“Joseph Cook and Roman Catholicism” American Sentinel 3, 11, pp. 81, 82.

November 1888

IN the prelude to the 201st Boston Monday lecture, Joseph Cook discussed the attitude of the Catholic Church toward the public school. He said:—

“Roman Catholic authorities wholly deny to civil government the right to conduct the secular education of all the people, and intend to apply to the United States, as soon as the opportunity permits, the same educational principles which have kept the mass of the populations of Roman Catholic countries in a state of intellectual childhood. The Popes have often declared that the toleration of schools not under the control of the Catholic Church is a sin on the part of the civil government.”

He referred to James Anthony Froude’s statement that in his late visit to the West Indies he held a long conversation with a Catholic ecclesiastic from America, in which the discussion ranged through a long course of history, and he found that on nearly every point they differed as to matters of fact. “And the outcome of the conversation was to open the eyes of the English historian to the fact that the most systematic mutilation of history goes on in the Roman Catholic schools on the American as well as on the European side of the Atlantic.”

He quoted from the Catholic World these words:—

“We, of course, deny the competency of the State to educate, to say what shall or shall not be taught in the public schools.”

And these:—

“Before God, no man has a right to be of any religion but the Catholic.”

And from a paper entitled The Catholics of the Nineteenth Century, he quoted this:—

“The supremacy asserted for the church in matters of education implies the additional and cognate functions of censorship of ideas, and the right to examine and approve, or disapprove, all books, publications, writings, and utterances in-tended for public instruction, enlightenment, or entertainment, and the supervision of places of amusement.”

And yet this same Joseph Cook is a vice-president of an Association which stands pledged to join hands with Rome whenever she is ready, and gladly to accept co-operation in any way in which she is willing to exhibit it; and to put the Catholic Bible, and Catholic instruction, into the public schools wherever the Catholics are in the majority. In a National Reform Conference held at Saratoga, August 15-17, 1887, during which Joseph Cook made a speech, the corresponding secretary of the National Reform Association, of which Joseph Cook is a vice-president, was asked this question:—

“If we put the Protestant Bible in the schools where Protestants are in the majority, how could we object to the Douay version [the Roman Catholic Bible] in schools where Roman Catholics are in the majority?”

And the corresponding secretary answered—“We wouldn’t object.”

Further along in the proceedings we have the following record:—

“Rev. Dr. Price, of Tennessee: ‘I wish to ask the secretary, Has any attempt ever been made by the National Reform Association to ascertain whether a consensus, or agreement, could be reached with our Roman Catholic fellow-citizens, whereby we may unite in support of the schools as they do in Massachusetts?’

“The secretary: ‘I regret to say there has not … But I recognize it as a wise and dutiful course on the part of all who are engaged in, or who discuss, the work of education, to make the effort to secure such an agreement.

“Dr. Price: ‘I wish to move that the National Reform Association be requested by this conference to bring this matter to the attention of American educators and of Roman Catholic authorities, with a view of securing such a basis of agreement if possible.’

“The motion was seconded and adopted.”

That is what the National Reform Association is pledged and commissioned to do; Joseph Cook took an active part in that same conference; and he is yet a vice-president of that Association, exerting his influence for its success. In view of these facts Joseph Cook’s position is rather “amphibious.” His Boston Monday lecture compared with his official connection with this Association reveals a course which, to say the least, is highly inconsistent.

Note, in the above quotation they propose to secure this agreement with the Catholics “in support of the schools as they do in Massachusetts.” Upon this the action of the Catholic school board of Boston in banishing from the Boston schools Swinton’s “Outlines of History,” is a most telling comment. That is how the Catholics unite with Protestants (?) in support of the schools in Massachusetts; and that is just how the National Reform Association—Joseph Cook a vice-president—proposes that the Catholics shall unite with Protestants throughout the Nation. In other words, that association proposes to hand over the American public-school system, as far as possible, to the Catholic Church.

But Mr. Cook proposes a remedy for this “Roman Catholic aggression,” which he, as [82] vice-president of the National Reform Association, is helping forward; and it is this:—

“We must teach in the common schools, in an unsectarian way, the broad, undisputed principles of morals and religion as to which good men agree, and thus stop the mouths of those who say that the American common schools may be justly called godless.”

That is, he will cure the disease either by increasing it, or by introducing another not quite so bad at first, but with the moral certainty that it will soon grow fully as bad.

Teach in the schools, says Mr. Cook, those “principles of morals and religion as to which good men agree;’ that is, the “good men” of all denominations, of course, because the teaching is to be wholly unsectarian. And these good men would certainly be the representative men of the different denominations, as Dr. Schaff, in telling what parts of the Bible should be taught, says:—

“A competent committee of clergymen and laymen of all denominations could make a judicious selection which would satisfy every reasonable demand.”

That gives it wholly to the church to say what shall or shall not be taught in the public schools; and that is precisely the declaration of the Catholic Church as quoted from the Catholic World by Joseph Cook himself. If Mr. Cook would confine to Protestants the exercise of this prerogative that is not much relief, for the principle is the same as the Catholic, and the exercise of it by a Protestant censorship would be scarcely less unbearable than by a Catholic censorship.

But it could not be confined even to a Protestant censorship; for Senator Blair’s proposed Constitutional Amendment, which Joseph Cook heartily indorses, distinctly specifies “the Christian religion.” Now the leading Protestants acknowledge the Catholic to be an important branch of the Christian religion. Therefore, amongst these “good men” suggested by Mr. Cook, and that “competent committee of clergymen and laymen” mentioned by Dr. Schaff, there would assuredly be numbered “good” Cardinal Gibbons, and a troop of “good” archbishops and bishops of the Catholic Church. And when it shall have been decided arid settled just what principles of religion shall be taught in the public schools, they will be such principles as will be satisfactory to the Catholic Church, which will only open the way for the Catholic Church to enter the public school and teach the Catholic religion at the public expense. And that is precisely what Joseph Cook’s “remedy” amounts to—it only fastens the disease more firmly upon the victim.

As the principle laid down by him is essentially Catholic, it was hardly to be expected that he would leave the subject without supporting his Catholic principle by Catholic doctrine and argument, accordingly he says:—

“With a rule excusing children from any religious exercise to which their parents object, the private right of conscience need not come into conflict with public rights. It is a legal principle that where the right of society and the right of the individual come into conflict, the former is deemed paramount. We need not insist on making religious exercises compulsory against the will of parents; but it is preposterous to suppose that because a Jew objects to our Sabbath laws therefore we must repeal the Sabbath laws for the whole Nation. Shall we allow the fly to rule the coach-wheel upon which he happens to sit?”

Any public speaker who would count, even by comparison, the consciences and the rights of men, as worthy of no more consideration than a fly, ought not to be listened to. But such views of the consciences and the rights of the minority have ever been those of the National Reformers, and although Mr. Cook has been a vice-president of the National Reform Association only about two years, he appears already to be entirely worthy of the position. These views moreover are being popularized very fast by the influential politico-religious leaders, such as Joseph Cook and his W. C. T. U.-Prohibition-National-Reform confreres.

A. T. J.

Share this: