“The Pope in American Politics” The American Sentinel 2, 6, pp. 42, 43.

June 1887

THE following remarks we select from an article by James Powell, D. D., under the above heading, in the Advance. The article was called out by the action of the Pope summoning priest McGlynn to Rome to answer for his part in the Henry George campaign for mayor of New York City, last fall.

“The fact is, the Pope claims the right, and exercises it, to interfere directly with American politics. This fact ought to be a startling message to the whole country. If any queen, king, or emperor on the face of the earth were to interfere with the politics of the country, as the Pope has done in this case, the war fever would take possession of the land inside of twenty-four hours. The silence of the press on this point is almost entirely owing to the dangerous character of the political teachings championed by the priest in advocating the electing of Henry George. Socialism is a justly dreaded evil because of its destructive doctrines, but the truth or falsity of political doctrines affects not the principle that foreign powers must not be allowed to interfere with the rights of American citizens. We give that principle away, when, without protesting against the interference, we commend the Pope for dealing with Father McGlynn as he has.

“Suppose that the priest had been silenced, and ordered to Rome to answer for openly defending the pubic-school system in [43] opposetion to the direction of is archbishop, where would be the difference so far as the principle is concerned? It would not be any more an interference than in the case under consideration; yet had it been so, from one end of the land to the other, the press and pulpit would have been heard speaking out. Interference of any kind, and to any degree, with American politics, on the part of the Pope, should be resented not only by popular protest, but by the State Department of our Government at Washington. The Pope should be given to understand that when he summons an American citizen to answer in Rome for political acts and words performed and spoken in the exercise of his political rights, he assails the Republic.

“No jugglery of word definition should be allowed. Rome is well up on that little trick. She knows how to make the word religion elastic enough to mean anything that is wanted. She can easily make a definition to mark any political theory she wishes as “contrary to the teachings of the church,” and then, under the pretext of discriminating between religion and politics, proceed by anathema and excommunication to carry out her purpose. The Republic is not called upon to accept her definitions. It is intelligent enough to make its own, and strong enough to stand by them. This incident of Father McGlynn is a providential opportunity to hold up the Papacy before the people as it really is,—a foreign power claiming the right to interfere with Governments. It is the old story.

“It will not do to say the Rome does not allow its priests to mix in politics. It does. It has done it. Priests are all the while mixing in politics. So long as they are fighting our common-school system, the very bulwark of our free institutions, not a word is heard from the bishops; they are all in it themselves. Nor from the Pope; that is in the line of his temporal policy. But when a priest takes a political position that antagonizes the theories of Rome, then politics becomes religion—a definition does it—and the poor priest, if he fails to see it in this light, is declared to be disobedient to the holy mother church, and exposed to all the censures and punishments that belong to all the censures and punishments that belong to the heretic. And what is that? The loss of his soul. So he himself and all good Catholics must regard it. What a terrible engine this for working mischief in the Republic! Whatever the outcome, whether Father McGlynn submits or leaves, the incident is full of meaning and significance. Press, pulpit, and platform ought to give it full ventilation.”

Yes, the press, the pulpit, and the platform ought to give it full ventilation, but they will not. Instead of giving this menace full ventilation or any ventilation at all, press, pulpit, and platform will pay assiduous court to Rome, and invoke her further interference. Rev. C. C. Stratton, D.D., one of the foremost men of the Methodist Church on the Pacific Coast, visits the Archbishop of San Francisco to form an alliance, in a political measure. The late Rev. A. A. Hodge, D.D., one of the foremost men of the Presbyterian Church in all the country, only a little while before his death proposed a like alliance, to force religion into the public schools. The National Reform party, composed of “all evangelical denominations” and the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, bids for the help of Rome, and pronounces itself willing to suffer rebuffs to gain her help to amend the Constitution of the Nation so as to make it recognize and enforce a national religion. The press of the Nation publishes whole columns of cablegrams from Rome, telling how imposing are the parades and ceremonies of the Pope, what crowds of people attend, how they fall on their knees as the Pope enters in state, how many kiss his hand, and to whom is granted the sublime dignity of kissing his toe. Government vessels of the United States, carrying official representatives of the Government, put the Papal flag in the place of honor, instead of the Stars and Stripes. And this is the way in which the pulpit, the platform, the press, and the Government, give full ventilation” to the interference of the Pope with American politics!

A. T. J.

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