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banish it from our schools? This is the ground which the Bishop of Boston has openly taken in his letter to the school committee, and although we can see that the counsel for the prosecution will not be bold enough to take it here, we can all very plainly see that it is the great and the real objection.
Can there be any more sincere ground of complaint because the children were called upon to repeat the Ten Commandments ? Are the lessons of piety and morality which they teach offensive to the conscience or sinful to hear ? Have these divine commands lost any thing of their obligations in the progress of civilization ? Has their sublime morality lost its virtue ? Is there one commandment which to-day any Christian of any sect dare disavow ?
Over three thousand years ago these tables of the law were delivered from Mount Sinai by our Heavenly Father—when the “ mountain burned with fire into the midst of Heaven, with darkness, clouds, and thick darkness ”—when Jehovah said unto Moses, “ Gather me the people together and I will make them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days that they shall live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children."
Has that divine injunction lost its force? Is it useful at this hour to teach those divine precepts? Would it wound the tender consciences of children to be taught those ancient and holy commands ? Is any intelligent Catholic parent really unwilling that his child should repeat them? Who that has watched the signs of the times—who that has watched the winds, and the waves, and the dark clouds which drift along our stormy sky, fails to see the object and end of all this movement? No, no, there is no fear for the consciences of the children; the real objection is to the Bible itself, for, while that is read daily in our schools, America can never, never be Catholic. I am told that the most zealous of English Catholics acknowledge that England can never be Catholic so long as they keep their Saxon Bible. Of its power over the hearts of the people, an Englishman has most truly and eloquently said :
King James's version lives in the ear of a Briton, “like music that can never be forgot, like the sound of church bells, which the convert hardly knows how he can forego. Its felicities seem to be almost things, rather than mere words.
It is a part of the national mind, and the anchor of national seriousness. The memory of the dead passes into it. The potent traditions of childhood are stereotyped in its verses. The power of all the griefs and trials of man is hidden beneath its words. It is the representative of his best moments, and all there has been about him of soft, and gentle, and pure, and penitent, and good, speaks to him forever out of his English Bible. It is his sacred thing, which doubt has never dimmed, and controversy never spoiled. In the length and breadth of the land there is not an English Protestant with one spark of religiousness about him whose spiritual biography is not in his Saxon Bible.' ” Yes, all that is true! True for Englishmen to-day, but how much more deeply and dearly true for us?
Of all the wealth of happy England, of all their birthright and inheritance this sacred book was all that our ancestors brought with them to these, then barren and unkindly shores. They left behind them their lands, their wealth, their titles, their kin, their country, and the sweet memories of home. It was to read this Bible aright; to learn from it the mysteries of the living God, that they gave up all which man holds sweet and cherished ; and does any one dare now to hope that this Book will be driven from our schools? Never! never! The sun may turn back in its course, the stars may fall as the leaf falleth from the vine, and the heavens may be rolled together as a scroll, but until we have sold our birthright of freedom, never, never will the descendants of Englishmen consent that the Saxon Bible shall be banished from their free American schools.
But I may be told that our fears are groundless, that they do not object to our Bible, but to the particular use made of it in this particular case. We are not to be deluded by such specious arguments. We well know the foe with whom we deal; they will be content with any step in advance, if it be but the thousandth part of an inch, and bide their time for the next step.
This is no time for timid concessions, no time for politic compromises; the enemy are to be met at the gates. We see through their plans and strip off their plausible disguises. I repeat that their objection is to our Bible, our whole Saxon Bible, and they cannot consistently stand upon any other ground. Why do you object to the Lord's Prayer, and to the Decalogue, and the reading of the Scriptures ? Because you say "it offends our consciences." 66 We believe it is not the true version of the Word of God;" that version is “ used as a means of attack upon our tenets.” 66 The form and words are offensive to the conscience and belief of the Catholics.” Be consistent now, gentlemen, if you object to reading that Bible or reciting from it. Is it because it is offensive in form and words to your Catholic consciences? Will you be any better satisfied then if it is daily read to your children by their teachers ? Will any bishop, any priest, tell me that he is willing to have that untrue version of God's word, so offensive to Catholic conscience and belief, read daily to his flock by their heretic teachers ? No, if it is intolerant to ask the children to read or recite that Bible, it is intolerant to read it to them ; if it is intolerant to ask them to recite the Ten Commandments, it is also intolerant to teach them. If to ask the Catholic children to join in repeating the pure religion, the simple and pathetic supplications of the Lord's Prayer, offends their consciences, then any instruction in piety from a Protestant is offensive, and the Bible must be banished forever from our schools.
Concede the first point, that you are bound to excuse Catlıolic children from reciting from the Bible, and you are bound to concede that they shall not read it. Concede that they shall not read it, and you are bound to concede that it shall not be read to them. No other course is possible if the first false step is taken, and no one sees this so clearly as the priest who has so rashly commenced this attack upon our institutions. I appeal from bishop and priest, to the unfettered intelligence of our adopted citizens; I appeal to the countrymen of Burke, and Sheridan, and Grattan, and Curran. Do you, who wish to become American citizens, you who wish to draw closer the bonds of a common country and a common freedom, fear that your children will suffer because they, with united hands and hearts, lift up their tender voices in common prayer to that God who is the Father of all, whose rain falls alike upon the just and the unjust, who is the God of all nations, of all races, all climes ?
I repeat once and forever, that there is not any sectarianism intended or taught by the use of the Bible. We do not ask
your children to adopt our translation as the true one. point of doctrine arises upon any text of our Bible or theirs, they are free in their faith as we are in ours. They are instructed to interpret the second commandment in one way, and we in another. No one wishes or seeks to disturb their faith ; we do not ask them to say or to believe that ours is the true word of God, or the best translation of the tables of the law which God delivered to Moses. Our teachers, in their great duty, teach lessons of piety from the only source from which it can be taught, and the children are free to believe or disbelieve them, free to worship God according to the faith of their fathers, free in their faith, free in their consciences.
I repel altogether the specious pretence that our Bible is not the Bible, because the translation differs in some particulars from the Douay Bible. Every translation from the original Hebrew and Greek must of necessity vary—must of necessity be more or less perfect, according to the accuracy and perfection of the language into which it is translated, and the learning and skill of the translator. The Holy Scriptures have been translated into over two hundred different languages; but they are always the Bible. Not the Bible of the Catholic or the Calvinist—not the Bible of the Methodist or the Episcopalianbut the Christian Bible.
As well may we be told that God's eternal sky is not the same. It clothes itself with vanishing, ever-changing beauty from season to season, from hour to hour. It robes itself in the tender violet hues of spring, the deep, cloudless transparency of midsummer, and the dark, steel-blue of a northern winter. It arrays itself equally in the delicate rose and opal hues of dawn—the imperial purple and gold of sunset—and at midnight it wears its royal robes of state, all flecked with countless stars; but in all changes—in all climes—it is always God's eternal sky, the same sublime image of that wondrous eternity which lies behind us, and before us—the same holy symbol of the all-embracing love of our Heavenly Father.
And now may it please the Court, I have but to sum up this this part of my argument in a few words.
They say that the regulations of the school committee violate the Constitution, which protects all citizens in their liberty of conscience. I answer that their conscience is left free-they are not called upon to believe or disbelieve any thing. Their faith is their own—we do not ask them to yield one iota of it. They may find offence in our laws, and in our customs. That is always the consequence of general laws. They found us with these institutions—they have accepted the benefits of them —they must bear with the inconveniences also. And, I say it in all kindness, but it is proper it should be said, there are many causes for offence which Protestant parents also find in the laws which compel their children to mingle with the children of the Catholics. Let us hope for mutual forbearance and mutual submission to the laws.
And now, may it please your Honor, that I have briefly discussed this great question in the cause, there is another issue which it is my duty to meet. This case has been planned and arranged with a great deal of artifice, the snare was very skilfully laid, but I think I shall be able to give Father Wiget good reason to regret that he selected this as the time, or the place, or the manner of taking his first step in the great movement of expelling the Bible from our schools. It is my duty to expose this artifice, and it is an easy task; in doing it, I shall also prove, beyond all possibility of question, that this is not a case of conscience or of scruples of conscience. The truth is, that a very cunning plan was laid, the object of which was to have a boy whipped for his religion, in order to raise the cry of religious persecution, as I will presently prove.
I cannot admit that the pretended objections raised by the Catholic pupils are “not mere fetches and pretences devised for the purpose of creating a difficulty.” * This case fortunately, very fortunately, is full of conclusive evidence to the contrary, and I beg the attention of the Court to it. No one can fail to remember the manner in which this cause was originally brought before the Court. It was pretended that an intelligent and interesting little boy, religiously educated, was bidden with threats to violate his tender conscience; that in vain he pleaded the commands of his parents, the solemn lessons of his religious instructor. His prayers and appeals were all in vain ; he was ruthlessly beaten until his wicked persecutors, frightened and shocked at their own cruelty, ceased
* Letter from the Bishop of Boston to the School Committee.