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The Church And Science
by [?]

Of course, if we take the facts of a great many branches of physical science by themselves, it would be easy enough to show that a good Catholic might safely accept them. But no man can reach these facts by investigations of his own, or hold to them intelligently and fruitfully, without acquiring intellectual habits and making use of tests which the church considers signs of a rebellious and therefore sinful temper. Moreover, nobody who has attained the limits of our present knowledge in chemistry, geology, comparative anatomy, ethnography, philology, and mythology can stand there with closed eyes. He must inevitably peer into the void beyond, and would be more than human if he did not indulge in speculations as to the history of the universe and its destiny which the church must treat as endangering his salvation. This is so well known that one reads the lamentations of these Catholic laymen with considerable surprise. They may be fairly supposed to know something of church history, and, even if they do not, they must profess some knowledge of the teaching given by the church in those universities of other countries which she controls. She does not encourage the study of natural science anywhere. Mathematics and astronomy she looks on with some favor, though we do not know how the spectroscope may have affected her toward the latter; and we venture to assert that these are the only fields of science in which any Catholic layman attains distinction without forfeiting his standing in the eyes of the clergy. We do not now speak of the French, Italian, and German Catholic laymen who go on with their investigations without caring whether the clergy like them or not, and without taking the trouble to make any formal repudiation of the church’s authority over their intellects. We simply say there are no pious Catholic scientific men of any note, and never will be if the Catholic clergy can help it, and the lamentations of Catholics over the fact are logically absurd.

The legislation which Prussia is now putting into force on the subject of clerical education is founded on a candid recognition of the church’s position on this matter. Prince Bismarck is well aware that in no seminary or college controlled by priests is there any chance that a young man will receive the best instruction of the day on the subjects in which the modern world is most interested, and by which the affairs of the State are most influenced. He has, therefore, wisely decided that it is the duty of the State to see that men who still exert as much power over popular thought as priests do, and are to receive State pay as popular instructors, shall also receive the best obtainable secular education before being subjected to purely professional training in the theological seminaries. The desperation of the fight made against him by the clergy is due to their well-grounded belief that in order to get a young man in our time to swallow a fair amount of Catholic theology, he must be caught early and kept close. The warfare which is raging in Prussia is one which has broken out in every country in which the government has formal relations with the church.

The appearance of a mutinous spirit among the Irish laity, and this not on political but scientific subjects, shows that the poison has sunk very deep and is very virulent; for the Irish laity have been until now the foremost Catholics in the world in silence and submissiveness, and there is nothing in ecclesiastical history which can equal in absurdity a request, addressed to Cardinal Cullen, that he would supply them with the kind of teaching which other men get from Tyndall and Huxley. With ecclesiastical insubordination arising out of differences on matters of doctrine or discipline, such as that manifested by the Old Catholics, it is comparatively easy to deal. Schismatics can be excommunicated by an authority which they have themselves venerated, and from an organization in which they loved to live and would fain have died. But over wanderers into the fields of science the church loses all hold. Her weapons are the jest of the museum and the laboratory, and her lore the babbling of the ignorant or blind.