The Church and Civilization: Part 3


Fr. W. Devivier, SJ
Edited by Bishop S.G. Messmer, DD, DCL
Bishop of Green Bay, Wisc.
Imprimatur, 1903



The object of civilization, we have said, is the perfecting of the whole man in all that relates to the present life, and it includes not only his material interests, but also, and above all, his moral and intellectual interests.

It is of capital importance to provide for the intellectual perfection of man, for it is precisely his intelligence which distinguishes him from the animal. What part, then, has the Church taken in this civilizing labor? We would state it briefly before concluding this chapter. It will afford still another answer to a charge already refuted, but which is as wide-spread as it is unjust.

Let us begin first of all by recalling what we have said elsewhere, viz., that the sole, proper, direct mission of the Church, the end of her foundation, is to preserve the deposit of Revelation brought by Jesus Christ, and to communicate it to men of good-will, to enable them to attain salvation. Therefore, even though the Church had not labored for the intellectual progress of humanity it could not be alleged as a charge against her. Who would think of accusing a commercial society of not promoting literature, or an academy of sciences of not producing sculptors or musicians? It would be no less absurd to attack the Church on the ground that she had not contributed to the advancement of science and letters.

Nevertheless, this Church which exercised such a salutary influence upon the ancient world; which prepared the way for the abolition of, and even to a great extent abolished, the crying abuses which will be the eternal dishonor of paganism; which can boast of having indirectly and over and above its spiritual influence civilized the barbarous nations established on the ruins of the Roman Empire, has also acquired claims to the gratitude of nations for special benefits in the intellectual order.

1. The proper work and mission of the Church is the moral and religious teaching ot all mankind; yet the duty of teaching imposed upon her ministers has never excluded the various forms of knowledge which may adorn the human intelligence. The Church's care of man, so dear to God, saved by His Precious Blood, must extend to the whole man. The human sciences, moreover, are far from being useless for the sublime end of Christianity. They help the soul to grasp more promptly the fundamental principles of faith and the virtues which it teaches. They open a passage, as it were, through which these virtues enter the intelligence more easily and penetrate more deeply. Thus we find the Church inscribes in her laws, in her canon law, these two sentences which express her thought with energetic brevity: "Ignorance is the mother of all error. Ignorance is hardly tolerable in a layman, but in a priest it is inexcusable and unpardonable." Who does not know St. Basil's homily on "The profit which young men may derive from the reading of profane authors?" St. Gregory Nazianzen, St. John Chrysostom, St. Jerome were of like opinion, and employed their leisure in spreading knowledge in the society which they were endeavoring to win to God. "The first of blessings," says St. Gregory Nazianzen, one of the greatest Doctors of the Church, "is knowledge; and I mean not only that which relates to salvation and the beauty of spiritual things, I speak also of profane knowledge. To have only morality or science is to have but one eye, but those who shine in both are perfect."

Such has also been the theory and the practice of the Church. Recently the Vatican Council, speaking of scientific studies, solemnly declared in its first dogmatic constitution "that, far from being opposed to the study of the arts and the sciences, the Church assists and encourages them in numerous ways; for she knows, and does not despise, the advantages which result from them to the life of man. Moreover, as sciences come from God, the Master of all sciences, the Church recognizes that the regular employment of them should, with the assistance of grace, lead man to God. Certainly she does not forbid that the sciences, each in its own sphere, make use of their proper principles and special methods."

Why, moreover, should the Church fear science? Has she not just proclaimed by the authentic organ of the same Council that no real conflict is possible between natural truth and revealed truth, between human science and the revealed word, between faith and reason? We ourselves have demonstrated in the first part of this work that no such conflict exists. God is the author of all being, and therefore the author of all truths, whatever the order to which they belong.

2. Not content with promoting all that can extend the sphere of human knowledge, the Church has always been the most ardent centre of intellectual activity. "From the fourth century," says the Protestant Guizot, "the intellectual state of religious society and that of civil society could not be compared: in one all was decadence, languor, and inertia; in the other movement, ardor, and progress." In the bosom of Christianity minds were unceasingly quickened by serious and profound discussions. The accepted maxim: In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, was largely practised. "Examine the government of the Church," writes the same author again; "it appeals unceasingly to reason; liberty dominates. What are its institutions, its means of action? Provincial councils, national (plenary) councils, general councils, continued correspondence, continual publication of letters, admonitions, writings. Never did government carry common discussion and deliberation so far." It was in the general councils, particularly, that this intellectual life was manifested, and we may say with a writer that "even had their decisions not been the work of Divine inspiration they would still remain as the most beautiful monuments of human wisdom." (M. de Decker, L'Eglise et l'ordre social chretien.)

"The old world is no more," says a judicious writer, "but its learning has survived it. The Church has made her own the two languages which were the instruments of its thought and the vehicle of its knowledge: in appropriating them she has immortalized them, and in immortalizing them she saved the ideas with which they were impregnated, the notions of which they were the receptacle, in a word, all the intellectual treasure amassed in them,. for a language is like a stream of running water which holds in suspension all the elements of the life of a people." (De l'Eglise dans ses rapports avec le developpement intellectual, by the Abbe Pirenne. )

3. What a magnificent array of thinkers and writers is offered us in the annals of the Church! She had hardly emerged from the catacombs, this Church based on the inspired books of the Old and the New Testament, than there rose for her defence men like Origen, Athenagoras, Justin, Tertullian; later she produced the works of writers like John Chrysostom, Basil, Gregory Nazianzen, Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine, and Leo the Great; later still she inspired the masterpieces of Albert the Great, of Anselm, of Bonaventure, of Thomas Aquinas. Who may count the remarkable works, published in every language, setting forth, demonstrating, developing, and defining religious truth? We cannot forget that the most beautiful literary works of every kind are due to Christian inspiration; to be convinced of this it suffices to mention "Jerusalem Delivered," "The Divine Comedy," "Polyeucte," and "Athalie." If paganism had its century of Pericles and Augustus, Christianity produced that of Leo XIII and Louis XIV; if the first excelled especially in literary form, the others surpassed them in truth and elevation of thought, and in heroic sentiments.

4. Historians who have made a serious study of the Middle Ages [2] justly affirm that during this long period the influence of the Church was the only thing which held its own, and which exercised its empire in the intellectual world. "The Church," says Guizot himself, "exercised a
great influence over the moral and intellectual order in Europe.  . . . The moral and intellectual developments of Europe have been essentially theological." It was this development of minds which rendered possible the literary works of the beautiful Christian centuries, as well as the great scientific discoveries at the end of the fifteenth century, and those which followed as a consequence in later centuries.

Had the Church done nothing more than save the masterpieces of pagan literature, she would still merit the gratitude of all. When Europe was sacked by barbarous powers and beheld all her libraries destroyed, it was the monks who rescued from fire and pillage the manuscripts which we still possess. And when there was no means of multiplying these works, these same monks, in their cells or in the scriptorium, transcribed them and spread numerous copies. They devoted to these labors the leisure left them from the education of children and of young men, from the cultivating and redeeming of lands, and from the construction of many of the magnificent cathedrals which are to be found in Europe.

Much might be said in regard to other services of every kind wInch the monasteries rendered society. While Guizot affirms that the Benedictines cultivated the soil of Europe, the rationalist Gibbon declares that "one convent of these religious probably did more for letters than the two universities of Oxford and Cambridge." "An abbey," says A. Thierry, "was not only a place of prayer and contemplation, but it was also a public asylum against the invasion of barbarism. Beside being a refuge for books and the sciences, it contained workshops of every kind, and its lands were model farms. It was the school to which the conquerors came to learn how to cultivate and colonize the lands they had acquired." [3]

5. And the Popes particularly, what have they not done for intellectual culture? "I should never conclude," says Mgr. Freppel, "if I were to enumerate all the services rendered by the papacy to the cause of science and letters. Shall I point out to you a Pope at the head of the Latin and Greek renaissance; the refugees from Constantinople seeking protection under the shadow of the pontifical throne; Lascaris teaching Greek to astonished Europe on the Esquiline beside the palace of Leo X; Nicholas V maintaining a legion of scholars for the collection of manuscripts in all parts of the world; Pius II, the learned Æneas Sylvius, mingling his own knowledge with the brilliant lights of his protégés? And to come nearer to our own day, shall I cite Paul III encouraging Copernicus in his immortal discoveries; Gregory XIII. furnishing from astronomy a more accurate distribution of time; Sixtus V developing that Vatican library which has been the admiration of the world; Urban VIII, whose Latin poems are justly regarded as among the best productions of the kind in modern times; and, finally, that grand Benedict XI., to whom Voltaire himself renders homage, hailing him as the most learned man of the eighteenth century?" Each one's thoughts naturally turn here to the Pope gloriously reigning, who by his learning, his writings, and
his works leads the march of contemporary civilization.

Who does not know the admirable zeal with which Leo XIII favors and recommends the higher studies, whether in literature, language, natural science, history, philosophy, theology, in a word, in all the branches of human knowledge? "Nothing," he wrote recently, "is more noble than literary glory." Thus he earnestly extols the study of Roman and Greek authors. "The models of Greece," he says, "shine and excel to such an extent, and in every respect, that one cannot conceive of anything more polished and more perfect." The end the Holy Father has in view is evident; it is, as he himself says, "that truth enlightened by the splendor of thought and style may more easily penetrate, and be more deeply graven in minds." Moreover, his grand intelligence and noble heart are keenly interested in all that can contribute to the elevation and to the welfare of humanity. [4]

It is, therefore, a historical fact that in every period of the Christian world the papacy has always presided over scientific and literary movements, just as it has been at the head of religious and social movements. [5]


In regard to the Church's influence on the progress of the fine arts, we must needs confine ourselves to a few brief but significant words. "Take away the monuments of Christian art from the time of the catacombs to the present day; eliminate from public and private collections all the marvels of painting and sculpture due to Christian genius, and you will have," as Armengaud justly observes in his Les æuvres de l'art chretien, "the best proof of this fact, viz., that religion was the sole inspiration of great art, the founder of all the rival schools, and the nursing mother of artists. It belonged to her and to her alone to complete the sublime beauty of pagan form by the still more sublime beauty of Christian sentiment: ancient art had deified matter, modern art has breathed into a soul." And to cite only Italy, look at the glorious array of Christian painters who made the age from Leo X to Urban VIII illustrious: Fra Bartolomeo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Perugino, Andrea del Sarto, Correggio, Giulio Romano, Daniel de Volterra, Michael Angelo, Palma the elder, Titian, Paul Veronese, Tintoretto, the Caravaggios, Guido, and Domenichino. Was it not Canova, the great modern sculptor, who wrote Napoleon: "All religions foster art, but none in the same degree as ours"? After a period of lamentable indifference, our age cannot now extol sufficiently the marvels of architecture, of sculpture, and of painting of the Middle Ages. We justly admire the grave and touching melodies of the Gregorian chant, and the learned compositions of Orlando de Lassus, of Palestrina, of Allegri. A master on hearing them in the Sistine Chapel exclaimed: "I have been listening to the Angels, and repeating what they sang."

While the Church thus gave souls, with the possession of truth, the sentiment of the beautiful and the desire to express it in art, the reformers of the sixteenth century seeing only superstition in the pomp of our altars, idolatry in the numerous masterpieces which adorned our churches, remorselessly destroyed these marvels of Catholic art. "The Reformation," says Chateaubriand, "penetrated with the spirit of its founder, an envious and barbarous monk, declared itself the enemy of the arts. In withdrawing the imagination from the faculties of man, it cut the wings of genius and arrested its flights.  . . . If the Reformation had been completely successful in the beginning, it would have established, at least for a time, another species of barbarism.  . . . Europe, in fact the whole world, is covered with monuments of the Catholic religion. We owe it this Gothic architecture which equals in details and surpasses in grandeur the monuments of Greece."



Religious and moral teaching forms the basIs of all true" civilization, or rather of society itself. If it does not rest upon certain fundamental truths, admitted and practised by the masses, not only the prosperity but the very existence of society is constantly endangered. This is particularly true in the troubled times in which we live. Victor Hugo himself bears witness to this truth in his address to the national assembly, Jan. 15, 1850. "Religious teaching," he says, "is, in my opinion, more necessary today than ever. The more a man advances, the more he should believe. The evil, I might almost say the one evil of our time, is a tendency to stake all on this present life. In making temporal, material life the object and end of man we aggravate all his miseries by the negation which this implies: to the burden of misfortune we add the insupportable weight of future nothingness, and that which was only suffering, that is, a law ordained of God, becomes despair, that is, the law, which reigns in Hell. Hence the great social convulsions of the day. Certainly, I am of those who desire to alleviate in this life the material condition of those who suffer; but I do not forget that the first means of alleviation is to give them hope. How our finite miseries diminish when we are sustained by an infinite hope! The duty of us all, whether legislators, bishops, priests, writers, is . . . to make all look up to Heaven, to direct all souls, to turn all expectations toward a future life, where justice will be done, where wrongs will be righted. Let us clearly proclaim it: no one will have suffered unjustly or in vain. Let us not forget, and let us impress upon all that life would be robbed of its dignity, it would not be worth living if all ended with this world, if annihilation were to be our lot. That which lightens labor, which sanctifies work, which makes man good, wise, patient, benevolent, just, and at the same time humble and great, worthy of intelligence, worthy of liberty, is having before him the perpetual vision of a better world shining through the darkness of this life." [8] There are men, nevertheless, who think otherwise: blinding themselves to the truth, they can conceive of no salvation for peoples save through the spread of letters and science. Yet if they are in good faith, they must recognize that, even on this ground, the Church deserves the gratitude of all who are friends of the people.

There is, in effect, no historical fact more solidly established than that of the Church's care for the instruction of the masses.

1. What is the preaching of the Gospel but a marvellously efficacious means of intellectual culture for nations? We have said elsewhere that preaching is essential to the Church. For by means of it the heavenly doctrine is spread throughout the world. [9] What had been said of the prophet Christ applied to Himself: The spirit of the Lord has sent Me to preach the Gospel to the poor (Luke iv. 17 ff.). And His apostolic life was a continual preaching to the multitude. ills disciples, after His example, went through the world announcing the truth which enlightens and purifies. "Woe is unto me if I preach not the Gospel," exclaims the Apostle, of nations (1 Cor. ix. 16. See also Rom. x. 18, where Ps. xviii. 5 is applied to the Apostles). "There is no religion," " says Bergier, "which has inspired its followers with so much zeal for the instruction of the ignorant as Christianity; none which has produced such a large number of scholars; with the exception of Christian nations, nearly all are still ignorant and barbarous; those who have had the misfortune to renounce Christianity have promptly relapsed into barbarism." And this phenomenon is all the more remarkable that, as Ozanam justly observes, paganism was never preached; never did the ancient religions speak to the people assembled in their temples. [10] Now it cannot be disputed that the knowledge of religious truths taught by the Church constitutes, of itself, the richest treasure of the intelligence. The catechism, it has been justly said, is the philosophy of the people. Theodore Jouffroy, one of the representatives of infidel philosophy, could not but acknowledge this. Hear what he said to his numerous auditors at the Sorbonne, speaking of the summary of Catholic doctrine. "There is a little book which children are taught, and upon which they are questioned at church; read this little book, which is the Catechism: you will find in it a solution of all the questions I have proposed to you, of all without exception. Ask the Christian the origin of human species, ask whither he is going, how he is going, he will tell you. Ask that poor child why he is on this earth, what is to become of him after his death: he will give you a sublime reply, which he will not understand, but which is no less admirable. Ask him how the world was created and for what end; why God placed in it animals and plants; how the earth was peopled, whether by one family or by many; why men speak several languages; why they suffer; why they struggle, and how all this is to end: again he will tell you. Ask him concerning the origin of the world and the origin of species, questions of race, the destiny of man in this world and in the next, man's relations with God, the duties of man toward his fellow creatures, the rights of man over creation: he will be equally able to answer. And when he is a man he will hesitate no less concerning natural right, political right, international right, for all this comes, flows clearly, as of itself, from Christianity. This is what I call a grand religion; I recognize it by this sign: that it leaves unanswered no question which interests humanity."

2. Wherever the Church has raised a temple she has built a school. All authors who have written on the beginnings of the Church are unanimous in pointing out the existence in the first centuries of a cathedral school in each diocese. The Anglican Bingham in his celebrated book on Ecclesiastical Antiquities, the learned Thomassin in his still more celebrated work, "Ancient and Modern Ecclesiastical Discipline," Launoi, Lingard, Louis Nardi, and a multitude of others make this very clear. The learned Benedictine authors of l'Histoire littéraire de la France, writing of the state of letters in Gaul in the first centuries, say that "a Christian school invariably followed the erection of a parish church." And after relating how "the Church and monastic orders in the sixth century were the harbors where all that remained of letters and sciences were saved from total shipwreck," they add: "The cathedrals still had their schools where the same method of teaching was followed as in the early centuries." It is to be noted that before the triumph of the Church under Constantine there were no parochial churches, only bishoprics: the flock was governed directly by the bishop assisted by a few priests. Later, when dioceses were divided into parishes, parochial schools were added to the cathedral schools.

To appreciate the interest which the Church has always taken in the education and instruction of the people, we have only to open a collection of the Councils. At every period we find these learned and holy assemblies occupied with the question of education, and recommending it to the enlightened care of pastors of souls. In the sixth century the Council of Vaison cites the example, already old, of Italy, to remind the priests of Gaul of their grave obligation to elevate and instruct youth. In the eighth century we find Theodulf, Bishop of Orleans, beloved by Charlemagne for his learning and his virtues, issuing the following decree, which is reproduced word for word in the capitularies or ecclesiastical statutes of England of that time: "Let the priests maintain schools in the market-towns and in the country; and if any of the faithful wish to entrust their little children to them to be instructed in letters, let them not refuse to receive and instruct them; but, on the contrary, let them teach them with perfect charity. And in instructing the children let them require no salary, and receive nothing except whatever the parents voluntarily offer through affection and gratitude."

We might cite a number of other Councils, for example, that of Aix-la-Chapelle in 789, of Thionville in 805, of Mayence in 813, of Rome in 826, of Paris in 829, of Valence in 885, all of which spoke in analogous terms.

Charlemagne was most anxious for the education of his people. Ansegis, Abbot of St. Vandrille, says, in his collection of the great Christian emperor's capitularies: "Charlemagne desired that there be schools in all the monasteries and in all the bishoprics in order that the children of free men as well as those of serfs be taught grammar, music, and arithmetic."
We would also mention the eighteenth canon of the Third Ecumenical Council of Lateran, held in 1171. Addressed to the universal Church, it faithfully expresses the thought of the Church herself: "The Church like a pious mother is bound to see that the poor whose parents cannot afford to educate them shall not, for this reason, be deprived of facilities for learning and making progress in letters and science; therefore, we command that in all the cathedrals a master with a suitable salary be provided for the free instruction of clerks and all poor scholars."

In fact, as Allain says in his erudite work, L'instruction primaire en France avant la révolution, "the history of education of every degree in the early part of the Middle Ages is simply the history of the Church's efforts to preserve the sciences, and to save the threatened civilization. From the fifth to the twelfth century the clergy alone were occupied with questions relating to education; and if we would have an idea of the intellectual state of our fathers in those remote periods, we must have recourse to the ecclesiastical recordS, we must study the Councils."

The same state of affairs prevailed in Germany as in France. In a work entitled L'instruction populaire dans l'Allemagne du Nord, Rendu, Inspector-General of the University of France, speaking of the time preceding the Revolution, expresses himself thus: "Catholicism had peopled Germany with popular schools like the rest of Europe; it required that the clergy call to these schools the children of serfs as well as free men; that every priest having charge of souls should give instruction himself, or have it given by a clerk; that the bishops, in their turn, should take care to build schools where there were none; that the curate of each parish should offer the poor free instruction. Catholicism did more; anticipating the thought of J. B. de la Salle, the disciples of Gerard Van Groote taught poor children writing, reading, religion, and a few mechanical arts. From the Netherlands, their native country, this brotherhood of the fourteenth century carried the light of their charity to both shores of the Rhine, to Westphalia, to Saxony, to Pomerania, to Prussia and Silesia. At the same time, monasteries of women had provided the young girls of the people with teachers which the Reformation took from them.  . . . Thus Catholicism had laid the corner-stone of popular education as well as of higher culture."

It is not astonishing, therefore, that in the sixteenth century the Council of Trent found nothing to change in the work of the education of the people, and that it was content to give it its final perfection by the creation of the Petits Seminaires.

The work of popular instruction by no means declined in the two centuries that followed. Before 1789 France, for example, was covered with schools for the instruction of the people. Paris alone had at least five hundred. Even the small villages were not without them, as we learn from the terms of article twenty-five of the edict of 1695: "The superintendents, preceptors, masters, and mistresses in the small villages shall be approved by the curates of the parishes, or other ecclesiastics empowered to do so." In 1771 Guy de Rousseau de Lacombe, advocate of the Parliament of Paris, writes: "Our late kings have united in their ordinances the dispositions of their predecessors and those of the Councils. and finding schools established almost everywhere, they have been watchful to maintain their discipline and to have them well attended." "Each parish usually has," says Daniel Jousse in a treatise written in 1709, "two charity schools for poor children, one for boys and one for girls."

In a learned work of Ch. de Robillard de Beaurepaire, the fruit of patient research, we find that in the ancient diocese of Rouen there were 835 schools for boys and 306 schools for girls, dispersed through the 1159 parishes visited by Mgr. d' Aubigné. Analogous works attest the same care on the part of the Church for the other dioceses of France.

In concluding the ninth chapter, entitled L'Eglise et l'instruction primaire, M. Allain expresses himself in the following terms: "Whoever shall have read dispassionately these extracts from our ancient synodal ordinances will be convinced, I hope, of the zeal with which the Church labored for the diffusion of primary education, and of the profound wisdom of the regulations she made for masters and scholars. The diocesan statutes of the last two centuries are an imperishable monument of her devotion to the interests of education; they demonstrate the extent of her solicitude for this important work and the intelligent care she bestowed on it. Those who dare to say that if anything was done in France for primary instruction, it was done without the Church, and in spite of her, show that they are absolutely ignorant of her legislation and her works."

What we have said proclaims with eloquence the devotion of the clergy to the great work of popular education. Not content with exhorting, they preached by example, performing the duties of teachers themselves at need, founding schools and robbing themselves to endow them. We have here striking and numerous facts, the authority of which is not weakened nor the memory effaced because there are writers who dare to assert, without the shadow of proof, that, "though the Catholic faith predominated for many centuries, it did nothing toward founding primary schools." And, incredible as it may seem, even the Revolution in its famous preface to the law of August 18, 1792, did not hesitate to proclaim that "the Brothers (of the Christian Schools) merited well of the country." Nor is this unequivocal testimony astonishing, for at the death of Blessed de la Salle his disciples had schools in almost all the provinces of France, and we know that their instruction was free. In fact it was complained that they were too numerous: "Our market towns and our villages," said in 1773 the magistrates and prominent citizens of Saint-Die "swarm with schools; there is not a hamlet without its pedagogue." These are facts which the calumniators of the Church should not ignore. Perhaps they are also ignorant of Voltaire's opinion in regard to the education of the masses. We shall confine ourselves to quoting the following from a great number of similar sentiments written by this man who so heartily despised the people: "The laborer does not deserve to be educated; it is sufficient for him if he knows how to handle the pick-axe, the plane, or the file." "There must needs be ignorant beggars." "The good bourgeois, not the workman, should be educated." As to the people, "they must be made to wear the yoke eternally and feel the goad."

It would be interesting to contrast the action of the Church with what was done for the education of the people by the French Revolution, which certain writers credit erroneously with so many excellent things. But for lack of space we shall limit ourselves to saying that the Revolution began in 1792 by abolishing all the primary schools together with the five hundred and sixty-two colleges then existing; as to the universities, one only, that of Strasburg, was allowed, because of its Protestantism, to remain; the twenty-three others were suppressed. The lands and revenues of these institutions were of course confiscated and the former faculty found themselves dismissed, or obliged to apostatize. And what was offered in their place? High-sounding decrees, in spite of which the learned Chaptal, then Minister of the Interior in France, says in 1801, "public education has almost ceased; the generation which has just reached its twentieth year is irrevocably sacrificed to ignorance; the primary schools have almost disappeared."

No doubt the Empire and the succeeding governments endeavored to repair the evil caused by the Revolution, but their labor consisted only in restoring, to a certain extent, the ruins accumulated by free thought. This does not justify them, however, in attacking the Church, which for centuries had done so much better and so much more for the interests of education.
We must not imagine that free schools are an invention of modern times. The majority of the schools, colleges, and universities of the Middle Ages were founded and maintained by Catholic liberality. [11]


UNIVERSITY EDUCATION.----There is much to be said of the important service rendered by the Church to philosophy, literature, and science, but we must confine ourselves to a few leading facts. [12]

It is well known that all the numerous and flourishing universities of the Middle Ages were, from the eleventh and twelfth century, founded by the Church, or sought her approval or protection. To be sure, they were favored and patronized by kings, but it is absolutely incontestable that they grew and prospered under the shadow of the Holy See. The Popes in the bulls of erection gave as a reason therefor the duty incumbent upon them to dissipate the darkness of ignorance, to spread and encourage the teaching of all the sciences. Hence the name, University, Universis scientiis. From the thirteenth century the Oriental languages were taught in them, and in 1311 the General Council of Vienna made these studies obligatory in the principal universities. Let us remark further that the first collection for the history of natural sciences was due to Pope Pius V. (1566-1572), and that as early as the thirteenth century the Vatican possessed a botanical and medical garden.

While the universities received their statutes and their powers from the Pope, they were justly proud of numbering among their illustrious masters such men as St. Anselm, St. Bonaventure, Alexander de Hales, Albert the Great, Duns Scotus, and St. Thomas Aquinas.

The number of their scholars corresponded to the high grade of the teaching given. In the fifteenth century, when the Protestant Reformation had overturned Catholic Europe, the Universities of Zwolle, Bois-le-Duc, Cologne, Deventer numbered respectively 800, 1200, 2000, 2200 students. The University of Vienna harbored 3000, and even 7000 under Maximilian I; the University of Paris, it is said, and that of Cracow had as many as 15,000. The universal use of the Latin tongue in the universities caused students from all parts of the world to flock to them. In Belgium the University of Louvain, founded in the fifteenth century by Martin V, enjoyed the most brilliant reputation. According to Justus Lipsius it numbered from 7000 to 8000 scholars and 2000 law students. No poor scholar was refused, Catholic charity having provided in advance for all their needs. In this city alone there were more than forty colleges or houses where poor scholars, conspicuous for talent or application, were gratuitously lodged and fed. M. Laurentie says that the single university of Paris distributed six hundred and nineteen scholarships founded by the clergy for poor students.

COLLEGES.----As to the colleges, that is, the schools which, with religion, included specially the study of classic antiquity, ,they were to be found even in the most unimportant cities. They were generally under the administration of the chief magistrates, but nearly all the instruction was given by the clergy, who had, moreover, undisputed right of supervision. Here again it was Christian charity which richly endowed these numerous establishments, founded scholarships, and erected public libraries.

We find in the recent and remarkable work of Albert Duruy, L'instruction publique et la révolution, interesting statistics in regard to our subject. We learn that before 1789 France with a population of twenty-five million inhabitants, had 562 colleges with 72,747 scholars. About 40,000 of this number received gratuitous or almost gratuitous instruction. Today the official records show to a population of thirty-eight million inhabitants only 81 lyceums and 325 colleges with 79,321 scholars; of these only 4949 receive scholarships of more or less importance. In the
single province of Franche-Comte there were more scholarships than there are today in all France. These figures speak eloquently and dispense with all commentary. We see that Chevalier had indeed reason to say that "since the Revolution and the suppression of religious orders there has been a strange retrogression in regard to secondary education."

Let us conclude, as the learned Hurter observes in his History of Innocent III, that "only superficial minds, who have not studied historical records, who are either blinded by the alleged superiority of their day, or instigated by persistent hatred, dare to accuse the Church of having favored ignorance."

We cannot conclude this chapter better than by quoting a beautiful page of Balmes in which, presenting a brief picture of European civilization, he shows the Church's innumerable claims to the gratitude of the people.

"The individual animated by a lively sense of his own dignity, abounding in activity, perseverance, energy, and enjoying the simultaneous development of all his faculties; woman elevated to the rank of the consort of man, and, as it were, recompensed for the duty of obedience by the respectful affection lavished upon her; the gentleness and constancy of family ties, protected by the powerful guarantees of good order and justice; an admirable public conscience, rich in maxims of sublime morality, in laws of justice and equity, in sentiments of honor and dignity; a conscience which survives the shipwreck of private morality, and does not  allow unblushing corruption to reach the height which it attained in antiquity; a general mildness of manners, which in war prevents great excesses, and in peace renders life more tranquil and pleasing; a profound respect for man and all that belongs to him, which makes private acts of violence very uncommon, and in all political constitutions serves as a salutary check on governments; an ardent desire of perfection in all departments; an irresistible tendency, sometimes ill-directed, but always active, to improve the condition of the many; a secret impulse to protect the weak, to succor the unfortunate----an impulse which sometimes pursues its course with generous ardor, and which, whenever it is unable to develop itself, remains in the heart of society, and produces there the uneasiness and disquietude of remorse; a cosmopolitan spirit of universality, of propagandism, an inexhaustible fund of resources to grow again without danger of perishing, and for self-preservation in the most important junctures; a generous impatience, which longs to anticipate the future, and produces an incessant movement and agitation, sometimes dangerous, but which are generally the germs of great benefits, and the symptoms of a, strong principle of life,----such are the great characteristics which distinguish European civilization; such are the features which place it in a rank immensely superior to that of all other civilizations, ancient or modern."


All honor to the Catholic Church our Mother, who, after drawing mankind from the deluge of corruption in which it was plunged, raised it a second time from the ruins accumulated by barbarism! All honor to the Church which has so admirably moulded the gross elements placed under her hand by the irruption of the Germans and the other barbarians; in fusing the new races with the old, she formed the modern nations whose civilization casts such a bright light in the world! All honor to the Church whose entire history relates and proclaims the beneficent influence she exercised from century to century to our own day! What she realized in the past by her doctrine, her laws, her institutions, and by the Divine grace which she communicates to souls, the Church can and still desires to realize, for she has lost nothing of her fruitfulness and her immortal youth.

Yet, notwithstanding these great and inestimable services, the Church has never, perhaps, encountered greater enmity. In every part of the globe simultaneous and powerful attacks are made upon her. Freemasonry, [13] centralizing all the forces at the disposition of the enemies of Jesus Christ, seems to be exhausting all its efforts to falsify the prophecy which proclaims the immortality of His Divine work.

We have no reason, however, despite this redoubled manifestation of rage and hatred, to be anxious as to the fate of the Church. Let us bear in mind the words of the illustrious St. Augustine, uttered fourteen hundred years ago. "They behold the Church and they say: 'She is about to die, and even her name will soon disappear; in a short time there will be no more Christians; they have had their day.' And while they are saying this, I see them die every day, and the Church still remains, proclaiming the power of God to succeeding generations."

"The Papacy," says, in his turn, Macaulay: the celebrated publicist and Protestant historian, "the Papacy remains, not in decay, not a mere antique, but full of life and useful vigor. Nor do we see any sign which indicates that the term of her long dominion is approaching. She saw the commencement of all the governments and of all the ecclesiastical establishments that now exist in the world; and we feel no assurance that she is not destined to see the end of them all. She was great and respected before the Saxon had set foot on Britain, before the Frank had passed the Rhine, when Grecian eloquence still flourished in Antioch, when idols were still worshipped in the temple of Mecca. And she may still exist in undiminished vigor when some traveller from New Zealand shall, in the midst of a vast solitude, take his stand on a broken arch of London Bridge to sketch the ruins of St. Paul's."

Yes; the Divine promises permit us to look to the future with confidence. The Church may be persecuted like her Divine Head; but is she not the Church militant here below? Whole countries may lose the inestimable benefit of the faith; but what she loses on the one hand, Providence restores to her on the other. What is happening before our eyes at this very moment? While the persecutions excited by secret societies are raging everywhere against her, the Church of Rome beholds the bonds of her indestructible union growing ever stronger; the voice of the supreme Pontiff was never heard with greater veneration and respect by pastors and the faithful. And abroad, so far from disappearing, the Gospel is extending its conquests in a manner truly consoling. The work of the foreign missions, interrupted by the trials of the last century, has received a new impetus. The Annals of the Propagation of the Faith attest the marvels of contemporaneous apostolate in hitherto unexplored countries of Africa, in the most savage islands of Oceanica, in the centre of Islamism, in the bosom of Asiatic idolatry. To cite but one instance: At the first Plenary Council in Baltimore in 1852 there were six archbishops and twenty-six bishops; at the Plenary Council of Baltimore held in 1866 there were seven archbishops and thirty-seven bishops; at the time of the third Plenary Council in 1884 in the same city the Catholic Church of America numbered twelve archbishops and sixty-three bishops. And now, at the opening of the twentieth century, there are within the United States fourteen Catholic provinces and seventy-five dioceses. Such is the progress of the faith in one country during a period of only fifty years.

Moreover, the very sufferings of the Church are a greater reason for confidence in the future, for the Church is the living image of Jesus Christ: Our Saviour had needs pass through the agony of Gethsemani before attaining the glory of His Resurrection. "Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and so to enter into His glory?" (Luke xxiv. 26.)

The life of the Church in the future, therefore, will be, as in the past, a perpetual series of alternating struggles and triumphs, until the dawn of that day marked by Providence when, leaving the arena which has witnessed all her glorious combats, she will introduce the last elect into the heavenly Jerusalem. On this joyful and glorious day shall we be numbered among the children of the Church triumphant? Shall we have part in the boundless and never-ending happiness which God has prepared from the beginning for His beloved children? Yes; it will be ours if, during our short pilgrimage in this world, we have been faithful in faith and works to the Church our Mother; if, with her, we have courageously labored, struggled, and suffered for the cause of God; if at our last hour we can truly say, in the words of St. Paul: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. As to the rest, there is laid up for me a crown of justice, which the Lord, the just Judge, will render to me in that day." (2 Tim. iv. 7, 8.)

"The Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of David His father: and He shall reign in the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there shall be no end."----LUKE 1. 32, 33.


1. Azarias; Brennan; Townsend; Drane; Allies, ii. , iii., v.; Thebaud; Maitland; Zahm; Spalding, J.M., Miscell., Essays 4 iI.; Balmes, ch. 69 ff.; Newman, Anglican Difficulties, vol. i., pt. 2, 1. 8; Historical Sketches, vol. iii. (universities); Br. W. ix. 457, 568; A.C.Q. i.504; viii. 264, xiii. 255, xvii. 263; xxv. 456, xxvii. 105; C.W. v., vi., xvi. 74,145, xxi. 721, xliv. 145; D. R.III. Ser. i. 1, xiv. 243, July '97, July '99. See also references p. 554.
2. On the work of the Church in the Middle Ages see Digby; Maitland; Allies, vol. iv. iI.; Thebaud, Church and Moral World, ch. 6, 7; Lilly, Chapters, vol. i., Claims, etc., ch. 4; Alnatt, Which is the True Church, suppl.; Shahan. Catholicism in the Middle Ages; Br. W. x., xii.; Hergenrother, Cath. Church, etc., vol. i., Essay 6; Parsons, Studies, II., ch. 1; A.C.Q. xiii, 589; C. W. v. 207,397 (libraries, universities), xxiii. 79 (commerce), xxv. 459, xxix. 358, xxxii. 262,354,650 (education), xxxiii. 377 (female education); D. R. Old Ser. xvii. 159, xxviii. 50, xxx. 273, New Ser. xix. 294, xxviii. 378 (how to study the M. A.); 1.. E. R., Dec. '99 (morality).
3. Montalembert; Feasey; Belloc; Henry; Newman, Hist. Sketches, II., ch. 3.4; Allies, viii.; Balmes, ch. 38-47; Gasquet, The Engl. Bible, ch. 6 ff. (on Convent Schools); Lacordaire, 1. c., conf. 36; A.C.Q. vii. 331, xi. 597; D.R. Old Ser. xvii. 376, xxx. 273.
4. There is, however, a science which Leo XIII condemns, the science which plunges into matter and proclaims it eternal; the science which reduces man to the level of the brute, and which by its extravagances shakes the foundation of all moral, domestic, and civil order. There is also a civilization which the Pope repudiates: "It is certainly not that by which man is perfected in the threefold manner we have mentioned; no, it cannot be that, since the Church, so far from contesting itJendsit her most efficacious concurrence. It is a civilization which would supplant Christianity and destroy with it all the good with which it has enriched us."
5. On the Renaissance see Pastor, vol. i., Introd.; Lilly, Claims, etc., ch. 5; C. T. S., vol. 45; Einstein.
6. Rio; Wiseman, Essays, vol. vi.; Kenrick, 1. c., § 1; Spalding, J.M., Miscell., Essay 4; Spalding, J.L., Essays, p. 306; A.C.Q. ix. 625, xiv. 234, xv. 228; C.W. i. 246, IV. 546, v., xv. 518, xxxv. 133, xlv. 398, lxxi.815, D.R. New Ser. ill. 402, xi. 234; M., July 1900, Febr. 1901.
 7. See references avove in note 1.
8. "Fly," says J.J. Rousseau himself, "fly those who, under pretext of explaining nature, sow desolating doctrines in the hearts of men. Overturning, destroying, trampling under foot all that men respect, they rob the afflicted of their last consolation in their misery; they take from the powerful and the rich the only curbs of their passions; they wrest from the depths of hearts remorse for crime and hope of virtue, and yet boast that they are the benefactors of the human race. Truth, they protest, can never be harmful to men. I agree with them. And this, in my opinion, is a great proof that what they teach is not the truth."
9. On Catholic and Protesta.nt missions see Wiseman, Lect. on Doctrines of the Ch., ll. 6, 7; Marshall, Christ. Missions; Alzog, Ch. Hist., III., p. 401 ff.; 921 ff.; Card. Moran in C. T. S. xxix.; the interesting articles by Rev. A.H. Atteridge, S.J., in D. R. July '84, Apr. '85, Jan. '87, Jan., Oct. '89; Archbp. Spalding, Evidences, 1. 4; A.C.Q. Oct. 1901.
10. See the beautiful pages of Lacordaire, conf. 24 on Oath. Doc.
11. The free schools of those ages were the result of spontaneous donations, and not, like most of the present day, supported by public tax,---an additional burden imposed alike upon the poor and the rich, under penalty of fine or imprisonment. Think of the enormous sums required every year by the bureau of education in most of the countries of Europe!
12. Cf. Rashdall's excellent work.
13. On Freemasonry see Leo XIII, Encycl., Apr. 20, 1884; Pachtler, The Secret Warfare of Freemasonry Against Church and State; Dupanloup, Study of Freemasonry; Parsons, Studies, IV., ch. 18; A.C. Q. 239, vi. 577; C. W. xxii. 145; M. Ii. 305, 474; I.E.R., July, Sept., Oct. '99; D. R. III. Ser. xii. 144; A.E.R., Dec. '99, Febr. 1900.