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WE met in England. A mutual friend presented me. I still recall the words of introduction:

'John, here is an American priest who will listen to you!'

Almost immediately the scholarlylooking clergyman and I fell into a discussion of religion. He heard my case with a tolerant, even a sympathetic air. It took a little while to tell the story of my Catholic training as a child and my attraction to Anglicanism at the age of fourteen. Afterward the discord of my years as a student of the Jesuits was sounded.

Then came a description of the confusing, baffling influences - Dante, Francis of Assisi, Martin Luther, Emerson, Carlyle, Huysmans, William James, Chesterton, Fogazzaro, Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson, Dr. Roderick MacEachen, Dr. John A. Ryan. I told him how disturbing Darwin had been to me, and I was conscious of his look of thoughtful sympathy as I sentimentalized over Durtal in En Route and philosophized over Varieties of Religious Experience.

During those formative years my quest was the purest modern reflection of primitive Christianity. At first the twentieth century's Catholic image had struck me as being innocently distorted; later it appeared to be deliberately false. There was no trace of apostolic footprints in the present-day unevangelical field of Catholic Theology. Although admiring the Christian economics of the early Church, I marked in despair how the Christlike voice of Dr.


John A. Ryan of the National Catholic
Welfare Council cried in an American
Catholic wilderness.

I made a clean breast of everything. I told how my religious bark drifted into Christian Science waters soon after my graduation from a Catholic college. Not to anchor there. It tarried merely long enough to take on another cargo of doubt, and was caught once more in the swift current of Anglicanism. ‘High Church,' although it did not satisfy my intellect, brought some meed of balm. Dogma had not sealed the stained-glass windows. There was a sweep of air, and I could breathe.

Finally I spoke of residence at Rome. Throughout my life Rome's titles carried certain messages to me: 'Mistress of the World'; "The Holy City'; 'City of the Popes'; 'The Eternal City.' Once I had gone so far as to invent my own title- 'The Tabernacle of the World.' My childish imagination had visualized Rome as the central tabernacle, the holy of holies, in the white marble altar of universal Catholicism. Perhaps this focal point of a world religion, through some divine magic, might mend the shattered vase of faith. Ave Roma!

But for me in those youthful years Rome proved not the world's tabernacle but the 'kitchen of the Pope,' as the pamphleteers used to call it. The odor was not of sanctity. Thousands of pots were kept boiling. There were politics to brew and clericalism to stew. Skilled hands prepared the bill of fare for the world-wide Church. Copyright 1927, The Atlantic Monthly Company

Everywhere Catholic clergy and laity would follow it- everywhere but in Italy itself. Vale Roma!

I was no stranger to Rome. My experience both as American press correspondent and as an official of our government afforded me unusual opportunities for observation and study. The conclusions of the late twenties were not the results of an emotional Cook's tour of Italy, but the silted knowledge of several years in Rome.

Gradually my Catholic faith had left me. My spirit, long troubled, was become strangely quiet. For the moment I was an agnostic. But my agnosticism was not the end but the beginning of constructive thought.

It was just a month after I had left Italy that I met the American priest in England. The attraction of medieval church architecture had drawn me to the English cathedral towns. We stood together in the vast nave of Canterbury. In the past there had been other clergymen upon whom I poured the mingled currents of my soul. Not many six or seven, perhaps; all Roman Catholics save one Episcopal bishop of happy memory. The Romans had become instantly 'professional.' I was a 'lost sheep,' or an 'intellectual upstart.' One beautiful exception there was an American Jesuit of 'the understanding heart,' now dead, whom I had met in the Gregorian University at Rome.

And now here was this indulgent 'Father,' standing in the shining beauty of the reredos of Canterbury! My youthful rationalism touched but did not revolt him. He was human enough to hear my dilemma and divine enough to comment upon it intelligently.

'Do you go to church now?' he kindly asked when I had finished.

'Occasionally to an Anglican service,' I replied. 'But even there I find that one is invited to sleep upon the stuffy

pillow of Theology. The fact that Theology has all but smothered religion in the Roman Church does not seem to trouble or influence anybody.'

At this remark the good Father's eyes lighted with sudden humor. For a moment only. The smiling twinkle passed and he spoke seriously.

"That's right. You are an apprentice. Go to some church and manifest a good intention toward the Master. In the end the God of humanity will set your topsy-turvy religious house to rights. Love is the divine housekeeper.'

'Do you mean, Father, that there is no essential error in individual religious thinking?'

'I say, my son, that there is essential religious error in your not thinking. The more highly organized, the more ecclesiastically authoritative the Church is, the less conspicuous the religion of good works among its members. Scientific history will not bear false witness against its neighbors!'

That was all. The priest went his way and I went mine. He took my American address, but did not offer his own. I had nothing but his ordinary family name. The time was almost a decade ago.

Upon returning to the United States I made some confidential inquiries about the background of this priest who so instantly and completely understood me. The findings had interest and significance. He was a prominent professor at a Catholic college in the West. For thirteen years his public writings on religious subjects had enjoyed the episcopal imprimatur of approval. To the hierarchy's outer eye he was orthodox, or at least sufficiently orthodox to be tolerated.

Indeed, I found out more than this during the investigation. Extraordinary facts came to light. The priestprofessor was one of a growing number of Catholic clergymen who in their

own consciences were interpreting the Church in terms of personal experience and modern science. The fetish of ecclesiastical authority grew more and more difficult to bear. Some opposed celibacy and advocated marriage for the clergy. Some favored public-school education over parochial-school education; they recalled the late Archbishop Ireland's opposition to the existing parochial-school system and declared that time had 'proved Ireland right.'

'Why has this state of things been kept a close secret?' I asked a Catholic physician known throughout the country. He was startlingly frank.

'Because Catholic modernists on this side of the water as well as on the other side hope for a peaceful religious revolution in the Church itself. Were they to reveal themselves at this premature date, they, like Luther or the more recent Loisy, would be forced from the Church. Their Catholic influence would be gone. For officially they would be non-Catholics. As nonCatholics they would have no effective approach to nonthinking Catholics.'

'But what about conscience?' I heard myself asking.

'We are acting not only in the light of reason but according to the instinct of conscience as well. Catholic modernism is nothing but an honest and holy attempt at the resurrection of the undogmatized Church of the first three centuries. Catholics like that priestacquaintance of yours are the true Christian Catholics of to-day.'

The material concerns of a workaday world began to fill my nights and days. I paid too little heed to my innermost self. Indeed, I became almost indifferent to it. I smile as I remember the reminders of well-meaning friends. In my Christmas stocking there was always a highly polished replica of the rock of Peter. A kindly relative preached this annual sermon in stone.

The gesture amused but could no longer convince me.

Nevertheless, certain religious impulses would not be suppressed. Under their propulsion the business of living for others as well as for myself became a kind of religion. Just when I supposed I had done with formal controversy, life turned and laughed at me.

I received a packet from the halfforgotten priest of Canterbury. It was a sheaf of manuscripts in a paper folder. The postmark was an isolated monastic town in Central Europe. The writer, in a covering note, identified himself as the helpful acquaintance of long ago. He wrote briefly and to the point:

It must be almost ten years since I heard your confession in the Canterbury Cathedral. Will you hear mine now? Afterward, try to publish it anonymously. There might be strengthening inspiration in it for some dying soul. It is the life breath of my spirit, though my body, like a wheel, whirls on. (Signed) FATHER

I am thus become the literary executor of a living man.

The unexpected appointment staggered me. My ears were no strangers to the requests of the dying. But never was there such a last wish as this. There was something thrilling in the message, as of the last request of a dying soul.

I read the articles, read and reread the message. It seemed a voice beyond the grave. A moral compulsion seemed to be in the call. Here was a command which no man must gainsay.

It is in this mood that I have given these four papers to be published in successive issues of the Atlantic. Explicitly they are a modernistic philosophy of the Roman Catholic religion. In their implications they form an appealing autobiography of a wounded and loving human soul.



THE series of papers of which this is the first is designed to constitute constructive criticism. In preparing them I have not been animated by any sense of bitterness or resentment. Contrariwise, I am prompted by love for the dear old Church to which I owe allegiance. She has been a tender Mother, not only to me, but to my ancestors; to them in a land where fealty to her often entailed the throes of persecution. Had I loved the Church less, my pen might have remained listless.

In fact, I have written not one word against my Church. The abuses which I attempt to delineate refer no more to the Church than they do to Christ. They are the barnacles which have grown on the bark of Peter through long centuries. I am writing, therefore, in the hope that those constituted in authority may come to see the necessity of dry-docking.

For obvious reasons I am constrained to take shelter behind the screen of anonymity. To reveal my identity would not aid the cause which I have at heart. With no name attached, the articles will necessarily be judged by their content alone. The issue will not be confused by the intrusion of a personality.


Why don't priests marry? Priestly celibacy is the great paradox of Catholicism. The Church insists upon the supreme importance of family life. Her priests are exhorted to be moral patterns for the people. It is not, then, a question why priests do not marry. The great problem is, Does a bachelor priesthood fit into the scheme of the modern world? Not only the lay mind, but that of many a cleric, pauses to reflect upon this grave issue.

Celibacy of the clergy does not touch directly upon the sphere of dogma. It is purely a matter of discipline. The fact is that there are thousands of priests to-day who are living in the marriage state with the blessing and sanction of Mother Church. These belong to the Ruthenian or other Oriental rites. Many of these dwell with their wives and children here in the United States.

When the ecclesiastical law of celibacy was first promulgated is not known. It is, however, not ascribed to Evangelical or Apostolic origin. Christ healed Saint Peter's mother-in-law. Hence the Prince of the Apostles was a married man. The New Testament argument for celibacy is taken from Saint Paul (I Cor. vii. 32-33): 'He that is without a wife is solicitous for the things of the Lord, how he may please God: But he that is with a wife is solicitous for the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and he is divided.' The context here, however, clearly shows that Saint Paul was speaking to 'all men,' without special reference to the clergy. No law of celibacy prevailed in the early centuries. An attempt at the Council of Nicæa (325 A.D.) to formulate such a law failed.

Be that as it may, the rule of celibacy is taught in all its force to-day. In these later times it has even achieved a certain dogmatic position. The teaching is that the vow of celibacy is implicitly contained in the ordination to the diaconate. It may surprise many to learn that priests do not pronounce a vow of celibacy. Nor are they questioned upon the subject at ordination. Every candidate knows, nevertheless, what is expected of him. The young Levite has been carried from his early

youth upon a wave of pious fervor and enthusiasm. He has been taught that he is choosing the better part. He is aspiring to a nobler estate, from which the 'baser' concerns of the flesh are excluded.

Most priests have made their decision to renounce the world and its pleasures, particularly those 'lesser joys' of marital life, when they were as yet children. It is the custom to seek out likely boys who manifest signs of piety and to convince them that they have a vocation to the priesthood. This vocation is supposed to represent some mystic calling from God. Yet it is practically of Catholic doctrine that the priestly vocation consists in the official call to ordination which comes from the bishop. However, many boys of twelve or fourteen are admonished to follow the vocation which has 'manifested itself' (sic) in them. Sometimes they are even threatened with the loss of their soul if they fail to follow the divine call.

It is a particular mark of zeal on the part of priests and bishops to 'foster vocations' among the youth subject to their care. Lately a nation-wide campaign for vocations was conducted in the United States. If a boy consents to become a priest, he will be taken gladly and educated free of charge as soon as he completes the grades. Bishops order special collections for this purpose each year, at Pentecost. Of late years many bishops have established colleges particularly to develop vocations. The tendency is to segregate these youthful candidates from secular students. It is thought thus to guard them against the danger of losing their priestly vocation. There might be such a loss were they too much in contact with worldlyminded boys, not blessed with a vocation. Some zealots would fain apply the Italian method. In Italy boys are taken at ten or eleven years of age,

clothed with the priestly habit, and then kept apart from the seductions of home and the outside world in general. During the vacation they spend the time at a country place under the surveillance of priestly masters.

The present course of instruction prescribed for priestly candidates extends over a period of twelve years. Six years are required for classical studies, foremost among which is Latin. Then follow two years of scholastic philosophy and four years of theology. These latter six years constitute the seminary course proper. It is a course which embraces practically no modern elements. It is mediæval in character. In the first two years Aristotelian philosophy in its scholastic dress is the form and basis of the course. Modern philosophy, psychology, and the infinite research of the last two or three centuries find little place in this sacred curriculum. The philosophical textbooks are written in Latin, as are the theologies. Professors are enjoined to deliver their lectures in Latin, though they may afterward use the vernacular to explain the meaning. In theology the Church has prescribed a textbook compiled by Saint Thomas seven hundred years ago. However, modern Latin commentaries on the work are permitted. Besides theology, the students are given courses in Scripture, church history, canon law, and liturgy. In all these studies they are simply supposed to memorize the ideas handed down by great minds which have gone before.

In the whole course of this education no individual thought is required, nor for that matter permitted. In the texts the problems, thought out centuries ago, are stated. Then follow the proofs and the line of argumentation, covering Scriptural texts, decrees of the Pope, and the like. At examinations the students are required to reproduce these

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