The Lies And Fallacies Of
The Encyclopedia Britanica
How Powerful And Shameless Clerical Forces Castrated
A Famous Work Of Reference
A few years ago I had occasion to refer in one of my books to the male soprani of the papal chapel at Rome. These castrated males, sexually mutilated, as every priest and every Italian knew, for soprani in the choir of the Sistine Chapel, were the amusement of Rome when it developed a large degree of skepticism but a grave scandal to the American and British Catholics who began to arrive about the middle of the last century. One of the vices which the Spaniards had brought to Italy in the 16th century along with the Borgia family and the Spanish Roman Emperors was the falsetto singer. There were artists who could sing falsetto with distinction, but as the opera gained in popularity in Italy the practice began of emasculating boys with good voices and retaining them as male soprani or, as the Italians, with their usual lack of Christian reticence about sex called them, the castrati. They were in every opera in the 18th century, but foreign visitors were never reconciled to them. The famous English weekly,. The Spectator, wrote about “the shrill celestial whine of eunuchs,” and by the end of the 18th century they began to fade out of the opera-house.
But, as the word “celestial” indicates, they were found also in the choir of all churches that were proud of their music, particularly in the chapel of the Vatican Palace. the Sistine Chapel, one of the greatest shrines of art as well as of virtue and piety in Rome. And the church, clung to their eunuchs when public opinion almost drove them out of opera. The plea seems to have been that there was some indelicacy, or risk of it, in having females in the church choir, so the priests chose to ignore the rather indelicate nature of the operation of emasculation. The fact was as well known as the celibacy of the clergy. Grovels standard “Dictionary of Music and Musicians” (1927) says in a section titled “Castrati”:
“Eunuchs were in vogue as singers until comparatively recent times; they were employed in the choirs of Rome.”
So Macmillan’s and all other leading dictionaries of music, and English and American visitors to Rome before 1870 who wrote books rarely failed to mention, with smirks of humor or frowns of piety, how the beautiful music of the papal choir was due in large part to manufactured soprani. In the later years of the last century I talked with elderly men who had, out of curiosity, dined or lunched with these quaint servants of God.
An American reader wrote me that a Catholic friend, who had doubtless, as is usual, consulted his pastor, indignantly denied the statement. It was one of the usual “lies of Freethinkers.” For an easily accessible authority, reliable on such a point, I referred him to the Encyclopedia Britannica. In all editions to 1928 the article “Eunuchs,” after discussing the barbaric African custom of making eunuchs for the harem, said:
“Even more vile, as being practiced by a civilized European nation, was the Italian practice of castrating boys to prevent the natural development of the voice, in order to train them as adult soprano singers, such as might formerly be found in the Sistine Chapel. Though such mutilation is a crime punishable with severity, the supply of soprani never failed as long as these musical powers were in demand in high quarters. Driven long ago from the Italian stage by public opinion they remained the musical glory and the moral shame of the papal choir till the accession of Pope Leo XII, one of whose first acts was to get rid of them.”
My correspondent replied, to my astonishment, that there was no such passage in the Britannica, and I began the investigation of which I give the results in the present little book. I found at once that in the 14th edition, which was published in 1929, the passage had been scandalously mutilated, the facts about church choirs suppressed, and the reader given an entirely false impression of the work of Leo XII. In this new edition the whole of the above passage is cut out and this replaces it:
“The Italian practice of castrating boys in order to train them as adult soprano singers ended with the accession of Pope Leo XIII.”
The reader is thus given to understand that the zealous Pope found the shameless practice lingering in the opera-houses and forbade it. The fact, in particular, that the Church of Rome had until the year 1878 not only permitted this gross mutilation but required it for the purpose of its most sacred chapel — that Pope Pius IX, the first Pope to be declared infallible by the Church, the only modern Pope for whom the first official stage of canonization was demanded, sat solemnly on his throne in the Sistine Chapel for 20 years listening to “the shrill celestial whine of eunuchs” — were deliberately suppressed. Those facts are so glaringly inconsistent with the claims of Catholic writers in America that the suppression was clearly due to clerical influence, and I looked for the method in which it had been applied.
The Encyclopedia is, as its name implies, an ancient British institution inspired by the great French Encyclopedia of the 18th century. As the American reading public increased it served both countries, and by 1920 the special needs of American readers and the great development of science and technics made it necessary to prepare an entirely recast edition. It now had an American as well as a British staff and publishing house. and it was dedicated to King George and President Hoover. The last trace of the idealism of its earlier publishers disappeared. What bargains were secretly made to secure a large circulation we do not know but when the work was completed in 1928 the Westminster Catholic Federation which corresponds to the Catholic Welfare organization in America, made this boast in its annual report:
“The revision of the Encyclopedia Britannica was undertaken with a view to eliminate matter which was objectionable from a Catholic point of view and to insert what was accurate and unbiased. The whole of the 28 volumes were examined, objectionable parts noted, and the reasons for their deletion or amendment given. There is every reason to hope that the new edition of the Britannica will he found very much more accurate and impartial than its predecessors.”
This blazing Indiscretion seems to have struck sparks in the publishing offices in London and New York — later reprints of this emasculated edition have the imprint of “The University of Chicago,” which seems to have taken over the responsibility — for on August 9, 1929, a singular public notice appeared in what is called the Agony Column of the London Times. I should explain to American readers that the first page of this famous paper is given up to advertisements and public and private notices and the two central columns are so much used by separated and broken-hearted lovers (“Ethel. Where are you? I suffer agony for you. Your adoring George,” etc.) and ladies who have lost their pets or are in need of money etc., that many frivolous folk take the paper for the humor of those two columns. One of the longest notices that ever appeared in it was that of August 9., It rung:
“Westminster Catholic Federation (in large type). On behalf of the Westminster Catholic Federation we desire to state that it has been brought to our attention that the wording of the second paragraph of the report of the Vigilance Sub-Committee of the Federation, (page 18 of the Federation’s 21st Annual Report) concerning the forthcoming edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica has apparently given rise to a misunderstanding. We therefore wish to make it clear that it was far from our intention in the above- mentioned report to suggest that the Federation has exercised any influence whatever upon the editing of the Encyclopedia. Such a suggestion would be devoid of any vestige of foundation. The facts are that the Federation offered to the Editor of the Encyclopedia its assistance in checking statements of fact appearing in articles in the previous edition dealing with the Catholic Church in its historical, doctrinal, or theological aspects. This offer was accepted, and the Federation was thus enabled to draw attention to certain errors of date and other facts regarding the teaching and discipline of the Catholic Church. Beyond this the Federation has had no hand whatever in the preparation or editing of articles for the new edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica on whatever subject, and any suggestions to the contrary is, as we have said, without the slightest foundation.
A.J., London, W.C.2.”
I have stressed the essential part of this singular message so that the reader will bear in mind that Catholic authorities gave the public their solemn assurance that they had requested — demanded might be a better word — only alterations of wrong dates and statements about the teaching and discipline of the Church.
Penitence is a familiar and beautiful practice in the Catholic world but we common folk like to have truth even in penitence. The example I have already given of the suppression of material facts and a natural comment on them in regard to eunuch singers and the entirely false impression conveyed by the sentences which Catholics supplied gives the lie at once to this apology. Undisputed facts which are strictly relevant to an examination of Catholic claims have been suppressed. They have nothing to do with dates or the teaching and discipline of the Church. It is an axiom of Catholic moral theology that suppression of the truth is a suggestion of untruth,” and the substituted passage goes beyond this. I propose to show that this introduction of a, painfully familiar Catholic policy has been carried right through the Encyclopedia. Naturally the immense majority of its articles do not in any way relate to the church, and I do not claim that I have compared every short notice or every sentence in longer articles, in the 11th and 14th editions of the Britannica. Even these short unsigned notices, referring to such matters as popes and saints, have often been falsified, and I give a few examples. But I am mainly concerned with important alterations. There are still passages in the Encyclopedia which the Catholic clergy do not like. Writers who are still alive may have objected to the adulteration of their work, or the facts may be too notorious for the editors to permit interference. But I give here a mass of evidence of the corrupt use of the great power which the Catholic Church now has: a warning of what the public may expect now that that Church has, through its wealth and numbers, secured this pernicious influence on publications, the press, the radio, and to an increasing extent on education and even the cinema.
It will be useful to give first the outcome of a somewhat cursory survey, page by page, of the first few volumes of the Encyclopedia. More important — in their bearing on the Church — articles in later volumes commonly have the initial X at the close, which seems to be the cloak of the Catholic adulterator. This will enable any reader to compare for himself passages in the 11th and the 14th editions, but the conspirator shows his hand even in large numbers of short unsigned, especially biographical, notices. It is, of course, understood that the work had to be considerably abbreviated to accommodate new developments of science and life, in the 14th edition, but when you find that the curtailing consists in suppressing an unpleasant judgment or a fact about a Pope while unimportant statements of fact are untouched, and when you find the life of a saintly man or the flattering appreciation of his work little affected while the life or work of a heretic is sacrificed, you have a just suspicion.
An example is encountered early in the first volume in the short notices of the Popes Adrian I and Adrian II. Adrian was the Pope of Charlemagne’s time, and every historian knows that the emperor came, as he shows in his letters, to despise the Pope and to defy him on a point of doctrine; ‘for at that time the use and veneration of statues in the churches was made a doctrinal issue between East and West. The notice of Adrian in the older edition of the Encyclopedia was one of those inexpert paragraphs by some man who knew nothing about the importance of the quarrel, but a priestly hand has untruthfully inserted in the new edition:
“The friendly relations between Pope and Emperor were not disturbed by the difference which arose between them on the question of the veneration of images.”
Here, instead of abbreviating, the editor gratuitously inserts new matter, and it is untruthful. The Pope, whose safety depended upon the favor of Charlemagne, said little, it is true, but at a time when “the veneration of images” — as historians persist in calling statues. — was the greatest issue in the Church, Charlemagne put his own name to a book in which Roman practice and theory were denounced as sinful, the whole Gallician Church was got to support him, and the timid protests of the Pope were contemptuously ignored.
The touch in the notice of Pope Adrian II has just as little to do with dates and discipline and is just the suppression of a fact which the Church does not like. The real interest of the Pope is that he presided over the Church in the latter part of the 9th century, the time when it was sinking into its deepest degradation. The appalling coarseness of life is seen in the fact that the Pope’s daughter was abducted by the son of a bishop and brother of a leading cardinal, and when the Pope got the Emperor to send troops, he murdered them. The notice of the Pope in the 11th edition adds that “his (the noble abductor) reputation suffered but a momentary eclipse,” which is perfectly true, for the abducting family were high both in church and nobility and the Romans in large part supported them. But the sentence has been cut out of the new edition. Little touches of that sort, not always condensing the text but always — and generally untruthfully — in the interest of the Church occur repeatedly.
Such articles as “Agnosticism” and “Atheism”. did not concern the Catholic Church in particular and were left to more honest but hardly less bigoted clerical writers. I need say of them only that they reflect the cloudy ideas of some theologian and tell the reader no more about the situation in these matters today than if they had been written by a Hindu swami. A different procedure is found when we come to “Alban.” The old notice. said that he is usually styled “the proto-martyr of Britain,” and added “but it is impossible to determine with certainty whether he ever existed, as no mention of him occurs till the middle of the 6th century”; which is correct. But these zealots for correctness of dates and discipline have, in the new edition, turned him into an indisputably real saint and martyr. He is now “the first martyr of Britain” and all hints of dispute about his historicity are cut out.
We pass to “Albertos Magnus” — why an Encyclopedia in English should not say Albert the Great is not explained; possibly the epithet is less offensive to the eye in Latin — and this article is condensed (as the whole new editions had to be) in a peculiarly clerical manner. The original writer had never properly informed the reader that Albert was so much indebted to Aristotle for his “science” that he was known to Catholic contemporaries as “the Ape of Aristotle” and that he was apt to be so inaccurate that he described Plato (Who lived a century before the Stoic school was founded) as a Stoic. These things are sacrificed in the sacred cause of abbreviation but new compliments, such as that Bacon called Albert “the most noted of Christian philosophers” are inserted to fill the gaps.
The article “Albigensians” is one in which a modern student would most surely expect a modern encyclopedia to replace the conventional old article by one in line with our historical knowledge. Instead of this we get a page article reduced to half a page, and this is done chiefly by cutting out 25 lines in which the older writer had honestly explained that the Pope turned the brutal Knights of France upon the Albigensians only when 20 years preaching failed to make the least impression on them and 10 lines showing what “vast inquests” of the Inquisition were still needed after years of slaughter by the Pope’s savage “crusaders.” We therefore recognize the anointed hand of the abbreviator. And it is clear that the editor or sub-editor cheated the public of a most important truth by entrusting this article to Catholic “correctors of dates and discipline.” We now fully realize the importance from the angle of the history of civilization of this brilliant but anti-Christian little civilization in the South of France (close to Arab Spain) and what Europe lost. Of the brutality of the massacre and the Pope’s dishonesty in engineering it the reader is, of course, given no idea, though these are found in the Pope’s extant letters.
Even such articles as that on “Alembert” — the famous French skeptic and scientist D’Alembert — seem to have been handed over to the clerical shearer, for the proper appreciation of his character and ability and his work against the Jesuits are the chief material that has been abbreviated, but we turn with more interest to the “Alexander” Popes. I need not say, that anybody who expects an up-to-date account of the great Alexandrian schools of science and of the splendor of life under the early Ptolemies will be deeply disappointed, but it is chiefly the name of Pope Alexander VI which here catches the eye,
Catholics long ago abandoned their attempts to whitewash the historical figure of that amazingly erotic and unscrupulous Spaniard and especially after the work of the Catholic historian Dr. L. Pastor it is impossible to suggest outside the Sunday School that there has been any libelling of this Pope. What the clerical retouchers have mainly done is to remove sentences in which the older writer correctly, though only casually and incidentally, let the reader know that such a Pope was possible only because the Church was then extraordinarily corrupt. He admitted, for instance, that Alexander bad been notoriously corrupt for years, as a cardinal, when he was elected Pope:
“Although ecclesiastical corruption was then at its height his riotous mode of life called down upon him a very severe reprimand from Pope Pius II.”
This is cut out, of course, though we still have the letter in which the Pope — himself a rake in his early years, by the way — describes the cardinal’s scandalous life. Cut out also (for abbreviation) is this passage:
“A characteristic instance of the corruption of the papal court is the fact that Borgia’s daughter Lucrezia lived with his mistress Giulia, who bore him a daughter, Laura, in 1492 (the year of his consecration as Pope).”
In short, while it would have elicited the scorn of historians to attempt to suppress all mention of Alexander’s mistresses and children the article of the 11th edition, which was correct as far as it went, is so manipulated that the reader has no idea that the Cardinal was brazen in his conduct at the actual time of his election and entertained his mistress, who was painted on one of the walls of the Vatican Palace as the Virgin Mary, and his children in the “sacred Palace”; and that this was due to the general sordid corruption of the Church. Sexual looseness was the least pernicious of Borgia’s vices, but where the old article noticed that his foreign policy was inspired only by concern to enrich his children and “for this object he was ready to commit any crime and to plunge all Italy into war,” this Catholic stickler for accuracy has cut it out.
Soon after Alexander we come to Antonelli. This man was Cardinal Secretary of State to Pope Gregory XVI and Pope Pius IX, who is counted a saint by American Catholics. He was the son of a poor wood-cutter and he died a millionaire: he left $20,000,000 — leaving a bastard daughter, a countess to fight greedy relatives for it. He had refused to take priestly orders because he wanted freedom. His greed, looseness and complete indifference to the vile condition of the Papal States were known to everybody. In the 11th edition we read of him:
“At Antonelli’s death the Vatican finances were found to be in disorder, with a deficit of, 45,000,000 lire. His personal fortune, accumulated during office, was considerable and was bequeathed almost entirely to his family. . . . His activity was directed almost exclusively to the struggle between the Papacy and the Italian Risorgimento, the history of which is comprehensible only when the influence exercised by his unscrupulous grasping and sinister personality is fully taken into account.”
The last part of this now reads “Is comprehensible only when his unscrupulous influence is fully taken into account.” Apart from the one word “unscrupulous” the reader is totally misled as to his character.
The article on Aquinas was already written favorably to the Church and only a few light touches were needed.. But the eagle eye caught. a sentence, perfectly accurate but offensive to Catholics, in the short notice of the noblest figure of the 12th century, Arnold of Biresoi &. It said:
“At the request of the Pope he was seized by order of the Emperor … and hanged.”
Out goes the reference to the Pope, who had tried for years to catch Arnold before he acted on a perjured passport from the Emperor; and no idea is given of the remarkable position of the premature democrat in the history of European thought.
More amusing is the manipulation of the notice of “Arthur” of Britain. In the 11th edition he is frankly presented to the reader as a myth, as the popular conception of him certainly is. All that we can say with any confidence is that there seems to have been a sort of captain named Arthur in the ragged military service of one of the half-civilized and wholly brutal British “kings” after the departure of the Romans. In this new compendium of modern scholarship (now sponsored by the University of Chicago) Arthur has been converted into an undisputed and highly respectable reality; a “King of Britain” who led his Christian armies against the pagan Anglo-Saxons. And this is done on the authority of a monk who wrote two and a half centuries later! There is no proof that this fine achievement is due to the Catholic Federation, but just as detectives look for the trade-mark of a particular burglar when a bank has been robbed….
“Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria” becomes, by the same process “Athanasius the Great, saint, and bishop of Alexandria,” and so important to us moderns that, in spite of the needs of space for new thought, the long article (by a cleric), is lengthened in the new edition. The short article on Atheism, which follows closely upon it, is, as I said, quite worthless. A British royal chaplain writes on it as if it were a point in dispute in some Pacific Island, instead of a burning question of our time. He seems to have been totally unaware of, or indifferent to, the fact that a few years earlier the majority of American scientists had (in Leuba) declared themselves Atheists, and that in the seven years before he wrote his article tens of millions of folk, from Annam across Europe to Chile, had abandoned the churches to embrace Atheism. Naturally a learned staff which announces in the preface to the Encyclopedia that it considers that the wicked materialistic, philosophy of the 19th century has been slain by the new science thinks such things beneath its notice.
Early in the B’s we get the same light touches of the clerical brush. The long and appreciative article on the great jurist and Atheist Jeremy Bentham — that he was an outspoken Atheist is, of course, not stated — one of the most powerful idealists of the post-Napoleonic period, is mercilessly cut, while the old notices of the insignificant Pope Benedicts remain. At least, I notice only one cut. It is said in the old article that “Benedict IX, perhaps the vilest man who ever wore the tiara — his almost immediate successor spoke of his “rapes, murders, and other unspeakable acts” — appears to have died impenitent.” That is cut out. It saves so much space.
A long article is inserted in the new edition on “Birth Control”: a subject that had no article in the old edition. This consists of the findings of a series of conferences on the subject mostly overshadowed by church influence. These fill several pages while the elementary grounds for seeing the necessity of it — the rapid multiplication of population in modern times — are barely noticed. A section on the religious attitude is written by the Rev. Sir James Marchant, a parson of the Church of England who is fanatically Catholic in sex-matters. It begins with the plump untruth that “it’s now recognized that the objections on religious grounds to birth control must be fully heard,” and it consists mainly of a sort of sermon by the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, whose views are “shared by many other religious communities.” We should like to hear of one which as a body has condemned birth control. Then the mysterious X appears at last with a tendentious summary of the whole article — against birth control. Strange stuff for a modern encyclopedia.
Even the article on Bismarck is retouched, mainly in the section which describes his great struggle with the Catholics of Germany, and the article “Body and Mind” is as modern as the Athanasian Creed. No evidence appears that this new article, so profoundly important in view of the advanced condition of American psychology — four manuals out of five refuse to admit “mind” — was written by a Catholic, so I will be content to say that it is an affront to American science. Later appears another new article “Bolshevism.” But there was, naturally, no article with that title in the 11th edition so that the Catholic censor knew nothing about it until it appeared in print. Its accuracy and coldness must have pained him. It is written by Professor Laski.
I say the Catholic censor but there was obviously team-work on both sides of the Atlantic, though Gildea is the only sophist mentioned on the American side. And the next item to catch the clerical eye and raise the clerical blood-pressure was the fair article on “Giordano Bruno,” in the 11th edition. You can almost see the fury with which the three columns are reduced to less than a column in the 14th edition, and this is done by cutting out about 100 lines of sober appreciation of the great ex-monk and scholar’s ability and character. Cutting out flowers is not enough. A new paragraph informs the innocent reader:
“Apart from his disdainful, boasting nature and his attack on contemporary Christianity, the chief causes of Bruno’s down-fall were his rejection of the Aristotelic astronomy for the Copernican … and his pantheistic tendencies.”
The undisputed truth is that he was burned alive by the Papacy, which came to a corrupt agreement with the Venetians in order to get hold of him and satisfy its bitter hatred of the critic.
“Buddha and Buddhism”‘ are mangled In the new edition in the most extraordinary fashion. Twelve pages of sound, useful matter are cut down to three; as if Buddhism had meantime died in the East and ceased to be of any interest to westerners. Between the publication of the two editions of the Encyclopedia a good deal has been written on the creed of Buddha, and it is quite generally agreed by experts on the religion or on India that he was an Atheist. Not a single word is said about the question, and the reader is left at the mercy of every pamphleteer who talks about the “religious genius” of the man.
More definitely and recognizably Catholic is the tampering with the notice of St. Catherine. There are two saints of that name, Catherine of Alexandria and Catherine of Siena, and the 11th edition rightly said:
“Of the former history has nothing to tell … that St. Catherine actually existed there is no evidence to disprove, and it is possible that some of the elements in her legend are due to confusion with the story of Hypatia.”
This was moderate enough. We do not have to “disprove” the existence of martyrs, and the supposed evidence in favor of her historicity is now rejected even by some Catholic experts on martyrs, while the details are often comical and the general idea is certainly based upon Hypatia. Yet in this severely-examined and up-to-date compendium of knowledge we find the first sentence of the above changed to: Of St. Catherine of Alexandria history has little to tell.” The rest is cut out and, we are brazenly told that “her actual existence is generally admitted.” The article on Catherine of Siena was already inaccurately favorable to Catholic claims in the 11th edition, so it is allowed to stand. The masterful Siennese nun had nothing like the political influence ascribed to her, and it was not she but the threats of the Romans that brought the Popes back from Avignon to Rome.
In the article “Church history,” to which in the new edition, the ominous X is appended, there are just slight changes here and there in the generally orthodox article. The treatment is as far removed from modern thought as Alaska is from Florida. It is much the same with the string of Popes who had the name Clement, The reader is still not told that many historians refuse to admit “Clement I” as the first of the Popes — he is completely ignored in the Letter of the Romans to the Corinthians of the year 96 A.D. and many of the other Clements, who were notoriously of disreputable character, are discreetly retouched, though the earlier notices let them off lightly. Clement V, a Plrench adventurer, who sold himself to the French King on vile conditions in order to get the, Papacy, has the words “in pursuance of the King’s wish he summoned the Council of Vienna” (to hold a trial of the monstrous vices of his predecessor and the still more scandalous vices of the Knights Templer, as we shall see) changed to: “Fearing that the state would proceed independently against the alleged heresies he summoned the Council of Vienna”; which is one sort of abbreviation and leaves the reader entirely ignorant of the character of the Pope. Clement VI, a notoriously sensuous and dissipated man, is left in his Catholic robes. Of Clement VII the earlier edition said: “Though free from the grosser vices of his predecessors he was a man of narrow outlook and interests.” The whole of this is cut out, suppressing both his vices and those of his predecessors. Clement XIV is said to have suppressed the Jesuits only because he thought it necessary for the peace of the Church. This is a familiar Jesuit claim and an audacious lie. In the bull of condemnation Clement endorses all the charges against the Jesuits
The article “Conclave” sounds like one that was ripe for the shearer, but even in the 11th edition it was written by a priest. And it had a Jesuit touch that the censor is careful not to correct. As the leading authority it names a Catholic work which, in any case, few have any chance to consult, while it does not mention the standard history of Papal Conclaves, that of Petrucelli della Gattina (four volumes of amazing disclosures), of which there is now an English version (V. Petrie’s “Triple Crown,” 1935). But of little tricks of this kind, especially in pressing “Sound” authorities upon the reader and concealing from him that there are good critical works that he ought to read, there is so much that it would be tiresome to trace it all. We will consider larger matters.
The short and worthless note under “Chivalry” in the old Encyclopedia would in any new edition that frankly aimed to give the reorder summaries of modern knowledge have been replaced by some account of the present general agreement of historians that the alleged Age of Chivalry (110-1400 A.D.) is sheer myth. No leading historical expert on France, Germany, England, Italy, or Spain during that period recognizes it. They all describe such a generally sordid character in the class of knights and nobles, particularly in what are considered by romantic writers the specific virtues of chivalry — chastity and the zeal for Justice — that the student of general history feels justified in concluding that, on our modern idea of chivalry, this was precisely the most unchivalrous section of civilized history. Of this truth not, a syllable is given, not even a hint that the myth is questioned. So editors, moral essayists and preachers, who take their history from the Encyclopedia, continue to shame our age with reminders of the glorious virtues of the later Middle Ages, However, we will return to this when we come to “Knighthood” and “Troubadours” where we shall find a little more satisfaction.
The article on “Confucius” in the 11th edition was written by a Protestant missionary, Dr. Legge, and he was not only a fine scholar of Chinese but a singularly honest type of missionary. In the 14th edition his excellent five pages are cut to three. One recognizes the need for abbreviation, though when one finds a four- page article on Falconry, which is really rather rare today, 16 pages on football, etc., one feels that the work of condensing might have been done differently. However in the case of a great Atheist like Confucius an Encyclopedia that would please the clergy must not pay too many compliments, and the Catholic X, who probably knows as little about Chinese as about biochemistry valiantly cuts the work of the expert to three pages, adding his X to Legge’s initials at the foot. One illustration of the way in which it is done will suffice. Confucius so notoriously rejected belief in gods and spirits that Legge’s statement of this has to remain. But there is one point on which Christians hold out desperately, Legge told the truth about it, and X cuts it out.
It is whether Confucius anticipated Christ by many centuries in formulating the Golden Rule, or, to meet the better-informed apologists, whether Confucius recommended it only in a negative form. As nothing is more common, and probably has been since the Stone Age, than to hear folk say, “Do as you would be done by,” or some such phrase, which is the Golden rule in fireside English, the fuss about it is amusing. However, the champions of Christ’s unique moral genius will have it that Confucius gave it only in the negative form. “What you do not like when done to yourself do not do to others.” As the Christian decalogue consists almost entirely of negations, that is not bad. But in the 11th edition Legge goes on to explain that when a disciple asked the master if it could be expressed in a word he used a compound Chinese word which means “As Heart” (or Reciprocity), and Legge says that he conceived the, rule in its most positive and most comprehensive form. The Rev. Mr. X suppresses this to save space and Inserts this pointless sentence:
“It has been said that he only gave the rule in a negative form to give force to a positive statement.”
So the preacher end pamphleteer continue to inform folk on the authority of J. Logge in the Encyclopedia Britannica that Confucius knew the Golden Rule only in the inferior negative form.
There was no need to let X loose with his little hatchet upon the article “Constantine.” It was, like “Charlemagne,” “Justinian,” and most such articles already subservient to piety and an outrage on historical truth. Constantine’s character is falsified by suppressing facts. For instance, in profane (and ancient Roman) history you will read that Constantine was driven from Rome by the scorn of the Romans because he had had his wife and his son murdered, probably in a fit of jealousy. Here his quitting Rome and founding Constantinople is represented as a matter of high strategy and a core for the interests of religion. Not a hint about the “execution” of his wife, bastard son, and nephew. The Romans compared him to Nero.
In 20 pages on “Crime” we do not get any statistical information whatever about the relation of crime to religious education, which after all is of some interest to our age, so, skipping a few minor matters, we come to “Crusades.” Again the article in the old Encyclopedia was so devout and misleading that X could not improve upon it. It admits that Europe had become rather boorish owing to the barbaric invasions but claims that it did provide the Church with the grand force of knight-hood to use against the wicked Moslem:
“The institution of chivalry represents such a clerical consecration, for ideal ends and noble purposes, of the martial impulses which the Church had endeavored to cheek….”
And so on. A lie in every syllable. The knights of Europe were, with rare exceptions, erotic brutes — their ladies as bad — as all authoritative historians describe them. The Pope — his words are preserved — dangled the loot of the highly civilized East before their eyes in summoning the first Crusade; and the story, almost from beginning to end, is a mixture of superstition, greed, and savagery. The only faint reference to the modern debunking of the traditional fairy tale is:
“When all is said the Crusades remain a wonderful and perpetually astonishing act in the great drama of human life.”
Even a cleric must be 150 years old and ignorant of history to write honestly like this article.
Pope “Saint” Damasus I retains his nimbus in the new great Encyclopedia though he is now known to have been an unscrupulous Spanish adventurer and, as contemporary priests said, “tickler of matrons’ ears.” A few remarks that were made in the short article in the 11th edition about the incredible massacres at his election and the impeachment of him later (for adultery) in the civil court are cut out. But while “Damasus” is abbreviated thus by cutting out references to his misdeeds, the article “Darwin,” is shortened by suppressing whole paragraphs of Professor Poulton’s fine appreciation of his character and work and the world-honors he received. “David” is in this modern encyclopedia treated as much more important than Darwin, and, while even theologians now often reject him as a myth or a dim shapeless figure, almost the whole biblical account of him is given as history.
But I have overlooked the short article on the “Dark Age,” which is nauseous. There was no article in the 11th edition on it, so an obscure professor at a third-rate British University has been commissioned to write one. The phrase was, he says, “formerly used to cover the whole period between the end of the classical civilization and the revival of learning in the 15th century.” Bunk. No historian extended it beyond the end of the 11th century. In short, he copies certain American professors of history who cater to Catholics and who give no evidence that they can even read medieval literature. The period is only dark “owing to the insufficiency of the historical evidence” yet “great intellectual work was done in unfavorable conditions.” No on except an expert today reads any book written between 420 and 1100 A.D.; and if that doesn’t mean a Dark Age we wonder what the word means. The writer does not even know that it was “the Father of Catholic History,” Cardinal Baronius, who coined the phrase.
Even worse, from the historical angle, is the article “Democracy.” It is said that “there was no room” for the idea of democracy in the Dark Age,” but “Christianity with its doctrine of brotherhood and its sense of love and pity had brought into being an idea unknown to the pagan world, the idea of man’s inherent dignity and importance.” We resent this dumping of the sermons of priests into a modern encyclopedia, but it is even worse when the emancipation of the serfs and the granting of charters to cities are traced to that source. The purely economic causes of those developments are treated in every modern manual. What is worse, the writer conceals, or does not know, that when the democratic aspiration did at length appear in Italy the Papacy fought it truculently for two centuries. I find only one scrap of virtue in the article. American Catholics had not yet invented the myth that Jefferson got the idea of democracy from the Jesuit Suarez, so it makes no appearance here, but the writer, not anticipating it, says:
“The revolt of the colonies was not, strictly speaking, inspired by a belief in democracy though it resulted in the establishment of a republic,”
How many times have I pointed that out against the Jesuits!
The article “Education” is another beautiful piece of work — from the Catholic angle. The historical part of it was written for the earlier edition by a strictly orthodox Christian schoolmaster, Welton, and was a sheer travesty of the history of education as it is now written in all manuals, yet the article in the new edition is signed “X and C.B.” (Cloudsley Brereton, a British inspector of schools with not the least authority but with the virtue of faith). In point of fact it is Welton’s original article a little condensed but little altered. They could not well have made it worse from the historical point of view. The abridgment has cleared away most of the few good points about Roman education, because any reference to the system of universal free schooling in Roman days clashes with the clerical slogan, which is the theme of this article, that the new religion “gave the world schools.” “It was,” says the writer, “into this decaying civilization that Christianity brought new life.” Although only a few catholic schools are mentioned the reader is given the impression that the new religion inspired a great growth of schools in an illiterate world. The undisputed truth is that by 350 A.D., before Christianity was established by force, there were free primary and secondary schools everywhere, and by 450 A.D. they had all perished: that in 350 the majority of the workers was literate, and by 450 — and for centuries afterward — probably not 1 percent of them could read. Of course it is all put down to the barbarians. “Most of the public schools disappeared, and such light of learning as there was kept burning in the monasteries and was confined to priests and monks.” The monks were, as I have repeatedly shown from Christian writers from Augustine to Benedict, mostly an idle, loose, and vagrant class, and the few regular houses later established were interested only in religious education. Pope Gregory I forbade the clergy to open secular schools.
The article proceeds on these totally false lines through the whole of the Middle Ages. The work of Charlemagne, which is now acknowledged to have been paltry and to have perished at his death, is grossly misrepresented, and the fact that he was inspired in what educational zeal he had by the school-system of the anti-Papal Lombards is concealed. Not a word is said about the Lombard system. It is almost as bad in explaining why at last — six centuries after the Papacy took over the Roman rule — schools did begin to spread. There is just one line of reference to the Spanish-Arabs who inspired it by their restoration of the Roman system of free general education. Not a word is said about the fact that in Arab- Spain there were millions of books, finely written on paper and bound, while no abbey in Europe had more than a few hundred parchments. The origin of the universities is similarly misrepresented, It is all covered by this monstrous statement:
“On the whole it may be concluded that in medieval times the provision of higher instruction was adequate to the demand and that relatively to the culture of the time the mass of the people were by no means sunk in brutish ignorance.”
“Brutish” is, of course, part of the trick. Read it simply as a denial that the mass of the people were totally illiterate and then ask your-self how it is that, even after all the work, of the Jesuits and the Protestants, still by the middle of the 18th century between 80 and 90 percent of the people of Europe were illiterate. The writer is so reckless in clerical myths that he even says that the Age of Chivalry greatly helped:
“The education of chivalry aimed at fitting the noble youth to be a worthy knight, a just and wise master, and a prudent manager of an estate.”
You might just as well pretend that Cinderella is a true account of certain events in the Middle Ages. The whole long article which is signed X is an outrage when it is presented to the 20th century. The falsehood is carried on over the Reformation period and into the supposed account of the real beginning of education of the people in the 18th century.
I should have to write another encyclopedia if I proposed to analyze the hundreds of articles in the Britannica which are, like this, just tissues of clerical false claims, It might be said that, like the religious literature in which these myths still flourish, the Encyclopedia has to cater to the religious public. That plea is in itself based upon an anachronism and on untruth. There is abundant evidence that today the majority of the reading public, whatever they think about God, do not accept the Christian religion. In Britain and France the clergy frankly acknowledge this, and it is concealed only by sophistry in America. But I am not suggesting that an Encyclopedia that professes to have been rewritten to bring it into harmony with modern life and thought ought to exclude religious writers. I say only that when they are entrusted with articles which are wholly or in part historical they must conform to modern historical teaching. These articles, judged not by atheistic but by ordinary historical works, are tissues of untruth; and a good deal of this untruth, the part which chiefly concerns me here, has been inserted in the new edition by the Catholic “revisers” who lurk behind the signature X.
As this mark X is in the new edition added to the initials of Mark Pattison at the foot of the article “Erasmus” we look for adulterations. As, however, the original article softened the heresies of the great Dutch humanist there is not much change. Just a few little touches make him less important and nearer to orthodoxy, and passages reflecting on the foul state of the Church at the time are excised. With the subject “Evolution,” on the other hand, no modern editor would dare to allow a Catholic writer to insert his fantastic views in a publication that professes to be up-to-date in science. But a place is found for reaction. The British, Professor Lloyd Morgan is commissioned to write for the new edition a special article on the evolution of the mind, and it is based upon the eccentric theory of “emergent evolution” worked out by him in support of religion, which was dying when he wrote the article and is now quite dead in the scientific world. Next is added a section on ethics and evolution by Sir Arthur Thompson, a Unitarian whose peculiar twists of the facts of science to suit his mysticism have no place whatever outside religious literature.
The article “Galilee” would be examined eagerly by most critics for evidence of this clerical “reviser.” But even in the 11th edition the article was written by a Catholic astronomer, Miss Agnes Clerke, and X seems to have been given the task of cutting her five pages down to two (while 16 are devoted to football), that gives him opportunities. He leaves untouched the statement that at the first condemnation Galileo was ordered to write no more on the subject and “he promised to obey”; which is seriously disputed and rests on poor evidence. Both Catholic writers refuse to insert the actual sentence of condemnation, which pledged the Roman Church to the position that it is “formal heresy” to say that the earth travels round the sun. When he comes to the second condemnation X suppresses Miss Clerke’s hint that Galileo had ridiculed the Pope in his Dialogue, which was the main motive of the Pope’s vindictive action, and attributes the procedure to Galileo’s supposed breaking of his promise. He saves a precious line by cutting out Miss Clerke’s perfectly true statement that he was detained in the palace of the Inquisition. In short, it is now a sound Catholic version of the condemnation of Galileo from first to last, and it does not warn the reader or take into account in the least the fact that since Miss Clerke wrote her article Favar has secured and published (in Italian) new and most important documents on the case, and they have made the character and conduct of the Pope more contemptible than ever.
The fine eight-page article on Gibbon by the learned Professor Bury in the earlier edition could not expect to escape. Space must be saved; though one would hardly realize this when one finds 60 pages devoted to Geometry, which no one ever learns from an encyclopedia. The reviser condenses the six and a half pages of Gibbon’s life and character to one page and then sublimely adds his X to Bury’s initials as the joint authors of the article. You can guess how much of Gibbon’s greatness is left.
On the other hand the notice of Pope “St.” Gregory I, the Pope who forbade the opening of schools and made the Papacy the richest landowner and slave-owner in Europe by persuading the rich that the end of the world was at hand and they had better pass on their property to the church, remains as fragrant as ever in the new edition. So does the account of Gregory VII (Hildebrand), the fanatic who violently imposed celibacy upon the clergy (impelling mobs to attack them and their wives), who put the crown on Papal Fascism, who used forgeries and started Wars in the interest of the Church, who hired the savage Normans to fall upon the Romans (who then drove him into exile), etc. Naturally, the modern reader must not know these things.
The article “Guilds” in the 11th edition; by Dr Gross, is the source of the monstrous Catholic claim that the Church inspired these medieval corporations of the workers. It is preserved in all its untruthfulness in the new edition. After a short and disdainful notice of various profane theories of the origin of the Guilds he says:
“No. theory of origin can be satisfactory which ignores the influence of the Christian Church.”
It was, as usual, the sublime and unique Christian doctrine of the brotherhood of man: yet this had been the cardinal principle of Stoicism and Epicureanism 300 years B.C. The statement is, in the mouth of an expert on the Guilds, breath-taking in its audacity. The documents preserved in the Migne (Catholic) collection show clearly that the Guilds were pagan in origin — they were most probably relies of the old Roman trade unions — and that the Church fought them truculently for 100 years after their appearance in Germany. Gross shows that he has read these documents. He says that the Guilds were suspected of political conspiracy and opposed on that ground. On the contrary they were denounced as pagan orgies (suppers, like those of the Roman unions, at which priests got drunk and behaved improperly.) X, of course, leaves this pious creed in all its purity.
Haeckel, like Gibbon, gets his distinction reduced in the grim need of curtailing the old articles: a need which looks peculiar when, a few pages later, General Smuts is invited to contribute a four-page article on his ridiculous “Philosophy” (Holism), which has never been taken seriously. But it favors religion and — not to put too fine a point on it — Smuts rendered high political service to Britain. However while space is so precious the reviser of the Encyclopedia finds it necessary to add this to the decimated article on Haeckel: “Although Haeckel occupies no serious position in the history of philosophy there can be no doubt that he was very widely read in his own day and that he is very typical of the school of extreme evolutionary thought.”
The last three words give the writer away. It is only the Catholic writer who makes a distinction between schools of “evolutionary thought.” As to his having been widely read, no scientific work since Darwin’s “Origin” had anything like the circulation of Haeckells “Riddle.” It sold millions of copies in more than 20 languages. And a serious modern writer on Haeckel would have pointed out that while he despised philosophers and never claimed to be one, he remarkably anticipated modern thought in insisting that matter and energy are just two aspects of one reality. Of this fundamental doctrine of his the writer says not a word.
Even the article “Heresy” of the old edition, though certainly not written by a heretic, suffers the usual discriminating process of curtailment. The writer had said:
“As long as the Christian Church was itself persecuted by the pagan empire it advocated freedom of conscience . . . but almost immediately after Christianity was adopted as the religion of the Roman Empire the persecution of men for religious opinions began.”
That of course is cut out. Then a long list of Catholic persecutions in the Middle Ages is cut out and replaced by this grossly misleading sentence:
“The heresies of the Middle Ages were not matters of doctrine merely (however important) but were symptoms of spiritual movements common to the people of many lands and in one way or other threatening the power of the Roman Catholic system.”
An article on the subject which frankly aimed at providing facts for modern folk would have at least mentioned the death- sentence for heresy, which is obstinately kept in force in Catholic Canon Law today. Not a word about it, though on this subject of penalizing religious opinions it is the question most frequently asked today.
The article “Hospitals” gives us a choice specimen of the art of X-ing. It consist of two parts, history and modern practice. To the historical section, which it is of considerable interest to the Catholic propagandist to misrepresent, X does not append his mark, but he puts it to the section on modern practice, of which he knows nothing. Was this due to an editorial or typographical error? Listen. The old article properly gave a gummary account of the ample provision for the sick in many pre-christian civilizations, especially the Roman, and added:
“In Christian days no establishments were founded for the relief of the sick till the time of Constantine.”
He might have added that even then they were few and were merely intended to keep the Christian sick away from the pagan temples of Aesculapius which were the chief Roman hospitals. All this is cut but and replaced by the totally misleading or totally false statement:
“But although hospitals cannot be claimed as a direct result of Christianity no doubt it tended to instill humanist views, and as civilization grew men and women of many races came to realize that the treatment of disease in buildings set apart exclusively for the care of the sick were in fact a necessity in urban districts.”
We have several good and by no means anti-Christian histories of hospitals today. They show a fine record in India under the Buddhists King Asoka and a creditable record for the Greek-Roman world in imperialist days. They show also that the Christian record the period of confusion after the fall of Roman Empire but from 450 to the 18th century is miserable; and thus in an encyclopedia that advertises that it is rewritten in order to ensure confidence that the reader is getting what is generally agreed upon by the experts in each department, writers are permitted to take the reader even farther away from the truth than — in articles of this kind — they were earlier in the century. A score of articles like this which are supposed to prove by historical facts the nature of the Christian social inspiration and social record are cheap and untruthful religious propaganda.
Even in the short notice of Hypatia the clerical surgeon has used his knife. Short as it was, we shall be told that it had to be curtailed (though the editor spares eight pages for Icelandic literature) but the omissions are significant. The earlier article rightly said that she was a “mathematician and philosopher,” and contemporaries speak of her works on mathematics not philosophy. Yet even the word “mathematician,” which does not take up much space does give us a better idea of the solid character of Hypatia, is cut out. The earlier writer says that she was “barbarously murdered by the Nitrian monks and the fanatical Christian mob,” that the Caesareum to which her body was dragged was “then a Christian church” and that the remains of the aged scholar (as she was) were burned piecemeal. All the phrases I have italicized (BOLD) are carefully cut out, as is also the whole of the following passage:
“Most prominent among the actual perpetrators of the crime was Peter the Reader (cleric), but there seems little reason to doubt the complicity of Cyril (the archbishop).”
So the “correction of dates” and curtailing some articles to admit new matter” just happen to take a form which greatly reduces the guilt of the Christian Church in the foulest crime of the age; for the greatest lady in the whole Greek world at the time was stripped in the street and her flesh cut from her bones with broken pottery by monks and people directly inflamed against her by the archbishop. This is the sort of thing for which the University of Chicago now stands sponsor.
In the note on “Idealism,” which is colorless, I notice that the improvers of the old Britannica have recommended a work by “J. Royce”; a point which must rather annoy the professors since Josiah Royce is one of the most distinguished philosophers America has yet produced. More important is the great saving of space in reducing the size of the article “Illegitimacy.” In face of the drivel that Catholic apologists talk about influence of their church on sexual conduct we have been accustomed to point out, amongst other things, that bastards are far more common in countries where the Roman and Greek churches are, or were until recent years, more powerful. In the old Britannica the article gave a wealth of statistics, particularly about Ireland, to help the student on this point. Out they have all gone — to find more space, of course, for cricket and football. “Illiteracy” is just as little seriously informing for the inquirer who wants to know whether it is true that the church is the Great Educator.
The article on “Immortality” was much too pious in the old edition of the Encyclopedia to need any “improvement.” It stands, like a hundred other articles, as a monument of what respectable folk thought in Victorian days. It was out of date even in 1911. Since then the belief in immortality is almost dead in philosophy, and the teaching of psychology today emphatically excludes it. Even theologians doubt it or at least widely admit that attempts to prove it are futile. Of this state of modern thought the article gives no more idea than it does of Existentialism.
Similarly, the article “Infallibility” in the old edition was written by a Catholic and needed no “correction of dates.” But it was better not to let the reader know that it was written by a Catholic, so away go his initials, The article “Infanticide” would be considered by many more important than archery and croquet and other genteel sports of our grandmothers, because it is one of the familiar claims of the apologist that while the ancient Romans were appallingly callous on the subject the new religion brought the world a new sense of the importance of even a newborn babe’s life. The old edition was certainly defective in its account of the practice in ancient Rome but even the little it said has been cut out. An inquirer into the subject will not get one single ray of light on Roman practice from the new article; and it is candidly signed X.
Then we come to the long string of Popes who adopted the name “Innocent” when they donned the white robes of “the Vicar of Christ.” We know little about some of them, but others are so well known, and there is so little dispute about their character, that the name is a mockery. All that the Catholic editor could do in such cases was to make a few of those neat little cuts with his scissors that at least make the record seem grayish instead of black. For instance, under “Innocent III” the old article spoke about the “horrible massacre” of the Albigensians which he ordered. The word “horrible” has been cut out; it was, no doubt, too strong an expression for the fact that only a few hundred thousand men, women, and children were savagely massacred because they would not bow to Rome. No one doubts the religious sincerity and strict personal conduct of Innocent III, but this article does not give the reader the least inkling of the perfidy, dishonesty, and cruelty into which his fanaticism led him.
It is different with Innocent VIII, an elderly roue who got the papacy in the fight of the factions and immensely promoted the debauchery of Rome and the Vatican. The old article said, moderately enough:
“His youth, spent at the Neapolitan court, was far from blameless, and it is far from certain that he was married to the mother of his numerous family.”
As he was credited by public opinion with only 16 children the censor must have thought this excessive, so cut out the whole passage. Naturally he cut out also the later passage: His curia was notoriously corrupt, and he himself openly practiced nepotism in favoring his children, concerning whom the epitaph is quoted: “He guiltily begot six sons and as many daughters, so that Rome has the right to call him Father.” Thus he gave to his undeserving son Franceschetto several towns near Rome and married him to the daughter of Larenzo de Medici (the greatest prince of Italy).
All this is cut out of the new edition of the Encyclopedia, which was to appeal to all by its accuracy. There is not the least doubt in history that the Pope had children, that his son Francheschietto was one of the vilest and most dissipated young men of Rome, and that Innocent was aware that the Papal Court was sinking deeper and deeper into corruption. The notice of the Pope in this edition is a calculated deception of the reader.
It is almost as bad with the notice of Pope Innocent X; and the deception here is the more wicked because Innocent X ruled after what Catholic apologists call the Counter-Reformation, which is supposed to have purified the papacy and the church. The notice in the old edition at least gave a hint of his character by saying:
“Throughout his pontificate he was completely dominated by his sister-in-law Donna Olimpia Maidaechini (a woman of masculine spirit). There is no reason to credit the scandalous reports of an Illicit attachment. Nevertheless the influence of Donna Olimpia was baneful, and she made herself thoroughly detested by her inordinate ambition and rapacity.”
This was a mild and inadequate expression of the notorious historical fact that for 10 years this vile woman openly sold — clerics, even bishops, queuing at the door of her palace — every ecclesiastical office in the Power of the papacy; and it suppresses entirely the scandal of the Pope’s “nephews,” The license granted her was so enormous that folk had every reason to assume that She had been Innocent’s mistress. Yet in the new edition of the Encyclopedia the main part of the moderate passage I quoted from the older edition is cut out. An incorrect date, no doubt. Each such notice of a Pope to the middle of the 17th century is thus doctored, to protect the modern Catholic myth of a Counter- Reformation.
We come a few pages later to “Inquisition,” and here you will expect that X has surpassed himself. Not a bit of it. He has changed little — because the article even in the old edition was written by a French Catholic, Alphandery. X has just touched it up a little and put his mark at the end of it. It is as scandalous a piece of deception of the public, since it is not stated and cannot now easily be verified that Alphandery was a Catholic, as for the Encyclopedia Americana to have got Japanese propagandists to write the long section in it on Japan. It opens with a show of flooring at once the critics of the Inquisition. They are supposed to say it began in the 12th century, whereas it goes back to the early church, even to Paul. This is throwing dust in the eyes of the reader. “Inquisition” does not mean persecution or prosecution for heresy but “searching out” heresy, and it was the Popes of the early 13th century who created the elaborately organized detective as well as penal force which we specifically call the Inquisition.
It next scores by remarking that the early Fathers did not favor Punitive measures. How on earth could they have dreamed of them under Roman law and when they were an illicit sect themselves. It says that there was little persecution for heresy from the 6th to the 12th century, the Dark Age; which amuses us when we recall that 99 and a fraction percent of the population of Europe were illiterate and so densely ignorant that folk could not tell one doctrine from another and just attended Sunday services in Latin. Then we get the germs of the cowardly and debased modern Catholic apology: that the church was always reluctant to persecute but the zeal of the peoples and princes of Europe forced its hand. Of course, both writers make much of the famous persecution decree of Frederick II — the great heretic who appealed to the other kings to abolish the Papacy — but are careful not to mention the savage action of the papacy which dictated it or the fact that Frederick never applied the law. Torture the gentle church particularly disliked and only borrowed it from secular law: in which the church had enforced it for centuries for clerical offenses like blasphemy. They both say: “We must accept the conclusion Of H. C. Lea and Vancandard that comparatively few people suffered at the stake in the medieval Inquisition.” That is a total perversion of Lea’s words — he refers to the first half of the Middle Ages when there was no Inquisition — and they grossly mislead the reader by coupling Vacandard’s name with his. Canon Vacandard was one of the most reckless of the French apologists.
But I cannot go phrase by phrase through this Catholic rubbish. In spite of all its sophistry and suppressions it leaves the Inquisition the most scandalous quasi-judicial procedure that ever disgraced civilization, yet it is not the full truth. It is true that it does not tell the lie that American apologists now do — that the Roman Inquisition never executed men — and it does not even mention, much less challenge, the definite figure of 341,042 victims of the Spanish Inquisition which Llorente, secretary of the Inquisition, canon of the church, and Knight of the Caroline order, compiled from its archives. Its sophistry gets it so muddled in regard to this important question of the spanish Inquisition that it first says the people regarded heresy as “a national scourge” and the Inquisition as “a powerful and indispensable agent of public protection,” and then tells how the greed of the Inquisition “rapidly paralyzed commerce and industry.” It does not tell how while Spain was still Catholic the fierce anger of the people destroyed the Inquisition.
This book would become another encyclopedia if I were to analyze in this way all the articles, especially on religious matters, that are in this new edition of the Britannica foisted on the reader as the common teaching of our historians, philosophers or sociologists, nor can I stop at every little specimen of the zeal of the group or phalanx of writers who mask themselves with an X. Even the article “Ionia” has suffered from their clumsy treatment. In a fine page in the last edition Dr. Hogarth summed up:
“Ionia has laid the world under its debt not only by giving birth to a long series of distinguished men of letters and science but by originating the schools of art which prepared the way for the brilliant artistic development of Athens in the 5th century.”
This and the best evidence for it are cut out, but X does not put his crooked mark here. He appends it to the next section, which is on the geology of the Ionian Isles! In my own historical Works, I have laid great stress on the significance of Ionia and I have found my readers puzzled. They will not get much help from this mutilated article.
The historical section of the article “Italy” — a country which is described as 97.12 percent Catholics even now that Communists and Socialists dominate it — ought to have been revised, not in a Catholic sense, for it was far too lenient to the papacy, but to harmonize with the modern teaching of history. Instead of this being done X is allowed to add a gushing section on the beautiful accord of the Pope and Mussolini, the “unexampled scenes of enthusiasm” in Rome when the infamous compact was signed, and the joy of “300,000,000 Catholics” through-out the world, This in face of the notorious fact that the Fascists themselves bitterly attacked Mussolini for signing the Treaty and all that has happened since. The Chicago professors might ask Professor Salvemini what he thinks of it. The total impression given to any reader who ploughs through the history of Italy in this article from the time of Charlemagne onward is, as far as the relations of the Italians with the Popes are concerned, false; but I doubt if anybody ever does read these historical articles in encyclopedias from beginning to end.
The article “Society of Jesus” — even the title has been altered from “Jesuits,” a word which does not smell so sweet — ought to have been a happy hunting ground for this Catholic corrector of false dates, but from the older editions of the Britannica it had already in the 11th edition been rewritten by a Jesuit. There are, however, or used to be, Jesuits and Jesuits, and the Father Taunton who initials the article assured me that in private he went far, but one did not look for that in his professional work. His article, endorsed and relieved of any leaning to candor, is still just one of those religious tracts that the Encyclopedia offers the reader instead of seriously informing and neutral articles on controverted points. It is a travesty of the real history of the Society, a touching fairy- tale, mostly based upon what the Jesuit professes to be. Taunton, however, did let himself go to this extent:
“Two startling and undisputed facts meet the student who pursues the history of the Society, The first is the universal suspicion and hostility it has incurred — not merely from the Protestants whose avowed foe it has been, nor yet from the enemies of all clericalism and dogma but from every Catholic state and nation in the world. Its chief enemies have been those of the household of the Roman Catholic faith.”
For this original article gives abundant evidence. The clause I outline disappears in the sacred cause of abridgment and Father Taunton’s too candid words become:
“The most remarkable fact in the Society’s history is the suspicion and hostility it has incurred within the household of the Roman Catholic faith.”
Much of this, he explains, is due to the superior virtues of the Jesuits and the dishonesty of their critics. He even ventures to include the austere and most virtuous Pascal in a group of critics who are described as “not scrupulous in their quotations.” He cuts out the serious criticism of Jesuit education (in the old article) in order to protect the fiction, which modern Jesuits have spread, that they were great educators.
But the most deliberate perversion of the truth is seen in the account of what happened in the 18th century. It is a commonplace of history how the Catholic kings of France, Spain, and Portugal, stung by revelations of the greed, hypocrisy, and intrigues of the Jesuits, suppressed the Society in their dominions and appealed to the Pope to suppress it altogether, which he did in 1775. We might allow that in the new edition it was necessary to abridge the account of the crimes of the Jesuits on which the monarch and the Popes acted but these clerical champions of accuracy in the new edition of the Encyclopedia have gone far beyond this. Taunton had said:
“The apologists of the Society allege that no motive influenced the Pope save the love of peace at any price and that he did not believe in the culpability of the Jesuits. The categorical charges made in the document (the Pope’s bull) rebut this plea.”
Taunton gave enough of the Pope’s words — I give a fuller account in my large “Candid History of the Jesuits” (which is, of course, not mentioned in the bibliography) — to prove this. It is all cut out, and the reader is just given the modern thumping lie of the Jesuits that the Pope expressed no opinion on the charges against them. And lest any reader or critic should be able to say that that is just the opinion of a Catholic writer, Taunton’s initials have been suppressed and in this case X has not given the mark of the crook. I should like to ask the professors of the University of Chicago what they think of that.
The articles “Jesus” and “Jews” I do not propose to desecrate by analysis. They are orthodox and venerable with age. They tell the reader what all theologians but a few rebels thought half a century or more ago. Whether it is for that sort of thing that you consult a modern encyclopedia…. Well, please yourself. It is the same with the notice of Joan of Are. In the old encyclopedia my friend Professor Shotwell, of Columbia, had a fair article on Joan. It was not quite up to date, but it was mildly critical. Now that Joan is turned into a saint, as part of the political deal of the Vatican and the French government, and in spite of the dire need to abridge the old edition, Shotwell’s sober one and a half page notice is replaced by a three and a half page sermon by a French Catholic. Not a word about modern military opinion of her — whether she had any ability at all or was just a superstitious tonic in a jaded military world — and not a word about the new research of Miss Murray and others into the real nature of witchcraft and their conclusion that Joan was probably a member of the witch cult.
Then come the “John” Popes and prodigious feats of juggling. They had to be brought down to the customary level of grossly untruthful treatment of saints, martyrs, popes, and other sacred things in this “modern” work of reference. Of the character of most of the Johns we know nothing, but three or four of them were so notoriously vicious and otherwise devoid of interest that their portraits had to be touched up considerably. John X was decidedly one of them. Even the old article, admitting discreetly that he “attracted the attention” of a leading lady of the Roman nobility, allowed that “she got him elected Pope” in direct opposition to a decree of council (which X cuts out). But old and new editions introduce John XI as son of Marozia and reputed son of (Pope Sergius III.” This is covering up the most infamous period of the depravity of the Papacy (or any other religious authority in the world) not with a veil but with painted boards. The period was what the Father of Catholic History, Cardinal Baronius, following the few clerical writers of the period, calls “The Rule of the Whores”; and I am not here giving a vulgar rendering of the Latin. The period stinks amazingly even in Cardinal Baronius. The two chief whores who ruled the Papacy for 30 or 40 years were Theodore. and her daughter Marozia (as fierce and lustful a cat as you will meet even in the history of the Middle Ages). Two Popes at least were lovers of these women and one was — not reputed to be but certainly was — the bastard of Marozia and Pope Sergius and was put on the papal throne by Marozia’s orders.
Another son of Marozia’s ruled Rome and the papacy for 20 years after the period that is strictly called “The Rule of the Whores” and he put his own son, John XII, on the papal throne. There may have been a few Popes as licentious as this young man was — I would not be quite of it — but certainly not one worse. He, says the contemporary Bishop Liutprand, turned the papal palace into “a brothel” and an inn. He seduced his father’s mistress and his own sisters and raped pilgrims, he castrated the single cardinal who criticized him. . . . There was nothing he did not do during the 10 years of his pontificate, yet the feeble reference to his scandalous private life in the 11th edition is cut out in the fourteenth, leaving him one of the Holy Fathers.
It is useless to go into every detail and is enough to say that in the case of the next scandalous John (XXIII) the work of the reviser is as foul as ever. He lived and ruled at the height of the Italian Renaissance (1410-15), and he was a monster of crime in comparison with the notorious Alexander VI. Neither the writer in the 11th edition (a French Catholic) nor the one in the 14th (anonymous) tells the undisputed fact that he was notorious for vice and corruption before he became Pope. In fact neither hints at irregularities before he was condemned by the Council of Constance. The older writer then candidly acknowledged that the Council (300 prelates) endorsed 54 charges against him and that three cardinals he paid to undertake his defense refused to do so. “Enough charges,” he said, “of immorality, tyranny, ambition and simony were found proved to justify the severest judgment.” As a matter of fact the indictment, which may be read in any Latin History of the Councils, was a complete Inventory of crimes and sins. One sentence includes “murder, sacrilege, adultery, rape, spoliation and theft.” And this precious “rectifier” of errors in the new edition cuts out the whole of this. He just states that the Pope was suspended but the sentence was irregular in canon law!
Passing on our way to the Leos we note a point here and there that need not detain us. “Jubilee year” is described as an institution of piety and not a word said about the greed and corruption of the Pope who established it and why. Julius II has had the character-sketch in the old edition, though written by a Catholic, touched up and trimmed until the reader, who may have read something in regular history about the Pope’s children, his heavy drinking and swearing, and his unscrupulousness, will be surprised to find how great and virtuous a Pope he was. The greatest nobles of Rome at the time assure us that he was a sodomist. “Juvenile Offenders” is a title that ought to meet many searching and varied queries in our time. It completely fails. Not a word about religion. Not a single statistic. Then we come to the article “Knighthood and Chivalry,” to which we were referred in the short note Chivalry.”
I have made considerable research on this point in medieval history and have pointed out repeatedly that the belief that there was an Age of Chivalry (about 1100 to 1400) is one of the Crudest and emptiest of all the historical myths with which Catholic writers adorn their Middle Ages. No expert on the period fails to say the opposite. But in the case of this article I gather that the learned writer of it in the 11th edition, Dr. Coulton, who died in 1947, would not tolerate any monkey tricks with his work. He was not a master of the literature of the subject but he does say:
“Such historical evidence as we possess, when carefully scrutinized, is enough to dispel the illusion that there was any period of the Middle Ages in which the unselfish championship of God and the Ladies was anything but a rare exception.”
Dr. Coulton has paid too narrow an attention to the faire- tale itself. On the broad question of the character of the princes, lords, knights, and ladies of the period, particularly in regard to sex, cruelty, dishonesty, and injustice, we have mounds. of evidence, and it consistently shows that this was one of the least chivalrous and most immoral periods in history.
In the long list of the Leo Popes I need notice only the important article on Leo X, the man who opposed Luther. Here, however, X had not much to do, The article in the 11th edition was by Carlton Hayes, the Catholic professor at Columbia. It falsely said that modern research has given us a “fairer and more honest opinion of Leo X.” He was “dignified”: the Pope who enjoyed nothing more than grossly indecent comedies, largely written by his favorite cardinal, in the sacred palace and banquets at which gluttony was a joke and the most vulgar adventurers were richly rewarded. He “fasted” — at the doctor’s orders, for his body was gross. With a show of liberality it admits that he was “worldly,” “devoid of moral earnestness or deep religious feeling,” “treacherous and deceptive” (which is explained away as the common policy of princes at the time). No, X did not find many “dates” to correct in this Catholic sophistication, but the man who wants truth in his encyclopedia will. Not the least idea is given of the monstrous corruption of the papal court under Leo: not a hint that it was so commonly believed in Rome that he was a sodomist that both his friends and authorized Biographer Bishop Giovio and the great contemporary historian Guiccardini notice it and, contrary to the statement of the Catholic historian Pastor, seem to believe it.
The article “Libraries” is the next on which X employs his subtle art. I have explained, I think, that X is not one encyclopedic Catholic writer who does all this marvelous work. The explanation given of the X in the first volume of the 14th edition is that it is “the initial used for anonymous writers”; just as the lady whose sins are not to be disclosed in the court is called by the police Mlle X. In all earlier encyclopedias anonymous writers, who do the great body of the hack-work of the encyclopedia, did not need any monogram. But, of course, this was a special arrangement with the Catholic body. It assumes that Committees of Catholics on both sides of the Atlantic were appointed to scrutinize all articles bearing upon Catholic myths and to cut out and modify, no matter on what authority it rested, any statement that the Catholic clergy do not like. Whether any other sort of anonymous critics were allowed to do similar work and wear the mask I do not know. I have not noticed an X anywhere except where truth has been slain or mutilated by a Catholic sword.
You may wonder why an innocent article on Libraries should excite the suspicions of the Catholic Knights Errant, but the history of libraries, like the history of literature or education generally, is even more dangerous from the Catholic viewpoint than an amorous story or picture. It tells how the Greeks and Romans had splendid libraries (and literature and schools); how during the Christian Middle Ages libraries (and schools and books of interest) were few and paltry to the 12th century; how in the meantime the Arabs and Persians again had magnificent libraries (and schools and literature) and in the course of two or three centuries succeeded in stimulating sluggish Christian countries to have a few decent libraries. This is real history and of deep sociological significance. But it is the kind of history Catholics hate as they hate science. So the historical part of the article is mercilessly but selectively cut.
A point, for instance, on which an inquirer is still apt to consult an encyclopedia is as to the fate of the greatest library of the ancient world, that of Alexandria. Said the article in the 1911 edition:
“In 389 or 391 an edict of Theodosius ordered the destruction of the Serapeum, and the books were pillaged by the Christians.”
This is cut out, and we have to be content with a vague admission that the stupid story that “the Library survived to be destroyed by the Arabs can hardly be supported.” The older writer said that the transfer of imperial powers from Rome to Constantinople was “a serious blow to literature.” This truth also is cut out. He said that “during the Middle Ages knowledge was no longer pursued for its own value, but became subsidiary to religious and theological teaching.” Monstrous. Out it goes.
Loisy, the great French scholar, had a couple of pages in the 11th edition. He was then still a Catholic. He is cut to a paragraph in the 14th edition. The fame of his scholarship had grown but he had openly quit the Church. When you see 20 pages devoted to logic, in which few folk take any interest today, you wonder whether the need of abridgement was really so drastic, but the pruning shears (and the signature X) appear again in the article “Lollards,” who were deadly enemies of the church. It is the same with the Lombards. Instead of the short account of their great importance in the restoration of civilization in Europe being expanded, as modern interest requires, it is cut down, as the interest of the papacy demands.
“Lourdes” would seem to give X a great opportunity but the old article had only a few lines on the shrine of Lourdes. They are neatly strengthened. The older writer generously noted that it was “believed by the Roman Catholic world” that the Virgin revealed herself here. This becomes stronger. Lourdes has become famous since the visions of Bernadette Soubirons and their authentication by a commission of inquiry appointed by the bishop of Tarbes. As if no serious person doubted them. But you are referred to Catholic literature for details of the epic story of the growth and the miracles: a tissue of fabrications.
The article “Martyrs” was in the old edition an edifying Christian, sermonette, and it remains. Here in a modern and candid encyclopedia, we should have had a useful Recount of the mass of historical work that has been done on the martyrs, even by Catholic scholars like the Jesuit Delehaye and Professor Ehrhard, in the last 50 years. More ancient martyrs have been martyred with the axe of historical truth than the early Christians manufactured in 200 years.
In the article “Materialism” you know what to expect. In this and most other encyclopedias Romanists write on Catholic matters, Methodists on Methodists matters and so on, but, of course, on such subjects as Agnosticism, Atheism, Materialism, Naturalism, etc., we must entrust the work to ignorant and bigoted critics. So we still read how “naive materialism” is due to “the natural difficulty which persons who have had no philosophical training experience in observing and appreciating the importance of the immaterial facts of consciousness.” Some reverend gentleman has been drawing upon his sermons for copy. Not a single word about the evidence provided by Professor Leuba and others that, on their own profession, more than 70 percent of the scientific men of America are “naive materialists.” With a fatuousness that makes us groan the clerical reviser adds to the short article:
“Largely through the influence of Bergson, Alexander, and Lloyd Morgan contemporary science is turning away from materialism and reaching toward the recognition of other than mechanical factors in the phenomena, even the physical phenomena, of Nature.”
The encyclopedia Might just as well say that under the influence of Gandhi, the Grand Lama, and the Mufti of Jerusalem, military men are now turning away from thoughts of war.
X comes on the scene again in the article on the Medici. Any truthful account of this famous Florentine family must show us the greatest paradox — if you care to call it paradox — of the Middle Ages; a wonderful art, superficial refinement, and pursuit of culture covering an abyss of corruption. The older writer was honest enough to tell a little of the background, and X generally cuts it out. The great Lorenzo is disinfected, and he strikes out such passages as this, referring to Cosmo III:
“Cosmos hypocritical zeal for religion compelled his subjects to multiply services and processions that greatly infringed upon their working hours. He wasted enormous sums in pensioning converts — even those from other countries — and in giving rich endowments to sanctuaries.”
Lorenzo’s 20 lines of vices are “abridged” into two, and so on.
“Medicine” ought, like “Libraries,” “Hospitals” and a score of other articles, to show in its historical part the appalling blank in the civilized record. It did this to some extent in the earlier edition, so the account of Greek-Roman and Arab-Persian progress is abridged so that the blank from 500 to 1500 is not so painful to the eye.
“Mithraism” might seem an innocent and remote subject but the modern inquirer will want to know whether or not it is true that it made more progress than Christianity in the Roman world and whether it had a superior morality. The fine article by Professor Grant Showerman in the 11th edition fairly answered these questions. He said that by the middle of the 3rd century “it looked like becoming the universal religion” (which is cut out). He said that it appealed to the Romans by its strongly democratic note and its high ethic. Here his account is cut to pieces, and we now learn that it made progress by boasting of an esoteric wisdom and compromising with paganism. The substance of Showerman’s article is kept but his initials are deleted. Perhaps he demanded that. Of course, nothing is said about the material borrowings of Christianity from Mithraism or how Christianity destroyed its rival by violence.
It appears that X (or one of him) is also an expert on Mohammed. He has reduced an authoritative 12-page article to three and perhaps some will think that he has shorn the prophets glory. Moses on the other hand passes into the new edition as “one of the greatest figures in history.” You may have heard that even theologians and liberal Jews are wondering how much historical knowledge we have of such a person “Beyond question,” says this more accurate new edition, “Moses must be regarded as the founder alike of Israel’s nationality and of Israel’s religion.” These X’s are great at settling disputed points.
The article, “Monasticism,” is a grand opportunity for telling a large amount of picturesque truth. But, alas even the editor of the 11th edition had the quaint idea that it ought to be written by a monk. The result is that X did not find a word to alter. We have the old article in all its fragrance — and mendacity. It tells us as much about the new history of the monastic bodies in Europe as a history of Hitlerism by a Fascist would tell of events in Europe. Whether or no an encyclopedia is a book in which you expect the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth…. There are probably simple folk who do.
“Mozart” does not sound of theological interest, but since his Requiem or “mass for the dead” is said to be “one of the finest of religious compositions” and is a prime favorite in Catholic ritual it is important to the church that the public should not learn that he was an apostle and an anti-clerical Freemason who, in the familiar phraseology of the cleric, died and was buried like a dog. The article in the old edition did not toll the whole truth about this, but its misleading of the public was not strong enough for the reviser so it is made a little more misleading. It is well known in what circumstances Mozart began to compose his Requiem. A stranger approached him and offered to pay him to write it, and, as Mozart was ailing, the story runs that he nervously saw in the offer a warning of his death. If he did so at any time he must have soon learned that (as it proved) it was a rich amateur (Count Walsegg) who was really hiring his genius, but the “reviser” of the article has actually changed the text from “Mozart worked at it unremittingly, hoping to make it his greatest work” to “Mozart put his greatest music into it and became more and more convinced that he was writing it for his own death.” After this you would expect a lovely death in the arms of his holy mother the church, but the clerical reviser cuts out in the new edition what the expert writer of the article said. It was:
“His funeral was a disgrace to the court, the public, society itself … his body was buried in a pauper’s grave.”
But the initials of the writer, Sid D. T. Tovey, are kept at the foot of his mutilated article. This story of a mysterious visitor who gave Mozart the idea that he was being supernaturally warned of his approaching death has recently inspired an eloquent article in the pious Reader’s Digest. Naturally readers who turn for verification of it to the great Encyclopedia will be fully encouraged. The fact is, as the “corrector” probably knew well, Mozart refused to send for a priest when he became dangerously ill and when his wife secretly sent for one the man refused to attend so notorious a heretic. It might be instructive to the inquirer into religious inspiration in art to know that one of the most beautiful pieces of church music was composed by a man who emphatically rejected Christianity, but it would be inconsistent with so much that is said in the Britannica, so the fact is suppressed.
Nietzsche you would almost expect to find banished altogether from so pious an encyclopedia, but we have here one of the little mysteries of its compilation. In spite of the grim need for abridgment the one-column article in the 11th edition has been replaced by a two-page appreciation of the great skeptic by his devout follower, Dr. A. Levy. One might quarrel with it here and there but let us not be meticulous.
There must have been a good deal of maneuvering in the subterranean vaults in which the new edition of the Britannica was being forged when the time came for doing an article on the papacy. In the 11th edition the lengthy treatment of the subject was entrusted to a number of well-known Catholic writers who were understood to be what were then called “liberal Catholics.” The first section, covering the early centuries and the Dark Age (to 1100), was written by Mgr. Duchesne and the next by Professor Luchaire, both said in private clerical circles (to which I once belonged) to be modernists. Duchesne was an arch-trimmer, and he writes the first 1,000 years of the history of the papacy in such fashion that X finds nothing to correct. I do not know to what extent there are folk who fancy that by reading such an article they learn the historical truth, but the fact is that this long article on the papacy is a travesty of history and a sheer Catholic tract; and any sub-editor ought to have known what to expect. It is utterly impossible for any Catholic writer to tell facts, much less the whole of the facts, on such subjects. How could he, for instance, tell that few historians outside the church admit that there is any serious evidence that Peter was ever in Rome. Duchesne placidly observes that it is “now but little disputed,” because a few American historians who play up to Rome take an indulgent view of the so-called evidence. I have proved from the most solid Christian document of the time that the Roman Christians of the 1st century did not believe it.
So the narrative continues on the usual and most untruthful Catholic lines. All the other churches looked up to the Roman and did not question the universal authority of its bishop; which is the direct opposite of the truth, for I have shown in detail that every assertion of Roman authority over the other churches to the 6th century (when the other churches had either disappeared or formed the separate Greek Church) was indignantly, often contemptuously, spurned. There is, of course, not the slightest hint of the demoralization of the church from about 150 onward. It is a body of virtuous folk braving its persecutors. And its immense enrichment after the Conversion of Constantine is explained audaciously by saying that the pagan emperors had deprived the church of its wealth and Constantine just restored it! Naturally there is not a word about the dozen persecuting decrees, even with a death-sentence, which the bishops got from the Christian emperors and so crushed every religious rival,
This fairy-tale, which it is disgusting to find in a serious encyclopedia, is sustained throughout the entire 30-page article, but I have not space here to go much into detail. There was no Dark Age for the church, though the “barbarian invasions,” the usual scapegoat, are admitted to have caused some irregularities. There is not the least recognition of the need to explain why the worst degradation of the papacy, from 890 to 1050 began four centuries after the invasions and deepened for 100 years. The attainment of the Temporal Power is explained without a word about the Donation of Constantine, which Catholic historians admit to have been a forgery, and the development of the monstrous pretensions of the Popes to power is explained by an argument as ingenious as it is false. Innocent III was “compelled” — I have shown from his own letters that he deliberately and fraudulently engineered it — to sanction, though he tried to check, the persecution of the Albigensians. Then the corruption of Europe by the Renaissance “infected” the good church to some extent, but there is no proof, for instance, of the fearful charges against John XXIII. No; they were merely examined and endorsed by a Council of 29 cardinals, 33 archbishops, 150 bishops, 134 abbots, and 100 doctors of law and divinity. The second two-century period of deep papal degradation is passed over with the admission that there was one pope, Alexander VI, of abandoned morals.
X then takes up the story and you may bet that it does not lose in piety. This is how he writes history. At the French Revolution “the Pope fought against the Terror when the worship of reason was proclaimed.” There, of course, never was a “worship of reason” in France, and the Feast of Reason and Liberty in Notre Dame was not official, and it was after the official proclamation of the Worship of the Supreme Being that the Terror followed. So on to 1929. This is, as I said, a blatant Catholic tract from beginning to end, and it closes with the usual list of popes all of whom to the year 530 — including such rogues as Victor, Callistus, and Damasus — are described as “Saints.” Some of them are fictitious, the majority of quite unknown character, and half the remainder poor specimens.
Catholics might well boast of their service to their church in getting permission to correct a few dates and other trifling errors in the earlier Britannica. Their converts, if educated at all, are generally of the type who would look for truth in an encyclopedia. Perhaps one ought not to complain if the editor of an encyclopedia invites a Christian Scientist to tell the aims and belief of Christian Science, Moslem to tell the tenants of Islam, and so on, but to allow Catholic propagandists not merely to explain what the Church’s doctrines are but to write 30 pages of historical mendacity and misrepresentation because. … Well, you may guess for yourself what the agreement between the contracting parties was. Where the Chicago professors come in I don’t know.
Presently we come to the article “Pasteur,” and of course, that famous scientist must be claimed as a Catholic, though I have proved a score of times that he quit the church early in his career, publicly avowed his Agnostic creed, and died Without any recognition of the church. There was a fine article on him in the earlier edition by Sir Henry Roscoe, which concluded:
“Rich in years and honors, but simple-minded and as affectionate as a child, this great benefactor to his species passed quietly away.”
in the new edition this becomes:
“Rich in years and in honors, this simple and devout Catholic, this great human benefactor. …”
And there is no X to warn the reader that an anointed hand has altered the article. That happens in hundreds of cases.
Psychical research was still considered by many in the first decade of this century to be at least not a waste of time, so three pages were devoted to it in the 11th edition. In the third decade of the century few took any serious notice of its futilities, yet. in spite of the tremendous need for abridgment, the three-page article is replaced by a five-page article by an enthusiast for the nonsense. The article “Psychology” is, of course, entirely useless to any inquirer who wants to know, as most thoughtful folk do want to know, what the modern science makes of the old idea of mind. You gather that the mind is still as solidly established as the Pope. With great boldness (it seems to think) the new article alters the definition of psychology from the science of the mind to “the study of the mind or of mental phenomena.” At the time (1929) there was hardly a manual published in America that did not define it as “the science of behavior” and reject the reality of mind. But the new article does not give you the least idea of the revolution. Two reactionary professors just grind out five pages of the old academic verbiage. it is like a barrel-organ in Broadway.
“Preaching” is a short article which few folk will ever consult, but there is here a point of high social interest. When good people read about the way in which the church kept men in the ways of virtue during the Middle Ages — one of the most vicious of historical periods — they imagine devout priests preaching the gospel to them every Sunday. It is all a myth, of course. The faithful just spent half an hour to an hour in church on Sunday morning while the priest raced through the liturgy of the mass, in Latin, which quite commonly he did not understand himself. The friars of the later Middle Ages created quite a sensation when they began to preach sermons. But does our E. B. tells the reader this? Look up the, orthodox short article.
“Rationalism” is a companion article to “Agnosticism” “Naturalism,” and a score of other articles. It is just a moldy piece of academic verbiage. It tells you how once there were bold thinkers like Hume and Kant who thought that truth was to be learned by the use of reason not intuition, but of the mental attitude which 99 men out of 100 call Rationalism today, of its great growth in the 19th century and the reasons for this, it does not say a word.
The Reformation is still a subject of high popular interest in countries where the population is divided into Catholics and Protestants, and we may regret that the fine 20-page article by Professor Coulton in the 11th edition is reduced to nine pages in the 14th. We do not forget the imperious need for abridgment though when we notice that 36 pages are spared for Pottery and Porcelain, that Physical Research gets more room than ever, and so on, we are a little puzzled. And, as usual, the abridgment happens to cut out bits that. Catholics do not like. In both editions the article has the initials of Professor Coulton, a learned liberal Protestant expert on the Middle Ages who wrote with discretion and reserve; that is to say, he said far less about the share of the appalling general corruption of the Church in causing the Reformation and far more about political conditions than a quite candid historian would today. However, as Coulton was still alive and active in 1929 I imagine that he saved his article from the Catholic chopping block.
The article “Relies” also is written by so lenient a Protestant writer that it is little altered. The reader will not get from it the faintest idea of the appalling fraud in the manufacture of relies in the early and the medieval church, the gross traffic in bogus articles, and the exploitation of the people.
On the important subject of the Renaissance one may congratulate the editors on having carried into the 14th edition the splendid article by J. A. Symonds. They could hardly venture to do otherwise, for Symonds is incomparably the highest authority and best writer on the subject in the English language. But the cloven hoof appears here and there. We get the ridiculous contention of certain second-rate American professors that it is misleading to speak of “the Renaissance,” meaning that Christian Europe had been asleep until the 13th century. There had been a “Carolingian Renaissance” in the 9th century, an “Ottoman Renaissance” in the 10th. and so on. Unfortunately it was precisely after these “rebirths” that Europe, especially Italy, sank to the lowest depth. To call these claims “new historical research” is bunk. They are symptoms of the demoralizing growth of Catholic influence in America. What is really new is the research into the causes of the rebirth of Europe after about 1050, which has shown the great debt of the Christian world to the Arabs and Jews. Preserved Smith seems here to do the X-ing and he not only is too pious to tell the truth about the influence of the Albigensians and the wicked Spanish Arabs but he appends to Symonds’ fine article a rather incoherent page comparing the Renaissance and the Reformation as “emancipations.”
But the Catholics expand gloriously when we come next to the article “The Roman Catholic Church.” In the older edition the introductory part was by the old-fashioned historian Alison Phillips, and he is now replaced by a short — well, say fragment of a sermon — by no less a person than Cardinal Bourne (assuring us in effect, that as the Roman Church alone was founded by Christ we need not pay any attention to other churches) and a technical account of the structure of the church by a theologian. But the 10 pages of history, now written by a priest, that follow are just the same undisguised propaganda with a sublime indifference to the facts as non-Catholic historians tell them, You have here, in fact, the clotted cream of Catholic controversial literature. served up in an encyclopedia that promises you an objective statement of modern culture and scholarship. There are few statements of fact in it that have not been torn to shreds years ago,
You have the old story of the Christian body surviving 10 persecutions by the pagans. We thought that it had been agreed by this time that there were only two general persecutions in 250 years, but this new encyclopedia accounts says that there were 10 or actually there was one long struggle. How even Catholic scholars have shown that only a hundred or two of the many thousands of martyrs claimed have survived scrutiny, how the bishops of the time describe the enormous body of the faithful abjuring the faith — Catholics claim 10,000,000 Christians in the time of Dioclettan and can’t prove 100 martyrs — and so on, is, of course, not mentioned. The growth of the church’s power, spiritual and temporal, is described in the usual Catholic manner. Even in the Dark Age — a phrase that does not soil this article, of course — the Roman Church was “the most vigorous influence for civilization in Western Europe” — its own theory it took six or seven centuries to civilize it — and if it seems to turn its spiritual power into political repeatedly it was compelled to do this because the secular princes wanted to “control the souls of men.” I should be inclined to call that the high-water mark of Catholic rhetoric. We are given to understand that during these centuries (500 to 1300), apart from a little disorder caused by the barbarian invaders, the church kept the world (and its clergy, monks, and nuns) virtuous — that is one of the tallest myths in history — but “the pagan Renaissance” and “the general decadence of morals” which this caused unhappily did penetrate the armor of the church’s virtue a little. it seems that even many of the Popes themselves were too affected by the general materialism.” A grave work of reference offers us that as a summary of the historical fact that, to say nothing of the barbarism of the Dark Age and the license of the 12th and 13th centuries, the papacy itself was so low in tone from 1300 to 1670 that the few popes who made a serious effort to reform the church — and that in regard to sex almost alone — reigned, collectively, only about 20 years out of the 350 and the general level of conduct in Europe was infamous. And it is equally false to say that the church purged itself by a Counter-Reformation which began before and independently of its Protestant critics. The Reformation began in 1517, and the Vatican and Rome were, as the contemporary Cardinal Sachetti describes, appallingly corrupt to 1670. This is public instruction in history up to date, and now under the aegis of the University of Chicago.
One of the arch-sophists of the American regiment of propagandists, Mgr. Peter Guilday, is permitted to tell the situation of the church in the world today. It is enough to repeat what he says about America. He says that in 1920 there were 22,233,254 Catholics in America so there were probably about 25,000,000 (the Catholic Directory claimed only 20,000,000) in 1928. The same church authorities give these enormously conflicting figures, yet notice how definite they are to the last unit. Naturally he does not explain that, unlike any other church, the Catholic Church includes in its figures even the millions who have quit it. On such positive inquiries as we have it seems that there can hardly be much more than 15,000,000 real Catholics in America; but it would not do to let Washington know that.
After this I need not comment on the article “Rome,” meaning the city of Rome. The sketch of its history during the Dark Age and the later Middle Ages is on a line with what I have just described. Compared with the great work of Gregoravius, the world-authority on the city, this account is like a Theosophist’s sketch of the life of Mme. Blgvatsky. “Russia” must have tempted the ghostly censors, but the editor of the Encyclopedia got Durant to do it, and we miss the clerical touch. “Skepticism” is another subject on which, you would think, a Catholic would like to write but the article was already so innocuous and misleading that it was left in all the glory of its Victorian verbiage. The poor man who has to depend upon encyclopedias for his information will gather that Skepticism was, like Rationalism, a malady of the philosophical world in the last century but that it has died out.
Under “Schools” there was in the 11th edition a (fine 12-page history of schools in Europe from Greek-Roman days onward. After what we saw about he articles “Education” and “Libraries” you will be prepared for a burnt offering. The whole essay, with its excellent account of the Roman system of free schools for all, and discreet insinuation of the blank illiteracy and schoollessness of the Dark Age, and some account of the Arab- Persian achievement, goes by the board. Certainly it was important to provide large new space for modern school systems, but an informed and honest pedagogist could have told the historic truth and introduced the results of recent research into the Spanish Arab-Schools in a page or so. But it would have been deadly to the claim that Christianity “gave the world schools” or that the Roman Church cared the toss of a cent about the education of the children of the workers until secular states started our modern systems.
In passing we note how neatly the Encyclopedia does a little white-washing of the church in the Dark Age in its article “Salvester II.” We do not question that he was “the most accomplished scholar of his age” — in Christendom, the writer ought to have added. He is not to be mentioned in the same breath as Avicenna (Ibn Sind), the great Persian scholar of the same age, and could not hold a candle to scores, if not hundreds, of other contemporary Persian and Arab writers. But what the article and Catholic writers generally carefully conceal is that he got his learning from the Arabs — his chief biographer proves that he actually studied in Cordova (and had a gay time there) — and that he was forced by the German Emperor upon the reluctant and half-barbarous Romans, and they probably poisoned him off in four years. He was a great collector of books (manuscripts), but, say’s this article ingenuously “it is noteworthy, that he never writes for a copy of one of the Christian Fathers.” Read his life by the expert and you will smile.
“Slavery” is an article upon which a critic would joyously pounce if he did not know anything about the Irish professor Ingram, who wrote the long and fairly good articles in the 11th edition. Ingram was a Positivist and he let the church off lightly, as Positivists always do; and at the same time let the public down heavily. But even Ingram’s dissertation was a little too strong, so X was let loose upon it. and he adds his mark to Ingram’s initials as joint author. You know why the subject is important from the clerical angle. The myth that Christianity “broke the fetters of the slave” is so strongly established, though it has not an atom of foundation, that even the late H, G. Wells included it as a historical fact in the first edition — he promptly cut it out when I told him how wrong he was — of his “Outline of History.” Neither St. Paul nor any Christian Father nor any Pope or great Christian leader, and certainly no Church Council, condemned slavery until modern times when the wicked “world” was busy extinguishing it. Even the article in the “Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics” makes this clear. It still existed in Europe, though economic conditions had greatly restricted it, when, under the blessing of the Spanish Church, it expanded again into the horrible chapter of African slavery. The proper treatment of Ingram’s article would have been to let the reader understand this more clearly, to take into account the large amount of scholarly work which has in regent years greatly modified the old idea of slavery in Rome in the first three centuries of the present era, and to explain how economic causes changed slavery to serfdom and then, in most of Europe, emancipated the serfs. Instead of this X has been permitted to do a little of his usual tampering with the truth.
“Solomon” has a page and a half of the old credulous glorification, in spite of all the progress of biblical science. If this and similar articles which were solemnly read by our grandmothers but are now confined to the seminaries of the more backward churches, such as the Catholic, had been cut down to so many explanatory short paragraphs, the editor might have found room for a couple of useful pages on Social Progress, thought the subject deserves as much space as football or cricket: and at least a couple (instead of the scanty and outdated treatment of the subject under “Psychology”) of pages summarizing the results of the important new science of Social Psychology.
The historical section of the article “Spain” ought to have been almost entirely rewritten. It was written in the days when historians had not quite recovered from the Catholic legend that the Arabs had taken over the beautiful Christian country in the 8th century and held an eccentric rule over it until the valiant Spaniards overthrew them and made the country glorious and virtuous once more. For 100 years we have known the truth, and since this article was written liberal Spanish professors — Ballesteros, Ribera. Cordera, etc. — working on the Arabic manuscripts which have been hidden in Catholic libraries for centuries so that the orthodox myth should not be exposed, have shown the real grandeur of the Arab (as opposed to the later Moorish) civilization. The churches of the Christian monarchs themselves and the remarkable sexual looseness of the Spanish clergy and people in all ages have been established, the appalling ruin of the country after 100 years of Castellan rule has become a platitude of history, and even the Cambridge History tells the awful story of the Bourbon dynasty in the 19th century and, in conjunction with the church, its savage war on liberalism. It Is impossible to understand modern Spain unless you know these things. The Encyclopedia does not tell them. It completely misleads the innocent reader and supplies as “authority” an untruthful religious propagandist
The article on Spiritualism was entrusted to Sir Oliver Lodge, a man who had betrayed his childlike credulity and unfitness for such a task in his “Raymond” and other works. There are six pages on “Spirits” and they will doubtless have a use for experts in distillation (who ought to know all about it), but on the subject of “Spirit,” which is one of the most confused words in the modern vocabulary, there is not even a paragraph. Writers, preachers, and politicians talk every day about “spiritual realities,” and we may surely assume that a large number out of their tens of millions of readers and hearers would like to know precisely what they mean. From a wide experience I may say that most of them do not know themselves. One American professor gives us seven different definitions of the word Spirit. Yet editors who spare many pages for whelks or wall-papers give no assistance here. Naturally the British (High Tory) journalist, Garvin, who was the original editor of the 14th edition, knew no more about these things than Henry Ford or Herbert Hoover did. What the editor whose name appears on the latest printing of it, Walter Just, knows I can’t say, as his name is not in “Who’s Who in America.” But there must have been a regiment of sectional editors, and this is their idea of giving the general public clear ideas and authenticated facts to enable them to form sound opinions.
The article “Stoicism” is not much less misleading. There is so much extant literature of Stoicism — Epictetus, Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, etc. — that it was in modern times impossible to misrepresent it as the philosophy of Epicures is misrepresented (the early Christians having conveniently burned the whole of his 200 books). So pious folk swung to the opposite extreme. It was a religion founded by an austere puritan named Zeno and was too high and impractical for the people. The article in the Britannica runs on these lines. The author puts out of all proportion the small and temporary religious wing of the movement, and misrepresents the character of Zeno, who, his Greek biographer tells us, used to go with a youth or a young woman occasionally to show that he had no prejudices of that sort. He fails entirely to make clear that the central doctrine of the Stoics, the Brotherhood of Man, was a practical social maxim borrowed from the gay-living Lydians, and that it was a blend of this with the same central doctrine of Epicures that worked as an inspiring social influence in the Greek Roman world for five centuries; and that of the so-called Stoic emperors only Marcus Aurelius, who let down the Empire, was a Stoic.
An article on Surgery is scarcely the place in which you would look for clerical trickery, and X has not ventured to couple his name with that of the distinguished expert who writes the article in the 11th edition. But his work has in the 14th edition been deprived of an essential value. I do not know many who consult such articles as anatomy, physiology, surgery. and medicine in an encyclopedia. They are too technical for the general public, while students have to seek their information in more serious works. But the historical introduction which the Britannica used to prefix to its, essays on the more important branches of science and on such subjects as education, slavery, philanthropy, etc., were useful to a wide public. Reading the articles in the 14th edition, one would at first think that the editors had never healed that anybody disputed the claim that the churches created modern civilization, The truth is, of course, that the historical introductions to articles on the various elements of our civilization in the old Britannica made a mockery of the clerical claims and painfully exposed the barbarism of the Dark Age and the scientific sterility of the later Middle Ages. In those days the clerical bodies had not the economic and business organization that they now have, and they had to be content that they were allowed to write the articles on religious subjects, that articles dealing with philosophy, psychology, and ethics were entrusted to men of the old spiritual school, and that the general historical sections were carried on from the less critical days of the last century. Now even the scientific parts must be revised. Those introductions which brought out too prominently the cultural blank of ages in which the church was supreme must be abbreviated by cutting out significant details, falsified, or abolished.
In this case the excellent four-page introduction on the historical development of surgery has disappeared. It had shown that, while there was appreciable progress in the science in Greece and Alexandria, this was lost in the general barbarism after Europe became Christian.
“For the 500 years following the work of Paulus of Aegina (the last distinguished Greek surgeon) there is nothing to record but the names of a few practitioners of the court and of imitators and compilers…. The 14th and 15th centuries are almost without interest for surgical history.”
The writer admitted, however, that the Arabs and Persians had resumed the work of the Greeks, and, though they were occasionally hampered by the religious ban on dissection, they carried the science forward once more. In point of fact this article ought here to have been strengthened, for in some respects the Arabs advanced far beyond the Greeks. But all this is as distasteful to our modern clerical corporations as statues without fig-leaves, so the whole section has been cut out. We fully recognize that a great deal more space was needed for modern surgery but there are hundreds of articles of far less importance to the modern mind that could have been relegated to the 19th. century trash-basket.
The next article that attracts the critical eye is “Syllabus,” the account of a miserable blunder that the papacy committed in 1864 in condemning a long series of propositions (on liberalism, toleration, freedom of conscience, etc.) most of which are now platitudes even to the Republican or Conservative mind. If Catholic writers in America did not now pretend that their church had always accepted these principles of social morals and public life, if they did not lie about the nature of their Syllabus, no one would complain if this egregious blunder of the rustic-minded Pope Pius IX were reduced to a short paragraph, provided it was truthful. The article in the 11th edition was written by a French priest but it did give the reader some idea of the monstrosity of the condemnation. It has been abbreviated — by cutting out all details that conflict with the modern Catholic-American version of the Syllabus.
We cannot grumble because the lengthy article on the Templars by a distinguished historian of the last century, Alisen Philips, has been cut from eight pages to five, but when we see that X has added his unsavory mark to Philips initials as joint author of the article in the 14th edition our suspicions are aroused. Few of the general public now have the dimmest idea, at least in America — in London and Paris a whole area still bears their name (the Temple) who these Knights Templars, or Knights of the Temple of Solomon, were, but their shameful story is an important part of our moral indictment of the Church in the Middle Ages, and the Catholic apologist not only misrepresents it but quotes them as a grand example of the inspiration of his faith. This small society of monastic knights was formed in Jerusalem about the year 1120 precisely because the Crusaders who had settled in Palestine were comprehensively and appallingly corrupt; so corrupt that only eight out of the whole body of knights were willing to adopt the stricter life. Pious folk, as usual, showered wealth upon the new monks — the “brutal pious, simple-minded men,” as Professor Langolis calls them — and by the end of the century they were a rich and corrupt body all over Europe. In 1309 the Pope was compelled, by his deal for the tiara with the French king, to put them on trial for corruption, and a great trial by the leading lawyers of France, four cardinals appointed by the Pope, and a number of French prelates was held at Paris.
X improves Philips’ article by first distracting attention from the fact (which even Philips did not accentuate) that the trial of the Templars was one of the conditions on which the Pope got the French king to secure the papal throne for him, and then cutting out the worst charges that were made against the Templars. They were accused of not only a general practice of sodomy, which (as recent trials in Germany showed) is a normal vice of celibate religious bodies, but of compelling members of the Order to practice it. At initiation, it was said, each had to kiss the Grand Prior’s nude rear, spit on the crucifix, and worship an effigy of the devil. Suppressing these charges certainly cheats the reader, who is given to understand that their immense wealth just led the monk-knights into familiar irregularities. The mere fact that priests brought these foul charges against one of the best known orders of monks in the beautiful 13th century, before the “pagan Renaissance” tainted Europe (as these revisers say in a previous article), and that they were proved to the satisfaction of a group of cardinals, archbishops, and great lawyers is a social phenomena. So the charges are cut out.
Under a series of horrible tortures (including torture of the genitals) most of the monk-knights, including the Grand Master and his chief assistants, admitted the charges. The tortures used are another appalling reflection on the age and its courts, so these, though well known in history, are not described in detail, but the reader is invited to regard confessions made under torture as worthless. What would you think of a body of monks and knights (of the Age of Chivalry) who, to escape torture, would confess that they practiced, and their whole body had practiced for decades, the most degrading vices, besides wholesale drunkenness and other evils, and that they had sacrificed children to the devil in their nocturnal orgies. As to the impossible nature of the charges, remember that the witches, who had begun to spread over Europe, did almost the same things, except that they healthily detested sodomy and did not sacrifice children or virgins.
However, we cannot go further into the matter here.
Historians have always been divided as to their guilt — mainly because they have inadequate ideas of the character of the time — but X has blurred the mild and insufficient account of the trial that Philips gave and he has — I would almost say the insolence — to say in the end that the Order of the Templars had “deepened and given a religious sanction to the idea of the chivalrous man and so opened up to a class of people who for centuries to come were to exercise influence in spheres of activity the beneficent effects of which are still recognizable in the world.” The Age of Chivalry, we have seen, is a sorry myth, but to speak of the Templars as one of its ornaments…. it stinks. He adds that they also “checked the advance of Islam in the East and in Spain.” The last check on the advance of the Moslem in the East had been over nearly a century earlier and they had made no attempt to advance in Spain for two centuries before the Order of the Templars was founded.
The articles “Theism” and “Theology” were, of course, so thoroughly sound from the clerical point of view in the 11th edition that there was no call for revision. In the article on Theism the space is mainly occupied with a long account of the old-fashioned proofs of the existence of God: Cosmological, Teleological, Ontological, Ethical and from Religious Experience. I do not know how many folk are saved from Atheism every year by studying these evidences in an encyclopedia, but I think it is a pity the Catholic censor was not let loose here. Not that he would have criticized the arguments. They are venerable relies of his own Thomas Aquinas. But as Fulton Sheen says in his “Religion Without God,” “the Catholic Church practically stands alone today in insisting on the power of reason to prove God.” A blatant exaggeration, like most of what Sheen says, but wouldn’t it have been proper to warn readers that, as William James said of these arguments, for educated folk “they do but gather dust in our libraries.” See the different article “Theism” in the Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics.
But X comes upon the scene once more “Thirty Years War,” the account of the long and bloody struggle of Protestantism for existence in the 17th century. In face of the elementary fact that the Catholic powers, led by the fanatical Spanish Emperor, were entirely on one side — except France, which Cardinal Richelieu who defied the Papacy, kept out — and the Protestant powers on the other, it would be ludicrous to deny this most devastating struggle in Europe between the 5th and the 20th century the title, of a religious war, but Catholic writers try to magnify such political elements as it had and to conceal from the reader the debasement of character which it caused and the way in which it set back the progress of civilization in Europe more than 100 years. Here X uses his pen and his blue pencil freely and then gaily adds his mark — it used to be the mark of folk who could not write their names — to the initials of the original writer, Atkinson, as joint author.
Certainly it was necessary and desirable to cut down the dreary eight-page chronicle of battles and movements of armies, but the main improvement should have been to make clearer from recent literature the share of the Vatican and the Jesuits in bringing about the war and the attitude of Richelieu toward the papacy. X, of course, does the opposite.
Atkinson says in the original article, for instance:
“The war arose in Bohemia, where the magnate, roused; by the systematic evasion of the guarantees to Protestants, refused to elect the Archduke Ferdinand to the vacant throne.”
This is a mild expression of the fact that the Jesuits had got their pupil Ferdinand to break his oath to the Protestants, but X changes it to:
“The war arose in Bohemia, where the, Protestant magnates refused to elect Ferdinand of Austria to the vacant throne.”
The Jesuits, who haunted the Catholic camps, are never mentioned, the Vatican rarely. Richelieu’s defiance of the Pope is concealed. The terrific degradation of character — one Catholic army of 34,000 men had 127,000 women camp-followers — and the destruction, especially of the old Bohemian civilization — its population of 3,000,000 was reduced to 780,000 — are concealed from the reader, while he gets five pages of miserable battles and outrages (like the burning of Magdeberg with its people in their homes) that may have served as an inspiration to Hitler.
No candid article on the Thirty Years War would be complete today without an account of the behavior of Pope Urban VIII, who in the article on him is simply charged with “nepotism.” It was a nepotism, the Catholic princes then said, and many modern Catholic historians admit, that lost the Catholic powers the war. For decades the Popes had stored a vast quantity of gold in the Castle of Saint Angello in anticipation of this war on the Protestants. The Vatican and the Jesuits were as determined to wipe out European Protestantism in blood as some are now eager to extinguish Communism. In the closing years of the war the Catholic generals called for this fund and said that with it they could secure victory. But the Pope had distributed most of it, and ultimately distributed all of it, amongst his miserable relatives. The famous historian L von Rank estimates the sum at, in modern values, more than $500,000,000. Recent Catholic histories of the Popes — Hayward’s and Seppelt and Loffler’s — admit the facts. Naturally X does not say a word about them, and Atkinson apparently did not know them.
On Toleration there is no article, so we are spared the contortions of the Catholic writer who proves, as easily as we prove the wickedness of theft, that in a Catholic country no tolerance must be extended to other sects, but in all countries where Catholics are in the minority they are entitled to full toleration, if not privileges. You may have read the bland words of Mgr, Ryan, the great moral, philosopher of the American Catholic Church, on the subject: “Error has not the same rights as truth.” Whether the X bunch did not think it advisable to give their views on toleration or the editors did not think it advisable to publish them is one of the little secrets of this conspiracy. Certainly those members of the public who are interested in such questions would find an up-to-date article on religious freedom, which after all is fairly widely discussed in our time, more useful than a thousand articles or notices which linger in the Britannica from Victorian days.
The article on Torquemada, the famous Spanish Inquisitor, in the 11th edition was written by the Jesuit Father Taunton, and although he was, as I have earlier noted, more liberal than a good Jesuit ought to be, Catholics had little fault to find with the article. But his judgment on the character of the fanatic, which is the only point of interest about him to us moderns, was repugnant to the Catholic revisers of the 14th edition. Taunton had said:
“The name of Torqubmada stands for all that is intolerant and narrow, despotic and cruel. He was no real statesman or minister of the Gospel but a blind fanatic who failed to see that faith, which is a gift of God, cannot be imposed on any conscience by force.”
This is the general verdict of historians, but the new Britannica must not give the general verdict of historians when it is distasteful to Catholics. So the paragraph is cut out. Again, while Father Taunton — once more in agreement with our historians — says that Torquemada burned 10,000 victims of the Inquisition in 18 years the reviser inserts “but modern research reduces the list of those burned to 2,000.” As no signature is subjoined while Taunton’s initials are suppressed, the reader is given to understand that this correction of Llorente’s figures is given on the authority of the Britannica. As a matter of fact, what the writer means is that one or two Catholic priests like Father Gams have been juggling with the figures so as to bring down enormously Llorente’s figure of the total victims of the Spanish Inquisition. Their work is ridiculous. Llorente was not only for years in high clerical dignity and esteem in Spain, but, as its secretary, he had the archives of the Inquisition and copied from them. But this is one of the new tricks of Catholic writers. Saying that “recent research” or “recent authorities” have corrected some statement about their church they give a few names of priests, knowing that the reader never heard of them and suppressing the “Rev.” or “Father.” A priest can become an expert on a section of history as well as any man but he will never tell the whole truth about it and he will strain or twist the facts at any time in the interest of his church.
The next article I select for examination reminds us that the Catholic group of twisters that operates under the banner X — the straight, not the crooked, cross — are not the only pious folk who have been allowed or summoned to revise the Britannica from a peculiar angle. It is the artable “Torture.” The long and generally sound article in the 11th edition had to be abridged in the 14th edition and Professor O. W. Keeton, now Professor of International Law at London University, was entrusted with the work; doubtless to the annoyance of the X group.
For any attempt to whitewash the Middle Ages is up against the notorious fact that cruelty and torture, both judicial and extra-judicial, prescribed in codes of law or practiced by individual rulers (of states or cities) or owners of serfs, knights, and even ‘ladies,’ were more common and more horrible, especially in what is called the brighter (later) part of the Middle Ages (to the 18th century) than in any other period of civilized history except, perhaps, in Chine, and in certain ages in Persia. This was not made plain enough even in the older article by Professor Williams. He almost confined himself to a study of the prescription of torture in codes of law, But he did give the reader such warnings as:
“Thus far the law. In practice all the ingenuity of cruelty was exercised to find out new modes of torment.”
Elsewhere he warns that where torture was not prescribed in the law it “certainly existed in fact.” Keeton, who uses Williams’ article with few additions, emits these warnings and just deals with law. The title of the article is “Torture” not “Torture in Law Codes,” and it is the terrific, horrible daily use of torture that rebukes the church.
The truth is that Keeton is a pious member of the Church of England, and he is no more willing than X to admit that Christianity kept the world at a low level of civilization. He makes the general remark that the nations of Europe borrowed the practice from ancient Rome — as if a man could excuse his crimes by pleading that he simply copied them from a civilization which he professed to regard as pagan and vicious — and he darkens the case against the Romans. Even when he reproduced Williams’ list of Roman opponents of torture he has to put St. Augustine on a common level with Cicero, Seneca, and Ulpian. But Williams had given Augustine’s words. He said that evidence given under torture was unreliable but he “regarded it as excused by its necessity.” Keeton omits this and falsely says that Augustine “condemned it.” When he goes on to name modern critics — he cannot name a single one between the 5th century and the 16th — he does not seem to know that six out of the eight he names were notorious Skeptics and the other two were regarded as Skeptics. He can find only one Christian who condemned the bestiality and he (Augustine) did not condemn it. He does worse than this. The old article began its section on the Church. It said:
“As far as it could the Church adopted Roman Law. The Church generally secured the almost entire immunity of the clergy, at any rate of the higher ranks, from torture by civil tribunals but where laymen were concerned all persons were equal. In many instances Councils of the Church pronounced against it; e.g., in a synod at Rome in 384.”
The learned professor of international law — when you want accuracy, of course, you have to get a professor — turns this into:
“The Church, although adopting a good deal of Roman law, was at first definitely opposed to torture.”
All that he gives in support of this is the “synod at Rome in 384.” And there was no such synod: see Bishop Hefele’s “History of the Councils.” What there was in 384 was a small synod at Bordeaux, on the very fringe of the Empire, and even there only one bishop censored the torture of heretics. In France, said the old article, “torture does not seem to have existed as a recognized practice before the 13th century.” Keeton cuts out the italicized words. As a matter of fact chronicles of the Dark Age (Glaber in the 10th century, etc.) tell of an appalling volume of torture (castration, boiling oil, etc.) in France centuries earlier. in the case of England Keeton contrives to give the reader the idea that torture was much less, but any full English history shows that in the 12th century, for instance, England groaned with daily torture as foul as the Chinese. The whole article is scandalously misleading.
“Trent, the Council of” is an article in regard to which a conscientious Catholic reviser must take great care that the full truth is not told. The article in the 11th edition is by a liberal Protestant ecclesiastical historian and although it did not contain errors and was not calculated to inflame Catholics, it did not bring out the points which any truthful dissertation on the subject must emphasize today. Too many of these professors imagine that it is their business in such article’s to give a dry and accurate string of dates and movements, ignoring the lessons for our own time. The Catholic apologist wants the modern reader to regard the Council of Trent as the chief item in the Counter- Reformation or the Church’s own work of purifying itself of abuses quite independently of the pressure of the Reformers. This, though now a commonplace of American Catholic literature, is a monstrous distortion of the facts, and as far as Trent is concerned, the article, even if it gave only the main facts, shows it.
The Council was forced upon Rome by the German Emperor who threatened to bring his army to Italy, and was meant primarily to cleanse the whole church of the comprehensive corruption which the German prelates freely described in early sittings of the Council. For years Rome refused to summon it and then decided to make the Council formulate a standard of doctrine by which it could judge and eventually (in the Thirty Years War) wipe out the heresy. Several abortive attempts were made to open the Council, as the Emperor saw (he said) that the Pope (brother of the girl- mistress of Pope Alexander VI) was bent only on “the suppression of heresy.” In the middle of the struggle this Pope, Paul III, died and, as if to show that the papal court was determined to protect its gay life, the cardinals elected an even worse man, Julius III; a man whose gluttony, heavy drinking, gambling, and delight in obscene comedies are admitted by the Catholic historian Pastor while the Romans of the time seriously charged him with sodomy (while he was Pope) with a disreputable Italian boy whom he made a cardinal. But the Germans intimidated him, and he had to summon the Council. Mirbt’s article in the 11th edition mildly (concealing the Pope’s low character) said:
“Pope Julius II, former Legate Del Monte, could not elide the necessity of convening the Council again, though personally he took no greater interest in the scheme than his predecessor in office, and caused it to resume its labors.”
Even this temperate expression of the truth is too much for our Catholic corrector of dates and other trifles. He alters it to:
Pope Julius III, the former Legate Del Monte, caused the Council to resume its labors.”
With a few touches of that sort he turns Mirbt’s half-truth into a travesty of history. It was not until Julius died that the Vatican got a Pope with a zeal for chastity (and a furious temper, a love of strong wine and long banquets, and a shameful nepotist). He lasted four years, and his successor was a man of the old vicious type, so that, as Pastor admits, “the evil elements immediately awakened once more into activity.” This was half a century after the beginning of the Reformation and, if Catholic writers were correct, the Counter Reformation. But I must here be brief. The Council closed in 1583, and the Papacy was still in a degraded condition a century later. Yet the revised article on the Council of Trent makes it appear a zealous and successful effort of virtuous Popes to purify the church.
The article “Tribonian” may seem negligible from our present angle but it has an interest. Amongst the feats of Christianity in the early part of the Dark Age we invariably find the Justinian Code, or the code of law compiled, it is said, by the Emperor Justinian. As Justinian, who married a common prostitute, thought about little above the level of the games of the Hippodrome, this seems incongruous, but it is well known to historians and jurists that the code was compiled by his great lawyer Tribonian. The interest is that, as Dean Milman shows, Tribonian was not a Christian but the last of the great pagan jurists. In the 11th edition this was at least hinted. In the 14th the whole discussion of his creed and half the appreciation of his work disappear.
“Ultramontanism” also is doctored in the new edition. Mirbt had given a perfectly fair account of this extreme version of the claims of the papacy. Until the last century — in fact, until 1870 — there was far more resentment of the papal claims in the national branches of the church than there is today, and they used the word ultramontane as a term rather of contempt for the extreme propapalists. The article has been considerably modified to conceal from the reader this earlier attitude of defiance of the Pope on the part of large numbers of Catholics.
“Utilitarianism” is, since the social theory of morality is hardly noticed in the reactionary article “Ethics,” the section in which the reader ought to be informed on the conception of morals in which is the alternative to the Christian conception. And it is today a matter of primary importance that this information should be provided in an encyclopedia. When 70 percent of American scientists, sociologists, philosophers and historians admit and allow the fact to be published that they have no belief in God and therefore no allegiance to the Christian or theistic code of morals — when there is plain evidence that this is the attitude of 70 percent of the better- educated public and that at least half of the general public come under no Christian influence (in advanced countries where statistics are not so loose at least 60 to 70 percent) — an account of the purely humanist or social conception of moral law, as it is now elaborated in most manuals of the science of ethics, is far more important than the lives of hundreds of half-mythical saints or monarchs and accounts of a thousand objects or ideas in which few are now interested. It is the more urgent because, owing to the clerical domination in our time of the press, the radio, and education, our people are confronted daily with the dogmatic assertion that the Christian conception of morality is the only effective version and that when it is rejected the social order disintegrates.
From every point of view a thorough and practical statement of the social theory, supported by ample statistics showing the relation of crime and other disasters to the degree of religious instruction in a state, is one of the essential requirements of a modern popular education. Instead, if our sociologists and pedagogists were as courageous as they are skilful, they would insist upon the incorporation of that code of conduct in the school-lessons, whatever other ideas of behavior religious folk liked to have their children taught in sectarian schools. The dual standard of conduct today is not one law for the male and one for the woman but the confusion in ideas of the code of all conduct: yet the new edition of the Britannica sins worse than the old, which had a good article by Sturt on the evolution of what used to be called the Utilitarian theory in philosophy. This old word is now misleading and too academic. The article is retained on the same grounds as “Skepticism” “Naturalism,” etc., written by clerics or philosophers of the last century. The encyclopedia is careful to adjust itself to every change in industry or art but it pleases the reactionary by ignoring as negligible the corresponding changes in social and political matters, which are far more important.
On the other hand it can find plenty of space for a new, lengthy, and gorgeously flattering article on the Vatican by a Roman prelate; an article which talks, for instance, about the tomb of St. Peter as smoothly as if no one questioned its genuineness, whereas it would be difficult to name a non-Catholic historian who admits it. Certainly one expects in a modern encyclopedia an account of both the magnificent Vatican architecture and the structure and functions of the complex Roman court (curia) of today. But even this is not truthful when it comes from a Catholic pen. There ought to be a section, on some such lines an George Seldes’s work, at least on the volume and sources of the Vatican’s income and modern policy.
As to the article on the Vatican Council (1870) which follows it is a temperate objective account by Mirbt adroitly touched up and made misleading by X. It Is important to know two things about this Council. Its chief work was that for the first time in the history of the Roman Church it declared the pope personally infallible by no means in all his utterances (encyclicals, etc.) but when he claims to use, his gifts of infallible guidance. The important point to the modern mind is that there was a massive opposition of the bishops present to accepting such a dogma, and it was only by the use of bribery and intrigue and after long days of heated quarrelling — I have heard the description from men who were present — that the Vatican won its way. The second point is that the papal triumph was rather like the painted scenery of a theater. The papal theologians had before them the long list of all the doctrinal blunders that Popes have made since the 4th century and had to frame the definition in such terms as to exclude these blunders. The world has seethed with problems as it never did before, and simple-minded Catholics have crowed over Protestants that they have “a living infallible guide”; but he has never opened his infallible lips. He has just blundered on with fallible and reactionary encyclicals as Popes have done since the French Revolution. Naturally all suspicion of these things has been eliminated from the article.
Modern-minded inquirers might have expected articles on the Virgin Birth and Vitalism, but a candid discussion of the former would have exposed the gulf that is opening on the subject in the theological world itself, and an article on the latter would either have been too boldly untruthful or it would have betrayed how materialistic science has become. In an earlier comment I noted that these “revisers” tell the reader in one article that under the influence of Bergson, Lloyd Morgan, Sir Arthur Thompson. and similar men science has become less materialistic. These men were Vitalists, claiming that there is something more than matter and physical and chemical energies in living things. They were a clique of scientific, men or philosophers who allowed religious views to color their science and had no influence on others. Vitalism is dead. Thousands of thoughtful Americans would like to know why, while physicists like Millikan and Compton are always ready to stand lip for the faith, hardly one distinguished biologist can be persuaded to support them. A truthful article on Vitalism would have given the answer.
The article on Voltaire in the 11th edition was a five-page essay by Professor Saintsbury, a paramount and critical authority, yet, although no one can pretend that recent research has added to or modified our knowledge, the Vatican detectives were let loose upon it. Some writer who suppresses his name used Saintsbury’s material and falsified his conclusions. He suppresses such details as the fact that Voltaire built a church for the pious folk among whom he lived. He inserts these things in Saintsbury’s estimate of Voltaire’s character:
“He was inordinately vain and totally unscrupulous in gaining money and in attacking an enemy, or in protecting himself when he was threatened with danger.”
Saintsbury, who was no blind admirer of Voltaire had said:
“His characteristic is for the most part an almost superhuman cleverness.”
Now we read:
“His great fault was an inveterate superficiality.”
It is a mean article, preserving the general appearance of the impartiality of a great literary critic and inserting little touches, hare and there to spoil it. As Noyes’s book is the only addition to the bibliography one wonders…. But it is one of the few articles of that length in the Encyclopedia that is not signed. Saintsbury had been less generous than the famous liberal and learned cleric Dr. Jowett, who says in one of his letters: “Voltaire has done more good than all the Fathers of the Church put together.” It was not in the interest of accuracy that the anonymous reviser used his pen.
There is no need here to search every short article that touches religion in the Encyclopedia for “correction of dates and other trifles., Running cursorily over the remaining volume I am chiefly interested in the omissions. I look for some notice of recent psychological research on what is still called “Will” and I do not find a word except on the legal document known as a Will or Testament. We hear folk still all round us talking about strong will and weak will, good will and bad will, the will to believe, and so on, but the very word is dropping out of manuals of psychology, and specific research in American psychological laboratories has reported that there is no such thing as will in mans make-up. We could chose a hundred short articles to omit in order to give a little space for these important changes in psychology. But doubtless it would have encouraged the Materialists, who are damned from the preface of the work onward.
But let me say one good word for the Encyclopedia before I come to the end of my list. Only a week ago I read a new novel, by a Catholic writer, who takes himself seriously. It was based upon the author’s firm — in fact impudent and, vituperative as far as the rest of us are concerned — belief that witches exist today and worship a devil who is as real as Senator Vandenburg or Mr. Molotov. In fact, the pompous idiot clearly believes that beautiful but naughty young ladies still fly through the air by night on brooms! I think he makes his virtuous heroine estimate the speed at about 30 miles an hour. Here, I reflected, is a man who takes his facts and views about religion from purified Encyclopedia, and I turned to the article “Witchcraft.”
To my astonishment I found that the article in the 14th edition is by Margaret Murray, whose learned and admirable work on witchcraft ought to have made a final sweep of these medieval ideas. Of course, there were witches, millions of them in every century after the 14th, of all ages. from babies dedicated by their mothers and beautiful young girls to the aged (who seem to have been the less numerous), of both sexes, of every social rank and often of high clerical rank. Of course, they believed that they were worshipping a real devil (the Spirit) and were sexually promiscuous in their nocturnal meetings, which ended in orgies. There were no broomsticks, werewolves, or magical powers. The local organizer was generally dressed in a goat’s skin (and often horns) and had probably a stone or bone or wooden phalli to meet demands on him. Of course, there was a lot of crookedness. But the “witches” were genuine folk, who, finding themselves in a world in which hundreds of thousands of “holy persons” grew fat by preaching a religion of chastity and self torture while in practice they smiled upon and shared a general license, preferred a frank cult of the Spirit that blesses human nature and its impulses. Miss Murray was not granted space enough to explain this fully, or hers would have been one of the most interesting articles in the new encyclopedia. But we like the unexpected breath of realism as far as it goes.
Unfortunately, we soon find that this does not mean that the editors were converted or had a jet of adrenal energy in the 23rd hour. In the article “Woman” we again detect the hand of the reactionary. We recognize that the great development of woman’s activities in modern times required a large amount of new space, and that since the editors were determined for some reason to keep to something like the proportions of the old encyclopedia a good deal of abridgment was required. But, as happens in scores of cases of these articles the abridgement has meant the suppression of a vast amount of material which the Catholic clergy did not like. No sensible man will regard that as mere coincidence.
Since the reconstruction of the Britannica in 1911 two things happened in this connection. One was the development of new feminist activities and organizations for which, we recognize, new space had to be found. The other was a development of a political sense which led to a vast amount of anti- clericalism amongst the women. since the beginning of the last century a small minority of women have pointed out that the historical record of woman’s position and refusal of her rights reflected bitterly on the Christian churches, especially the Roman, and their claim that “Christianity was always the great friend of woman” (and of the child, the sick, the slave, the worker, etc.). This claim was, as usual, a flagrant defiance of the facts. In the great old civilizations, Egypt and Babylonia, woman’s right to equality was recognized. In the Greek-Roman civilization, which began with profound injustice to her, she had fairly won her rights before the end came. But the establishment of Christianity thrust her back into the category of inferiority and she suffered 14 centuries of gross injustice; and the champions of her rights from the time of the French Revolution onward, both in America and Europe, were for the far greater part Skeptics, and the clergy opposed them until their cause showed promise of victory in the present century,
The article “Woman” in the 11th edition had an historical introduction which, though by no means feminist, gave a considerable knowledge of these facts. It has entirely disappeared from the 14th edition instead of being strengthened from the large new literature that has appeared since 1914. Exigencies of space, yes. We know it. But as in the case of dozens of others articles the clergy wanted these historical sketches buried.
We might say the same about the workers, but even in the oldedition the editors had not dared to give a sketch of, or a summary of, the facts about the position of the workers in the Greek-Roman world in imperial days and then in the Christian world from the 5th century to the 10th. That would smack of radicalism. A large new literature has since appeared; and certainly here no one will plead that there is a lack of public interest. But in this connection we understand the feeling of the editors. Any candid account today of the privileged position of the workers in imperial Rome and their awful position during the 14 Christian centuries that followed would bring a shower of familiar missiles (Reds, Bolsheviks, Atheistic Communists, Crypto-Communists, etc.). We grant it: But the other side must grant what obviously follows. They have to suppress a large and pertinent body of truth in works of public instruction at the bidding of vested interests, clerical and other, and leave the reactionaries free to disseminate untruth.
It is the same with the final article I select, “World-War II.” The time will come when truths that are still whispered in military and political circles will be broadcast, and this article will be charged with suppressing or obscuring facts which are of great importance for a sound judgment on the conduct of the war, particularly in regard to the criminal neglect to make such preparation for it as might have so far intimidated the Nazis, Fascists, and Japanese that they would not have made the venture. But what concerns me here is the complete and severe suppression of any reference to the share of religion and the churches in inspiring and supporting the war or confirming the scandalous period of sloth that preceded it.
Three things are today certain. The Vatican and its national branches are red to the shoulders with the blood that was shed. From the outbreak of Franco’s rebellion — the curtain-raiser of the war — and the trouble in Czecho-Slovakia to the year when Russia turned the tide against the Germans and an Allied victory seemed at least probable the Roman Church, in its own interest, acted in the closest cooperation with the thugs. One can quote even Catholic writers (Teeling, etc.) for that, The second is that the Japanese religion, Shinto and Buddhism alike, were similarly, in fact openly, working with the blood-drunk Japanese leaders. This was emphasized at a World Congress of Religions in Chicago several years before the war broke out. Thirdly, the Protestant churches in America enfeebled the warning against Japan, in the interest of their missions, the Lutheran Church in Germany bowed servilely to the Nazis except when Hitler interfered with its doctrines, and the British churches were equally guilty in the prewar period. This attitude of the organized religions was of vital use to the aggressors. But we couldn’t tell that, the editors of the Encyclopedia will protest. And that is just one of the grounds of these criticisms. The Encyclopedia Britannica does not tell the reader facts and truths if the clergy do no like them, and that covers a considerable territory in regard to history, science, and contemporary life. The 14th edition not only does not tell them but suppresses them if earlier editions told them, and even allows untruths to be inserted.
By a curious coincidence — so odd that the reader may be a little skeptical but I give my word for it — on the very day on which I write this page I get a letter from an American correspondent who treasures his Encyclopedia Britannica and avails himself of a recent offer of the publishers to send free replies to any questions it may inspire. I gather that he gets these replies from the University of Chicago. It is always a graceless and painful thing to distrust any man’s faith in academic human nature but when my friend reads this little book I wonder if he will retain his confidence in all its robustness.
The professors will doubtless reply at once that I seem to expect an encyclopedia which is written for the service of the general public to include Rationalist opinions or at least to allow its writers to make positive statements on controversial matters, which is a sin against the ideal of educational publications. To the first of these complaints I would reply that Rationalism is now the attitude of a much larger proportion of the reading public than Christian belief is, yet in a thousand signed articles or short notices in the Britannica Christian writers are permitted to express their peculiar opinions and convictions freely, it would hardly be an outrage to expect the editors to allow Rationalists to provide the accounts of Rationalism, Skepticism, Naturalism, Atheism, Agnosticism and scores of similar articles which bear upon their position. But that they have not done so but have invariably hired hostile theologians to mangle these subjects is the smallest and least important criticism that I have here expressed. Of course, I do not expect them to act differently. Rationalism is unorganized and has no influence on the circulation of large and expensive works that are mainly destined for reference libraries. But is there any harm in drawing the attention of the public who use the books to that fact?
Well at least, they will say, McCabe expects to find the views which Rationalists take on controverted subjects embodied in the work. Again I do nothing of the kind. I might plead once more that as the majority of the serious reading public are no longer Christians they have the same right to have the critical view of a particular issue brought to the notice of Christian readers as these have to have their views forced upon the Rationalist. Has the capital invested in the Encyclopedia Britannica been provided by the Sacred Congregation for Propagating the Faith, the Catholic Welfare body, the Knights of Columbus — somehow my mind asks a question or two at this point — the British Catholic Truth Society or Westminster Federation. the Episcopal Church, the Methodists, or the Baptists? The earlier editions of the Britannica were published in days when the immense majority of those who consulted the book were Christians. It chooses to act today as if there had been no change. We, of course, know why. The cost of producing such a work and the profit on it have mainly to be secured from public or college or other institutional libraries, and these are to an enormous extent, especially in America, subject to a clerical censorship. I am too faithful a realist to make the welkin ring with my complaints because the publishers recognized this situation. Or am I churlish because I draw the attention of the public to the fact that this situation has an influence on the contents of the book.
I would not even embark upon these considerations only that I know from 50 years experience that what I do say will be ignored or misrepresented and the public will be distracted from my real criticisms by triumphant refutations, rich in irony and rhetoric, of something that I did not say.
The candid reader hardly needs me to re-state the chief grounds of my analysis of the work. The main idea is stated plainly in the introductory pages. I had occasion a few years ago to take up the matter. I have myself little need to look for my information, except perhaps a date occasionally, in encyclopedias, and when I do I generally collate the British, American, French, German, Italian, and Spanish, all of which are equally available to me. But I had, as I said, assured a correspondent that he would find proof of the castrated singers of Roman churches even in the Britannica, and this led to my discovery that the 14th edition differed materially in article after article from the 11th. (The 12th, 13th, 15th, and 16th are not “editions” in the proper sense but reprints). And pursuing this inquiry I discovered that the editors of the 14th edition had come to some remarkable secret arrangement with the Catholic Church. I say “secret” because, as I showed, the Westminster Catholic Federation with which the compact was made, though American priests assisted in the work, was compelled to make a public and humiliating disavowal of what it had claimed. Otherwise, the public would never have heard that there had been any arrangement.
For the first time I have now had the leisure to make an extensive though not complete comparison of the two editions, and the reader has seen that the second statement of the Westminster Federation — that they had simply altered dates and technical points about their church — is false. Any person familiar with these matters will assume that the bargain really was that if they were permitted to scratch out everything in the 11th edition that was, in the familiar phrase, “offensive to Catholics,” they would recommend even nuns to admit it into their libraries (possibly with the anatomical and some other plates cut out) and would not oppose it in the public libraries. I doubt if it was part of the bargain that they could insert new matter that was “agreeable to Catholics,” except such things as the cardinal’s sermonette on the sin of birth control and the Roman prelate’s publicity of the Vatican (and the genuine tomb of St. Peter).
However, as we have seen, pious zeal cannot be content with mere excisions. Give a priest an inch and he will take an ell of a lot. He does not learn casuistry for nothing. Under cover of the need of abbreviation he has deleted whole paragraphs, even columns of facts which were offensive to him because they flatly contradicted what he said or wrote, and then, possibly fearing that he had cut out too much, he inserted sentences or paragraphs which “put the Catholic point of view.” He has taken phrases or paragraphs of the original writers of the articles and, while retaining their initials, he has repeatedly turned them inside out or has said that “recent research” (the gymnastic of some other Catholic apologist) has corrected his statements.
And I say that for an encyclopedia to allow this and not candidly explain it to the public but even try to prevent the Catholics disclosing it is a piece of deception. The writers who did the work had not the decency — or were they forbidden? — to give their names, as other contributors do. It is therefore possible that the plea may be urged that various groups of folk were engaged in the work of correcting errors in the 11th edition and it was thought best to lump all these little men together as Mlle. X. We are, however, intrigued by the fact that all these alterations, suppressions, and additions that I have examined uniformly serve the interests of Catholic propaganda and are generally characterized by the familiar chief feature of that propaganda — untruthfulness.
Possibly the plea will be made that most of these are cases of historical statements, and that the Catholic has a right to object to the inclusion of any statement upon which historians are not agreed. I have pointed out one fallacy here. When the Catholic objects that “historians” dispute a point he generally means that it is disputed by historians of his own church: the men who say that Peter was buried at Rome and Torquemada burned only 2,000 heretics, that the Dark Age was bright with culture and virtue and the Age of Chivalry and the Crusaders irradiated the entire world, that the church was just tainted a little by a wicked world at one time but it soon purified itself by a Counter-Reformation, that there was horrible butchery at the French, Russian and Spanish Revolutions, that the Christian church abolished slavery and gave the world schools, hospitals, democracy, art, and science, and a thousand other fantastic things. If encyclopedias propose to embody these self-interested antics of Catholic propagandists the public ought to know it. In this little work I let them know it. Just the sort of thing an Atheist would do, yon may reflect.
In not a single one of these criticisms have I complained that a majority-view of historians or scientists or other experts has been given to the public without reserve, though it is considered proper in serious works of history or science to add that there is a dissentient majority-view. My complaint has been throughout that even the majority-view of historians has been suppressed or modified and the evidence for them cut out where the Catholic clergy do not like that particular view to reach the public because it conflicts with what they say; and that in scores of cases statements which are peculiar to Catholic writers and opposed to even the majority-opinion of experts have been allowed to be inserted as ordinary knowledge. I have given a hundred instances of this many of them grossly fraudulent and impudent. In short, the 14th edition of the Britannica has been used for the purpose of Catholic propaganda.
I do not in the least say that it is the only work of public reference that has been so used. The new Encyclopedia Americana betrays a lamentable degree of Catholic influence, and even the more scholarly Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics has curried favor with Catholics by entrusting a number of important articles (“Inquisition,” etc.) to Catholic writers, with the usual disastrous results; while manuals of European, especially medieval, history by some American professors strain or suppress evidence scandalously to suit Catholic authorities. I have here merely given the definite evidence in one field that the Catholic Church uses its enormous wealth and voting power to poison the wells of truth and to conceal from the public the facts of history which make a mockery of the fantastic claims it advances today.
Beyond this I have given many examples of the outdated character of a monstrous amount of stuff in the Encyclopedia that ought to have been displaced (instead of sound historical sketches) to make room for new matter. That is a natural vice of an old encyclopedia; or so we should be inclined to say if new encyclopedias did not, in order to get the patronage of reactionary institutions, imitate them. Who wants in a modern encyclopedia the mass of stuff about saints and martyrs, which are to a great extent pure fiction and rarely honest, about ancient kings, queens, and statesmen about whom the sketches lie glibly or are loaded with dates and events of no use to us, about a thousand points of theology and ritual which ought to be confined to a religious encyclopedia. It is not alone in regard to the Catholic Church that our works of reference are so full of calculated untruths and outdated obsequiousness. Although, as I said, the section of the public that ever consults one of these large works — 60 to 70 percent never do — is predominantly non- Christian we do not expect the full truth, especially in regard to history, in them. The domination of the economic corporations of the clergy is too complete to permit that. I have a small Rationalist Encyclopedia presently appearing in London which I wrote six or seven years ago. It Will show how different the truth, gathered from the works of experts, is from the stuff one reads in encyclopedia-articles on matters affecting one’s philosophy of life; though I fear it will be issued in two expensive volumes, instead of the cheap fortnightly parts (as originally intended) of my larger American publications, and my labor will be virtually wasted; for the clergy will see that public libraries do not get it. It is a lamentable situation, for from the religious field this modern manipulation of truth extends to many others. I hope this short investigation will help to open the eyes of the American public to its new mental slavery.