Imágenes de páginas

of governments in other countries, and does not preach a crusade against them, that she is the enemy of free institutions and social progress. All this is wrong. Religion is one and catholic, and obligatory upon all alike; political systems, save in the great ethical principles which underlie them, are particular, national, and are obligatory only on the nation that adopts them. There are catholic principles of government, but no catholic or universal form of government. Our government is best for us, but that does not prove that in political matters we are wiser or better than other civilized nations, or that we have the right to set ourselves up as the model nation of the world. Other nations may not be wholly forsaken by Providence. Non-Catholic Americans cry out against the church that she is anti-republican; but if we were monarchists we should cry out, as did the monarchical party in the sixteenth century, that she is antimonarchical and hostile to the independence of kings. Let us learn that she may in one age or country support one form of civil constitution, and without inconsistency support a different system in another.


(From the Catholic World for April, 1867.]

The political changes and weighty events that have occurred since, have almost obliterated from the memory the men and the revolutions or catastrophes of 1848 and 1849. We seem removed from them by centuries, and have lost all recollection of the great questions which then agitated the public mind, and on which seemed suspended the issues of the life and death of society. Then an irreligions liberalism threatened the destruction of all authority, of all belief in revelation, and piety towards God; and a rampant, and apparently victorious, socialism, or more properly, anti-socialism, threatened the destruction of society itself, and to

[ocr errors]

*Essay on Catholicism, Liberalism, and Socialism, considered in their fundamental Principles. By Don Juan Donoso CORTÉS, Marquis of Valdegamas. Translated by MADELEINE VINTON GODDARD. Philadelpia: 1862.

replunge the civilized world into the barbarism from which the church, by long centuries of patient and unremitting toil, had been slowly recovering it.

Among the noble and brave men who then placed themselves on the side of religion and society, of faith and Christian civilization, and attempted to stay the advancing tide of infidelity and barbarism, few were more conspicuous, or did more to stir up men's minds and hearts to a sense of the danger, than the learned, earnest, and most eloquent Donoso Cortés, Marquis of Valdegamas. He was then in the prime and vigor of his manhood. Born and bred in Catholic Spain at a time when the philosophy of the eighteenth century had not yet ceased to be in vogue, and faith, if not extinct, was obscured and weak, he had grown up without religious fervor, a philosophist rather than a believer- La liberal in politics, and disposed to be a social reformer. He sustained the Cristinos against the Carlists, and rose to high favor with the court of Isabella Segunda. He was created a marquis, was appointed a senator, held various civil and diplomatic appointments, and was in 1848 one of the most prominent and influential statesmen in Spain, I might almost say, in Europe.

The death of a dearly beloved brother, some time before, had very deeply affected him, and became the occasion of awakening his dormant religious faith, and turning his attention to theological studies. His religious convictions became active and fruitful, and by the aid of divine grace vivified all his thoughts and actions, growing stronger and stronger, and more absorbing every day. He at length lived but for religion, and devoted his whole mind and soul to defend it against its enemies, to diffuse it in society, and to adorn it by his piety and deeds of charity, especially to the poor. He died in the habit of a Jesuit at Paris, in May, 1853.

Some of our readers must still remember the remarkable speech which the Marquis de Valdegamas pronounced in the Spanish cortes, January 4, 1849—a speech that produced a marked effect in France, and indeed throughout all Europe, not to add America-in which he renounced all liberal ideas and tendencies, denounced constitutionalism and parliamentary governments, and demanded the dictatorship. It had great effect in preparing even the friends of liberty, frightened by the excesses of the so-called liberals, red-republicans, socialists, and revolutionists, if not to favor, at least to

[ocr errors]

accept the coup d'état, and the reëstablishment of the imperial régime in France; and it, no doubt, helped to push the reaction that was about to commence against the revolutionary movements of 1848, to a dangerous extreme, and to favor, by another sort of reaction, that recrudescence of infidelity that has since followed throughout nearly all Europe. It is hardly less difficult to restrain reactionary movements within just limits than it is the movements that provoke them.

The Essay on Catholicism, Liberalism, and Socialism necessarily loses much in being translated, but Mrs. Goddard's translation comes as near to the original as any translation can. It is singularly faithful and elegant, and reproduces the thought and spirit of the author with felicity and exactness, in idiomatic English, which one can read without suspecting it to be not the language in which the work was originally written. There is scarcely a sentence in which the translation can be detected. It must have been made con amore, and we can recommend it as a model to translators, who too often do the work from the original language into no language.

The work shows no great familiarity with the writings of the later theologians, and no fondness for the style and method of the schools, but it shows a profound study of the fathers, and a perfect mastery of contemporary theories and speculations. The author is a man of the nineteenth century, with the profound thought of an Augustine, the eloquence of a Chrysostom, and the tender piety of a Francis of Assisi. He has studied the epistles of St. Paul, and been touched with the inspiration of that great apostle's burning zeal and consuming charity. He observes not always the technical exactness of modern theological professors and some French abbés thought they detected in his Ensayo some grave theological errors, but only because they missed the signs which they were accustomed to identify with the things signified, and met with terms and illustrations with which they were unfamiliar. But he seizes with rare sagacity and firmness the living truth, and presents us theology as a thing of life and love.

The principles of the essay are catholic, are the real principles of Christianity and society, set forth with a clearness, a depth, a logical force, a truthfulness, a richness of illustration and an eloquence which have seldom, if ever, been surpassed. But some of the inferences he draws from them,


and some of the applications he makes of them to social and political science are not such as every Catholic even is prepared to accept. The author was drawn to religion by domestic afflictions, which saddened while they softened his heart, and he writes, as he felt, amid the ruins of a falling world. All things seemed to him gone or going, and he looked out upon a universal wreck. His spirit is not soured, but his feelings are tinged with the gloom of the prospect, and while he hopes in God he well-nigh despairs of the world, of man, of society, of civilization, above all

, of liberty, and sees no means of saving European society but in the dictatorship or pure despotism acting under the inspiration and direction of the church. He was evidently more deeply impressed by what was lost in the primitive fall or original sin than by what in our nature has survived that catastrophe. He adored the justice of God displayed in the punishment of the wicked, justified him in all his dealings with men, but he saw in his providence no mercy for fallen nations, or a derelict society. This life he regarded as a trial, the earth as a scene of suffering, a vale of tears, and found in religion a support, indeed, but hardly a consolation. The Christian has hope in God, but is a man of sorrows, and his life an expiation. Much of this is true and scriptural, and this world certainly is not our abiding place, and can afford us no abiding joy. But this is not saying that there are no consolations, no abiding joys for us even in this life. Consolations and joys a Christian has in this world, though they proceed not from it. It can neither give them nor take them away; yet we taste them even while in it. This world is not the contradictory of the world to come; it is not heaven, indeed, and cannot be heaven, yet it is related to heaven as a medium, and the medium must partake, in some measure, of both the principle and the end.

The great merit of the essay is in deducing political and social from theological principles. This is undoubtedly not only the teaching of the church, but of all sound philosophy; and what I regard as the principal error of the book is the desire to transfer to the state the immobility and unchangeableness which belong to the church, an institution existing by the direct and immediate appointment of God. The author seems to be as unwilling to recognize the intervention of man and man's nature in government and society as in the direct and immediate works of the Creator. He is no pantheist or Jansenist, and yet he seems to me to make too little account of the part of second causes, or the activity of creatures, and sometimes to forget, or almost to forget, that grace does not supersede nature, but supports it, strengthens it, elevates it, and completes it. He sees only the divine action in events; or in plain words, he does not make enough of nature, and does not sufficiently bring out the fact that natural and supernatural, nature and grace, reason and faith, earth and heaven, are not antagonistic forces, to be reconciled only by the suppression of the one or the other, but really parts of one dialectic whole, which, to the eye that can take in the whole in all its parts, and all the parts in the whole, in which they are integrated, would appear perfectly consistent with each other, living the same life in God, and directed by him to one and the same end. He, therefore, unconsciously and unintentionally, favors or appears to favor a dualism as unchristian as it is unphilosophical. God being in his essence dialectical, nothing proceeding from him can be sophistical, or wanting in logical unity, and one part of his works can never be opposed to another, or demand its suppression. The one must always be the complement of the other. Christianity was given to fulfil nature, not to destroy it. “Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil."

The misapprehension on this subject arises from the ambiguity of the word world. This word is generally used by ascetic writers not to designate the natural order, but the principles, spirit, and conduct of those who live for this world alone; who look not beyond this life; who take the earth not as a medium, but as the end, and seek only the goods this world offers. These are called worldly, sensual, or carnal-minded people, and as such contrast with the spiritually minded, or those who look above and beyond merely sensible goods—to heaven beyond the earth, to a life beyond the grave, a life of spiritual bliss in indissoluble union with God, the end of their existence, and their supreme good as well as the supreme good in itself. In this sense there is a real antagonism between this world and the next; but when the world is taken in its proper place, and for what it really is, in the plan of the Creator, there is no antagonism in the case; and to despise it would be to despise the work of God, and to neglect it would be not a virtue, but even a sin. This world has its temptations and its snares, and as long as we remain in the flesh we are in danger of mistaking it for

« AnteriorContinuar »