but the fact that
some, many, or a great many know and speak of them will not do it. The
public is everybody, or nearly everybody. Do not take your friends for
the public, when they are only a fraction thereof. If you do you will
find out oftener than it is pleasant that your sins of detraction are
sins of slander; for rumors are very frequently based on nothing more
substantial than lies or distorted and exaggerated facts set afloat by
a calumniator.

Even when a person has justly forfeited, and publicly, the
consideration of his fellowmen, and it is not, therefore, injurious to
his character to speak of his evil ways, justice may not be offended,
but charity may be, and grievously. It is a sin, an uncharity, to harp
on one's faults in a spirit of spite, or with the cruel desire to
maintain his dishonor; to leave no stone unturned in order to
thoroughly blacken his name. In doing this you sin against charity,
because you do something you would not wish to have done unto you.
Justice itself would be violated if, even in the event of the facts
related being notorious, you speak of them to people who ignore them
and are not likely ever to come to a knowledge of them.

If you add, after telling all you know about a poor devil, that he did
penance and repaired his sin, you must not imagine that such atonement
will rehabilitate him in the minds of all. Men are more severe and
unforgiving than God. Grace may be recovered, but reputation is a thing
which, once lost, is usually lost for good. Something of the infamy
sticks; tears and good works will not, cannot wash it away. He,
therefore, who banks too much on human magnanimity is apt to err; and
his erring constitutes a fault.

"But I confided the secret to but one person; and that one a dear
friend, who promised to keep it." Yes, but the injured party has a
right to the estimation of that one person, and his injury consists
precisely in being deprived of it. Besides, you accuse yourself openly.
Either what you said was void of all harm, or it was not. In the one
case, why impose silence! In the other, why not begin yourself by
observing the silence you impose upon others! Your friend will do what
you did, and the ball you set rolling will not stop until there is
nothing left of your victim's character.

Of course there are times when to speak of another's faults is
derogatory neither to justice nor to charity; both may demand that the
evil be revealed. A man to defend himself may expose his accuser's
crookedness; in court his lawyer may do it for him, for here again
charity begins at home. In the interests of the delinquent, to effect
his correction, one may reveal his shortcomings to those who have
authority to correct. And it is even admitted that a person in trouble
of any kind may without sin, for the purpose of obtaining advice or
consolation, speak to a judicious friend of another's evil ways.

Zeal for the public good may not only excuse, but even require that the
true character of a bad man be shown up and publicly censured. Its
object is to prevent or undo evil, to protect the innocent; it is
intended to destroy an evil influence and to make hypocrisy fly under
his own colors. Immoral writers, living or dead, corrupt politicians
and demagogues, unconscionable wretches who prey on public ignorance,
may and should be, made known to the people, to shield them is to share
their guilt. This should not be done in a spirit of vengeance, but for
the sole purpose of guarding the unwary against vultures who know no
law, and who thrive on the simplicity of their hearers.


TO the malice of detraction calumny adds that of falsehood. It is a
lie, which is bad; it is a report prejudicial to the character of
another, which is worse; it is both combined, out of which combination
springs a third malice, which is abominable. All the more so, since
there can exist no excuse or reason in the light of which this sin may
appear as a human weakness. Because slander is the fruit of deliberate
criminal spite, jealousy and revenge, it has a character of diabolism.
The calumniator is not only a moral assassin, but he is the most
accomplished type of the coward known to man. If the devil loves a
cheerful liar, he has one here to satisfy his affections.

This crime is one that can never be tolerated, no matter what the
circumstances; it can never be justified on any grounds whatsoever; it
is intrinsically evil, a sin of injustice that admits no mitigation.
When slander is sworn to before the courts, it acquires a fourth
malice, that of irreligion, and is called false testimony. It is not
alone perjury, for perjury does not necessarily attack the neighbor's
good name; it is perjured calumny, a crime that deserves all the
reprobation it receives in this world--and in the next.

To lie outright, deliberately and with malice aforethought, in
traducing a fellow-man, is slander in its direct form; but such
conditions are not required to constitute a real fault of calumny. It
is not necessary to be certain that what you allege against your
neighbor be false; it is sufficient that you be uncertain if it be
true. An unsubstantiated charge or accusation, a mere rumor given out
as worthy of belief, a suspicion or doubt clothed so as to appear a
certainty, these contain all the malice and all the elements of slander
clearly characterized. Charity, justice and truth alike are violated,
guilt is there in unquestioned evidence. Whatever subterfuge,
equivocation or other crooked proceeding be resorted to, if mendacity
in any form is a feature of the aspersions we cast upon the neighbor,
we sin by calumny, purely and simply.

Some excuse themselves on the plea that what they say, they give out
for what it is worth; they heard it from others, and take no
responsibility as to its truth or falsehood. But here we must consider
the credulity of the hearers. Will they believe it, whether you do or
not? Are they likely to receive it as truth, either because they are
looking for just such reports, or because they know no better? And
whether they believe it or not, will they, on your authority, have
sufficient reason for giving credence to your words? May it not happen
that the very fact of your mentioning what you did is a sufficient mark
of credibility for others? And by so doing, you contribute to their
knowledge of what is false, or what is not proven true, concerning the
reputation of a neighbor.

For it must be remembered that all imprudence is not guiltless, all
thoughtlessness is not innocent of wrong. It is easy to calumniate a
person by qualifying him in an off-hand way as a thief, a blackleg, a
fast-liver, etc. It is easy, by adding an invented detail to a
statement, to give it an altogether different color and turn truth into
falsehood. But the easiest way is to interpret a man's intentions
according to a dislike, and, by stringing in such fancies with a lot of
facts, pass them on unsuspecting credulity that takes all or none. If
you do not think well of another, and the occasion demand it, speak it
out; but make it known that it is your individual judgment and give
your reasons for thus opining.

The desperate character of calumny is that, while it must be repaired,
as we shall see later, the thing is difficult, often impossible;
frequently the reparation increases the evil instead of diminishing it.
The slogan of unrighteousness is: "Calumniate, calumniate, some of it
will stick!" He who slanders, lies; he who lies once may lie again, a
liar is never worthy of belief, whether he tells the truth or not, for
there is no knowing when he is telling the truth. One has the right to
disbelieve the calumniator when he does wrong or when he tries to undo
it. And human nature is so constructed that it prefers to believe in
the first instance and to disbelieve in the second.

You may slander a community, a class as well as an individual. It is
not necessary to charge all with crime; it is sufficient so to
manipulate your words that suspicion may fall on any one of said class
or community. If the charge be particularly heinous, or if the body of
men be such that all its usefulness depends on its reputation, as is
the case especially with religious bodies, the malice of such slander
acquires a dignity far above the ordinary.

The Church of God has suffered more in the long centuries of her
existence from the tongue of slander than from sword and flame and
chains combined. In the mind of her enemies, any weapon is lawful with
which to smite her, and the climax of infamy is reached when they
affirm, to justify their dishonesty, that they turn Rome's weapons
against her. There is only one answer to this, and that is the silence
of contempt. Slander and dollars are the wheels on which moves the
propaganda that would substitute Gospel Christianity for the
superstitions of Rome. It is slander that vilifies in convention and
synod the friars who did more for pure Christianity in the Philippines
in a hundred years than the whole nest of their revilers will do in ten
thousand. It is slander that holds up to public ridicule the
congregations that suffer persecution and exile in France in the name
of liberty, fraternity, etc. It is slander that the long-tailed
missionary with the sanctimonious face brings back from the countries
of the South with which to regale the minds of those who furnish the
Bibles and shekels. And who will measure the slander that grows out of
the dunghill of Protestant ignorance of what Catholics really believe!


THE Eighth Commandment is based on the natural right every fellow-man
has to our good opinion, unless he forfeits it justly and publicly. It
forbids all injury to his reputation, first, in the estimation of
others, which is done by calumny and detraction; secondly, in our own
estimation, and this is done by rash judgment, by hastily and without
sufficient grounds thinking evil of him, forming a bad opinion of him.
He may be, as he has a right to be, anxious to stand well in our esteem
as well as in the esteem of others.

A judgment, rash or otherwise, is not a. doubt, neither is it a
suspicion. Everybody knows what a doubt is. When I doubt if another is
doing or has done wrong, the idea of his or her guilt simply enters my
mind, occurs to me and I turn it over and around, from one side to
another, without being satisfied to accept or reject it. I do not say:
yes, it is true; neither do I say: no, it is not true. I say nothing, I
pass no judgment; I suspend for the moment all judgment, I doubt.

A doubt is not evil unless there be absolutely no reason for doubting,
and then the doubt is born of passion and malice. And the evil,
whatever there is of it, is not in the doubt's entering our mind--
something beyond our control; but in our entertaining the doubt, in our
making the doubt personal, which supposes an act of the will.

Stronger than doubt is suspicion. When I suspect one, I do not keep the
balance perfectly even between yes and no, as in the case of doubt; I
lean mentally to one side, but do not go so far as to assent one way or
the other. Having before me a person who excites my suspicion, I am
inclined to think him guilty on certain evidence, but I fear to judge
lest I should be in error, because there is evidence also of innocence.
If my suspicion is based on good grounds, it is natural and lawful;
otherwise it is rash and sinful; it is uncharitable and unjust to the
person suspected. A suspicion often hurts more than an accusation.

Doubt and suspicion, when rash, are sinful; but the malice thereof
is not grave unless they are so utterly unfounded as to betoken
deep-seated antipathy and aversion and a perverse will; or unless in
peculiar circumstances the position of the person is such as to make
the suspicion gravely injurious and not easily condoned. There is guilt
in keeping that suspicion to oneself; to give it out in words is
calumny, whether it be true or not, simply because it is unfounded.

In a judgment there is neither doubt nor suspicion; I make my own the
idea presented to my mind. The balance of assent, in which is weighed,
the evidence for and against, is not kept even, nor is it partially
inclined; It goes down with its full weight, and the party under
consideration stands convicted before the tribunal of my judgment. I do
not say, I wonder if he is guilty; nor he most likely is guilty; but:
he is guilty--here is a deliberate judgment. Henceforth my esteem
ceases for such a person. Translated in words such a judgment is not
calumny because it is supposedly founded in reason; but it is
detraction, because it is injurious.

Such a judgment, without any exterior expression, is sinful if it is
rash. And what makes it rash? The insufficiency of motive on which it
is based. And whence comes the knowledge of such sufficiency or
insufficiency of motive? From the intelligence, but mostly from the
conscience. That is why many unintelligent people judge rashly and sin
not, because they know no better. But conscience nearly always supplies
intelligence in such matters and ignorance does not always save us from
guilt. An instinct, the wee voice of God in the soul, tells us to
withhold our judgment even when the intelligence fails to weigh the
motives aright. To contemn this voice is to sin and be guilty of rash

In the language of ordinary folks, not always precise and exact in
their terms, an opinion is frequently a judgment, to think this or that
of another is often to judge him accordingly. The suspicions of
suspicious people are at times more than suspicions and are clearly
characterized judgments. To render a verdict on the neighbor's
character is a judgment, by whatever other name it is called; all that
is necessary is to come to a definite conclusion and to give the assent
of the will to that conclusion.

When the conduct of the neighbor is plainly open to interpretation, if
we may not judge immediately against him, neither are we bound to give
him the benefit of the doubt; we may simply suspend all judgment and
await further evidence. In our exterior dealings this suspicion should
not affect our conduct, for every man has a right to be treated as an
honest man and does not forfeit that right on the ground of a mere
probability. This, however, does not prevent us from taking a cue from
our suspicion and acting guardedly towards him. This does not mean that
we adjudge him dishonest, but that we deem him capable of being
dishonest, which is true and in accordance with the laws of prudence.

Neither are we bound to overlook all evidence that points to a man's
guilt through fear of judging him unfavorably. It is not wrong to judge
a man according to his merits, to have a right opinion of him, even
when that opinion is not to his credit. All that is necessary is that
we have good reason on Which to base that opinion. If a neighbor does
evil in our presence or to our knowledge he forfeits, and justly, our
good opinion; he is to blame, and not we. We are not obliged to close
our eyes to the truth of facts, and it is on facts that our judgments
are formed.


TO lie is to utter an untruth, with full knowledge that it is an
untruth. The untruth may be expressed by any conventional sign, by
word, deed, gesture, or even by silence. Its malice and disorder
consists in the opposition that exists between our idea and the
expression we give to it; our words convey a meaning contrary to what
is in our mind; we say one thing and mean another. If we unwittingly
utter what is contrary to fact, that is error; if we so clumsily
translate our thoughts as to give a false impression of what we mean,
and we do the best we can, that is a blunder; if in a moment of
listlessness and inattention we speak in a manner that conflicts with
our state of mind, that is temporary mental aberration. But if we
knowingly give out as truth what we know is not the truth, we lie
purely and simply.

In misrepresentations of this kind it is not required that there be a
plainly formulated purpose of deceiving another; an implicit intention,
a disposition to allow our words to run their natural course, is
sufficient to give such utterances a character of mendacity. For,
independently of our mental attitude, it is in the nature of a lie to
deceive; an intention, or rather a pretense to the contrary, does not
affect that nature. The fact of lying presupposes that we intend in
some manner to practise deception; if we did not have such a purpose we
would not resort to lying. If you stick a knife into a man, you may
pretend what you like, but you did certainly intend to hurt him and
make him feel badly.

Nor has any ulterior motive we may have in telling an untruth the power
to change its nature; a lie is a lie, no matter what prompted it.
Whether it serves the purpose of amusement, as a jocose lie; or helps
to gain us an advantage or get us out of trouble, as an officious lie;
or injures another in any way, as a pernicious lie: mendacity is the
character of our utterances, the guilt of willful falsehood is on our
soul. A restriction should, however, be made in favor of the jocose
lie; it ceases to be a lie when the mind of the speaker is open to all
who listen and his narration or statement may be likened to those
fables and myths and fairy tales in which is exemplified the charm of
figurative language. When a person says what is false and is convinced
that all who hear him know it is false, the contradiction between his
mind and its expression is said to be material, and not formal; and in
this the essence of a lie does not consist.

A lie is always a sin; it is what is called an intrinsic evil and is
therefore always wrong. And why is this? Because speech was given us to
express our thoughts; to use this faculty therefore for a contrary
purpose is against its nature, against a law of our being, and this is
evil. The obnoxious consequences of falsehood, as it is patent to all,
constitute an evil for which falsehood is responsible. But deception,
one of those consequences, is not in itself and essentially, a moral
fault. Deception, if not practised by lying and therefore not intended
but simply suffered to occur, and if there be grave reason for
resorting to this means of defense, cannot be put down as a thing
offensive to God or unjustly prejudicial to the neighbor. But when
deception is the effect of mendacity, it assumes a character of malice
that deserves the reprobation of man as it is condemned by God. And
this is another reason why lying is essentially an evil thing, and can
never, under any circumstances be allowed or justified.

This does not mean that lying is always a mortal sin. In fact, it is
oftener venial than mortal. It becomes a serious fault only in the
event of another malice being added to it. Thus, if I lie to one who
has a right to know the truth and for grave reasons; if the mendacious
information I impart is of a nature to mislead one into injury or loss,
and this thing I do maliciously; or if my lying is directly disparaging
to another; in these cases there is grave malice and serious guilt. But
if there is no injustice resulting from a lie, I prevaricate against
right in lying, but my sin is not a serious offense.

This is a vice that certainly deserves to be fought against and
punished always and in all places, especially in the young who are so
prone thereto, first because it is a sin; and again, because of the
social evils that it gives rise to. There is no gainsaying the fact
that in the code of purely human morals, lying is considered a very
heinous offense that ostracizes a man when robbery on a large scale,
adultery and other first-degree misdemeanors leave him perfectly
honorable. This recalls an instance of a recent courtroom. A young
miscreant thoroughly imbued with pharisaic morals met with a bold face,
without a blush or a flinch, accusations of misconduct, robbery and
murder; but when charged with being a liar, he sprang at his accuser in
open court and tried to throttle him. His fine indignation got the best
of him; he could not stand that.

Among pious-minded people two extreme errors are not infrequently met
with. The one is that a lie is not wrong unless the neighbor suffers
thereby; the falsity of this we have already shown. According to the
other, a lie is such an evil that it should not be tolerated, not one
lie, even if all the souls in hell were thereby to be liberated. To
this we answer that we would like to get such a chance once; we fear we
would tell a whopper. It would be wicked, of course; but we might
expect leniency from the just Judge under the circumstances.


THE duty always to tell the truth does not imply the obligation always
to tell all you know; and falsehood does not always follow as a result
of not revealing your mind to the first inquisitive person that chooses
to put embarrassing questions. Alongside, but not contrary to, the duty
of veracity is the right every man has to personal and professional
secrets. For a man's mind is not public property; there may arise at
times circumstances in which he not only may, but is in duty bound to
withhold information that concerns himself intimately or touches a third
person; and there must be a means to protect the sacredness of such
secrets against undue curiosity and inquisitiveness, without recourse
to the unlawful method of lying. Silence is not an effective resource,
for it not infrequently gives consent one or the other way; the
question may be put in such a manner that affirmation or negation will
betray the truth. To what then shall one have recourse?

Let us remark in the first place that God has endowed human
intelligence with a native wit, sharpness and cunning that has its
legitimate uses, the exercise of this faculty is evil only when its
methods and ends are evil. Used along the lines of moral rectitude
strategy and tact for profiting by circumstances are perfectly in
order, especially when one acts in the defense of his natural rights.
And if this talent is employed without injustice to the neighbor or
violence to the law of God, it is no more immoral than the plain
telling of truth; in fact it is sometimes better than telling the

But it must be understood that such practices must be justified by the
circumstances. They suppose in him who resorts thereto a right to
withhold information that overrides the right of his interrogator. If
the right of the latter to know is superior, then the hiding of truth
would constitute an injustice, which is sinful, and this is considered
tantamount to lying. And if the means to which we resort is not lying,
as we have defined it, that is, does not show a contradiction between
what we say and what we mean, then there can be no fear of evil on any

Now, suppose that instead of using a term whose signification is
contrary to what my mind conceives, which would be falsehood, I employ
a word that has a natural double meaning, one of which is conform to my
mind, the other at variance. In the first place, I do not speak against
my mind; I say what I think; the word I use means what I mean. But the
other fellow! that is another matter. He may take his choice of the two
meanings. If he guesses aright, my artifice has failed; if he is
deceived, that is his loss. I do him no injustice, for he had no right
to question me. If my answer embarrasses him, that is just what I
intended, and I am guilty of no evil for that; if it deceives him, that
I did not intend but willingly suffer; I am not obliged to enter into
explanations when I am not even bound to answer him. Of the deception,
he alone is the cause; I am the occasion, if you will, but the
circumstances of his inquisitiveness made that occasion necessary, and
I am not responsible.

This artifice is called equivocation or amphibology; it consists in the
use of words that have a natural double meaning; it supposes in him who
resorts to it the right to conceal the truth, a right superior to that
of the tormentor who questions him. When these conditions are
fulfilled, recourse to this method is perfectly legitimate, but the
conditions must be fulfilled. This is not a weapon for convenience, but
for necessity. It is easy to deceive oneself when it is painful to tell
the truth. Therefore it should be used sparingly: it is not for
every-day use, only emergencies of a serious nature can justify its
employ. Another artifice, still more delicate and dangerous, but just as
legitimate when certain conditions are fulfilled, is what is known as
mental restriction. This too consists in the employ of words of double
meaning; but whereas in the former case, both meanings are naturally
contained in the word, here the term employed has but one natural
signification, the other being furnished by circumstances. Its
legitimate use supposes that he to whom the term is directed should
either in fact know the circumstances of the case that have this
peculiar significance, or that he could and should know them. If the
information drawn from the answer received is insufficient, so much the
better; if he is misinformed, the fault is his own, since neither
genuine falsehood nor evident injustice can be attributed to the other.

An example will illustrate this better than anything else. Take a
physician or lawyer, the custodian of a professional secret, or a
priest with knowledge safeguarded by the seal of the confessional.
These men either may not or should not reveal to others unconcerned in
the matter the knowledge they, possess. There is no one but should be
aware of this, but should know that when they are questioned, they will
answer as laymen, and not as professionals. They will answer according
to outside information, yes or no, whether on not such conclusion agree
with the facts they obtained under promise of secrecy. They simply put
out of their mind as unserviceable all professional knowledge, and
respond as a man to a man. Their standing as professional men puts
every questioner on his guard and admonishes him that no private
information need be expected, that he must take the answer given as the
conclusion of outside evidence, then if he is deceived he has no one to
blame but himself, since he was warned and took no heed of the warning.

Again we repeat, the margin between mental restriction and falsehood is
a safe, but narrow one, the least bungling may merge one into the
other. It requires tact and judgment to know when it is permissible to
have recourse to this artifice and how to practise it safely. It is not
a thing to be trifled with. In only rare circumstances can it be
employed, and only few persons have the right to employ it.


A PECULIAR feature attaches to the sins we have recently treated,
against the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth commandments. These
offenses differ from others in that they involve an injury, an
injustice to our fellow-man. Now, the condition of pardon for sin is
contrition; this contrition contains essentially a firm purpose that
looks to the future, and removes in a measure, the liability to fall
again. But with the sins here in question that firm purpose not only
looks forward, but backward as well, not only guarantees against future
ill-doing, but also repairs the wrong criminally effected in the past.
This is called restitution, the undoing of wrong suffered by our
neighbor through our own fault. The firm purpose to make restitution is
just as essential to contrition as the firm purpose to sin no more; in
fact, the former is only a form of the latter. It means that we will
not sin any more by prolonging a culpable injustice. And the person who
overlooks this feature when he seeks pardon has a moral constitution
and make-up that is sadly in need of repairs; and of such persons there
are not a few.

Justice that has failed to protect a man's right becomes restitution
when the deed of wrong is done. Restitution therefore that is based on
the natural right every man has to have and to hold what is his, to
recover it, its value or equivalent, when unduly dispossessed, supposes
an act of injustice, that is, the violation of a strict right. This
injustice, in turn, implies a moral fault, a moral responsibility,
direct or indirect; and the fault must be grievous in order to induce a
grave obligation. Now, it matters not in the least what we do, or how
we do it, if the neighbor suffer through a fault of ours. If any human
creature sustains a loss to life or limb, damage to his or her social
or financial standing, and such injury can be traced to a moral
delinquency on our part, we are in conscience bound to make good the
loss and repair the damage done. To do evil is bad; to perpetuate it is
immeasurably worse. To refuse to remove the evil is to refuse to remove
one's guilt; and as long as one persists in such a refusal, that one
remains under the wrath of God.

Restitution concerns itself with things done or left undone, things
said or left unsaid; it does not enter the domain of thought.
Consequently, just as an accident does not entail the necessity of
repairing the injury that another sustains, neither does the deliberate
thought or desire to perpetrate an injustice entail such a consequence.
Even if a person does all in his power to effect an evil purpose, and
fails, he is not held to reparation, for there is nothing to repair. As
we have said more than once, the will is the source of all malice in
the sight of God; but injustice to man requires material as well as
formal malice; sin must have its complement of exterior deed before it
can be called human injustice.

We deem it unnecessary to dwell upon the gravity of the obligation to
make restitution. The balance of justice must be maintained exact and
impartial in this world, or the Almighty will see that it is done in
the next. The idea that God does not stand for justice destroys the
idea that God exists. And if the precept not to commit injustice leaves
the guilty one free to repair or not to repair, that precept is
self-contradictory and has no meaning at all. If a right is a right, it
is not extinguished by being violated and if justice, is something more
than a mere sound, it must protect all rights whether sinned against or

It might be convenient for some people to force upon their conscience
the lie that restitution is of counsel rather than of precept, under
the plea that it is enough to shoulder the responsibility of sin
without being burdened with the obligation of repairing it, but it is
only a soul well steeped in malice that will take seriously such a
contention. Neither is restitution a penance imposed upon us in order
to atone for our faults; it is no more penitential in its nature than
are the efforts we make to avoid the faults we have fallen into in the
past. It atones for nothing; it is simply a desisting from evil. When
this is done and forgiveness obtained, then, and not till then, is it
time to think of satisfying for the temporal punishment due to sin.

Naturally it is much more easy to abstain from committing injustice
than to repair it after it is done. It is often very difficult and very
painful to face the consequences of our evil ways, especially when all
satisfaction is gone and nothing remains but the hard exigencies of
duty. And duty is a thing that it costs very little to shirk when one
is already hardened by a habit of injustice. That is why restitution is
so little heard of in the world. It is a fact to be noted that the
Catholic Church is the only religious body that dares to enforce
strictly the law of reparation. Others vaguely hold it, but rarely
teach it, and then only in flagrant cases of fraud. But she allows none
of her children to approach the sacraments who has not already
repaired, or who does not promise in all sincerity to repair, whatever
wrong he may have done to the neighbor. Employers of Catholic help
sometimes feel the effects of this uncompromising attitude of the
Church; they are astonished, edified and grateful.

We recall with pleasure an incident of an apostate going about warning
people against the turpitudes of Rome and especially against the
extortions of her priests through the confessional. He explained how
the benighted papist was obliged under pain of eternal damnation to
confess his sins to the priest, and then was charged so much for each
fault he had been guilty of. An incredulous listener wanted to know if
he, the speaker, while in the toils of Rome had ever been obliged thus
to disgorge in the confessional, and was answered with a triumphant
affirmation. At which the wag hinted that it would be a good thing not
to be too outspoken in announcing the fact as his reputation for
honesty would be likely to suffer thereby, for he knew, and all
Catholics knew, who were those whose purse the confessor pries open.


WHENEVER a person, through a spirit of Police or grossly culpable
negligence, becomes responsible for serious bodily injury sustained by
another, he is bound, as far as in him lies, to undo the wrong and
repair the injustice committed. The law of personal rights that forbade
him to lay violent hands on another, now commands that the evil be
removed by him who placed it. True, physical pain and tortures cannot
be repaired in kind; physical injury and disability are not always
susceptible of adequate reparation. But there is the loss incurred as a
result of such disability, and this loss may affect, not one alone, but

Death, too, is of course absolutely irreparable. But the killing of the
victim in nowise extinguishes the obligation of reparation. The
principal object is removed; but there remain the loss of wages, the
expenses necessitated by illness and death; there may be a family
dependent on the daily toil of the unfortunate and made destitute by
his removal. One must be blind indeed not to see that all these losses
are laid at the door of the criminal, a direct result of his crime,
foreseen, too, at least confusedly, since there is a moral fault; and
these must be made good, as far as the thing is possible, otherwise the
sin will not be forgiven.

Slander must be retracted. If you have lied about another and thereby
done him an injury, you are bound in conscience to correct your false
statement, to correct it in such a manner as to undeceive all whom you
may have misled. This retraction must really retract, and not do just
the contrary, make the last state of things worse than the first, which
is sometimes the case. Prudence and tact should suggest means to do
this effectively: when, how and to what extent it should be done, in
order that the best results of reparation may be obtained. But in one
way or another, justice demands that the slanderer contradict his lying
imputations and remove by so doing the stain that besmirches the
character of his victim.

Of course, if it was by truth and not falsehood, by detraction and not
calumny, that you assailed and injured the reputation of another, there
is no gainsaying the truth; you are not justified in lying in order to
make truth less damaging. The harm done here is well nigh irreparable.
But there is such a thing as trying to counteract the influence of evil
speech by good words, by mentioning qualities that offset defects, by
setting merit against demerit; by attenuating as far as truth will
allow the circumstances of the case, etc. This will place your victim
in the least unfavorable light, and will, in some measure, repair the
evil of detraction.

Scandal must be repaired, a mightily difficult task; to reclaim a soul
lost to evil through fatal inducements to sin is paramount, almost, to
raising from the dead. It is hard, desperately hard, to have yourself
accepted as an angel of light by those for whom you have long been a
demon of iniquity. Good example! Yes, that is about the only argument
you have. You are handicapped, but if you wield that argument for good
with as much strength and intensity as you did for evil, you will have
done all that can be expected of you, and something may come of it.

The wrong of bodily contamination is a deep one. It is a wrong, and
therefore unjust, when it is effected through undue influence that
either annuls consent, or wrings it from the victim by cajolery,
threat, or false promise. It becomes immeasurably aggravated when the
victim is abandoned to bear alone the shame and burdensome consequences
of such injustice.

Matrimony is the ordinary remedy; the civil law will force it;
conscience may make it an obligation, and does make it, unless, in rare
cases, there be such absolute incompatibility as to make such a
contract an ineffective and ridiculous one, an inefficient remedy, or
none at all. When such is the case, a pecuniary compensation is the
only alternative. A career has been blasted, a future black with
despair stares the victim in the face, if she must face it unaided; a
burden forced upon her that must be borne for years, entailing
considerable expense. The man responsible for such a state of affairs,
if he expects pardon for his crime, must shoulder the responsibility in
a manner that will repair at least in part the grave injustice under
which his victim labors.

If both share the guilt, then both must share the burden. If one
shirks, the other must assume the whole. The great victim is the child.
That child must get a Christian bringing-up, or some one will suffer
for it; its faith must be safeguarded. If this cannot be done at home,
then it must be placed where this can be done. If it is advantageous
for the parent or parents that their offspring be raised in ignorance
of its origin, it is far more advantageous for the child itself. Let it
be confided to good hands, but let the money necessary for its support
be forthcoming, since this is the only way to make reparation for the
evil of its birth.

I would add a word in regard to the injustice, frequent enough, of too
long deferring the fulfilment of marriage promises. For one party,
especially, this period of waiting is precarious, fraught with danger
and dangerous possibilities. Her fidelity makes her sacrifice all other
opportunities, and makes her future happiness depend on the fulfilment
of the promise given. Charms do not last forever; attractions fade with
the years. If affection cools, she is helpless to stir up the embers
without unmentionable sacrifice. There is the peril. The man who is
responsible for it, is responsible for a good deal. He is committing an
injustice; there is danger of his not being willing to repair it,
danger that he may not be able to repair it. His line of duty is clear.
Unless for reasons of the gravest importance, he cannot in surety of
conscience continue in a line of conduct that is repugnant alike to
natural reason and common decency, and that smacks of moral make-up
that would not bear the scrutiny of close investigation.


A MAN who has stolen, has nothing more urgent and imperative to
perform, on this side of eternity, than the duty of refunding the money
or goods unjustly acquired, or the value thereof. He may possibly
consider something else more important; but if he does, that man has
somehow unlearned the first principles of natural honesty, ignores the
fundamental law that governs the universe, and he will have a difficult
time convincing the Almighty that this ignorance of his is not wholly
culpable. The best and only thing for him to do is to make up his mind
to pay up, to disgorge his ill-gotten goods, to make good the losses
sustained by his neighbor through his fault.

He may, or may not, have profited to any great extent by his criminal
proceedings; but there is no doubt that his victim suffered injustice;
and that precisely is the root of his obligation. The stolen goods may
have perished in his hands and he have nothing to show; the same must
be said of the victim the moment his possessions disappeared; with this
difference, however, that justice was not violated in one case, and in
the other, it was. The lawful owner may be dead, or unfindable among
the living; but wherever he may be, he never intended that the thief
should enjoy the fruit of his crime. The latter's title, vitiated in
its source, cannot be improved by any circumstance of the owner's
whereabouts. No one may thrive on one's own dishonesty.

You say this is hard; and in so saying, you lend testimony to the truth
of the axiom that honesty is the best policy. There is no one but will
agree with you; but such a statement, true though it be, helps matters
very little. It is always hard to do right; blame Adam and Eve for it,
and think of something more practicable. But must I impoverish myself?
Not to the extent of depriving yourself of the necessaries of life. But
you must deprive yourself to the extent of settling your little
account, even if you suffer something thereby. But how shall I be able
to refund it all! You may never be able to refund it all; but you may
start in immediately and do the best you can; resolve to keep at it;
never revoke your purpose to cancel the debt. In case your lease of
life expires before full justice is done, the Almighty may take into
consideration your motives and opportunities. They do say that hell is
paved with good intentions; but these intentions are of the sort that
are satisfied with never coming to a state of realization.

But I shall lose my position, be disgraced, prosecuted and imprisoned.
This might happen if you were to write out a brief of your crime and
send the same, signed and sworn to, to your employer. But this is
superfluous. You might omit the details and signature, enclose the sum
and trust luck for the rest. Or you might consult your spiritual
adviser; he might have had some experience in this line of business.
The essential is not that you be found out, but that you refund.

It may happen that several are concerned in a theft. In this case, each
and every participant, in the measure of his guilt, is bound to make
restitution. Guilt is the object, restitution is the shadow; the
following is fatal. To order or advise the thing done; to influence
efficaciously its doing; to assist in the deed or to profit knowingly
thereby, to shield criminally the culprit, etc., this sort of
co-operation adds to the guilt of sin the burden of restitution. Silence
or inaction, when plain duty would call for words and deeds to prevent
crime, incriminates as well as active participation, and creates an
obligation to repair.

There is more. Conspiracy in committing an injustice adds an especial
feature to the burden of restitution. If the parties to the crime had
formed a preconcerted plan and worked together as a whole in its
accomplishment, every individual that furnished efficient energy to the
success of the undertaking is liable, in conscience, not for a share of
the loss, but for the sum total. This is what is called solidarity;
solidarity in crime begets solidarity in reparation. It means that the
injured party has a just claim for damages, for all damages sustained,
against any one of the culprits, each one of whom, in the event of his
making good the whole loss, has recourse against the others for their
share of the obligation. It may happen, and does, that one or several
abscond, and thus shirk their part of the obligation; the burden of
restitution may thus be unevenly distributed. But this is one of the
risks that conspirators in sin must take; the injured party must be
protected first and in preference to all others.

No Catholic can validly receive the sacrament of penance who refuses to
assume the responsibility of restitution for injustices committed, and
who does not at least promise sincerely to acquit himself at the first
favorable opportunity and to the extent of his capacity. This means
that only on these conditions can the sin be forgiven by God. That man
is not disposed sufficiently to receive absolution who continually
neglects opportunities to keep his promise; who refuses to pay any,
because he cannot pay all; who decides to leave the burden of
restitution to his heirs, even with the wherewith to do so. It is
better not to go to confession at all than to go with these
dispositions; it is better to wait until you can make up your mind.


IT may happen that a person discover among his legitimately acquired
possessions something that does not in reality belong to him. He may
have come by it through purchase, donation, etc.; he kept it in good
faith, thinking that he had a clear title to it. He now finds that
there was an error somewhere, and that it is the property of some one
else. Of course, he is not the lawful owner, and does not become such
by virtue of his good faith; although, in certain given circumstances,
if the good faith, or ignorance of error, last long enough, a title may
be acquired by prescription, and the possessor become the lawful owner.
But we are not considering the question of prescription.

It is evident, then, that our friend must dispossess himself in favor
of the real owner, as soon as the latter comes upon the scene and
proves his claim. But the possessor may in all innocence have alienated
the goods, destroyed or consumed them; or they may have perished
through accident or fatality. In the latter case, nothing remains to
refund, no one is to blame, and the owner must bear the loss. Even in
the former case, if the holder can say in conscience that he in nowise
became richer by the possession and use of the goods in question, he is
not bound to make restitution. If, however, there be considerable
profits, they rightly belong to the owner, and the possessor must
refund the same.

But the question arises as to how the holder is to be compensated for
the expenditure made in the beginning and in good faith when he
purchased the goods which he is now obliged to hand over to another.
Impartial justice demands that when the rightful owner claims his
goods, the holder relinquish them, and he may take what he gets, even
if it be nothing. He might claim a compensation if he purchased what he
knew to be another's property, acting in the interests of that other
and with the intention of returning the same to its owner. Otherwise,
his claim is against the one from whom he obtained the article, and not
against him to whom he is obliged to turn it over.

He may, if he be shrewd enough, anticipate the serving of the owner's
claim and secure himself against a possible loss by selling back for a
consideration the goods in question to the one from whom he bought
them. But this cannot be done after the claim is presented; besides,
this proceeding must not render it impossible for the owner to recover
his property; and he must be notified as to the whereabouts of said
property. This manoeuvre works injustice unto no one. The owner stands
in the same relation to his property as formerly; the subsequent holder
assumes an obligation that was always his, to refund the goods or their
value, with recourse against the antecedent seller.

The moment a person shirks the responsibility of refunding the
possessions, by him legitimately acquired, but belonging rightfully to
another, that person becomes a possessor in bad faith and stands
towards the rightful owner in the position of a thief. Not in a
thousand years will he be able to prescribe a just title to the goods.
The burden of restitution will forever remain on him; if the goods
perish, no matter how, he must make good the loss to the owner. He must
also disburse the sum total of profits gathered from the illegal use of
said goods. If values fluctuate during the interval of criminal
possession, he must compute the amount of his debt according to the
values that prevailed at the time the lawful owner would have disposed
of his goods, had he retained possession.

Finally, there may be a doubt as to whether the object I possess is
rightfully mine or not. I must do my best to solve that doubt and dear
the title to ownership. If I fail, I may consider the object mine and
may use it as such. If the owner turn up after the prescribed time, so
much the worse for the owner. An uncertainty may exist, not as to my
proprietorship, but as to whom the thing does belong. If my possession
began in good faith and I am unable to determine the ownership, I may
consider myself the owner until further developments shed more light on
the matter.

It is different when the object was originally acquired in bad faith.
In such a case, first, the ill-gotten goods can never be mine; then,
there is no sanction in reason, conscience or law for the conduct of
those who run immediately to the first charitable institution and leave
there their conscience money; or who have masses said for the repose of
the souls of those who have been defrauded, before they are dead at all
perhaps. My first care must be to locate the victim; or, if he be
certainly deceased or evidently beyond reach, the heirs of the victim
of my fraud. When all means fail and I am unable to find either the
owner or his heirs, then, and not till then, may I dispose of the goods
in question. I must assume in such a contingency as this, that the will
of the owner would be to expend the sum on the most worthy cause; and
that is charity. The only choice then that remains with me is, what
hospital, asylum or other enterprise of charity is to profit by my
sins, since I myself cannot be a gainer in the premises.

It might be well to remark here that one is not obliged to make
restitution for more than the damages call for. Earnestness is a good
sign, but it should not blind us or drive us to an excess of zeal
detrimental to our own lawful interests. When there is a reasonable and
insolvable doubt as to the amount of reparation to be made, it is just
that such a doubt favor us. If we are not sure if it be a little more
or a little less, the value we are to refund, we may benefit by the
uncertainty and make the burden we assume as light as in all reason it
can be made. And even if we should happen to err on the side of mercy
to ourselves, without our fault, justice is satisfied, being fallible
like all things human.


THOSE who do not obtain full justice from man in this world will obtain
it in the next from God. If we do not meet our obligations this side of
the tribunal of the just Judge, He will see to it that our accounts are
equitably balanced when the time for the final reckoning comes. This
supposes, naturally, that non-fulfilment of obligations is due on our
part to unwillingness--a positive refusal, or its equivalent, wilful
neglect, to undo the wrongs committed. For right reason and God's mercy
must recognize the existence of a state of unfeigned and hopeless
disability, when it is impossible for the delinquent to furnish the
wherewithal to repair the evils of which he has been guilty. When this
condition is permanent, and is beyond all remedy, all claims are
extinguished against the culprit, and all losses incurred must be
ascribed to "an act of God," as the coroner says. For no mart can be
held to what is impossible.

Chief among these moral, as well as legal, bankrupts is the
good-for-nothing fellow who is sorry too late, who has nothing, has no
hopes of ever having anything, and who therefore can give nothing. You
cannot extract blood from a beet, nor shekels from an empty purse. Then
a man may lose all his belongings in a catastrophe, and after striving
by labor and economy to pay off his debts, may see himself obliged to
give up the task through sickness, misfortune or other good causes. He
has given all he has, he cannot give more. Even though liabilities
were stacked up mountain-high against him, he cannot be held morally
responsible, and his creditors must attribute their losses to the
misfortune of life--a rather unsubstantial consolation, but as good a
one as the poor debtor has.

There are other cases where the obligations of restitution are not
annulled, but only cancelled for the time being, until such a time as
circumstances permit their being met without grave disaster to the
debtor. The latter may be in such a position that extreme, or great,
want would stare him in the face, if he parted with what he possesses
to make restitution. The difficulty here is out of all proportion with
the injustice committed for, after all, one must live, and charity
begins at home, our first duty is toward ourselves. The creditors of
this man have no just claim against him until he improves his
circumstances; in the meantime, the burden of responsibility is lifted
from his shoulders.

The same must be said when the paying off of a debt at any particular
time, be it long or short, would cripple a man's finances, wipe out his
earnings to such an extent as to make him fall considerably below his
present position in life. We might take a case during the late coal
famine, of a man who, in order to fill his contracts of coal at six
dollars a ton, would be obliged to buy it at fifteen and twenty dollars
a ton; and thereby sacrifice his fortune. The thing could not be
expected, it is preposterous. His obligee must wait and hope for better

A man's family is a part of himself. Therefore the payment of a just
debt may be deferred In order to shield from want parents, wife,
children, brothers or sisters. Life, limb and reputation are greater
possessions than riches; consequently, rather than jeopardize these,
one may, for the time, put aside his obligations to make restitution.

All this supposes, of course, that during the interval of delay the
creditor does not suffer inconveniences greater than, or as great as,
those the debtor seeks to avoid. The latter's right to defer payment
ceases to exist the moment it comes into conflict with an equal right
of the former to said payment. It is against reason to expect that,
after suffering a first injustice, the victim should suffer a second in
order to spare the guilty party a lesser or an equal injury. Preference
therefore must be given to the creditor over the debtor when the
necessity for sacrifice is equal, and leniency must be refused when it
becomes cruelty to the former.

Outside these circumstances, which are rare indeed, it will be seen at
once that the creditor may act an unjust part in pressing claims that
accidentally and temporarily become invalid. He has a right to his own,
but he is not justified in vindicating that right, if in so doing, he
inflicts more damage than equity calls for. The culprit has a right not
to suffer more than he deserves, and it is mock justice that does not
respect that right. If the creditor does suffer some loss by the delay,
this might be a circumstance to remember at the final settlement but
for the present, there is an impediment to the working of justice,
placed by the fatal order of things and it is beyond power to remove


BEFORE closing our remarks, necessarily brief and incomplete, on this
subject, so vast and comprehensive, we desire in a few words to pay our
respects to that particular form of injustice, more common perhaps than
all others combined, which is known as criminal debt, likewise, to its
agent, the most brazen impostor and unconscionable fraud that afflicts
society, the man who owes and will not pay. More people suffer from bad
debts than from stealing and destruction of property. It is easier to
contract a debt, or to borrow a trifle, than to steal it outright; it
is safer, too. Imprudence is one of the chief characteristics of this
genus of iniquity. "I would sooner owe you this than cheat you out of
it:" this, in word or deed, is the highly spiritual consolation they
offer those whom they fleece and then laugh at.

The wilful debtor is, first of all, a thief and a robber, because he
retains unjustly the lawful possessions of another. There is no
difference between taking and keeping what belongs to the neighbor. The
loss is the same to a man whether he is robbed of a certain amount or
sells goods for which he gets nothing in return. The injustice is the
same in both cases, the malice identical. He therefore who can pay his
debts, and will not, must be branded as a thief and an enemy to the
rights of property.

The debtor is guilty of a second crime, of dishonesty and fraud against
his fellow-man, by reason of his breaking a contract, entered upon with
a party in good faith, and binding in conscience until cancelled by
fulfilment. When a man borrows or buys or runs an account on credit, he
agrees to return a quid pro quo, an equivalent for value received. When
he fails to do so, he violates his contract, breaks his pledge of
honor, obtains goods under false pretense. Even if he is sincere at the
time of the making of the contract, the crime is perpetrated the moment
he becomes a guilty debtor by repudiating, in one way or another, his
just debts. Now, to injure a person is wrong; to break faith with him
at one and the same time is to incur guilt of a double dye.

There is likewise an element of contumely and outrage in such dishonest
operations; the affront offered the victim is contemptible. Men have
often been heard to say, after being victimized by imposture of this
sort: "I do not mind the loss so much, but I do object to being treated
like a fool and a monkey." One's feelings suffer more than one's purse.
Especially is this the case when the credit is given or a loan made as
a favor or service, intended or requested, only to be requited by the
blackest kind of ingratitude.

And let us not forget the extent of damage wrought unto worthy people
in hard circumstances who are shut out from the advantages of borrowing
and buying on credit by the nefarious practices of dishonest borrowers
and buyers. A burnt child keeps away from the fire. A man, after being
defrauded palpably a few times, acquires the habit of refusing all
credit; and he turns down many who deserve better, because of the
persecution to which he is subjected by rogues and scoundrels. Every
criminal debtor contributes to that state of affairs and shares the
responsibility of causing honest people to suffer want through
inability to get credit.

And who are the persons thus guilty of a manifold guilt? They are those
who borrow and buy knowing full well they will not pay, pile debt upon
debt knowing full well they cannot pay. Others, who do not repudiate
openly their obligations, put off paying indefinitely for futile
reasons: hard times, that last forever; ships coming in, whose fate is
yet unlearned; windfalls from rich relatives that are not yet born,
etc.; and from delay to delay they become not only less able, but less
willing, to settle their accounts. Sometimes you meet a fellow anxious
to square himself for the total amount; half his assets is negotiable,
the other half is gall. He threatens you with the alternative of half
or none; he wants you to accept his impudence at the same figures at
which he himself values it. And this schemer usually succeeds in his

Others there are who protest their determination to pay up, even to the
last cent; their dun-bills are always kept in sight, lest they forget
their obligations; they treasure these bills, as one treasures a thing
of immense value. But they live beyond their means and income, purchase
pleasure and luxury, refuse to curtail frivolous expenses and
extravagant outlay. And in the meantime their debts remain in status
quo, unredeemed and less and less redeemable, their determination holds
good, apparently; and the creditor breaks commandments looking on and

Some do violence to their thinking faculty by trying to find
justification, somehow, for not paying their debts. The creditor is
dead, they say; or he has plenty and can well afford to be generous. An
attempt is often made at establishing a case of occult compensation,
its only merit being its ingenuity, worthy of a better cause. All such
lame excuses argue a deeper perversity of will, a malice well-nigh
incurable; but they do not satisfy justice, because they are not
founded on truth.

A debt has a character of sacredness, like all moral obligations; more
sacred than many other moral obligations, because this quality is taken
directly from the eternal prototype of justice, which is God. You
cannot wilfully repudiate it therefore without repudiating God. You
must respect it as you respect Him. Your sins and your debts will
follow you before the throne of God. God alone is concerned with your
sins; but with your debts a third party is concerned. And if God may
easily waive His claims against you as a sinner, a sterner necessity
may influence His judgment of you as a debtor, through respect for the
inviolable rights of that third party who does not forgive so readily.




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