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Use and Abuse of Reading

(A Review of:  Appel aux Consciences Chretiennes contre les abus et les dangers de la lecture. P. TOULEMONT. Etudes Religieuses, Historiques et Literaire. Tome 8. N. S. )

                     Taken from Catholic World,  July, 1866

WE have been much interested in the grave and earnest essay on the abuses and dangers of reading, by P. Toule-mont, in that excellent periodical, the "Etudes," so ably eonducted by fathers of the Society of Jesus, and we would translate and present it to our readers in its integrity, if some portions of it were not better adapted to France than to the United States; yet much which we shall advance in this article is inspired by it, and we shall make free use of its ideas, facts, authorities, and arguments.

This is a reading age, and ours is to a great extent a read-ing country. The public mind, taste, and morals are with us chiefly formed by books, pamphlets, periodicals, and journals. The American people sustain more journals or newspapers than all the world beside, and probably devour more light literature, or fiction, or trashy novels than any other nation. Reading of some sort is all but universal, and the press is by far the most efficient government of the country. The government itself practically is little else with us than public sentiment, and public sentiment is both formed and echoed by the press. Indeed, the press is not merely "a fourth estate," as it has been called, but an estate which has well-nigh usurped the functions of all the others, and taken the sole direction of the intellectual and moral destinies of the civilized world.

The press, taken in its largest sense, is, after speech-which it repeats, extends and perpetuates-the most power-ful influence, whether for good or for evil, that man wields or can wield; and however great the evils which flow from its perversion, it could not be annihilated or its freedom sup-pressed without the loss of a still greater good, that is, re-strained by the public authorities. In this country we have established the regime of liberty, and that regime, with its attendant good and evil, must be accepted in its principle, and in all its logical consequences. If a free press becomes a fearful instrument for evil in the hands of the heedless or ill-disposed, it is no less an instrument for good in the hands of the enlightened, honest, and capable. The free press in the modern world is needed to defend the right, to advance the true, to maintain order, morality, intelligence, civilization, and cannot be given up for the sake of escaping the evils which flow from its abuse.

Yet these evils are neither few nor light, and are such as tend to enlarge and perpetuate themselves. Not the least of the evils of journalism, for instance, is the necessity it is under in order to live, to get readers, and to get readers it must echo public opinion or party feeling, defend causes that need no defence, and flatter passions already too strong. Instead of correcting public sentiment and laboring to form a sound public opinion or a correct moral judgment, its conductors are constantly tempted to feel the public pulse to discover what is for the moment popular, and then to echo it, and to denounce all who dissent from it or fall not down and worship it; forgetting if what is popular is erroneous or unjust,. it is wrong to echo it, and if true and just, it needs no special defence, for it is already in the ascendant; and for-getting, also, that it is the unpopular truth, the unpopular cause, the cause of the wronged and oppressed, the poor and friendless, too feeble to make its own voice heard, and which has no one to speak for it, that needs the support of the journal. When John the Baptist sent two of his disciples to our Lord to ask him, "Art thou he that is to come, or are we to look for another?" our Lord said: "Go and tell John ... that the blind see, the lame walk, the leper's are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead rise again, the poor have the gospel preached to them." Here was the evidence of his messiahship. "They that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick."

This is not all: needing to be always on the popular side, the press not only plants itself on the lowest general average of intelligence and virtue, but it tends constantly to lower that general average, and hence becomes low and debasing in its influence. It grows ever more and more corrupt and' corrupting, till the public mind becomes so vitiated and weakened that it will neither relish nor profit by the sounder works needed as remedies.

In the moral and intellectual sciences we write introductions where we once wrote treatises, because the publisher knows that the introductions will sell, while the elaborate treatise will only encumber his shelves or go to the pastry-cook or the paper-maker. Not only do the journals flatter popular passions, appeal to vitiated tastes, or a low standard of morals, but books do the same, and often in a far greater degree. The great mass of books written and published in the more enlightened and advanced modern nations are im-moral and hostile not only to the soul hereafter, but to all the serious interests of this life. A few years since the French government appointed a commission to investigate the subject of colportage in France, and the commission re-ported after a conscientious examination that of nine mil-lions of works colported eight millions were more or less immoral. Of the novels which circulate in the English-speaking world, original or translated, one not immoral and possible to be read without tainting the imagination or the heart is the rare exception. Under pretence of realism, nature is oftener exhibited in her unseemly than in her seemly moods, and the imagination of the young is compelled to dwell on the grossest vices and corruptions of a moribund so-ciety. Chastity of thought, innocence of heart, purity of imag-ination cannot be preserved by a diligent reader even of the better class of the light literature of the day. This literature so vitiates the taste, so corrupts the imagination, and so sullies the heart, that its readers can see no merit and find no relish in works not highly spiced with vice, crime, or disorderly passion. The literary stomach has been so weakened by vile stimulants that it cannot bear a sound or a wholesome literature, and such works as a Christian would write, and a Christian read, would find scarcely a market, or readers suf-ficiently numerous to pay for its publication.

It is boasted that popular literature describes nature as it is, or society as it is, and is therefore true, and truth is never immoral. Truth truthfully told, and truthfully received, is indeed never immoral, but even truth may be so told as to have the effect of a lie. But these highly spiced novels -which one can hardly read without feeling when he has fin-ished them as if he had been spending a night in dissipa-tion or debauchery, and with which our English-speaking world is inundated-are neither true to nature nor to society. They give certain features of society, but really paint neither high life nor low life, nor yet middle life as it is. They rarely give a real touch of nature, and seldom come near enough to truth to caricature it. They give us sometimes the sentiment, sometimes the affection of love with a touch of truth-but, after all, only truth's surface or a distant and distorted view of it. They paint better the vices of nature, man's abuse or perversion of nature, than the virtues. Their virtuous characters are usually insipid or unnatural; nature has depths their plummets sound not, and heights to which they rise not. There they forget that in the actual providence of God nature never exists and operates alone, but either through demoniacal influence descends below, or through divine grace rises above itself. They either make nature viler than she is or nobler than she is. They never hit the just me-dium, and the views of nature, society, and life the young read-er gets from them, are exaggerated, distorted, or totally false. The constant reading of them renders the heart and soul morbid, the mind weak and sickly, the affections capricious and fickle, the whole man ill at ease, sighing for what he has not, and incapable of being contented with any possible lot or state of life, or with any real person or thing.

Besides books which the conscience of a pagan would pronounce immoral, and which cannot be touched without defilement, there are others that by their false and heretical doctrines tend to undermine faith and to sap those moral convictions without which society cannot subsist, and re-ligion is an empty name or idle form. The country is flooded with a literature which not only denies this or that Christian mystery, this or that Catholic dogma, that not only rejects supernatural revelation, but even natural reason it-self. The tendency of what is regarded as the advanced thought of the age is not only to eliminate Christian faith from the intellect, Christian morality from the heart, Chris-tian love from the soul, but Christian civilization from so-ciety. The most popular literature of the day recognizes no God, no Satan, no heaven, no hell, and either preaches the worship of the soul, or of humanity. Christian charity is resolved into the watery sentiment of philanthropy, and the Catholic veneration of the Blessed Virgin lapses, out-side of the church, into an idolatrous worship of femininity. The idea of duty is discarded, and we are gravely told there is no merit in doing a thing because it is our duty; the merit is only in doing it from love, and love, which, in the Christian sense, is the fulfilling of the law, is defined to be a sentiment without any relation to the understanding or the conscience. Not only the authority of the church is re-jected in the name of humanity by the graver part of popu-lar literature, but the authorIty of the state, the sacredness of law, the inviolability of marriage, and the duty of obedi-ence of children to their parents, are discarded as remnants
 of social despotism now passing away. The tendency is in the name of humanity to eliminate the church, the state, and the family, and to make man a bigger word than God. In view of the anti-religious, anti-moral, and anti-social doc-trines which in some form or in some guise or other per-meate the greater part of what is looked upon as the living literature of the age, and which seem to fetch an echo from the heart of humanity, well might Pope Gregory XVI of immortal memory, in the grief of his paternal heart ex-claim, "We are struck with horror in seeing with what monstrous doctrines, or rather with what prodigies of error we are inundated by this deluge of books, pamphlets, and writings of every sort whose lamentable irruption has cov-ered the earth with maledictions" !

"There doubtless are men," as Pere Toulemont says, "who have very little to fear from the most perfidious artifices of impiety, as, prepared by a strong and masculine intellectual discipline, they are able easily to detect the most subtle sophisms. No subtlety, no tour de metier, if I may so speak, can escape them. At the first glance of the eye they seize the false shade, the confusion of ideas or of words; they redress at once the illusive perspective created by the mirage of a lying style. The fascinations of error excite in them only a smile of pity or of contempt.

"Yes, there are such men, but they are rare. Take even men of solid character, with more than ordinary instruction, and deeply at-tached to their faith, think you, that even they will be able always to rise from the reading of this literature perfectly unaffected? I appeal to the experience of more than one reader, if it is not true after having run over certain pages written with perfidious art, that we find our-selves troubled with an indescribable uneasiness, an incipient vertigo or bewilderment? We need then, as it were, to give a shake to the soul, to force it to throw off the impression it has received, and if we neglect to assist it more or less vigorously, it soon deepens and assumes alarming proportions. No doubt, unless in exceptional circumstances, strong convictions are not sapped to their foundation by a single blow, but one needs no long experience to be aware that this sad result is likely to fol-low in the long run, and much more rapidly than is commonly believed, even with persons who belong to the aristocracy of intelligence.

"This will be still more the case if we descend to a lower social stratum, to the middle classes who embody the great majority of Chris-tian readers. With these mental culture is very defective, and some-times we find in them an ignorance of the most elementary Catholic in-struction that is really astounding. What, at any rate, is undeniable, is that their faith is not truly enlightened either in relation to its object or its grounds. It ordinarily rests on sentiment far more than on reason.  They have not taken the trouble to render to themselves an account of the arguments which sustain it; much less still are they able to solve the difficulties which unbelievers suggest against it. Add to this general absence of serious intellectual instruction, the absence not less general of force and independence of character, and the position becomes frightful. In our days it must be confessed the energy of the moral temperament is singularly enfeebled, and never perhaps was the asser-tion of the prophet, omne caput languidum, the whole head is sick, more true than now. Robust and masculine habits seem to have given place to a sort of sybaritism of soul, which renders the soul adverse to all per-sonal effort, or individual labor. See, for example, that multitude which devours so greedily the first books that come to hand. Takes it any care to control the things which pass before its eyes, or to render to itself any account of them by serious reflection? Not at all. The attention it gives to what it reads is very nearly null, or, at best, it is engrossed far more with the form, the style, or the turn of the phrase, than with the substance, or ground of the ideas expressed. The mind is rendered, so to say, wholly passive, ready to receive without reflec-tion any impression or submit to any influence."

The great body of the faithful in no country can read the immoral, heretical, infidel, humanitarian, and socialistic lit-erature of the age without more or less injury to their moral and spiritual life, or without some lesion even to their faith itself; although it be not wholly subverted. Can a man touch pitch and not be defiled? It is precisely the devour-ing of this literature as its daily intellectual food, or as its literary pabulum, that produces that sybaritism of soul, that feebleness of character, that aversion to all manly effort or individual exertion without which robust and masculine virtue is impossible.

There is certainly much strong faith in the Catholic popuation of the United States, perhaps more in proportion to their number than in any of the old Catholic nations of Europe; but this strong faith is found chiefly amongst those who have read very little of the enervating literature of the day. In the younger class in whom a taste for reading lias been cultivated, and who are great consumers of "yel-low-covered literature," and the men who read only the secular and partisan journals, we witness the same weakness of moral and religious character, and the same feeble grasp of the great truths of the Gospel complained of by Pere Toulemont. To a great extent the reading of non-Catholic literature, non-Catholic books, periodicals, novels, and journals, neutralizes in our sons and daughters the influence of Catholic schools, academics, and colleges, and often effaces the good impression received in them.

The prevalence of such a literature, so erroneons in doc-trine, so false iu principle, and so debasing in tendency, must be deplored by Catholics, not only as injurious to morals, and too often fatal to the life of the soul, bnt as ruinous to modern civilization, which is founded on the great principles of the Catholic religion, and has been in great part created by the Catholic Church, chiefly by her snpreme pontiffs, and her bishops and clergy, regular and secular. The tendency of modern literature, especially of journalism, a very modern creation, is to reduce our civili-zation far below that of ancient gentilism, and it seems hard that we who under God have civilized the barbarians once should have to begin our work anew, and go through the labor of civilizing them again. Our non-Catholic conn-trymen cannot lose Christian civilization without our being compelled to suffer with them. They drag us, as they sink down, after them. This country is our home and is to be the home of our children and our children's children, and we more than any other class of American citizens are in-terested in its future. It is not, then, solely the injury we as Catholics may receive from an irreligious and immoral literature that moves us; but also the injury it does to those who are not as yet within the pale of the church, but between whom and us there is a real solidarity as men and citizens, and who cannot suffer without our suffering, and civilization itself suffering, with them.

As men, as citizens, as Christians, and as Catholics, it becomes to us a most grave question -What can be done to guard against the dangers which threaten religion and civil-ization from an irreligious and immoral literature? This question is, no doubt, primarily a question for the pastors of the church, but it is, in submission to them, also a question for the Catholic laity, for they have their part, and an important part, in the work necessary to be done. There can be no doubt that bad books and irreligious journals are dangerous companions, and the most dangerous of all com-panions, for their evil influence is more general and more lasting. Plato and most of the pagan philosophers and legislators required the magistrates to intervene and sup-press all books judged to be immoral and dangerous either to the individual or to society, and in all modern civilized states the law professes either to prevent or to punish their publication. Even John Milton, in his Areopagitica, or plea for unlicensed printing, says he denies not to magis-trates the right to take note how books demean themselves, and if they offend to punish them as any other class of offenders. English and American law leaves everyone free to publish what he pleases, but holds the author and pub-lisher responsible for the abuse they may make of the liberty of the press. In all European states there was formerly, and in some continental states there is still, a preventive cen-sorship, more or less rigid, and more or less effective. For-merly the civil law enforced the censures pronounced by the church, but there is hardly a state in which this is the case now.

Whatever our views of the civil freedom of the press may be, ecclesiastical censorship, or censorship addressed to the conscieuce by the spiritual authority, is still possible, and both proper and necessary. The act of writing aud publish-ing a book or pamphlet, or editing and publishing a period-ical or journal, is an act of which the law of God takes account as much as any other act a man can perform, and is therefore as fully within the jurisdiction of the spiritual authority. So also is the act of reading, and the spiritual director has the same right to look after what books his penitent reads, as after what company he keeps. The whole subject of writing, editing, publishing, and reading books, pamphlets, tractates, periodicals, and journals, comes within the scope of the spiritual authority, and is rightly subjected to ecclesiastical discipline. In point of fact, it is so treated in principle by heterodox communions, as well as by the ehurch. The Presbyterians are even more rigid in their discipline as to writing and reading than Catholics are, though they may not always avow it. The Methodists claim the right for their conferences to prescribe to Methodist eommunicants what books they ought not to read, and sel-dom will you find a strict Methodist or Presbyterian read-ing a Catholic book. It is much the same with all Protes-tants who belong to what they call the church as distin-guished from the congregation-a distinction which does not obtain among Catholics, for with us all baptized persons, not excommunicated, belong to the church. There is no reason why the church should not direct me in my reading as well as in my associations, or discipline me for writing or publishing a lie in a book or a newspaper as well as for tell-ing a lie orally to my neighbor or swearing to a falsehood in a court of justice.
But when the church, as with us, is not backed in her censures by the civil law, when her canons and decrees have no civil effect, the ecclesiastical authority becomes practi-cally only an appeal to the Catholic conscience, and while her censures indicate the law of conscience in regard to the matters censured, they depend on our conscience alone for their effectiveness. Hence our remedy, in the last analysis, as Pere Toulemont implies, is in the appeal to Christian consciences against the dangerous literature of the day; and happily Catholics have a Christian conscience,-though sometimes in now and then one it may be a little drowsy, -that can be appealed to with effect, for they have faith, do believe in the reaIity of the invisible and the eternal, and know that it profiteth a man nothing to gain the whole world and lose his own soul. The church declares by divine constitution and assistance the law of God which governs conscience, and when properly instructed by her, the Cath-olic has not only a conscience, but an enlightened conscience, and knows what is right and what is wrong, what is useful and what is dangerous readiug, and can always act intelli-gently as well as conscientiously.

Pere Toulemont shows in his essay that it is not reading or literature that the church discourages or condemns, but the abuse of literature and its employment for purposes contrary to the law of God, or the reading of vile, debas-ing, and corrupting books, periodicals, and journals which can only taint the imagination, sully the purity of the heart, weaken or disturb faith, and stunt the growth of the Christian virtues. The conscience of every Christian tells him that to read immoral books, to familiarize himself with a low, vile, corrupt and corrupting literature, whatever may be the beauty of its form, the seductions of its style, or the charms of its diction, is morally and religiously wrong.

Pere Toulemont shows by numerous references to their bulls and briefs that the supreme pontiffs have never from the earliest ages ceased to warn the faithful against the writings of heretics and infidels, or to prohibit the reading, writing, publishing, buying, selling, or even keeping impure, immodest., or immoral books or publications of any sort or form, as the civil law even with us prohibits obscene pictures and spectacles. It was to guard the faithful against improper and dangerous reading that St. Pius V. established at Rome the congregation of the Index; and that publications by whomsoever written judged by the congregation to be unsafe, likely to corrupt faith or morals, are still placed on the Index. Nothing is more evident than that the church, while encouraging in all ages and countries literature, science, and art, has never allowed her children the indiscriminate reading of all manner of books, pamph-lets, tractates, and journals. There are writings the reading of which she prohibits as the careful mother would prevent her innocent, thoughtless child from swallowing poison. Her discipline in this respect is accepted and felt to be wise and just by every man and woman in whom conscience is not extinct or fast asleep. Even the pagan world felt its necessity as does the modern Protestant world. The natural reason of every man accepts the principle of this disci-pline, and asserts that there are sorts of reading which no man, learned or unlearned, should permit himself. The Christian conscience once awakened recoils with instinctive horror from immoral books and publications, and no one who really loves our Lord Jesus Christ can take pleasure in reading books, periodicals, or journals that tend to weaken Christian faith and corrupt Christian morals, any more than the pious son can take pleasure in hearing his own father or mother traduced or calumniated; and what such publica-tions are, the Catholic, if his own instincts fail to inform him, can always learn from the pastors of his church.

The first steps toward remedying the evils of the prevail-ing immoral literature must be an earnest appeal to all sin-cere Christians to set their faces resolutely against all read-ing, whatever its form, that tends to sap the great principles of revealed truths, to destroy faith in the great mysteries of the Gospel, to subvert morality, to substitute sentiment for reason, or feeling for rational conviction, to ruin the family and the state, and thus undermine the foundations of civil-ized society. This, if done, would erect the Christian con-science into a real censorship of the press, and operate as a corrective of its licentiousness, without in the least infring-ing on its freedom. It would diminish the supply of bad literature by lessening the demand. This would be much, and would create a Christian literary public opinion, if I may so speak, which would become each day stronger, more general, more effective, and which writers, editors, publishers, and booksellers, would find themselves obliged to respect, as politicians find themselves obliged to treat the Catholic religion with respect, whenever they wish to secure the votes of Catholic citizens. Fidelity to conscience in those who have not yet lost the faith, and in whom the spiritual life is not yet wholly extinct, will go far toward remedying the evil, for the movement begun will gather volume and momentum as it goes on.

The next step is for Catholics to regard it as a matter of conscience to demand and sustain a pure and high-toned lit-eratnre, or ample, savory, and wholesome literary diet, for the public. Reading, in modern civilized communities, has become in some sort a necessary of life, a necessity, not a lux-ury, and when we take into consideration the number of youth of both sexes which we send forth yearly from our colleges, academies, private, parochial, conventual, and pnblic schools, we cannot fail to perceive that it is, and must be a growing necessity in our Catholic community; and we may set this down as certain, that when wholesome food is not to be had, people will feed on unwholesome food, and die of that which they have taken to sustain life. But if people, through indifference or negligence, take no heed whether the food be wholesome or unwholesome, or through a depraved appetite prefer the unwholesome because more highly spiced, very little wholesome food will be offered in the market. Many complaints are heard from time to time of our Catholic press, because it does not give us journals of a higher order, more really Catholic in principle, of higher moral tone, and greater intellectual and literary merit. Even supposing the facts to be as these complaints assume, the complaints themselves are unjust. The editors and publishers of Catholic journals edit and publish them as a lawful business, and very naturally seek the widest circula-tion possible. To secure that, they necessarily appeal to the broadest, and therefore the lowest average of intelli-gence and virtue of the public they address. They who depend on public sentiment or public opinion must study to conform to it, not to redress or reform it. The journals of every country represent the lowest average intelligence and virtue of the public for which they are designed. The first condition of their existence is that they be popular with their own public, party, sect, or denomination. Com-plaints are also frequently heard of our Catholic publishers and booksellers, for not supplying a general literature, scientific and philosophical works, such as general readers, who though good Catholics, are not particularly ascetic, and wish to have now and then other than purely spiritual read-ing, and also such as scholars and scientific men seek, in which the erudition and science proper are not marred by theories and hypotheses, speculations, and conjectures, which serve only to disturb faith and stunt the growth of the spiritual life. But these complaints are also unjust. The publishers issue the best books that the market will take up. There is no demand for other or better books than they publish; and such books as are really needed, aside from bibles, prayer books, and books for spiritual reading, they can publish only at their own expense. They are governed by the same law that governs editors and pub-lishers of newspapers or journals, and naturally seek the broadest, and therefore in most respects the lowest average, and issue works which tend constantly to lower the stand-ard instead of elevating it. The evil tendency, like rumor crescit eundo.

There is no redress but in the appeal to Christian consciences, since the public now fills the place of patrons which. was formerly filled by princes and nobles, bishops and mo-nastic or religious houses. The matter cannot be left to regulate itself, for the public taste has not been cultivated and formed to support the sort of reading demanded, and will not do it from taste and inclination, or at all except from a sense of duty. The great majority of the people of France are Catholics, yet a few years ago there were Parisian jour-nals hostile to Catholics, that circulated each from 40,000 to 60,000 copies daily, while the daily circulation of all the Catholic journals and periodicals in all France did not ex-ceed 25,000. It should be as much a matter of conscience with Catholics to open a market for a sound and healthy literature as to refrain from encouraging and reading im-moral and dangerous publications. We gain heaven not merely by refraining from evil, but by doing good. The servant that wrapped his talent in a clean napkin and hid it in the earth was condemned not because he had lost or abused his talent, but because he had not used it and put it out to usury. The church attaches indulgences to doing good works, not to abstaining from bad works.

The taste of the age runs less to books than to reviews, magazines, and especially to newspapers or the daily jour-nals. People are too busy, in too great a hurry, for works of long breath. Folios and octavos frighten them, and they can hardly abide a duodecimo. Their staple reading is the telegraphic despatches in the daily press. Long elaborate articles in reviews are commended or censured by many
more persons than read them, and many more read than understand them, for people nowadays think very lit-tle except about their business, their pleasures, or the man-agement of their party. Still the review or magazine is the best compromise that can be made between the elaborate treatise and the clever leader of the journal. It is the best literary medium now within reach of the Catholic public, and can meet better than any other form of publication our present literary wants, and more effectively stimulate thought, cultivate the understanding and the taste, and enable us to take our proper place in the literature and science of the country. But here again conscience must be appealed to the principle of duty must come in. Few men can write and publish at their own expense a magazine of high char-acter, of pure literary taste, sound morals, and sound theol-ogy, able in literary and scientific merit, in genius, instruc-tion, and amusement, to compete successfully with the best magazines going, and there is at this moment no public formed to hand large enough to sustain such periodical, and even the men to write it have in some sort to be created, or at least to be drawn out. It must be for a time supported by men who do not want it as a luxury or to meet their own literary tastes, but who appreciate its merits, are aware of the service it may render in creating a taste for whole-some instead of unwholesome reading. That is, it must be sustained by persons who, in purchasing it, act not so much from inclination as from a sense of duty, which is always a nobler, and in the long run, a stronger motive of action, than devotion to interest or pleasure; for it is in harmony with all that is true and good, and has on it the blessing of Heaven. It is precisely because Catholics can act from a sense of duty that we can overcome the evil that is ruining society.

No doubt we are here pleading, to a certain extent, our own cause, but we only ask others to act on the priuciple on which we ourselves are acting. The Catholic World is not published as a private speculation, nor with the expectation of personal gain. Our cause is what we hold to be here and now the Catholic cause, and it is from a sense of duty that we devote ourselves to it. We are deeply conscious of the need for us Catholics in the United States of a purer and more wholesome literature than any which is accessible to the great majority, and than any which can be produced outside of the Catholic community, or by others than Catholics. We need it for ourselves as Catholics, we need it for our country as a means of arresting the downward tendency of popular literature, and of influencing for good those who are our countrymen, though unhappily not within our com-munion. There is nothing personal to us in the cause we serve, and it is no more ours than it is that of every Catholic who has the ability to serve it. If we plead for our magazine, it is only as it is identified with the Catholic cause in our country, and we can be as disinterested in so soliciting support for it as if it was in other hands, and we solicit support for it no further than it appeals to the Catholic conscience. We have seen the danger to the coun-try, and the destruction to souls threatened by the popular literature of the day, and we are doing what we can in our unpretending way to commence a reaction against it, and give to our Americau public a taste for something better than they now feed on. We cannot prevent our Catholic. youth who have a taste for reading from reading the vile and debasing popular literature of the day, unless we give them something as attractive and more wholesome in its place, and this cannot be done without the hearty and conscientious cooperation of the Catholic community with us.

Catholics are not a feeble and helpless colony in the United States. We are a numerous body, the largest relig-ious denomination in the conntry. There are but two cities in the world that have a larger Catholic population than this very city of New York, and there are several Catholic nations holding a very respectable rank in the Catholic world, that have not so large, and upon the whole so wealthy a Catholic population as the United States. We are numerous enough, and have means enough to found and sustain all the institutions, religious, charitable, educational, literary, scientific, and artistic needed by a Catholic nation, and there is no Catholic nation where Catholic activity finds fewer "lets and hindrances" from the civil government. We are free, and we have in proportion to our numbers our full share of influence in public affairs, municipal, state, and national; no part of the population partakes more largely of the general prosperity of the country, and no part has suf-fered less from the late lamentable civil war. We have our church organized under a regular hierarchy, with priests rapidly increasing in numbers, churches springing up all over the land, and Catholic emigrants from the Old World pouring in by thousands and hundreds of thousands. We are numerous enough and strong enough in all religious, lit-erary, and scientific matters, to suffice for ourselves. There is no reason in the world, but our own spiritual indolence and the torpidity of our consciences, why we should con-tinue to feed on the unwholesome literary garbage provided for us by the humanitarianism and pruriency of the age. We are able to have a general literature of our own, the production of genuine Catholic taste and genius, if we will it, and at present are better able than the Catholics of any other nation; for our means are ample, and the government and civil institutions place no obstacles in our way, which can be said of Catholics nowhere else.
Our Catholic community is large enough, and contains readers enough, to sustain as many periodicals as are needed, and to absorb large editions enough of literary and scientific works of the highest character to make it an object with the trade to publish them, as well as with authors to write them. Works of imagination, what is called light literature, if con-ceived in a true spirit, if they tend to give nature a normal development, and to amuse without corrupting the reader, ought to find with us a large public to welcome and profit by them. What the people of any Catholic nation can do to provide for the intellectual and aeesthetic wants of a Catholic people, we Catholics in the United States can do, if we are disposed to set ourselves earnestly about it with the feeling that it is a matter of conscience.

And we must do it, if we mean to preserve our youth to the church, and have them grow up with a robust faith, and strong and masculine virtues, to keep them clear from the humanitarian sentimentality which marks the age and the country. Universal education, whether a good or an evil, is the passion of modern society, and must be accepted. In-deed, we are doing our best to educate all our children, and the great mass of them are destined to grow up readers, and will have reading of some sort. Education will prove no blessing to them, however carefully or religiously trained while at school, if as soon as they leave the school, they seek their mental nutriment in the poisonous literature now so rife. No base companions or vicious company could do so much to corrupt as the sensation novels, the humanitarian, rationalistic, and immoral books, magazines, and journals, which, as thick as the frogs of Egypt, now infest the coun-try. Our children and youth leave school at the most criti-cal age, and a single popular novel, or a single sophistical essay, may undo the work of years of pious training in our- colleges and conventual schools. Parents have more to ap-prehend for their children when they have finished their school terms than ever before, and it is precisely when they have left school, when they come home and go out into so-ciety, that the greatest dangers and temptations assail them. From their leaving school to their settlement in life is the period for which they most need ample intellectual and moral provision in literature, and it is precisely for this period that little or no such provision is made.

Hence the urgency of the appeal to Catholic consciences first to avoid as much as possible the pernicious literature of the age, and second to create and provide to the utmost of our ability, good and wholesome literature for the mass of our people, such a literature as only they who live in the communion with the saints, drink in the lessons of divine wisdom, and feast their souls on celestial beauty, can pro-duce-a secular literature indeed, but a literature that em-bodies all that is pure, free, beautiful, and charming in nat-ure, and is informed with the spirit of Catholic love and truth-a robust and manly literature, that cherishes all God's works, loves all things, gentle and pure, noble and elevated, strong and enduring, and is not ashamed to draw inspiration from the cross of Christ. It will require much labor, many painful sacrifices to work our way up from the depths to which we have descended, and our progress will be slow and for a long time hardly perceptible, but Catholic faith, Catho-lic love, Catholic conscience, has once succeeded when things were more desperate, transformed the world, and can do so again. Nothing is impossible to it. It is your faith that overcomes the world.