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The Catholic Press

(From Brownson’s Quarterly Review for January, 1849)

If the question were an open one, whether we shall or shall not have a periodical and newspaper press, that is, journalism or no journalism, we are not sure but we should decide in the negative.  The press may have its advantages, but it certainly has its disadvantages, and is productive of serious evils.  Its natural tendencies is to bring literature down to the level of the tastes and attainments of the unreasoning, undisciplined, and conceited multitude, and to lessen the demand for patient thought, sound learning, and genuine science.  Under its influence, the more light and superficial literature is, the more popular it becomes, and the richer the reward of its authors.  It must be adapted to the most numerous class of readers; and win them by appeals to their prejudices or passions; and if profound, if it go to the bottom of things, and treats its subjects scientifically, it will transcend the popular capacity, demand some mental discipline and application on the part of readers, and be rejected as heavy, uninteresting, and therefore worthless.  There will be no demand for it in the market, and it will lie on the shelves of the bookseller.

At the same time, too, that the press, in the modern acceptation, tends to make literature light, shallow, and unprofitable, in order to meet the popular demand, it reacts on the public mind, and unfits it of a literature of a more respectable character.  A people accustomed to read only newspapers and the light trash of the day can relish nothing else.  The stomach that has long been fed only with slops loses its power to bear solid food.  We find every day that even newspapers of the more respectable class are too heavy and too learned for the people.  It is but a small minority of their subscribers who read their more elaborate editorials.  The majority can find time and patience only to glance the eye over the shorter paragraphs, catch a joke here an item of news there.  Nothing that cannot be read on the run, and comprehended at a glance, is looked upon as worth reading at all.  To expect that the mass of readers will read essays of any length and solidity,- unless essays in defense of some humbug, or in exposition of some new theory for turning the world into chaos,- otherwise than by running the eye over them, and catching the first sentence of here and there a paragraph, is to prove one’s self a real antediluvian, and a far greater curiosity than the Belgian Giant or the Mammoth Ox.

Moreover, the tendency of the press is to bring before an unprepared public questions that can be profitably discussed only before a professional audience.  The people need and can receive the results of the most solid learning and the most profound and subtle philosophy, but they can neither perform nor appreciate the process by which those results are attained.  Hodge and Goody Jones have little ability to follow the discussion of the higher metaphysical questions, or of the more intricate points of theology.  The great body of the people are not and cannot be scholars, philosophers, theologians, or statesmen.  They must have teachers and masters, and are helpless without them as a flock of sheep without their shepherd.  Do what you will, they will follow leaders of some sort, and the modern attempt to make them their own teachers and masters results only in exposing them to a multitude of miserable pretenders, who lead them where there is no pasture, and where the wolves congregate to devour them.  You may call this aristocracy, priestcraft, want of respect for the people, what you will; it is a fact as plain as the nose on a man’s face, proved by all history, and confirmed by daily experience.  There is no use, no sense, no honesty, in attempting to deny or to disguise it.  There never was a greater humbug than the modern schemes for introducing equality of education, whether by levelling upwards or by levelling downwards.  The order of the world is,- the few lead, the many are lead; and whether you like it or not, you cannot make it otherwise, and every attempt to make it otherwise only makes the matter worse.

It is strange that our wise men, as they would be thought, do not see this.  Go into your political world, and it is not so?  What mean, if not, your town, county, state, and national committees, your party organizations, party usages, caucuses, conventions, and nominations prior to elections?  If the people are capable of managing for themselves, of having their own leaders, why do you undertake to lead them?  Why, when the French republicans had overthrown the monarchy, and proclaimed universal suffrage, did they establish their clubs, and send out their commissioners through all the departments, armed with the power to compel the  people to vote for a given description of candidates for the national assembly?  If they believed either in the right or the capacity of the people to govern themselves, why did they not trust them?  Who knows not that the fashionable democracy of the day is a humbug, got up by the miserable demagogues, solely because by it they, instead of king or nobility, may stand a chance of governing the people, and deriving a profit from them?  Who knows not that the people are as much led under a democracy as under any other form of government, only by a different and, perhaps, a more numerous, as well as a more hungry and despotic, class of leaders?  Who does not know that the despotism your prominent democrats dread is simply the despotism which prevents them from being despots?  O, it goes to an honest man’s heart to see how the poor people are deceived, duped, to their own destruction!

We speak not in contempt of the people, or in disregard of their claims.  God has made it our duty, for his sake, bound us by our allegiance to him, to love the people, to devote ourselves to their service, to live for them, and, if need be, to die for them.  There is nothing too good for them.  Scholars, philosophers, teachers, magistrates, all are for them, are bound to live and labor for their temporal and spiritual well-being; and they neglect the duties of their state, if they do not.  That they often do not is too lamentably true.  The people have been most shamefully, sinfully neglected, in all ages and countries of the world, and their wrongs have cried, and do still cry, aloud to Heaven.  The rich, the learned, the great, the powerful, too frequently look upon the possessions Almighty God has given them as if they were given them for their own especial benefit, instead of a sacred trust to be employed in the service of the poor and needy.  Their shameful neglect of their duty, their sinful abuse of their trusts, has furnished the occasion to modern radicalism, and given to radicals a pretext for the destructive war they are carrying on against them.  But this, though it condemn them, does not justify the radicals, or prove that the people can get on without teachers and rulers.  It only proves, that, when their legitimate leaders abuse their trusts, they will grow rebellious and see a new set of leaders, who will be only less competent and more unfaithful.

Assuming that the people must have leaders, that they cannot dispense with teachers, it is evident that there must be questions which are not proper to be brought before them,- not precisely because of their sacredness, but because of their unintelligibleness to the unprepared intellect; because they involve principles which transcend the reach of the undisciplined mind, and require for the right understanding of them preliminary studies which the bulk of mankind do not and cannot make.  The people need and may receive the full benefit of law, and yet they cannot all be lawyers; for the law demands a special study, and a long and painful study in those who would be worthy legal practitioners.  The same may be said of medicine, and with even more truth of theology.  Theology requires a professional study, and men, whatever their genius, natural abilities, and general learning, can only blunder the moment they undertake to treat it, unless they have made it a special study, under able and accomplished professors.  Theological science does not come, like Dogberry’s reading and writing, by nature, is not a natural instinct, your transcendental young ladies to the contrary notwithstanding.  To bring it into the forum, and to discuss it before the populace, is only to divest it of all that transcends the popular understanding.

We have seen this among Protestants.  Luther and his associates knew perfectly well that their novelties would be instantly rejected in the schools, scouted by professional theologians, called upon to judge them by the laws of theological science; they therefore appealed to the public, to an unprofessional jury, that is, from science to ignorance, as do and must appeal all innovators.  They suppose they obtained a verdict, and they raised the shout of triumph; but their triumph has been, in general terms, the complete destruction among Protestants of theological science, the rejection of all the definitions and distinctions of scholastic theology as unmeaning, the virtual discarding of all the mysteries of faith, and the reduction of the whole Christian doctrine to a vague sentiment, or to the few propositions of natural religion which do not rise above the level of the vulgar.  The people, if made arbiters, will always decide that what transcends their understanding is unintelligible, and that what is unintelligible is false,- non-existent.

The practice of appealing to the people, in controversies which lie out of their province, has a bad effect on the controversialists themselves.  In controversies confined to professional audiences, the controversialists are held in check, are forced to be exact in their statements, and close and rigid in their deductions; for the slightest error, they know, will be detected and exposed.  But when the controversy is carried on before the people, who know nothing of the subject but what they learn from the controversialists themselves, and have neither the ability nor the patience to follow step by step a long and closely linked argument, the disputants are tempted to indulge in loose statements, misstatements, and sophistications.  Before the professional audience, the question must be discussed on its merits, and each party is obliged to seek for, and confine himself to, the truth; but before the popular audience, the parties, knowing that the tribunal is incompetent to decide the question on its merits, are free, so far as exposure is concerned, to seek only a verdict, and, consequently, to hold themselves free to resort to any methods which will secure it.  False assertions and false reasoning, if they will weigh with the jury, will answer their purpose as well as truth.  One party may detect the falsehood or the sophistry of the other, but what of that?  How often have Catholics detected and exposed the falsehoods and sophistries of the Protestants!  But what has it availed?  The Protestant appealed to the people, reasserted his falsehood, reproduced his sophistry, and triumphed.

The practice, also, has a bad effect on the people.  It places them in a false position, and makes them judges where they should be learners.  It destroys the docility of their dispositions, the loyalty of their hearts, and makes them proud, conceited, arrogant, turbulent, and seditious.  It throws them into a state which there is no good for them, in which Almighty God himself cannot help them, if he respects their free-will, if he does not convert them into machines, and annihilate them as men.  We see this in the present state of the Protestant world.  The child is hardly breeched before he is wiser than his parents, and regards it as a violation of his natural rights that he should be required to obey them.  The pert youth, with the soft down on his chin, has no idea that he shows any lack of modesty in telling a Webster or a Calhoun that he differs from him in his political views; or in saying to the most grave and learned divine, “Sir, we differ in opinion, and are not likely to agree.”  Hodge sits in judgment on the Angel of the Schools, and Goody Jones instructs her minister in the interpretation of Scripture.  The pretty miss, hardly in her teens, never once doubts that she has discovered that all mankind have hitherto been wholly in the wrong, and that nobody ever had a clear and comprehensive view of the truth in morals, politics, or religion, till she planted herself on her young instincts, and mastered all things.  Sentiment is placed above reason, even by your great Dr. Bushnell; instinct is declared the great teacher of wisdom, by your greater Emerson, said to be the greatest man in America; and Alcott and Wordsworth tell you to sit down by the cradle, and look into Baby’s eyes, if you would learn the secrets of the universe.  It requires no great wisdom to sneer at what transcends our own limited capacity, no great knowledge to reject as non-existent whatever appears not within the circle of our own mole-eyed vision, or to forego all the accumulations of the race, to strip ourselves naked, and to run through the streets of the city calling out to the people to look and see what marvelous progress we have made, how far we have advanced on our predecessors.

But the question is no longer an open one.  We may see and deplore the evils of the press or journalism, but it exists, and we must deal with it as a fact, and as a fact which will exist in spite of us.  The only question for us is, whether we will use it in the cause of truth, religion, freedom, social order, or suffer it to be used exclusively by radicals and socialists against them.  There is no doubt in our mind that the press has done immense harm, by bringing before the public questions which should be discussed only in the schools, by and for those who are to be teachers of the people, and by whittling literature and science down  to the narrow aperture of the vulgar understanding.  We cannot help regretting those old times,- those ages of monkish ignorance and superstition, as modern sciolists and unbelievers term them,- when science and learning flourished in the schools, and the few who were to teach and govern were well and thoroughly trained for their state, and the people were docile and loyal.  But those ages have passed away, never to return.  They cannot be recalled, and we have only to determine and to make the Christian use of what has taken their place.  No man of sound sense and respectable scholarship can countenance, for a moment, the modern doctrine of progress, belied by all the monuments of the past; no man, with any just appreciation of the fact, that we are pilgrims and sojourners here, that this world is not our home, that we are here to secure a good that we will only possess hereafter, can for a moment doubt that we have fallen on evil times, and that there was much in the past, the loss of which is to be deeply deplored.  Nevertheless, it is not the part of wisdom to waste ourselves in idle regrets for the past, any more than in vain apprehensions for the future.  No state is or can be so bad, that we cannot serve God in it, if we will, do our duty, and gain the heaven for which our good Father intended us,- all that is or can be desirable.  After all, those glorious old monkish times may not have been so superior , all things considered, to the present, as we and those who think with us sometimes persuade ourselves.  All who see no wisdom or piety in cursing the mother that bore them are apt to remember of the past only the good it had which the present needs, and to dwell on those evils which the present has which the past had not.  They sometimes thus overlook present good, and forget past evil.  The evil we have and the good we have lost are always the things which the most sensibly affect us.  But there is seldom a loss on the one hand without a gain on the other.  Every age has its peculiar defects and its peculiar merits, and it may be that the absolute superiority of one age over another is far less than is commonly imagined.  Perhaps, after all, if we were transported to those old times which we regret, we should find them not more tolerable than we find the present.

All things, not divine, are mutable, and constantly changing under our very eyes.  Nothing continues as it was; nothing will remain as it is.  This is the law of the sublunary world, and we cannot abrogate it, if we would.  We must submit to it, and the more cheerfully we submit, the better.  We need not suppose that every change is an advance, for, in itself considered, every change may be a deterioration.  But when one change has been effected, another often becomes necessary, in order to restore or preserve proportion or equilibrium.  Institutions which were good in a given state of things, and better than any thing which can take their place, may, in another state of things, in which they are out of proportion, prove useless, nay, even hurtful.  True wisdom then requires them to be changed; and to change them will be, relatively to the new order of things, an improvement, if you will, a progress, though involving the loss of a good once possessed.  Thus, the church, which, as a divine institution, is invariable and immovable, proposing always the same end, holding the same principles, teaching the same doctrines, offering the same sacrifice, and employing the same agencies, consults always, in her modes of acting on the world, in relation to its affairs, the exigencies of time, place, and circumstance.  If she did not do so, she would fall, as an active agency, into the past, and fail to accomplish her mission in governing the world and saving souls.  To cling to an old mode of acting after it has become superannuated, or to a human institution after it has served its purpose, is as unwise as to seek uncalled-for changes.  The church does not insist upon all the provisions even of the canon law in a missionary country.  She does not adopt the same mode of dealing with the civil government that is uncatholic that she does with one that is Catholic and enacts Catholicity as the law of the land.  Matters which were disposed of without direct resort to sovereign pontiffs, while the great patriarchs of Jerusalem, Antioch, or Alexandria retained the apostolic traditions, were necessarily transferred to Rome when those patriarchs had fallen into schism or heresy, and Rome alone retained the faith.  Changes of this sort do and must take place,  as changes in the world around the church go on.  It is hardly necessary to add, that these changes in her modes of acting to meet external changes imply no change in the church herself, no development of doctrine, and no spirit of compliance with the age.  She remains the same, and only changes her policy in so far as it falls within the province of human prudence,- and even this so as to place herself in the attitude to resist the world more effectually, and to guard the faithful against the new dangers to which the external changes expose them.  The spirit of compliance does not belong to the church, and it is only in the sense antithetical to the one insisted on by the men of the world, that her children are free to conform to their age.  They are to conform to it only in the sense of being always ready to confront it, and to battle against it in the new position it takes up.

In those old times when the people were contented to learn of their pastors, and to obey their lawful rulers, both in church and state, popular literature was not needed, and could serve no good purpose.  Special literature in the schools was needed for those whose office it was to teach or to govern, and was cultivated to an extent far beyond what it is now; but a general literature, for the great body of the people, was and could be no want of the times.  It was enough for the people to be instructed in the elements of the Christian doctrine, and the practical duties of their state of life.  Anything more would have done them no good, and might have  done them harm.  All they needed was to be firm believers in the things necessary to salvation and good practical Christians.  To this end they did not need to be speculative philosophers, classical scholars, or profound and learned theologians.  Science and literature for amusement, for their own sake, or as a means of keeping people out of mischief, are not wanted, when men have faith in the Gospel, and understand that their sole business in this world is to prepare for another.  If people must have amusement, they can always find it in something better than in lying on the sofa after dinner reading the last new novel.

But when those old times passed away, and a new state of things was ushered in,- when the people become indocile, disloyal, restless,- when literature became the rage,- when all the passions were stimulated into fearful activity, and all questions, sacred and profane, were wrested from the schools and brought before the multitude, and placed at the mercy of an unenlightened and capricious public opinion,- evidently something more became necessary, and new modes of meeting the enemies of religion indispensable, if the people were not to be abandoned to their own ignorance, conceit, and self-will.  Religion then must possess herself of literature, or suffer its influence to be wielded against her.  The world had changed; the enemies of truth and justice had appeared in new disguises; new evils sprung up, and new dangers threatened, not to be met and discomfited on the old battle-ground, and with the old kind of armor.  The enemy having changed his tactics and his armor, the church was obliged to change hers.  The amount of instruction in Christian doctrine, the amount of popular intelligence, amply sufficient before, ceased to be adequate, and if not increased, the faithful in large numbers must fall a prey to the artful and designing demagogues, heretics, and infidels lying in wait to seize them.  Authority ceased to be respected, law to have any hold on the conscience of the people, and they could be saved only by being enabled, in some degree, to detect and despise the subtleties and the specious promises of their enemies.  While their remained, as in the earlier stages of Protestantism, some degree of modesty, even in the heretical populations, and their chiefs retained some traces of the culture they had received in the old Catholic schools, it was possible to carry on the war through books elaborately written, and proportioned in size to the magnitude of the subjects treated; but now, when the folio has disappeared, the quarto become a scandal, and the octavo a burden,- when there is a great dearth of clergymen, and nobody respects his superior, or is willing to be taught viva voce, we are forced to resort to the press, to journalism,  as our only practicable medium of reaching that public which most needs to be addressed.

Questions of vital importance have come up which cannot be properly discussed from the pulpit, and which can be treated in a popular manner only through a periodical press that can penetrate where the voice of the preacher cannot reach, and the printed volume will not find its way.  Whatever opinion, then, we may form of journalism in itself considered, and however obvious the fact, that editors, as such, do not constitute an order within the Christian hierarchy, we must resort to the means of influence left us by the age in its changes, and, subjecting editors to their legitimate superiors, and confining them within proper limits, employ them to diffuse Christian doctrine, and to defend the rights of the church and the freedom of religion, as well as the social order and the rights of man, or abandon no small portion of the modern world to demagogues, infidels, and heretics,- or, in a word, to the socialism of the age.

The chief danger to be guarded against, in using the press, is that of confounding it with the church, and its managers with divinely commissioned teachers.  The modern doctrine of the uncatholic world ascribes to the press most of the attributes which Catholics ascribe to the church, and claims for editors the authority which we concede only to the pastors which the Holy Ghost has placed over us.  Hence it is that editors, and now and then even Catholic editors, forget their place, and seem to regard themselves as so many sovereign pontiffs commissioned to superintend all the affairs of both church and state, and to dictate to the pope, the patriarchs, archbishops, bishops, and clergy the policy they are to pursue.  We have before us a work translated from the French, by the able and spirited editor of the London Tablet, entitled, How to Enslave a Church, in the preface to which,  the translator with great force and earnestness speaks of the necessity of bringing public opinion to bear upon the legitimate pastors and governors of the church.  The worthy man in his zeal forgot that he was appealing from authority to the mob, and adopting the very principle of Protestantism and of the grand heresy of modern times.  The press is not at liberty to dictate to the church or to her officers, or to superintend or to supervise her acts.  It must act under authority, under the direction of the church, as her servant, according to her views of what is her service, not as her mistress.  It must do her bidding, and have no thought, will, or wish, but hers,- derived from her through legitimate channels.  Bearing this in mind, and never forgetting that the press is a mere instrument in the hands of the church, which she condescends to use for her own purposes of charity to mankind, it may not only be resorted to, but resorted to with great profit to the sacred cause of truth and piety.

This has, evidently, become the conviction of Catholics at home and abroad.  Hence, within a few years, a Catholic press has sprung up in our own country, in England and the English colonies, and recently, the Bishop of Ivrea, in Piedmont, has established a journal entitled, Harmony of Religion with Civilization, with the express sanction of the Holy Father,- the first journal, we are told, ever established in Europe directly by a bishop.  But its establishment, the approval of the design by the Holy Father, who pronounces it very opportune at the present time(consilium hoc temporibus istis valde oppurtunum), and the encouragement which has been given to the Catholic press in this  country, by our illustrious prelates and the venerable clergy, prove sufficiently that the church accepts the press, and is willing to use it against the heresy, infidelity, apostasy, and pernicious socialism of our times.

The Catholic press has already acquired no inconsiderable extension among ourselves.  Aside from several papers owned and conducted by Catholics, but devoted chiefly to secular matters, such as the Boston Pilot, the Truth-Teller, the Nation, etc., which we do not include in the Catholic press, we have thirteen journals, of which eleven are published once a week, one once a month, and one once in three months; ten in the English language, two in the German, and one in the French.  Leaving our Review out of the question, of which it does not become us to speak, these journals are, in general, conducted with learning, spirit, and ability; and several of them deservedly rank high among the periodicals of the country.  In them all, with one or two exceptions, there has been a manifest improvement during the last two or three years.  They have assumed a bolder tone, and exhibited a freer and more independent spirit, taken a wider view and shown a more correct appreciation, of the general characteristics of the age.

Undoubtedly, the Catholic press, with us, has not in every respect met, and does not yet meet, the wants of the age and country.  It has had difficulties of no ordinary character to contend with.  Laymen, ordinarily, are not the proper persons to conduct a Catholic press, and never, unless they have made special theological studies, or take the precaution to submit what they write or intend to write to some one who has,- and our clergy have been too few in number for the Catholic population of the country, have been necessarily engrossed with the multiplicity of their missionary duties, and have had, after being placed on missions, little time for study, and still less to write for newspapers.  That they have been able to do no more need not surprise us; that they have been able to do so much, and to do it so well, is the wonder.

Moreover, the people on whom our journals have had to depend for their support were, for the most part, recent immigrants from foreign countries, and limited in their education and in their means.  They came from countries subjected to Protestant or infidel rulers, where their religion was oppressed, and all that power,  malice, and ingenuity could do had been done to degrade and brutalize its adherents.  They were, as to the majority, firm believers, sincere Christians, honest and hard-working men and women, but they were not profound philosophers or erudite scholars.  They knew of their faith all that was necessary to salvation, and understood the practical duties of their state; but they did not understand the Catholic doctrine in all its relations to the several departments of human thought and action, not did they take enlarged and comprehensive views of the various tendencies or peculiar heresies of the age or country.  How should they?  It had been so much as they could do to continue to live and to practice the Catholic worship.  They could not understand or feel the importance of discussions, however necessary for the age, which were foreign to their habits of thought  and sphere of action.  They were strangers, exiles from home, and their interests and affections naturally clustered around the land from which they had been driven.  If they took a paper, it was to learn something of the home which they had left beyond the blue waves, of the friends and relatives dear to their memories, still lingering and suffering there; nothing more natural, nothing more innocent, nothing more honorable to the human heart.  The press was obliged to recognize this state of the Catholic population, and to confine itself, in no small degree, to the news and interests of the several foreign countries from which they had emigrated.  Beyond these, it could go no further than to touch upon a few matters connected with the rights and duties of Catholics here, and to repel such attacks upon their religion as in their daily intercourse with non-Catholics they were exposed to.  More than this Catholics did  not ask from their journals; more than this they were not prepared to receive; and for an editor to have attempted much more, even if he had had the leisure, would only have lessened the interest of his paper and endangered its existence.  While things so remained, it was impossible for our Catholic press to be other than it has been.  The individuals amongst us disposed to speak lightly of it, and to complain that it has not assumed a higher tone and broader views, should remember this, and withhold their censures.  Instead of finding fault, we should give hearty thanks to those who, amid so many difficulties and so many discouragements, have labored so successfully to build up for us a Catholic press.

But the position of Catholics in this country has already changed, and is every day changing for the better.  It is still, in many respects, no doubt, “the day of small things.”

Every thing cannot be done in a moment.  The church was six hundred years in expelling paganism from the old Roman empire.  But all every day is taking a more favorable turn; our strength is daily increasing, and our population is becoming more compact and homogenous.  We have already a large and intelligent body of Catholics, who look upon this country as their home, and who feel, without forgetting their fatherland, that this is to be the home of their children, and that it is their first duty to make it a Catholic home for them.  They are finding themselves in easy circumstances, and begin to see that they are no longer mere outcasts, but in a position to take part in the affairs of the country and the great questions of the day.  We have now our own colleges and seminaries; shall soon have our own primary schools, and form a strong, compact, and influential body in the American republic.  All this imposes  upon us new duties, and develops new wants, literary and social.  The state of things with us has evidently changed, and the Catholic press must change, and, in fact, is changing accordingly.  It may and it must assume a higher tone, enlarge the range of its discussions, and rise to the exigency of the times.

The salvation of the American republic depends upon Catholicity.  The principles adopted by Protestants and infidels, of logically developed, can give us nothing but the most ultra socialism; yet Catholics, at least many of them, the moment they come out of the sphere of what is immediately of faith, unwittingly adopt these very principles, and sustain in literature and politics premises which, in their legitimate consequences, are hostile, not only to the church, but of social order and to all natural morality.  They mean nothing of all this; they love their religion, and would not knowingly do or say aught inconsistent with it; but in proportion as they take part in the political world, they catch the spirit of the age, and that spirit is socialistic, against which the Holy Father, Pius IX, in his noble encyclical, has solemnly warned us.  What portion of the American population has outdone the nominally Catholic population of our cities, in their enthusiastic admiration of the late infidel and socialistic revolutions of Europe?  And does not all this prove that the great bulk of our Catholic population do not understand the relations of their religion to the great questions of the day, - that they do not understand their religion in its application to politics and social reforms, and, therefore, in these matters, borrow their notions from the world, which seeks, first of all, to crush the church?  Catholicity can save our republic only by being practiced on public as well as in private life,- only by prescribing our public as well as private morals.

Here is a great subject of immediate and practical importance, on which our Catholic press may and must speak, if it would not fail in its duty, with a boldness, an energy, and a distinctness it has never yet assumed.  On this point, with a few exceptions, it has been feeble and timid, and, apparently, half afraid to grapple with the monster heresy of modern times.  Indeed, if a Catholic editor wishes to repeat the words of our Lord, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his justice,” and to censure as uncatholic the contrary doctrine, there are not wanting papers, owned and conducted by Catholics, and having a wider influence over the Catholic community, to denounce him, sneer at him, and to hold him up to the contempt of the Catholic public, and not altogether without success.  Here is an evil to be remedied, and in remedying which the Catholic press must unite with one voice, heart, and soul, and speak out as becomes a Catholic press.

The press, to be useful, must understand thoroughly the age and the form of its heresy.  The heresy of our times is socialism,- manifesting itself in indifferentism on the one hand, and in the elevation of the earthly above the heavenly on the other.  The press, without intending it, may, and sometimes does, strengthen this heresy.  In a particular locality there occurs a particular act of bigotry.  The press, in exposing it, declaims against bigotry and intolerance, and thus gives occasion to the inference, that Catholics hold that men have the moral right to be of any religion they choose, and that, if a man is only honest and sincere in his religion, be that religion what it may, it is enough.  We have heard Catholics actually say as much.  Foolish men allege that the church is hostile to liberty.  A Catholic editor feels that he must repel the charge; and, in doing so, gives occasion to the inference, that the church approves of liberty not merely in its true sense, but in the false sense in which it is understood by her enemies.  A miserable demagogue alleges that she is anti-democratic; an inconsiderate Catholic, full at once of Catholic and democratic zeal, undertakes to prove the contrary; not perceiving, that, by entertaining such an objection, he raises politics above religion, and subjects, in principle, the church to the state.  Another asserts that the church does not favor the movements for social reform.  Forthwith Catholics come out and propose an alliance  between the church and socialism, that is, an alliance of the church with the particular heresy of the age,- a heresy which is the resume of all the heresies which have been from the time of Cerinthus down to our time.  All these blunders we have seen within the last four years in Catholic publications at home and abroad, and the consequences may be read in the treatment the church now receives in every European country.  The universal persecution of which the church is now the object is all owing to Catholics who failed to detect and denounce the heresy when it first began to creep in, and to stand firm to the principles of their own holy religion.  Their own cowardice and shameful compromise with error have brought down upon them the chastisements of Almighty God.  If Catholics in England had not been steeped in worldliness and been rank cowards, Henry VIII could never have involved them in schism, and Elizabeth could never have founded the present Anglican Church.  To find the proof of it, we need but look to Ireland, to Irish Catholics, who, while they feared God, feared nothing else.  There is no sense or propriety in declaiming against those outside the church.  They are of their father, the devil, and his works they will do.  What else should we expect?  The fault to be deplored and remedied is in Catholics themselves.  If they abuse the gifts of Heaven, they must expect them to be withdrawn.

Socialism, the legitimate consequence, not of republicanism as understood by our American fathers and incorporated into our American constitutions, but of modern progressive, philosophical, or radical democracy, such as has led to the French Revolution, such as is seeking to triumph in Germany, is the great question of the day, and a question in the discussion of which Catholics in this country, as well as else- where, must take part.  It has found its way here; it is playing an important part in our politics; it is undermining our free institutions; and there is no power on earth but Catholicity that can arrest it.  Nothing else furnishes the principles from which it can be logically refuted.  The whole uncatholic world would embrace it, if it had only the courage to be consistent, as we proved, over and over again, when we had the misfortune, the sin, and shame of being ourselves a socialist.  Many denounced us then, but no man not a Catholic did or could refute us.  No advocate of the late French Revolution approaches to a refutation of the doctrines of the red-republicans and the socialists of France.  A thousand voices denounce Cabet and Proudhon, but not one refutes them.  They only draw the conclusion for which the moderate republicans provide the premises.  It is only from the high standpoint of Catholicity that any man has or can have a word to say against that terrible socialism which sweeps away the church, the state, the family, property, and reduces all men to a dead level, and a level with the beasts that perish.  On Catholics in Europe and on Catholics in America devolved the task of resisting and overcoming, by the grace of God, this monster.  Opposition to it from any other corner in an inconsequence, a fallacy.  Our Catholic press does not seem to us to have felt the full importance of this subject.  Mere political changes are of comparative indifference; the church can coexist with any form of government, but she cannot coexist with socialism.  The two forces are inherently antagonistical, and one can exist only by the destruction of the other.  There can be no transaction, no compromise between them.  The one is Christ, the other is Antichrist.

We urge this point, because we feel that it is one on which Catholics, as well as others, need enlightening.  Many of the questions which come up are new, and can be decided only in the light of general principles.  The application of Catholic principles to social and political questions, in the new forms in which modern society brings them up, is hardly better understood by the great body of the Catholic laity than by non-Catholics themselves.  They know that in all matters they are to act honestly, conscientiously; but beyond this they have received very little, if any, direct instruction.  But now, when all political and social affairs devolve on the people at large, this is not enough.  Popular instruction must enlarge its sphere, and a portion of that knowledge which was formerly necessary only for teachers and rulers must now be diffused through the great body of the people; and to do this seems to us to be peculiarly the province of the Catholic press.  No doubt a clamor will be raised, no doubt all manner of charges will be made, and good timid souls will tremble, if the press venture to speak out distinctly, firmly, boldly, the truth as enlightened Catholics do and must hold it; but what of that?  Who cares for clamors and false charges?  Who is a coward?  Who is afraid to live or die for Catholic truth?  Who so base as to take counsel of his fears?  Let the timid quake, let the false heart denounce, let wicked men and devils rage.  What if they do?  Put on the whole armour of God, and fear nothing.  If you are for God, is not God for you?  And who is so silly as to suppose, if God is for him, that any thing can be against him?  Out with the truth, out with the precise truth needed by this age, and shame the devils back to their den.  Have ye not the old saints and martyrs for an example, and for advocates and          protectors?   Had they heeded clamors, and outcries, and the fears of the timid, the terrors of the cowardly, think ye they would ever have conquered the world, and made the heathen the possession of their King?

We know that the press cannot take its proper stand without loss of popularity, and that a press that wants popularity can receive but a feeble support.  This is one of the evils to which the press is always exposed, and why it can never be so sufficient an instrument for good as men suppose.  The popularity of a paper is in an inverse ratio to its worth.  It is popular by virtue of appealing to popular passion or prejudice, by encouraging popular tendencies, falling in with the spirit of the people or the age,- the very things it should resist.  We know this very well; but we believe that this evil is less among Catholics, or more easily overcome among them, than among others, for they have faith and conscience.  And we also believe that there is already a body of Catholics in this country, of right feelings and views, numerous enough to sustain a truly Catholic press, adapted to the real wants of the times.  Catholics are not strangers to real deeds of charity, and there are many who have means, and who, we doubt not , have the will, to sustain a press beyond the subscription to a single copy for themselves individually.  Let the journal take a high stand, be conducted with energy and ability, on true Catholic principles, and we will not believe that Catholics will suffer it to languish.

We know perfectly well that the press cannot with us assume its proper rank without much labor and sacrifice, and not at all, unless its support is looked upon as a religious duty, and men undertake to sustain it for God’s sake.  But in these times and in this country, we hazard nothing in saying that the support of the Catholic press is a religious duty, a duty to our God and to our neighbor.  It is an act of spiritual charity, which, if we love God, we shall feel it not only our duty,  but our pleasure to perform.  If the press, as we have endeavoured to prove, become in these times an indispensable or even a useful instrument in the hands of Catholics for the defense of religion, the doctrines and rights of the church, and even of social order and natural morality, it is the duty of Catholics to support it to the full extent of its wants and their means.  Suppose this Catholic may not want this or that journal for himself personally.  What then?  Has he means?  Can he afford to take it and pay for it?  Let him do it, then.  It will help sustain the journal for those who do need it, and perhaps his own family may find an advantage in it, if not today, at least tomorrow.  The volumes of the Catholic Magazine or the Quarterly Review will have a value next year as well as this, and we may say nearly as much of even any weekly journal, well conducted, on truly Catholic principles, like The Freeman’s Journal, The Pittsburg Catholic, or the Propagateur Catholique, to mention no more.  We want a quarterly review, for the more elaborate and scientifical  discussions of the great questions which come up; we want also a monthly magazine, for that class of readers who have not the leisure to master the elaborate discussions of the quarterly,- supposing the quarterly to be properly conducted,- and who yet want something more solid and of more permanent interest than the weekly journal; we want the weekly journals in all parts of the country, for the whole body of the Catholic community, to keep them informed of what is happening at home and abroad, and to direct them in forming their judgments of passing events.  These three classes of publications, each in its sphere, are all wanted, and one as much as another.  The only rivalry there can be between them is as to which shall most efficiently serve the cause of Catholicity.  Catholics should feel that it is a religious duty to support them all, and even when they do not always see the soundness of the views on various questions which one or another of them may from time to time put forth.  No editor of a Catholic journal speaks out of his own head, but, if not a doctor himself, takes care to submit to the supervision and direction of one  who is.  If his journal puts forth an unpopular doctrine, the Catholic reader may in general be sure that it has been done not inconsiderately, but only because it is Catholic doctrine, or implied by Catholic doctrine, and cannot be lost sight of without detriment to Catholic life.  If you ever distrust a Catholic journal at all, if published with the approbation of the ordinary, distrust it when you find it falling in with the popular doctrines of the day, and confirming the public in their prejudices or their fallacies.  We make no personal complaints; we have been treated by the Catholic public with a kindness, an indulgence, which goes to our heart, and makes us feel how unworthy we are to fill the post we occupy; but we cannot help thinking that Catholics do not generally feel as they should the importance, nay, the obligation, to support a Catholic press, and all the more earnestly and perseveringly, the more indisposed it is to appeal to popular prejudices, and to flatter popular passions.

The press may itself  do not a little to promote right views and feelings in the Catholic population on this point.  The principle of the Catholic press must always be different from that of the Protestant or infidel press.  The non-Catholic press proceeds on  the principle, that the people are the jury, and that editors are simply advocates addressing them.  It seeks simply to obtain from the people a verdict in favor of its client.  The Catholic press proceeds on the principle, that it has nothing to do but to make known to the people the judgment of the court, that is, of the church, to explain it to the people, and to induce them to accept and conform to it.  The Catholic press is and should be simply the organ of authority, and never is and never can be the organ of the people,- a popular tribune.  A socialist like Horace Greeley of New York may call his journal The Tribune; it is in character, for the people are his church, and humanity is his god; but a Catholic Tribune would be a contradiction in terms.  Catholic editors never lose sight of this, and, since they must always make it a point to speak under instruction, save on those points where authority leaves them free, they should labor to form their public accordingly, and to correct that tendency, everywhere so strong, to reject as unsound whatever is unpopular, that is, to substitute the judgment of the taught for the judgment of the teacher.

The press must also strengthen itself and extend its influence by its unanimity.  In matters expressly of faith, all our journals of course agree; but in other matters it cannot be denied that there has been neither that unanimity nor that mutual good feeling which is so necessary to be maintained.  Nearly all our journals are sufficiently courteous towards “our separated brethren,” but some of them show a singular want of courtesy, when they have occasion to express their differences from one another.  There is no necessity for this.  There is no wisdom or piety in vituperation, in personal abuse, in one editor calling another hard names, or in saying things which must wound his feelings.  If one journal falls into an error, another has, no doubt, the right to expose it; or if one advances something which another judges to be wrong, the latter may give his views in opposition, freely, and with all the strength of argument he can command; but this he may do, and ought to do, without passion, without personal abuse, and with perfect courtesy and respect towards the journal judged to be in error.  Generally speaking, we have ourselves received nothing but praise from the Catholic press, but only one instance has come to our knowledge in which a Catholic, or a nominally Catholic, paper has expressed a dissent from our views on a given subject in a courteous tone, or without a sneer.  Now this is wrong.  If the error is not of sufficient importance to deserve a grave and candid refutation, it deserves no notice at all.  Cobbett’s style of writing is hardly one to be cultivated by Catholic editors, even when carrying on controversy with those without,- certainly not when carrying on one with those within.  In replying to those out of the church more latitude is of course allowable, for their good faith is never to be presumed; but in controverting a Catholic editor’s statement we must always presume good faith, and that he is ready to correct any error into which he may have fallen the moment it is clearly and distinctly pointed out to him.  We have enemies enough elsewhere, without making enemies of one another.  We do not hold ourselves infallible, and we recognize the perfect right of others to differ from us; but we do insist that the journal that arraigns what we publish is bound to give its reasons.  Simply to object to an article, to say it is captious, or not sound, without pointing out what is regarded as captious or unsound, and wherefore it is so regarded, is a want of editorial justice.  No professedly Catholic paper should be cried down until it has given conclusive evidence that it is hostile to religion, and will not amend its errors; till then, we are free only to reason it down.

We have dwelt upon this point because it is important, and because the several Catholic journals, embarked as they are in the same cause, should have a good mutual understanding, and, if they must occasionally rebuke one another, should do it in a truly fraternal spirit, so as to lead to the correction of the error, without any loss of mutual good feeling and affection.  There need be and should be no jealousy one of another.  There is ample room for all the journals we have; all are wanted; not one of them can be spared; and instead of one interfering with another, they may all be serviceable each to the others.  None of them, we trust, have pecuniary gain, or the fame of their editors, for their primary object.  They are all established for the good of the Catholic cause, and no one has or can have any other ambition than to serve it as effectually as may be in his power.  Let each rejoice, then, in the other’s  prosperity, and do what it can to promote it.

It is clear from what we have said that the Catholic press has to make its way against the popular current, and must often take unpopular views of the great questions which come up.  It is highly necessary that we all understand this, and that, when one journal does this, the others should be ready to second it, and never leave it to fight its battles single-handed.  The instant and hearty cooperation of the whole press adds greatly to its power and efficiency.  But this is a  point on which we need not enlarge, because, in the main, on this head there is not much ground of complaint.  And, indeed, excepting the want of personal courtesy and kind feeling between editors who chance to differ on certain questions, in stating what the Catholic press should be, we are only stating what the Catholic press proper, excluding the papers excluded some pages back, has already become, or, as rapidly as circumstances permit, is already becoming.  The Catholic Magazine is an excellent periodical, and fills its place well; The Pittsburg Catholic is a journal conducted with great energy and ability, with true Catholic courage, and with a full appreciation of the age and country; and we may say the same of the New York Freeman’s Journal, which bids fair to become the model of a Catholic newspaper, and which is already superior, in our judgment, to The London Tablet,- at least in the fact that it keeps within its legitimate sphere, and does not assume a sort of episcopacy over the pope, bishops, and clergy, as if it devolved on it to see that they discharged their duties properly.

The class of papers which we have not included in the Catholic press may also do great service.  They are devoted chiefly to Irish interests, but that is a recommendation; for nothing that can be done here can more effectually serve Ireland than the elevation and independence of our Irish population.  These papers, if judiciously conducted, may be of immense service, not only to the Irish population, but to the whole people of the United States.  The fault we find with these papers is, that they take their political and social principles from the age, instead of Catholicity, and, directly or indirectly, favor the socialistic or radical tendencies of our times.  Espartero, Ledru-Rollin, Mazzini, and Hecker have found defenders or eulogists in the columns of the Boston Pilot.  It is not the Irish feeling or devotion to Irish interest of these papers that offends us, for we will go as far to serve Ireland as will the Irish themselves, but their radical or socialistic tendency, of which their conductors seem to be wholly unconscious.  Their editors accept and follow that spirit of the age which the church does and must resist, for it is antichristian.  No doubt, they believe that they are following no spirit not perfectly compatible with their religion.  No doubt, they suppose that their religion leaves them free to adopt any views of man and society in regard to this world they please.  We do not believe that one of them would knowingly, intentionally, do aught to injure the cause of religion; but they do not know what spirit they are of; they do not see that the spirit they are following is the spirit of the world,- that spirit which places the earthly above the heavenly,- and that the principles they adopt, and which they find everywhere taken for granted in the books and journals they read, if carried out, would overthrow all religion, all morality, all society.  They are popular writers, full of noble and generous impulses, and well fitted in these times to draw the multitude after them.  Let them but defer to authority, let them take their politics from the approved doctors of the church, and their views of society from Catholic theology, study their religion in its relations to society, and remember that our condition in this world can be really ameliorated only in proportion as we seek heaven and live for God, and they will render an essential service to their countrymen and ours.  They would then be a noble auxiliary to the Catholic press, and would exert a salutary influence where that does not and cannot penetrate.  We want a secular press.  We want just such journals as these might be, just as much as we want any others.

May we not hope that the developments of the revolutionary and socialistic spirit of Europe, the terrible evils to religion they bring in their train, the present situation of the church,- opposed everywhere, her rights disregarded and trampled on, the liberty of teaching denied her, her religious driven from their homes, her priests assassinated, her bishops exiled, imprisoned, or hung, and all the sympathy of the world, even in nations professedly Catholic, if we except Ireland, given to the party that persecutes her,- will not be without effect on these secular editors, induce them to review their principles, to reexamine them in the light of the true Catholic doctrine, and finally bring them into line with the Catholic press, to do valiant battle on the same side, against the same enemies, and for the same glorious but unpopular cause?  In these times, all that is true-hearted and chivalric should rush to the defense of the church, without which there is no salvation, no moral or social well-being.  Can any one who calls the blessed old church of God his mother fail to see that his place is on the side of authority against the anarchical doctrines of the day, and there is no hope for any country but in the freedom and independence of the church, and through her ministry?

But we have spun out our remarks to a far greater extent than we intended.  We have spoken as one of the editorial corps to our brethren, to interchange our views with them, not to dictate to them the course they ought to pursue, for we have no disposition and no right to dictate.  We have only thrown out our views, and endeavoured to justify them by solid reasons.  We have spoken not for our brethren of the press so much as for the public, who seem to us not to appreciate properly the importance of the Catholic press, nor to understand precisely the difficulties it has to contend with, what they ought to expect from it, or what is their duty in reference to it.  They seem to us too remiss in supporting it, and too ready to find fault with it whenever it does not happen to countenance their momentary crotchets.  To our brethren of the Catholic press we return our cordial thanks for the kindness they have shown us, and beg them to pardon us is in any respect we have violated  in their regard the principles we have insisted upon in the present article.  It is not every one who “recks his own rede,” or practices what he preaches, and we are not exempt  from the common infirmities of our race.  We mean never to disfigure our pages with any other severity than that of reason, and if we ever do, it is unintentionally and unconsciously.

We have insisted earnestly upon the importance of the press, but we have wished to be understood as insisting upon its importance only in its sphere, and as controlled and used by the church as an auxiliary to her other modes of operation.  We want the press free, independent, as it regards the people and secular authority; but as regards the church, free only to do her bidding.  We do not want it to exist as an independent institution, a sort of lay episcopacy.  Doing the bidding of the church, it can do no harm, but may do much good.  Nevertheless, let us never forget that the great work itself we want done is, after all, done not by men, but by God himself, using or not using men, as seems to him good, and therefore that always our most effectual working will be prayer to him that he will be pleased himself to work.  A single prayer offered in secret to Almighty God, by some devout soul, unknown to the world, shall effect more than our most elaborate articles or brilliant and stirring editorials.  God loves the simple and humble, and will do anything for them.  The times are fearful; the dangers are thick and threatening.  Let us, therefore, betake ourselves to prayer, as the surest and speediest remedy.