In our day the Catholic world, with as much justice as reason, attributes impiety to the quality of free-thought, whether in a person, a journal or an institution. "Free-thinker" is an odious epithet which few are willing to accept, but which many justly bear in spite of their protestations. They chafe under the appellation of the word, but find no inconvenience in being all that it implies. Persons, societies, books, governments which reject, in matters of faith and morals, the only and exclusive criterion-----that of the Catholic Church-----are Liberals. They acknowledge themselves to be Liberals, they feel honored to be so recognized, and never dream of scandalizing anybody except us terrible "irreconcilables".
Now change the expression; instead of Liberals call them free-thinkers they resent the epithet as a calumny and grow indignant at the insult, as they term it. But why this excruciating tenderness, this delicate sensitiveness over the variations of a simple term? Have you not, dear friends, banished from your conscience, your books, your journal and your society all recognition of the supreme authority of the Church? Have you not raised up as sole and fundamental criterion of your conduct and your thought your own untrammeled reason?
Very properly then do you say that you are Liberal and no one will dispute the title with you. But you should remember that the very principle, which makes you Liberal, constitutes you free-thinkers. Every Liberal, no matter of what degree or shade, is ipso facto a free-thinker, and every free-thinker, as odious as the title may seem according to social conventionalities, is only a logical Liberal. He is simply a Liberal following his premises to their conclusions. This doctrine is as precise and as exact as a mathematical proposition. It is based on the laws of the strictest logic. It is a simple syllogism, whose premise is Liberalism and whose conclusion free-thought.
Let us illustrate. You are a Catholic more or less open to false allurements and as a punishment for your sins, you belong to a Liberal society, say, of a literary character. Consider a moment and ask yourself the following question: Would I continue to belong to this athenaeum, if tomorrow it should proclaim itself publicly and boldly a society of free-thought? What response would your conscience and your shame dictate? Would you not at once withdraw from its membership? As a Catholic you could take no part in its proceedings.
Again; you subscribe for a journal, read it without scruple, although it bears a Liberal title and speaks and reasons accordingly. Would you continue your subscription if all of a sudden it should place upon its title page the following heading: Journal of Free-Thought. Well, this moderate or violent Liberal journal has been for years nothing more nor less than a free-thinker, and you have been imbibing its poison under the delusion of a word.
Ah! Of how many prejudices would we rid ourselves if we only reflected a little on the meaning of words! Every society, whether scientific, literary or philanthropic, constituted on Liberal lines, is free-thinking. Every government Liberally organized is free-thinking. To reject with disgust the name and not the substance is blindness. Any institution, no matter what be its character, established in complete independence of the magisterium of the Faith, is free-thinking. Catholics cannot consistently belong to them. Membership there means rebellion against the Church.
In all such institutions Liberalism reigns and, in consequence, free-thought. No Catholic can remain a Catholic and affiliate with them. We are Catholics all-in-all-----or not at all. We cannot dwell in an atmosphere where God is not. There is no true spiritual life where Jesus Christ is not, and He has given His promise to be with His Church forever. Who abides not in Him, lives in the outer darkness.
How much do perverse Catholics serve the Devil by obstinately clinging to such associations and participating in their works! In the folly of their ignorance, which they assert against the wisdom of the Church, they harden their consciences to the practical guidance of the Holy See and blindly enlist in the service of an enemy whose cunning deludes them into the slavery of Hell -----under the disguise of freedom! They forget that the truth alone makes them free. To know and serve God is the only freedom, and Liberalism completely severs the bond which links man to God. With a just and rational horror does a good Catholic regard Liberalism. Ultramontanism will never cause you to loose your soul; Liberalism is a broad road to the infernal abyss.