PERSONAL POLEMICS AND LIBERALISM"It is all well enough to make war on abstract doctrines," some may say, "but in combating error, be it ever so evident, is it so proper to make an attack upon the persons of those who uphold it"? We reply that very often it is, and not only proper but at times even indispensable and meritorious before God and men.
The accusation of indulging in personalities is not spared to Catholic apologists, and when Liberals and those tainted with Liberalism have hurled it at our heads they imagine that we are overwhelmed by the charge. But they deceive themselves. (115) We are not so easily thrust in the back ground. We have reason and substantial reason on our side. In order to combat and discredit false ideas, we must inspire contempt and horror in the hearts of the multitude for those who seek to seduce and debauch them. A disease is inseparable from the persons of the diseased. The cholera threatening a country comes in the persons of the infected. If we wish to exclude it we must exclude them. Now ideas do not in any case go about in the abstract; they neither spread nor propagate from themselves. Left to themselves, if it be possible to imagine them apart from those who conceive them, they would never produce all the evil from which society suffers. It is only in the concrete that they are effective; when they are the personal product of those who conceive them. They are like the arrows and the balls which would hurt no one if they were not shot from the bow or the gun. It is the archer and the gunner to whom we should give our first attention; save for them the fire would not be murderous. Any other method of warfare might be Liberal, if you please, but it would ;not be commonsense.
The authors and propagators of heretical doctrines are soldiers with poisoned weapons in their hands. Their arms are the book, (116) the journal, the lecture, their personal influence. Is it sufficient to dodge their blows? Not at all; the first thing necessary is to demolish the combatant himself. When he is hors de combat, he can do no more mischief.
It is therefore perfectly proper not only to discredit any book, journal or discourse of the enemy, but it is also proper, in certain cases, to even discredit his person; for in warfare, beyond question, the principal element is the person engaged, as the gunner is the principal factor in an artillery fight and not the cannon, the powder and the bomb. It is thus lawful, in certain cases, to expose the infamy of a Liberal opponent, to bring his habits into contempt, and drag his name in the mire. Yes, this is permissible, permissible in prose, in verse, in caricature, in a serious vein or in badinage, by every means and ;method within reach. The only restriction is not to employ a lie in the service of justice. This never. Under no pretext may we sully the truth, even to the dotting of an i. As a French writer says: "Truth is the only charity allowed in history," and, we may add, in the defense of religion and society.
The Fathers of the Church support this thesis. The very title of their works clearly show that, in their contests with heresy, (117) their first blow was at the heresiarchs. The works of St. Augustine almost always bear the name of the author of the heresy against which they are written: Contra Fortunatum Manichoeum; Adversus Adamanctum; Contra Felicem; Contra Secundinum; Quis fuerit Petiamus; De gestis Pelagii; Quis fuerit Julianus, etc. Thus the greater part of the polemics of this great doctor was personal, aggressive, biographical, as well as doctrinal, a handtohand struggle with heretics as well as with heresy. What we here say of St. Augustine we can say of the other Fathers. Whence do the Liberals derive their power to impose upon us the new obligation of fighting error only in the abstract and of lavishing smiles and flattery upon them? We, the Ultramontanes, will fight our battles according to Christian tradition, and defend the faith as it has always been defended in the Church of God. When it strikes let the sword of the Catholic polemist wound, and when it wounds, wound mortally. This is the only real and efficacious means of waging war.