صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

ciating the moral value of the vows which hold these vast spiritual organizations together. From the "Life of Father Hecker," by the Rev. W. Elliot, or rather from a French adaptation of that work, M. l'Abbé Charles Maignen extracted the opinions which we have rehearsed and labelled them "Americanism." By what process these errors were obtained from the biography of Father Hecker; by what right they received the name of Americanism; for what motives they were foisted upon Catholics of America, and by what men all this was done, we now proceed to set forth.

M. l'Abbé G. Peries, formerly a Professor in the Catholic University of Washington, is the Coryphæus of Americanism. Four years ago, M. Peries was removed from the University for causes which do not here concern us. The following letter addressed by him to Bishop Hortsmann, who laid it before the Board of Trustees of the University on the occasion of the dismissal of the Professor, explains itself and throws light upon the origin of Americanism:

"I do not want any scandal, but I must warn you that if something is made against me, the country at large, and the Roman competent congregation will know what has been the spirit of this house, and I will do that, not in view of the mean revenge, but for the interests of the Church.

"I hope, nevertheless, that nothing such will be necessary, and that I will not be obliged for the honor of my name, and the defense of my interests, to enter a struggle which would prove disadvantageous for several, and for the great aim we have in view in this institution. "G. Peries.

"Please do not lose my documents. I can want them again." This letter, as it stands, is an extract from the Minutes of the Twentieth Meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Catholic University of America, April 18, 1896.*

On his return to France, M. Peries straightway began his work of reprisal. In the threatening letter which he had addressed to Bishop Hortsmann, he had declared his intention of making an exposure-the interests of the Church demanded itunless he were retained in his position at the University; and so, for more than two years, he conducted a campaign of calumny against the Church in America, and indeed against America itself, with all its institutions, social and political. He was meantime joined by the fanatic of the movement, M. l'Abbé Maignen, who, in a book entitled "Le Père Hecker-Est il un Sainte?" formulated the errors at present known under the name of Amer

*The New Era, June 17, 1899.

icanism, and ascribed them to Father Hecker and other Americans.

M. Maignen's views of America, characteristic of the school to which he belongs, will be new to the readers of the NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW; indeed, the possibility of such views being held by any man in his senses will be a revelation to people who speak the English language. He assures us that America, as a nation, "is not even in swaddling clothes, it has yet to be born." "Hostile races are meeting and clashing within the walls of the American continent, like Esau and Jacob in their mother's womb; nobody knows or can know what will come out of the chaos" (p. 171). Americans are little better than Bedouins: "You live in the midst of uptorn populations of immigrants, who wander over the vast American continent without finding a place of rest" (p. 214). His heart goes out to an anonymous friend who writes: "You cannot understand how we suffer at finding ourselves so far from la belle France among this greedy people" (p. 284). The two latter passages have been omitted by M. Maignen in the English translation of his book. They, doubtless, belong to the class of sentences to which Mgr. Satolli referred in his letter to the author: "I believe the English version has done well in softening that vivacity not easily separable from the French language. I notice, moreover, that certain passages have been modified for the better."

M. Maignen does not approve of the Parliament of Religions. He is shocked at the iniquity of those Catholics who took part in proceedings which were opened by a recital of the Pater Noster according to the Protestant formula. In that formula, "which" is used instead of "who" in the opening words of the prayer, and M. Maignen gravely informs his readers that "which' is pronoun applied to animals and things, not persons" (p. 220). This learned note is also omitted in the English version of the book.

It would be interesting to reproduce in full M. Maignen's views on things American-on the race war which is about to break forth in the United States, "violent and irresistible," and on the golden staircase built by George Gould; and on another staircase, each step of which is to cost 14,000 francs, and on President McKinley as an incendiary. All these details would be valuable from the psychological point of view, and would prepare us for M. Maignen's methods of controversy; but we must regretfully pass them over.

M. Maignen, as a critic and theologian, is an adept in all the devices of the heresy hunter. He puts upon the rack the thoughts of the simple priest whom he is pursuing, and strives to extort from them by hook or crook matter for the condemnation of the Inquisition. He subjects to the solvent of syllogisms the meditations of a truly sacerdotal heart; and, with the help of scholastic distinction and subdistinction, he proves that such views are not to be found in Mgr. Satolli's abstruse metaphysical treatises, nor in the tomes of mediæval theology in the midst of which his life is passed. He wrenches passages from their context and bases upon them charges that are refuted in the very chapters from which the sentences are torn. He attributes to American prelates every vagary of liberalism which appears in obscure European journals, and, with unsurpassed insolence and impudence, he calls upon them to disavow articles which they have never heard of. He places in violent juxtaposition with a discourse of Archbishop Keane, as orthodox as the canons of the Council of Trent, a heretical article in the Contemporary Review, and, with an audacity that is truly ludicrous, makes one of the most pious prelates of the American Church speak the language of Welhausen and Harnack! Worst of all, M. Maignen has been repeatedly convicted of downright dishonesty. He accuses Father Hecker-a priest known to all as a man of exalted piety-of lacking in the fundamental devotion of the Catholic religion, and when from pages of surpassing beauty a score of thrilling tributes to the Incarnate Word are quoted to him as words of the man whom he assails, he is reduced to savage but impotent silence. Again, in order to establish Father Hecker's lack of reverence to the Crucified, he counts the number of times the name of Jesus occurs in his biography, and triumphantly asserts that "the Adorable Name is not pronounced perhaps five times in this volume of almost five hundred pages." A critic, suppressing his disgust for such senile logic, points out that the Sacred Name is found in the book not five but thirty times*-more frequently than in many standard works of Catholic devotion. To this instance of dishonesty we must add a case of falsification so flagrant as to throw serious discredit on M. Maignen's entire work. One of the "proofs" which he brings to show Father Hecker's lack of piety is as follows: "The only reproach recorded in

* La Vie Catholique, Oct. 27, 1329.

Father Hecker's life is one which he addressed to a young priest who wanted more time for prayer, and him he advised to go and 'suck his thumbs' out of America" (p. 142). Turning now to the biography of Father Hecker (p. 407), we find this account of the incident referred to:

"The following anecdote of his missionary days shows Fr. Hecker's contempt for lazy devotion. Once when upon a mission a young priest, just returned from Rome where he had made his studies, expressed his desire to go back to Italy as soon as possible, saying, 'I find no time here to pray.' Father Hecker felt indignant, for it did not seem to him that the young man was very much occupied. 'Don't be such a baby,' said he. 'Look around and see how much there is to be done here. Is it not better to make some return to God-here in your own country-for what He has done for you, rather than to be sucking your thumbs abroad? What kind of piety do you call that?'"

And yet this book, the classic of Americanism, is dedicated by its author to Jesus and Mary, and even attributed to them as their work. Never in the annals of controversy has such a book borne such a dedication. It is now plain why the Cardinal Archbishop of Paris refused his imprimatur to this volume, and why the work finally saw the light only when, in contravention of the rules of the Index,* a Roman firm was added to the French publishers and Father Lepidi, a Dominican monk, gave permission to print it.

To the question, Are the opinions which have been condemned under the name of Americanism contained in the biography of Father Hecker? it must be said that whoever reads the book not in the spirit of the partisan theologian, but in the simple good faith of the man who wrote it, will find in it nothing even remotely opposed to Catholic teaching. With the methods, however, which M. Maignen employs, the most orthodox Catholic work may be made to yield every heresy from Gnosticism to Jansenism. The New York Freeman's Journal (March 4, 1899) draws attention to the fact that the fundamental error attributed to Father Hecker, obedience to a subjective guide rather than to the Church, would astonish no one more than Father Hecker himself. "A reference to Father Hecker's original writings," says the Freeman's Journal, "shows that he taught the very opposite of the error attributed to him. * We knew Father Hecker

well, and we know that to him the voice of the Church was the

* The Times, Sept. 15, 1899.

voice of God." And what is true of this error is true of every other erroneous opinion alleged to have been found in the book. For instance, M. Maignen asserts that Father Hecker intended to introduce a new theory of spiritual direction, while, in the very biography from which he argues, the author explicitly states on this point: "It need hardly be said that Father Hecker did not claim to have any new doctrine; there can be none, and he knew it."* Again, M. Maignen charges Father Hecker with scorning the passive virtues, but in the same breath he is forced to confess that Father Hecker's "best inspirations and his finest pages are those from which radiates, with a singular intensity, the mild but powerful glow of the passive virtues." Similarly, the liberty of individual action, in which the French theologian can see only a subversion of authority, The Month, the English Jesuit magazine, takes as evidence of a remarkable breadth of thought.‡ No unbiased reader can fail to see that what Father Hecker understood by individual action is simply that bold and self-reliant personal initiative which, in the military life, marks the American soldier and makes of him a thinking bayonet.

It has been said that the translation of Father Hecker's biography upon which M. Maignen brought his syllogisms to bear is responsible for some of the errors referred to; but we are inclined to agree with l'Abbé Naudet, a distinguished French priest, who writes (in "Justice Sociale"): "If Americanism is a body of doctrine, we confess having found it in the books of Abbé Maignen, and in diverse articles published in 'La Vérité,' but we have not seen it elsewhere-not even in the French adaptation of the 'Life of Father Hecker.""

Another book which forms a picturesque contribution to the campaign of Americanism, and illustrates the fanaticism that runs through the entire movement, is "L'Americanisme et la Conjuration Antichrétienne, par M. l'Abbé Henri Delassus." M. Delassus, scorning the petty calumnies of M. Maignen, sets himself to demonstrate that Cardinal Gibbons, Archbishop Ireland and other American prelates are in collusion with Jews and Freemasons to hasten the triumph of Antichrist and the overthrow of the Church. The book is brilliant with such gems of knowledge as that Disraeli was Prime Minister of England for forty

"Life of Father Hecker," p. 302, +"Le Père Hecker," p. 103.

The Month, July, 1888.

« السابقةمتابعة »