THAT papal leaders in this country and at Rome know how to turn into account the situation in the Philippines, has been several times pointed out in these columns, and current events continue to call attention to the fact. And it is evident there Rome expects to profit much from the position in which the United States has placed itself, by errors committed both there and here.
Rome is now pressing upon the Government the alleged fact that she has been grossly mistreated by the American forces in and around Manila. Her church buildings have actually been occupied by American soldiers, and in some cases the altars have even been found convenient for use in establishing telegraphic  communication between Manila and the American front. Added to this are tales of desecration of “sacred” garments and instruments committed by sacrilegious soldiers. It is admitted that much of this alleged desecration is not yet substantiated by proof.
An illustration of this attitude by American Catholics was given at the Silver Jubilee of the Catholic Young Men’s National Union, at Newark, N.J. Bishop Walker there said:—
“It seems to me that this is the proper time to investigate the rumors of the desecration of Catholic churches and monasteries by American soldiers in the vicinity of Manila. If reports are true, the perpetrators should be punished.
“The Catholic Church in Manila stands for the same thing as the Catholic Church here. In one of our New York illustrated magazines there appeared recently a picture of the interior of a Catholic church near Manila, used as a telegraph station by soldiers of the United States army. The very altar on which Catholics witnessed the offering of the sacrifice of the mass is desecrated and the tabernacle used as a place for wires.
“These altars are as sacred to us as are our own, and it is our duty to protest to the Government if all this be true. It is our sacred duty as Catholics to demand the punishment of those were responsible. I would express a wish that your convention pass a resolution asking for an investigation.”
To diverge momentarily from the subject, it is a pity that since “the Catholic church Manila stands for the same thing as a Catholic church here,” those Americans who think that Rome stands for enlightenment and progress in this country cannot go to Manila and there see for themselves what Roman stood for there and elsewhere throughout the islands. It is true enough that Rome stands for the same thing in one land as in another, and for what she stands in the most Catholic lands, she stands for and those least under her control.
But the church has not stopped with a mere protest and call for investigation made at Catholic gatherings. Cardinal Gibbons has had an interview with the President. What was said at that interview of course is not divulge, but it is an admitted that it related to affairs in the Philippines; and also that the President has given the assurance to the cardinal that strict care will be exercised for the protection of Catholic property in Luzon from desecration.
That there is considerable “desecration” of church property in the Philippines, incident to the war, is no doubt true. Appropriation of church property or of any other property to military uses is incident to war everywhere. It is expected that every other consideration will remain secondary to that of making a successful campaign. In no other way could war be successfully conducted. For this “desecration” in itself, however, Rome cares little. What she has in view are the claims to be presented to the Government for damages, and—more important still—the opening of negotiations between the Government and the Vatican. The United States seized these churches in hostile territory. They were property of an enemy. But no matter; the precedent has been established on that point, which makes it liable for church property, in all cases, even when confiscated from an enemy. It recently paid $280,000 as damages for having occupied one building in Nashville, the property of the M. E. Church South, during a campaign of the Civil War. Will it not now pay to the Catholic Church $288,000, or more for having occupied a number of her fine edifices in the island of Luzon? or compensate for the same in some other way?
That the papacy is making use of the situation to establish official relations with the Government, is widely recognized as a fact. Referring to Cardinal Gibbons’ interview with the President, a dispatch from Washington says:—
“The great significance of this meeting between the President and the official head of the Catholic Church of this country attaches to the belief that Cardinal Gibbons called at the direct instance of the Vatican, and in pursuance to the pontiff’s recent declaration to the chaplain of the ‘Olympia’ that he would soon open communication with this Government.”
And all this comes from the error of the Government in departing from the principles of justice on which it was first established. It should not have recognized the claim made on religious grounds in behalf of the property of the M. E. Church South; then it would not have established a precedent for paying out untold amounts that will be demanded from the public treasury in time to come. And secondly, it should not have undertaken the conquest of the Philippines. Then it would have had no “desecration” of Catholic property to answer for, and Rome would have no excuse for an attempt to set up negotiations with it.
So long as the United States adhered to the established American principles of government by consent of the governed, and separation of religion from the state, Rome could gain but little in a political way. But Rome has stood ready to take advantage of every departure of the nation from these principles, and on every such occasion she has advanced and occupied the ground surrendered by the failing champions of free government, until she stands to-day where she sees but little room remaining to debar her onward march to complete victory.
Nevertheless the principles of eternal truth and right remain; and some there are who stand fast with them, and will so stand against the utmost advance of Rome, proclaiming to the end the gospel message of the right of every man to physical, mental, and moral freedom.