BY WHAT MORAL STANDARD?
by Loraine Boettner D.D.*
(taken from his book “Roman Catholicism” first published 1962)
1. Basic Principles. 2. Liquor. 3. Oaths. 4. Theft. 5. Gambling. 6. Questionable Hospital Practices. 7. Conclusion.
1. BASIC PRINCIPLES
One of the strong contrasts between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism is found in the moral codes which distinguish the two systems. In Protestantism this code is taken directly from the Bible. Nothing can be laid on men as a moral requirement unless it can be shown to be contained in the Bible. Such requirements thereby become a matter of conscience for the Christian.
But in Roman Catholicism the moral code is based primarily on Canon Law and only secondarily on the Bible, and in the main is imposed on the person from without. The authority of the church as interpreted by the priest is what counts. The result is that the Roman Church has developed a standard of morality that is designed, not to stir the conscience, but to maintain papal power. Many of the dogmas and rites of Romanism are antagonistic to the teachings of Scripture and directly or indirectly conducive to immorality. Drinking, gambling, and other habits considered as vices by Protestants are not counted as evil by Romanists except when indulged in to excess.
In the study of morals the Roman Church takes the teachings of the theologian Alphonsus Ligouri, founder of the Redemptorists, as authoritative. Ligouri was canonized among the saints in heaven by the pronouncement of pope Gregory XVI, in 1839, and was declared a doctor of the universal Roman Church by pope Pius IX. Thomas Carlyle, the famous nineteenth-century writer, who said that the Jesuits had ‘poisoned the well springs of truth,’ wrote concerning Ligouri:
‘More terrible still is the “moral theology” of Alphonsus Ligouri, who is counted a saint and “doctor” of the Church—of equal rank with Augustine, Chrysostom and others—whose textbooks are standard on moral questions in all Roman Catholic seminaries. The “moral” teachings of Ligouri, if they could be read in their original Latin, would fill every right-minded person with horror. For there he outlines the ways in which falsehood can be used without really telling a lie; the ways in which the property of others can be taken without stealing; how the Ten Commandments can be broken without committing deadly sin.’
Samples of Ligouri’s ‘moral’ teaching are:
‘A servant is allowed to help his master to climb a window to commit fornication’ (St. Alphonsus, 1, 22, 66).
‘It is not a mortal sin to get drunk, unless one loses completely the use of his mental faculties for over one hour’ 1, 5, 75).
‘It is lawful to violate penal laws’ (hunting, fishing, etc.).
‘It is asked whether prostitutes are to be permitted. . . . They are to be permitted because, as a distinguished priest says, “Remove prostitutes from the world, and all things will be disordered with lust. Hence in large cities, prostitutes may be permitted’ (3, 434).
In this connection it is interesting to note that legalized prostitution was not abolished in the city of Rome, the very city which is headquarters of the Roman Church, until September, 1958, and that even today almost every city of any size in South America has its legalized houses of prostitution. Dr. Walter Montano, returning from a conference of Protestant leaders in Colombia, reported that according to information given him, the city of Cali, which has a population of 520,000, has 2,600 houses of prostitution and 13,000 registered prostitutes. He adds that the Roman Catholic Church in that country has done practically nothing to improve the morality of the people or to bring a solution to the country’s problems (Christian Heritage, February, 1960).
Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556), another famous teacher in the Roman Church and founder of the Jesuit order which today so largely controls Roman Catholic policy, wrote some rules for his order which he commended as conducive to complete obedience and as a ‘help in attaining the right attitude towards the Church.’ One of them reads:
‘Laying aside all private judgment the spirit must be always ready to obey the true doctrine and therefore, if anything shall appear white to our eyes which the Church has defined as black, we likewise must declare it to be black. …If you receive from your superior a command which appears to go against your own judgment, your own conviction, or your own well being, then you must fall on your knees, putting off all human principles and considerations, and renew, when you are alone, your vow of obedience.’
In accordance with this it is not uncommon in the Roman Church to refer to one as a ‘good priest’ if he does his work efficiently, even though it may be known that his moral character is bad. He is a ‘good priest’ in the same sense that one may be a ‘good doctor,’ or a ‘good mechanic,’ entirely apart from his moral character. Under such a standard, obedience to the church becomes the supreme virtue and takes precedence even over conscience. But for the Protestant such action does not make sense. The Protestant can not force his will to believe that which he knows to be irrational, nor his conscience to approve that which he knows to be wrong.
We do not need to labour the point that the Roman Catholic Church fights almost every movement that is designed to restrict the use of alcoholic liquors. The three things that appeal most to the weakness of human nature and that bring large profits to those who control them, are drinking, gambling, and prostitution. Protestants are often regarded as ‘kill-joys,’ because they oppose even a limited licence for any of these. The Roman Church holds that drinking and gambling are not sinful in themselves, but that they become so only when carried to excess. And it is the priest who in every case determines at what point they become excessive. It is he who, in the confessional, decides for Roman Catholics at what point a man or woman is to be considered as drinking to excess, and how much may be spent on gambling without committing a sin.
The following extract from the (Roman Catholic) Register—‘Ask and Learn Column’—for February 7, 1965, sets forth clearly the laxity of Roman Catholic teaching in regard to the sin of drunkenness:
‘Q. Does a person commit a sin when he drinks too much alcohol unintentionally?
‘A. Truly unintentional and unforeseen drunkenness is with out sin. But it is seldom that an habitual drinker, who must be in a position to judge his alcoholic tolerance, can claim this excuse. Not too many drunkards really want the mental paralysis that follows excessive drinking, but they are not willing to stop soon enough to avoid it. If they know that a certain quantity of liquor will induce drunkenness, they must stay well clear of this limit when they first start to drink and are sober enough to judge.
‘Voluntary inebriation can certainly be presumed in anyone who gets drunk, say, ten times a month. If a non-habitual drunkard has passed the inebriation line once or twice a month (but not every month), it can be presumed, in a case of doubt, that the drunkenness was not voluntary.’ (Merkolbach, Summa Mor. Theol. II, 3rd edition, 999).
In other words, according to this particular brand of theology, drunkenness is not a sin unless intended. The lamentable case to which the Spirit of God calls attention in Genesis 9:20-27, must be by-passed, and Noah must be exonerated; and the strictures against drunkenness both in the Old and the New Testaments must be toned down or all but forgotten. From such a crime may the Lord deliver every true Christian.
Drink and sin are close allies, and there is no city on earth but would be the better for the elimination of drunkenness and its attendant evils. In rare cases Roman Catholic priests have busied themselves in such a campaign. The work of Theobald Mathew, ‘apostle of temperance’ in Ireland in the middle of the last century, is a case in point. But the Roman Catholic Church as a whole seems to have no stirrings of con science in the matter. One illustration of an all-too-common attitude must suffice.
In Steubenville, Ohio, in the autumn of 1946, it was public knowledge that drunkenness, gambling, and prostitution were rampant in that city and that a ‘clean up’ was needed. A group of Protestant ministers undertook the job. But the Roman Catholic bishop openly opposed the clean up and issued a pastoral letter to be read in all of his churches, condemning the campaign of the ministers. He called the ministers ‘narrow little people,’ and declared that ‘Drinking and gambling are not in themselves sinful or evil.’ The bishop then proceeded to lecture the ministers on the proper interpretation of the Christian moral code, as follows:‘These so-called leaders simply do not know the moral structure of Christianity. As a result they make themselves pitiable objects in a community.’
According to Ligouri, a Roman Catholic can lie. Says he:
‘Notwithstanding, indeed, although it is not lawful to lie, or to feign what is not, however, it is lawful to dissemble what is, or to cover the truth with words, or other ambiguous and doubtful signs, for a just cause, and when there is not a necessity for confessing. These things being settled, it is a certain and a common opinion among all divines, that for a just cause it is lawful to use equivocation in the modes propounded and to confirm it (equivocation) with an oath’ (Less. 1, 2, C. 41).
The right to hold a ‘mental reservation’ is claimed by Roman theologians. The Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas, on which Roman theology relies so heavily, says that when the interests of Holy Mother Church require it, one may make a statement while holding a mental reservation which qualifies it into nullity.
The Roman Catholic Dictionary, 15th edition, published in London, in 1951, with the imprimatur of the cardinal of Westminster, under the subject Oath, says that the Roman Church has the right to free anyone by dispensation from the provision of an oath:‘Though generally speaking, no earthly power can dispense from keeping an oath made in favour of another, still in other cases a dispensation may be valid.’
Under Canon Law 5320 the pope can dispense from any oath (see the authoritative book, Canon Law:Text and Commentary (5946), by Bouscaren and Ellis, p. 679). A Roman Catholic judge who obtains a papal dispensation in order to violate his judicial oath in case of conflict between church law and civil law is considered blameless by the Roman Catholic theologians. The most notable examples of papal release from oaths were the attempt of pope Gregory VII to depose Henry IV, of Germany (1074-1077), which attempt succeeded to the extent that Henry was forced to do obeisance to the pope, although he later regained his power and drove the pope out of Rome; and the attempt of pope Pius V, in 1570, to ‘uncrown’ Protestant queen Elizabeth I, of England, by releasing her court officials and all subjects from civil allegiance to her—which attempt failed because the English people in the main remained loyal to their queen.
The principle to which the Roman Church resorts in freeing men from their oaths is that it does so in obedience to a ‘higher law.’ On the grounds that no man can justly bind himself to do that which is sinful, the church may decide that an oath of allegiance to a ruler who is disobedient to the pope, or a pledge made to a ‘heretic,’ is sinful and need not be kept.
It is Roman Catholic doctrine that the conscience is subject to the teaching of the church and is to be determined by that teaching rather than by private judgment. A pledge made during a political campaign, or an oath of office, is secondary to Canon Law. A Roman candidate for office may declare him self, for example, in favour of the separation of church and state. But even though he does so in all good conscience, the Roman Church teaches that in the final analysis his conscience must be governed by and he subject to its authority.
Edwin F. Healy, in his book, Moral Guidance, published by the Loyola University Press, declares:‘A promise under oath to do something sinful does not bind at all.’ The Roman Church sets itself up as the judge to determine what things are sinful; hence an oath to perform some action that is later judged to be against the best interests of that church may be abrogated by a Roman Catholic office holder. What the church holds to be right, e.g., things which promote its welfare, or restrict heretics, are judged to be right. When personal judgment of conscience conflicts with the dictates of the church, personal judgment must be set aside. We have seen this principle set forth by Loyola for the members of his Jesuit order. The same general principle holds throughout the Roman Church.
Under the subject of mental reservation, Healy says:
‘For sufficient reason we may thus permit others to deceive themselves by taking the wrong meaning of what is said; and this remains true though the listener, because of his ignorance, does not know that there is another meaning to the word that is employed.’
In other words, a Roman Catholic is not necessarily bound to the strict form of the words spoken. If the person to whom a promise is made, or before whom an oath is taken, does not know that the one making it may attach a different meaning to the words, that is his fault, and the promise on oath is not necessarily binding.
In regard to theft, Ligouri teaches that a Roman Catholic may steal, provided the value of the thing stolen is not excessive.
‘If any one on an occasion should steal only a moderate sum either from one or more, not intending to acquire any notable sum, neither to injure his neighbour to any great extent, by several thefts, he does not sin grievously, nor do those, taken together, constitute a mortal sin. However, after it may have amounted to a notable sum by detaining it, he can commit mortal sin, but even this mortal sin may be avoided, if either then he be unable to restore, or have the intention of making restitution immediately of those things which he then received’ (Vol. 3, p. 258).
This doctrine has been interpreted for American Roman Catholics to mean that it is not a mortal sin if one steals less than forty dollars’ worth at any one time. Francis J. Connell writes as follows in The American Ecclesiastical Review, the official magazine of instruction for priests, published at Catholic University, Washington, D.C.:
‘Question:What would be regarded nowadays as the absolute sum for grave theft in the United States?
‘Answer:By the absolute sum for grave theft is meant that amount of money, the stealing of which constitutes a mortal sin, irrespective of the financial status of the individual or corporation from which it is taken, however wealthy they may be. Naturally this sum varies with the fluctuation of the value, or the purchasing power, of money. In a country like ours it is quite possible that this sum might be different in different sections. To lay down a general norm, in view of actual conditions and the value of money, it would seem that the absolute sum for grave theft would be about forty dollars’ (January, 1945, p. 68).
The condoning of theft and robbery under certain circumstances is known among Roman Catholic theologians as ‘secret compensation,’ and is contained in catechisms and textbooks used in Roman Catholic schools. In The Manual of Christian Doctrine, which has gone through many editions, and which bears the nihil obstat of M. S. Fisher, S.T.L., censor librorum, and the imprimatur of Cardinal Dougherty of Philadelphia, the Preface states:‘This book is intended as a manual of religious instruction not only in the novitiate and scholasticate of teaching congregations, but also in the classes of high schools, academies and colleges.’ On page 295 this textbook discusses the problem of theft, its nature and various forms, including larceny, robbery, cheating, fraud, and extortion, and on page 297 we find theft condoned in the following words:
‘Q. What are the causes that excuse from theft?
‘A. 1. Extreme necessity, when a person takes only what is necessary, and does not thereby reduce to the same necessity the person whose property he takes. 2. Secret compensation, on condition that the debt so cancelled be certain, that the creditor cannot recover his property by any other means, and that he take as far as possible, things of the same kind as he had given.’
L. H. Lehmann comments very appropriately on such conduct:
‘Moral conduct can be no better than the moral principles upon which it is based. Most crimes are distinctly connected with thievery and robbery. If a Roman Catholic youth, for instance, can persuade himself that he has “extreme necessity” for an automobile, he will consider himself justified in stealing it legitimately according to the above teaching, provided he knows that the owner will not be thereby impoverished. The doctrine of “secret compensation” applies mostly to employees who consider they are being underpaid for their labour. A twenty-dollar-a-week cashier in a sidestreet cafeteria may consider herself underpaid and apply this principle to justify her pilfering of odd dimes and quarters from the cash register whenever she can safely do so. Many a cashier in a large bank or commercial business corporation has done just this until he found himself in jail for large-scale embezzlement. A desperate man could also easily argue himself into thinking that he is justly entitled to some of the surplus money of a rich victim and will go after it with a gun. Likewise grafting politicians seize upon the argument implicit in this teaching to justify their conviction that they are worth much more to the community than their elected offices pay them. [And it surely does not take much imagination to guess how this principle might be applied by judges and clerks whose duty it is to count votes at the polling places. Just how many votes might be stolen in order to aid one’s candidate without committing mortal sin? We should like to know.]
‘This doctrine of “secret compensation” was, of course, unheard of in Christianity, even in the Catholic Church, prior to the Jesuit casuists of the seventeenth century. It was invented by them along with other unethical doctrines such as “mental reservation,” “the end justifies the means,” “the end sanctifies the means,” etc., to make Catholicism popular among the masses. It also helped to rationalize their own exploits. Thus Catholic textbooks of moral theology today make no pretension of showing that these principles of conduct take their origin from the Ten Commandments or from Christian revelation. They merely propound them as accepted Catholic doctrine and trace them back to Gury, the Jesuit fountainhead.
‘The blunt fact, confirmed by countless cases, is that many Catholics get the one idea from this teaching, namely that stealing is not essentially evil at all times, but, on the contrary, fair and reasonable if one needs something badly enough and the owner does not. How this conviction can be stretched to cover untold cases is easy to imagine. It is limited only by the envy and self-prejudice of the individual circumstances—which varies immeasurably from person to person.
‘All in all, it is most unfortunate that any religion is permitted to teach such a principle as part of the curriculum of American school education, much more if it should ever be taught in the public schools on the pretext of helping to lessen crime among the youth of America’ (Booklet, Catholic Education and Crime).
Another very serious defect in the moral armour of Roman Catholicism is its penchant for games of chance, particularly its strong defence of bingo as played in the churches, which, in whatever light it may be viewed, is a form of gambling. The primary feature about gambling, bingo, raffles, and such like, is that each is a game of chance in which the ownership of money or some other article of value is decided by a lucky number, a turn of a wheel, a throw of the dice, or some similar device. And gambling is gambling, no matter what form it takes. Basically, it is an attempt to get something for nothing, an attempt to live, not by honest toil but at the expense of others. As such it is a moral disease, a covetous greed or lust to get possession of another’s property. That other equally covetous people agree to the arrangement does not make it moral. Even when a gambler wins, he realizes that others have lost. Anything that induces people to take money needed for food and clothing and risk it on games of chance is wrong in principle. And the ‘easy come, easy go’ principle involved seldom leaves anyone permanently enriched. It is notorious that gamblers almost invariably end up penniless. And usually bingo, under the guise of charity for a church or school, is an opening wedge for the more professional types of gambling. But whether gambling takes the form of bingo, raffles, lucky numbers, or the more outright forms with dice, cards, or roulette, it surely is unworthy of a Christian, who should always be ready to give a comparable value in return for what he seeks.
The fact that the article may not be of great value, and that the ‘chances’ cost only a few cents each, does not change the principle involved, nor make it right to participate. The principle is the same and the practice is sinful whether a man gambles for thousands of dollars at roulette or whether he participates in the raffle of a small-value box of candy for ‘chances’ sold at a few cents each. Sin remains sin, whether committed outside the church or inside. The righteous robes of religion do not cover it up in the sight of God.
Historically, organized gambling has meant organized crime. Recently a high-ranking legal expert declared that gambling is the life blood of organized crime, and that if gambling could be wiped out much large-scale crime would die for lack of sustenance. Organized gambling flourishes in a twilight zone of society where coercion and corruption are the methods of doing business. An evil atmosphere envelops such a community and eats into the fabric of law and order. The bribery and corruption of officials, with attendant social abuses, is a common result. Yet in the United States, for example, the Roman Church, which receives substantial revenues from gambling games, has not only failed to oppose legalized gambling but frequently has itself run foul of state anti-gambling laws. On the other hand Protestant groups, which believe that it is a sin to gamble, have taken the lead in a great many places and have succeeded in having bingo, and particularly professional gambling, outlawed. In the bingo pinball devices commonly found in taverns, the millions of nickels flow into millions of dollars. Usually these devices return the tavern owners 50 per cent of the take, and the operators greedily reach for the profits. So the foundation for the underworld is built.
Gambling is a violation of one of God’s first commands to man: ‘In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread’ (Gen. 3:19). It is also a violation of other Scripture commands and of the general spirit of Scripture teaching: ‘Thou shalt not steal’ (Ex. 20:15); ‘Thou shalt not covet’ (Ex. 20:17); ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself’ (Matt. 19:59); ‘Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not?’ (Is. 55:2). ‘Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God’ (1 Cor. 10:31).
The ideal constantly held before us in Scripture is that we should earn our property by honest labour and fair exchange. Any attempt to give gambling an aura of respectability, and even a certain kind of spirituality through church sponsorship, is at once a sign of spiritual degeneration and of abysmal ignorance or deliberate disregard of what the Scriptures really teach.
If there ever was a travesty of the Christian religion it is that of a church raising money by encouraging its people to engage in a form of gambling, as is fairly common practice in Roman Catholic churches. Such practice cannot give stability to a church, and the effect on its spiritual and educational programme is bound to be pernicious. Morally it is no better than was the sale of indulgences during the Middle Ages, which was one of the religious corruptions that brought about the Protestant Reformation.
6. QUESTIONABLE HOSPITAL PRACTICES
A Roman Catholic hospital practice, well known in America, which very definitely has a moral aspect to it is that of baptizing Protestants and others who are thought to be in danger of death. An article by John R. Connery, S. J., in Hospital Progress (April, 1959), an American magazine which carries on its front cover the words, ‘Official Journal of the Catholic Hospital Association,’ sets forth in considerable detail the procedure to be followed by the chaplain or nurse in such cases. According to this article it is proper, and in some cases even mandatory’, to baptize into the Roman Church, and even without their knowledge or consent, unbaptized persons or patients concerning whom it is not known whether they have been baptized or not, if they are thought to be in danger of death. The patient need not be actually dying, but perhaps unconscious or so critically ill that death is a possibility. This practice applies particularly to new born babes and to unconscious or critically ill persons if their parents or relatives are not available for consultation. Information concerning the baptism need not be given to anyone other than the local priest who records it. In this article we read:
‘Q. Are you obliged to tell the parents of an infant baptized in danger of death, if the parents are not Catholics? What if the parents resent it and refuse to raise the child a Catholic?
‘A. Ordinarily it is not permitted to baptize children of non-Catholic parents against their wishes. To do so would be to violate the rights of these parents. . . . When there is danger of death, however, the Church makes an exception, although even in this emergency primary responsibility for the child’s spiritual welfare belongs to the parents. . . . It is only when the parents, through neglect or for reasons of their own, fail to provide for the baptism of the child, or when the emergency does not allow even sufficient time to warn the parents, that the Church permits a Catholic minister to baptize the child. In this case the Church’s concern over the future religious education of the child . . yields to the child’s immediate spiritual need. Similarly the wishes of parents must give way in these circumstances to the child’s own right to the means of salvation. It will be permissible to baptize the child even without the knowledge or permission of the parents. . .. If a child in these circumstances lives through the emergency, the question arises about the advisability of informing the parents of the baptism. . . . We can say that it would not be necessary, or even advisable, to acquaint non-Catholic parents with the fact that their child had received an emergency baptism unless there is good reason to believe that they would not resent it’ (italics ours).
In regard to unconscious adults who are baptized Connery writes: ‘In most cases it will not be advisable to acquaint the person with the fact that he was baptized unless it becomes clear that he would have wanted baptism under the circumstances.’
He goes on to say that those baptized become members of the Roman Catholic Church and that, if children, they should be trained as Catholics, but that it will not be wise to insist upon it if the parents do not agree, because resentment might be aroused against the church. He defends such baptism by saying that in any event it will not hurt anything, and that in some cases it might prove helpful, as for instance if the person married before a Protestant minister later was converted to Catholicism and wanted to get an annulment in order to marry a Roman Catholic. In such an event the first marriage would be held invalid.
This forced and secret baptism of the helpless—‘baptism by stealth,’ as some have called it—is justified by the Romanists on the basis of their doctrine that there is no hope of salvation for one who has not been baptized.
There are nearly 1,000 Roman Catholic hospitals in the United States. Most of the patients in these hospitals are not Catholics, yet their treatment is governed by the Roman Catholic code of ethics in which the doctors and nurses are minutely instructed. Those instructions are set forth in detail by the Jesuit scholar, Henry Davis, in his Moral and Pastoral Theo logy, and by Patrick A. Finney, in his Moral Problems in Hospital Practice (1947 ed., imprimatur by the archbishop of St. Louis). Concerning one particular phase of that code, Paul Blanshard, in his American Freedom and Catholic Power, says:
‘One of the most important doctrines in the Catholic medical code is the doctrine of the equality of mother and foetus. This doctrine is of special interest to every potential mother who has a Catholic physician.
‘When the average American woman approaches the ordeal of child-bearing, she takes it for granted that her physician will do everything possible to save her life in the event of complications. I am sure that 99 per cent of all American husbands would consider themselves murderers if, confronted with the choice between the life of a wife and the life of her unborn child, they chose the life of the foetus. This is particularly true in the early months of pregnancy when such risks most frequently develop. Most of our citizens assume without discussion that every possible effort should be made to save the life of both mother and child, but that if a choice is forced upon the physician the mother should be given the first consideration.
‘The Catholic hierarchy does not endorse this choice, nor can a good Catholic physician leave such a choice to the husband and father and be true to the dogmas of his church. “The life of each is equally sacred,” said pope Pius XI in his encyclical, Casti Connubii, “and no one has the power, not even the public authority, to destroy it” ‘ (pp. 139, 140).
Patrick A. Finney, in the book just mentioned, states the doctrine in question and answer form:
‘If it is morally certain that a pregnant mother and her unborn child will both die, if the pregnancy is allowed to take its course, but at the same time, the attending physician is morally certain that he can save the mother’s life by removing the inviable foetus, is it lawful for him to do so?’
Answer. ‘No, it is not. Such removal of the foetus would be direct abortion.’
Mr. Blanshard remarks:
‘It should be noted that under this statement of the complete doctrine, both mother and child must be allowed to die rather than allow a life-saving operation that is contrary to the code of the priests. There is no choice here between one life and another; it is a choice between two deaths and one. The priests choose the two deaths, presumably in order to save the souls of both mother and child from a sin that would send the mother’s soul to hell and the child’s to the twilight hereafter known as limbo. The foetus in Father Finney’s question would die anyway. It is described as “inviable,” which means incapable of life. It may be a six-weeks embryo about the size of a small marble, without a face. Nevertheless, the life of the mother must be sacrificed for this embryo that, by definition, is dying or will die.
‘This doctrine is not a matter of opinion that priests or doctors are free to reject. It has been repeated over and over by Catholic authorities and incorporated into positive church law. Pope Pius XII reiterated the doctrine before the International College of Surgeons in Rome in May, 1948, when he declared that, in spite of “the understandable anguish of husbandly love,” it is “illicit even in order to save the mother—to cause directly the death of the small being that is called, if not for the life here below, then at least for the future life, to a high and sublime destiny”’ (p.141).
Such practices we consider reprehensible. Surely Protestants and others should not enter Roman Catholic hospitals if they can avoid it.
We have been struck repeatedly throughout the study of this religion, the basic policies of which have been formulated almost 100 per cent by celibate priests, with the various phases of it which inflict such callous, inhuman, even brutal treatment upon women. That has come out in the abuses practised in the confessional, the enslavement of women as nuns, the exclusion of women from any policy-making function in the church, the almost complete lack of educational facilities for women in Roman Catholic countries, and again here in regard to hospital practice. This trait Roman Catholicism has in common with Mormonism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Mohammedanism. Each of these, as the present writer once heard a guide in the Mormon tabernacle in Salt Lake City, Utah, explain concerning Mormonism, is a ‘man’s religion.’ How utterly unchristian such practices are!
L. H. Lehmann, in his booklet, The Secret of Catholic Power, shows why the Roman Church is often able to exert an influence far beyond that of its actual numbers. He says:
‘As a system of power, the Roman Catholic Church has no equal and is likely to retain its influence as long as mankind remains spiritually unregenerate. For its entire structure is geared to an earthly, human realism that is admirably suited to the weakness of human nature. It possesses elements of power that are strictly empirical and tangible, of the kind that weigh far more with the multitudes than logical arguments or spiritual insight. On the one hand, it gains all the advantages accorded to religion, and on the other, all the benefits, profits, and power that accrue to political and business organizations.
‘These elements of power appeal not only to the Catholic Church’s own membership, but even more so to the great mass of people outside its membership who have little or no interest in any particular religion. This fact in itself constitutes an element of power that is more effective than all the others combined. It explains why a country such as the United States, whose population is fully 80 per cent non-Catholic, is controlled to such a great extent by the Catholic Church which claims the direct obedience of less than 20 per cent of its inhabitants.
‘Neither in Protestant countries such as the United States, nor in so-called Catholic countries such as Italy, Spain, France, Portugal, and South America, does the Catholic Church derive its power from the actual numbers of devout church-going Catholics in good standing. This is small compared to the number of its mere adherents who though baptized in the Catholic Church fail to live up to its requirements of actual membership or “communion” as understood by Protestant bodies. It is much smaller still compared to the vast number of unchurched people who admire it at a distance and are influenced, willy-nilly, by its political power, by its control of the press, movies, and radio, by its pageantry and grandeur, and, above all, by its moral code. Italy, Spain, France, Portugal, and the Latin American countries are regarded as almost 100 per cent Roman Catholic and their destinies are tied to the Catholic Church’s social, cultural, and moral code. Yet, only about one-fifth of the Italian population are devout, church-going Catholics; in France only about 17 per cent are practising Catholics; and were it not for Franco’s forced application of the Catholic Church laws and decrees, the percentage in Spain would be even less. Cardinal Spellman confessed in his Action This Day, p. 22, written in 1944 during his visits to Italy, Spain and other countries, that at a dinner with high prelates at the Nunciature in Madrid, he remembered the “striking and terrifying remark” of a friend who was an authority on Spain that: “Twenty-four hours of disorder in Spain could mean the assassination of every bishop, priest and nun that could be found.”’
But, granted that the situation outlined by Mr. Lehmann is true, and we believe that it is, what is the remedy? How are Protestants to meet the challenge of Roman Catholicism? The solution, we stress, is for Protestants to take their religion seriously, to work for it, propagate it, and to evangelize effectively their own communities and eventually the world, as they are capable of doing with the true Gospel in their possession. Christ’s command to His church was: ‘Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations. . . .’ (Matt. 28:19-20). That Romanism has flourished so luxuriously, and that it is to a large extent unopposed in many places, is due primarily not to Romanist strength but to Protestant indifference, for Modernism and Liberalism have weakened the churches and some of them have lost their evangelical witness.
However, there are some encouraging signs. The Roman Church has lost its grip on many of the traditionally Roman Catholic countries of Europe, and in those where it still has control, it is hanging on by means of the artificial respiration of United States dollars. Various degrees of anti-clericalism are manifesting themselves in France and Italy, and in Spain the Roman Church retains control only through the support of a fascist political dictatorship. In Latin America it has lost the support of the labouring classes and also of the educated classes, and probably can claim the support of not more than 15 per cent of the people.
On the other hand, in the United States the Roman Church has increased its power significantly. It is an ironic turn of events that as other countries are throwing off the yoke of Rome, this ‘Land of the Free’ is crawling under that yoke almost without a murmur. This has been a most fortunate break for the Vatican, and has enabled it to maintain far more strength in other countries than otherwise would have been possible. Its financial support from the United States has been enormous. To what extent it has gained control in the United States is difficult to estimate. But it clearly has made extensive gains not only in the political realm but also through its indirect pressure group control of the American press, radio, television, and movies. Many of America’s biggest cities are so firmly controlled by Roman Catholic political machines that it is practically impossible for a Protestant to be elected mayor, e.g., New York, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, and others. In some places the Roman Church is now the de facto, if not the de jure, ruler of the United States.
When Protestantism fails there is one other source of relief, howbeit, a long-range and a very unpleasant one, namely, that Roman Catholicism carries within itself the seeds of its own destruction. It is a false system, and therefore it cannot ultimately succeed any more than can Nazism, or Fascism, or Communism, or any of the pagan religions. But like those systems it can deceive millions, and it can cause untold misery and destruction while it does hold sway.
Where Romanism becomes the dominant religion for generations, poverty and illiteracy become the rule, and private and public morals become a scandal. Eventually there comes a reaction. In Latin America today, for instance, we see such a reaction taking place. Weakened by the moral and spiritual condition of its clergy, and by the ignorance, superstition, poverty, and lethargy of its people, the Roman Church becomes an easy prey to its enemies, foremost of which is Communism. The Roman hierarchy has just recently awakened to the fact that it must clean up the church in Latin America or lose the whole area.
Such reactions as we are talking about have occurred in England, France, Spain, Mexico, and other countries, in which the people eventually rose up and disestablished or even abolished this misnamed Holy Roman Catholic Church. What a tragedy that a professedly Christian church should so degenerate that public opinion would hold it in contempt! The great rebellion that occurred against the Roman Church at the time of the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, when in disgust and hatred for the old system the people rose up and more or less en masse threw it out of whole countries, was such a reaction. It is to be noted that a popular uprising against Protestantism has never occurred in any of those countries; for Protestantism does not enslave, but liberates and enlightens the people.
*A graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary (Th.B., 1928; Th.M., 1929), where he studied Systematic Theology under Dr. C. W. Hodge, his books include: The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, Roman Catholicism, Studies In Theology, Immortality, The Millennium and A Harmony of the Gospels.