« PreviousContinue »
Liberty is the lay, the philosophical principle. It expresses the juridical and social aspiration of the race. But as there is no society possible without regulation, without control, without limitations on individual liberty, above all without moral limitations, the peoples which are legally the freest do well to take their religious consciousness for check and ballast. In mixed States, Catholic or freethinking, the limit of action, being a merely penal one, invites incessant contravention.
The puerility of the freethinkers consists in believing that a free society can maintain itself and keep itself together without a common faith, without a religious prejudice of some kind. Where lies the will of God? Is it the common reason which expre it, or rather, are a clergy or a church the depositories of it? So long as the response is ambiguous and equivocal in the eyes of half or the majority of consciences - and this is the case in all Catholic States — public peace is impossible, and public law is insecure. If there is a God, we must have Him on our side, and if there is not a God, it would be necessary first of all to convert everybody to the same idea of the lawful and the useful, to recon
stitute, that is to say, a lay religion, before anything politically solid could be built.
Liberalism is merely feeding upon abstractions, when it persuades itself that liberty is possible without free individuals, and when it will not recognise that liberty in the individual is the fruit of a foregoing education, a moral education, which presupposes a liberating religion. To preach liberalism to a population jesuitised by education, is to press the pleasures of dancing upon a man who has lost a leg. How is it possible for a child who has never been out of swaddling clothes to walk ? How can the abdication of individual conscience lead to the government of individual conscience ? To be free, is to guide oneself, to have attained one's majority, to be emancipated, master of one's actions, and judge of good and evil; but Ultramontane Catholicism never emancipates its disciples, who are bound to admit, to believe, and to obey, as they are told, because they are minors in perpetuity, and the clergy alone possess the law of right, the secret of justice, and the measure of truth. This is what men are landed in by the idea of an exterior revelation, cleverly made use of by a patient priesthood.
But what astonishes me is the short-sight of the statesmen of the south, who do not see that the question of questions is the religious question, and even now do not recognise that a liberal State is wholly incompatible with an anti-liberal religion, and almost equally incompatible with the absence of religion. They confound accidental conquests and precarious progress with lasting results.
There is some probability that all this noise which is made nowadays about liberty may end in the suppression of liberty ; it is plain that the International, the irreconcilables, and the ultramontanes, are, all three of them, aiming at absolutism, at dictatorial omnipotence. Happily they are not one but many, and it will not be difficult to turn them against each other.
If liberty is to be saved, it will not be by the doubters, the men of science, or the materialists; it will be by religious conviction, by the faith of individuals who believe that God wills man to be free but also pure; it will be by the seekers after holiness, by those old-fashioned pious persons who speak of immortality and eternal life, and prefer the soul to the whole world ; it will be by the enfranchised children of the ancient faith of the human race.
6th June 1870. — The efficacy of religion lies precisely in that which is not rational, philosophic, nor eternal ; its efficacy lies in the unforeseen, the miraculous, the extraordinary. Thus religion attracts more devotion in proportion as it demands more faith
- that is to say, as it becomes more incredible to the profane mind. The philosoph aspires to explain away all mysteries, to dissolve them into light. It is mystery, on the other hand, which the religious instinct demands and pursues : it is mystery which constitutes the essence of worship, the power of proselytism. When the cross became the foolishness' of the cross, it took possession of the masses. And in our own day, those who wish to get rid of the supernatural, to enlighten religion, to economise faith, find themselves deserted, like poets who should declaim against poetry, or women who should decry love. Faith consists in the acceptance of the incomprehensible, and even in the pursuit of the impossible, and is self-intoxicated with its own sacrifices, its own repeated extravagances.
It is the forgetfulness of this psychological law which stultifies the so-called liberal Christianity. It is the realisation of it
which constitutes the strength of Catholi, cism.
Apparently no positive religion can survive the supernatural element which is the reason for its existence. Natural religion seems to be the tomb of all historic cults. All concrete religions die eventually in the . pure air of philosophy. So long then as the life of nations is in need of religion as a motive and sanction of morality, as food for faith, hope, and charity, so long will the masses turn away from pure reason and naked truth, so long will they adore mystery, so long — and rightly so
will they rest in faith, the only region where the ideal presents itself to them in an attractive form.
9th June 1870. - At bottom, everything depends upon the presence or absence of one single element in the soul - hope. All the activity of man, all his efforts and all his enterprises, presuppose a hope in him of attaining an end. Once kill this hope and his movements become senseless, spasmodic, and convulsive, like those of some one falling from a height. To struggle with the inevitable has something childish in it. To implore the law of gravitation to sus