Christ's Faithful People
|Various are the ways in which a faithful Christian is drawn into the error of
Very often corruption of heart is a consequence of errors of the intellect, but more frequently still, errors of the intellect follow the corruption of the heart. The history of heresies very clearly shows this fact. Their beginnings nearly always present the same character, either wounded self-love or a grievance to be avenged; either it is a woman that makes the heresiarch lose his head and his soul, or it is a bag of gold for which he sells his conscience.
Error nearly always has its origin, not in profound and laborious studies, but in the triple-headed monster which St. John describes and calls Concupiscentia carnis, concupiscentia oculorum, superbia vitae 'Concupiscence of the flesh, concupiscence of the eyes, the pride of life." Here are the sources of all error, here are the roads to Liberalism. Let us dwell on them for a moment. 1. Men become Liberal on account of a natural desire for independence and for an easy life. Liberalism is necessarily sympathetic with the depraved nature of man, just as Catholicity is essentially opposed to it. Liberalism is emancipation from restraint; Catholicity the curb of the passions. Now, fallen man, by a very natural tendency, loves a system which legitimatizes and sanctifies his pride of intellect and the license of passion. Hence, Tertullian says, "The soul, in its noble aspirations, is naturally Christian." Likewise may it be said that man, by the taint of his origin, is born naturally Liberal. Logically then does he declare himself a Liberal in due form when he discovers that Liberalism offers a protection for his caprices and an excuse for his indulgences.
2. Men become Liberal by the desire for advancement in life. Liberalism is today the dominating idea; it reigns everywhere and especially in the sphere of public life. It is therefore a sure recommendation to public favor.
On starting out in life, the young man looks around upon the various paths that lead to fortune, to fame, to glory, and sees that an almost indispensable condition of reaching the desired goal is, at least in our times, to become Liberal.
Not to be Liberal is to place in his way, at the outset, what appears to be an insurmountable obstacle. He must be heroic to resist the Tempter, who shows him, as he did Jesus Christ in the desert, a splendid future, saying: Haec omnia tibi dabo si cadens adoraveris me: "All this will I give thee, if, falling down, thou wilt adore me." Heroes are rare, and it is natural that most young men beginning their career should affiliate with Liberalism. It promises them the assistance of a powerful press, the recommendation of powerful protectors, the potent influence of secret societies, the patronage of distinguished men. The poor Ultramontane requires a thousand times more merit to make himself known and to acquire a name, and youth is ordinarily little scrupulous.
Liberalism, moreover, is essentially favorable to that public life which this age so ardently pursues.
It holds out as tempting baits public offices, commissions, fat positions, etc., which constitute the organism of the official machine. It seems an absolute condition for political preferment. To meet an ambitious young man who despises and detests the perfidious Corrupter is a marvel of God's grace.
3. Men become Liberal out of avarice, or the love of money. To get along in the world, to succeed in business, is always a standing temptation of Liberalism. It meets the young man at every turn. Around him in a thousand ways does he feel the secret or open hostility of the enemies of his faith. In mercantile life or in the professions he is passed by, overlooked, ignored. Let him relax a little in his faith, Join a forbidden secret society, and lo, the bolts and bars are drawn; he possesses the "open sesame" to success! Then the invidious discrimination against him melts in the fraternal embrace of the enemy, who rewards his perfidy by advancing him in a thousand ways. Such a temptation is difficult for the ambitious to withstand. Be Liberal, admit that there is no great difference between men's creeds, that at the bottom they are really the same after all. Proclaim your breadth of mind by admitting that other religious beliefs are just as good for other people as your faith is for you; they are, as far as they know, just as right as you are; it is largely a question of education and temperament what a man believes; and how quickly you are patted on the back as a "broad-gauged" man who has escaped the narrow limitations of his creed. You will be extensively patronized, for Liberalism is very generous to a convert. "Falling down adore me, and I will give you all these things' " says Satan yet to Jesus Christ in the desert.
Such are the ordinary causes of perversions to Liberalism; from these all others flow. Whoever has any experience of the world and the human heart can easily trace the others.