LIBERALISM AND LITERATURELiberalism is a system, as Catholicism is, although in a contrary sense. It has its (97) arts, its science, its literature, its economics, its ethics, that is, it has an organism all its own, animated by its own spirit and distinguishable by its own physiognomy. The most powerful heresies, for instance, Arianism in ancient times and Jansenism in our own days, resented like peculiarities.
Not only are there Liberal journals but there exists a literature in all the shades and degrees of Liberalism; it is abundant and prolific. The present generation draws its main intellectual nourishment from it. Our modern literature is saturated with its sentiments, and for this reason should we take every precaution to guard against its infection, of which so many are the miserable victims. How is it to be avoided?
The rules of guidance in this case are analogous or almost identical with the rules which should govern a Catholic in his personal relations with Liberals, for books are after all but the representatives of their authors, conveying by the printed, instead of the spoken word, what men think, feel and say. Apply to books those rules of conduct which should regulate our intercourse with persons and we have a safeguard in reading the literature of the day. But in this instance the control of the relation is practically in our own power, for it depends entirely on ourselves whether we seek or (98) tolerate the reading of Liberal books. They are not apt to seek us out, and if they are thrust upon us, our consent to their perusal is practically all our own doing. We have none but ourselves to blame if they prove to be our own undoing.
There is one point, however, worthy of our close consideration. It should be a fundamental rule in a Catholic's intellectual life; it is this: Spare your praises of Liberal books, whatever be their scientific or literary merit, or at least praise with great reserve, never forgetting the reprobation rightly due to a book of Liberal spirit or tendency. This is an important point. It merits the strictest attention. Many Catholics, by far too na´ve (even some engaged in Catholic journalism) are perpetually seeking to pose as impartial , and are perpetually daubing themselves with a veneer of flattery. They lustily beat the bassdrum and blow all the trumpets of their vocabulary in praise of no mater what work, literary or scientific, that comes from the Liberal camp. They are fearful of being considered narrow minded and partial if they don't give even the Devil his due. In the fulsomeness of their flattery they hope to show that it costs a Catholic nothing to recognize merit wherever it may be found; they imagine this to be a powerful means of attracting (99) the enemy. Alas! The folly of the weaklings; they play a losing game, it is they who are insensibly attracted, not the enemy. They simply fly at the bait held out by the cunning fisher, who satanically guides the destinies of Liberalism.
Let us illustrate. When Arnold's Light of Asia appeared not a few Catholics joined in the chorus of fulsome praise which greeted it. How charming, how beautiful, how tender, how pathetic, how humane; what lofty morality, what exquisite sentiment! Now what was the real purport of the book and what was its essence? To lift up Gautama, the founder of Budhism, at the expense of Jesus Christ, the Founder of Christianity! The intention was to show that Gautama was equally a divine teacher with as high an aspiration, as great a mission, as lofty a morality as our Divine Lord Himself. This was the object of the book; what was its essence? A falsification of history by weaving a series of poetical legends around a character, about whose actual life practically nothing is known; but not only this; the character was built upon the model of Our Lord, which the author had in his own mind as the precious heirloom of Christianity, and his Gautama, whom he intended to standout as at least the divine equal of the Founder of Christianity, (100) became in his hands in reality a mere echo of Christ, the image of Christ, made to rival the Word made flesh! Buddhism in the borrowed garments of Christianity was thus made to appeal to the ideals of Christian peoples, and gaining a footing in their admiration and affections, to usurp the throne in the Christian sanctuary. Here was a work of literary merit, although it has been greatly exaggerated in this respect, praised extravagantly by some Catholics, who in their excessive desire to appear impartial failed or refused to see in Edwin Arnold's Light of Asia a most vicious antiChristian book!
What difference does it make whether a book be excellent in a literary sense or not, if its effect be the loss of souls and not their salvation? What if the weapon in the hands of the assassin be bright or not, if it be fatal? Though spiritual assassination be brilliant it is none the less deadly. Heresy under a charming disguise is a thousand times more dangerous than heresy exposed to the harsh and arid garb of the scholastic syllogism, through which the death's skull grins in unadorned hideousness. Arianism had its poets to propagate its errors in popular verse. Lutheranism had its humanists amongst whom the elegant Erasmus shone as a brilliant writer. (101) Arnauld, Nicole, Pascal threw the glamour of their belles lettres over the serpentine doublings of Jansenism. Voltaire's wretched infidelity won its frightful popularity from the grace of his style and the flash of his wit. Shall we, against whom they aimed the keenest and deadliest shafts, contribute to their name and their renown! Shall we assist them in fascinating and corrupting youth! Shall we crown these contemners of our faith with the laurels of our praises, and laud them for the very qualities which alone make them dangerous! And for what purpose? That we may appear impartial? No; impartiality is not permissible when it is distorted to the offense of truth, whose rights are imprescriptible. A woman of bad life is infamous, be she ever so beautiful, and the more beautiful, the more dangerous. Shall we praise Liberal books out of gratitude? Follow the Liberals themselves in this, far more prudent than we; they do not recommend and praise our books whatever they be. They, with the instinct of evil, fully appreciate where the danger lies. They either seek to discredit us or pass us by in silence.
Si quis non amat Dominum Nostrum Jesum Christum sit anathema, says St. Paul. Liberal literature is the written (102) hatred of our Lord and his Church. If its blasphemy were open, direct, no Catholic would tolerate it for an instant; is it any more tolerable because, like a courtesan, it seeks to disguise its sordid features by the artifice of paint and powder?