THE "CIVILITA CATTOLICA'S" CHARITY TO LIBERALSCharity in controversy with Liberals would be like taking a serpent to one's bosom. It would be as if one embraced some loathsome contagious disease with the foolish notion that to court it would secure immunity from its fearful ravages. Notwithstanding the plain common sense of the situation, and the memorable warning of our Lord that he who loves the fire shall perish in it, some foolish Catholics join with the Liberals in their cry for a magnanimous display of charity on our part when we wage war against them.
Lest our competence to judge in so important a matter be called in question we will cite as authority on this subject the foremost religious journal of the world, the Civilta Cattolica, founded by Pius IX himself and confided by him to the conduct of the Fathers of the Society of Jesus. The Civilta, never suffering an instant of (123) repose to Italian Liberalism, has been often reproached for its want of charity towards the Liberals. Replying to these pharasaical homilies on the measure of charity due them, the Civilta published a delightfully humorous, and at the same time solidly philosophical article, some passages of which we here transcribe for the consolation of our Liberals and those tainted Catholics who make common cause with them in decrying Ultramontane methods:
"De Maistre said that the Church and the pope have never asked anything but truth and justice for their cause. On the other hand the Liberals, no doubt on account of the horror they naturally entertain for truth and above all for justice, are always demanding, charity.
"For more than a dozen years have we, on our part, been witness to this curious spectacle given us by Italian Liberals. They never cease imploring with tears in their eyes our charity. Their importunities have at last become insupportable; they have lost all sense of shame; supplicatingly, in press, in verse, in their brochures, in their journals, in public and private letters, anonymous and pseudonymous, directly or indirectly, they beg us for the love of God to show them some charity. They beseech us not to give them over to the (124) ridicule of their neighbors, not to expose to an inspection so detailed, so minute, their sublime writings: not to be so obstinate in subjecting their glorious exploits to such a strong searchlight; to close our eyes and our ears to their blunders, their solecisms, their lies, their calumnies, their obscurities; in a word to let them live in peace.
"The Liberals have imitated, by this edifying conversion to the love of mendicancy, another not less celebrated and not less edifying conversion, that of a rich miser to the virtue of almsgiving, was so touched by the sermon that on going out of the Church he exclaimed: "It would be impossible for any good Christian, who has heard this discourse, henceforth not to give from time to time something in charity." And so it is with our Liberals. After having shown (according to the measure of their means) by their acts and their writings that they have a love for charity equal to the Devil's for holy water, when they hear it spoken of, they suddenly remember that there exists in the world a thing called charity, which might on certain occasions (125) prove very profitable to them. So they show themselves distractedly enamored with it, and vociferously demand it from Pope, bishop, and clergy, religious, journalists, and everybody, even from the editors of the Civilta. It is curious to follow all the excellent reasons they offer in their own favor!
"To believe them, it is not in their own interest at all that they hold such language! Heavens, no! When they speak thus, it is entirely in the interest of our holy religion, which they cherish in their heart's core and which suffers so much from our very uncharitable manner of defending it! They even speak in the interest of the reactionaries themselves, and especially (who would believe it!) in the interest of the editors of the Civilta Cattolica!
"What obliges you to enter into these quarrels? They confidentially say to us. Have you not enough enemies already? Be tolerant and your adversaries will be so with you. What do you gain by following this wretched occupation like a dog spending his life barking at robbers? If in the end you are beaten, struckdown, to whom do you owe it, if not to yourselves and that indomitable animosity of yours, which is ever seeking the lash?
"What sage and disinterested reasoning, (126) whose only defect is that it singularly resembles that which the police officer urged upon Renzo Tramaglino, in the romance of The Betrothed, when he essayed to conduct him to prison by persuasion, fearing that if he used force the young man would offer resistance. * * * The only result of these exhortations was to confirm Renzo in his design to pursue a course just opposite to that which the officer advised.
"This design, to speak properly, we are strongly tempted also to form; for, in truth, we cannot persuade ourselves that the injury, great or small, which we cause religion, matters much or little to the Liberals, nor that they would give themselves so much trouble for our sakes. We are persuaded, on the contrary, that if the Liberals really believed that our manner of acting were hurtful to religion or ourselves, they would carefully refrain from adverting to it, but rather encourage us in it by their applause. We even conclude that the zeal which they show in our regard and their reiterated prayers to modify our style, are the surest signs that religion suffers nothing from our methods, and, moreover, that our writings have some readers, which is always some slight consolation to the writer. * * *
"But as many of them (the Liberals) continue (127) to beg, and as they have recently published a little book at Perugia entitled: What does the Catholic Party say? Which they devote entirely to a demand upon the Civilta Cattolica for charity, it will be useful, in beginning this fifteenth series of our Review, to confute once more the old objections with the old answers. It will be in fact a great charity, not such indeed as the Liberals beg of us, but one truly very meritorious; the charity of listening to them with patience for the hundredth time."