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 Throughout several of the foregoing chapters I have laid considerable emphasis on the narrow parochial attitude of the Britannica’s editors and on the constant intrusion of England’s middle-class Presbyterianism into nearly every branch of ?sthetics. The Britannica, far from being the objective and unbiased work it claims to be, assumes a personal and prejudiced attitude, and the culture of the world is colored and tinctured by that viewpoint. It would appear self-obvious to say that the subject of religion in any encyclop?dia whose aim is to be universal, should be limited to the articles on religious matters. But in the Encyclop?dia Britannica this is not the case. As I have shown, those great artists and thinkers who do not fall within the range of bourgeois England’s suburban morality, are neglected, disparaged, or omitted entirely. Not only patriotic prejudice, but evangelical prejudice as well, characterizes this encyclop?dia’s treatment of the world’s great achievements;[196] and nowhere does this latter bias exhibit itself more unmistakably than in the articles relating to Catholicism. The trickery, the manifest ignorance, the contemptuous arrogance, the inaccuracies, the venom, and the half-truths which are encountered in the discussion of the Catholic Church and its history almost pass the bounds of credibility. The wanton prejudice exhibited in this department of the Britannica cannot fail to find resentment even in non-Catholics, like myself; and for scholars, either in or out of the Church, this encyclop?dia, as a source of information, is not only worthless but grossly misleading.
The true facts relating to the inclusion of this encyclop?dia’s article on Catholicism, as showing the arrogant and unscholarly attitude of the editors, are as interesting to those outside of the Church as to Catholics themselves. And it is for the reason that these articles are typical of a great many of the Encyclop?dia’s discussions of culture in general that I call attention both to the misinformation contained in them and to the amazing refusal of the Britannica’s editors to correct the errors when called to their attention at a time when correction was possible. The treatment of the Catholic Church by the Britannica is quite in keeping with its treatment of other important[197] subjects, and it emphasizes, perhaps better than any other topic, not only the Encyclop?dia’s petty bias and incompleteness, but the indefensible and mendacious advertising by which this set of books was foisted upon the American public. And it also gives direct and irrefutable substantiation to my accusation that the spirit of the Encyclop?dia Britannica is closely allied to the provincial religious doctrines of the British bourgeoisie; and that therefore it is a work of the most questionable value.
Over five years ago T. J. Campbell, S. J., in The Catholic Mind, wrote an article entitled The Truth About the Encyclop?dia Britannica—an article which, from the standpoint of an authority, exposed the utter unreliability of this Encyclop?dia’s discussion of Catholicism. The article is too long to quote here, but enough of it will be given to reveal the inadequacy of the Britannica as a source of accurate information. “The Encyclop?dia Britannica,” the article begins, “has taken an unfair advantage of the public. By issuing all its volumes simultaneously it prevented any protests against misstatements until the whole harm was done. Henceforth prudent people will be less eager to put faith in prospectuses and promises. The volumes were delivered in two installments a couple of[198] months apart. The article Catholic Church, in which the animus of the Encyclop?dia might have been detected, should naturally have been in the first set. It was adroitly relegated to the end of the second set, under the caption Roman Catholic Church.
“It had been intimated to us that the Encyclop?dia’s account of the Jesuits was particularly offensive. That is our excuse for considering it first. Turning to it we found that the same old battered scarecrow had been set up. The article covers ten and a half large, double-columned, closely-printed pages, and requires more than an hour in its perusal. After reading it two or three times we closed the book with amazement, not at the calumnies with which the article teems and to which custom has made us callous, but at the lack of good judgment, of accurate scholarship, of common information, and business tact which it reveals in those who are responsible for its publication.
“It ought to be supposed that the subscribers to this costly encyclop?dia had a right to expect in the discussion of all the questions presented an absolute or quasi-absolute freedom from partisan bias, a sincere and genuine presentation of all the results of the most modern research, a positive exclusion of all second-hand and discredited matter,[199] and a scrupulous adherence to historical truth. In the article in question all these essential conditions are woefully lacking.
“Encyclop?dias of any pretence take especial pride in the perfection and completeness of their bibliographies. It is a stamp of scholarship and a guarantee of the thoroughness and reliability of the article, which is supposed to be an extract and a digest of all that has been said or written on the subject. The bibliography annexed to the article on the Jesuits, is not only deplorably meagre, but hopelessly antiquated. Thus, for instance, only three works of the present century are quoted; one of them apparently for no reason whatever, viz.: The History of the Jesuits of North America, in three volumes, by Thomas Hughes, S. J., for, as far as we are able to see, the Encyclop?dia article makes no mention of their being with Lord Baltimore in Maryland, or of the preceding troubles of the Jesuits in England, which were considered important enough for a monumental work, but evidently not for a compiler of the Encyclop?dia. Again, the nine words, ‘laboring amongst the Hurons and Iroquois of North America,’ form the sum total of all the information vouchsafed us about the great missions of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, though we are referred to the seventy-three[200] volumes of Thwaites’ edition of the Jesuits Relations. Had the author or editor even glanced at these books he might have seen that besides the Huron and Iroquois missions, which were very brief in point of time and very restricted in their territorial limitations, the Jesuit missions with the Algonquins extended from Newfoundland to Alaska, and are still continued; he would have found that most of the ethnological, religious, linguistic and geographical knowledge we have of aboriginal North America comes from those Jesuit Relations; and possibly without much research the sluggish reader would have met with a certain inconspicuous Marquette; but as Englishmen, up to the Civil War, are said to have imagined that the Mississippi was the dividing line between the North and South, the value of the epoch-making discovery of the great river never entered this slow foreigner’s mind. Nor is there any reference to the gigantic labors of the Jesuits in Mexico; but perhaps Mexico is not considered to be in North America.
“Nor is there in this bibliography any mention of the Monumenta Historica Societatis Jesu, nor of the Monumenta P?dagogica, nor is there any allusion to the great and learned works of Duhr, Tacchi-Venturi, Fouqueray, and Kroes, which have just been published and are mines of information[201] on the history of the Society in Spain, Germany, Italy and France; and although we are told of the Historia Societatis Jesu by Orlandini, which bears the very remote imprint of 1620, is very difficult to obtain, and covers a very restricted period, there is apparently no knowledge of the classic work of Jouvency, nor is Sacchini cited, nor Polanco. The Bibliothèque des écrivains de la Compagnie de Jésus, by De Backer, not ‘Backer,’ as the Encyclop?dia has it, is listed; but it is simply shocking to find that there was no knowledge of Sommervogel, who is the continuator of De Backer, and who has left us a most scholarly and splendid work which is brought down to our own times, and for which De Backer’s, notable though it be, was only a preparation. In brief, the bibliography is absolutely worthless, not only for a scholar, but even for the average reader.
“On the other hand it is quite in keeping with the character of the writers who were chosen for the article. The New York Evening Post informs us that before 1880, when a search for a suitable scribe for the Jesuit article was instituted, some one started on a hunt for Cardinal Newman, but the great man had no time. Then he thought of Manning, who, of course, declined, and finally knowing no other ‘Jesuit’ he gave the work to[202] Littledale. Littledale, as everyone knows, was an Anglican minister, notorious not only for his antagonism to the Jesuits, but also to the Catholic Church. He gladly addressed himself to the task, and forthwith informed the world that ‘the Jesuits controlled the policy of Spain’; that ‘it was a matter of common knowledge that they kindled the Franco-Prussian war of 1870’; that ‘Pope Julius II dispensed the Father General from his vow of poverty,’ though that warrior Pope expired eight years before Ignatius sought the solitude of Manresa, and had as yet no idea of a Society of Jesus; again, that ‘the Jesuits from the beginning never obeyed the Pope’; that ‘in their moral teaching they can attenuate and even defend any kind of sin’; and, finally, not to be too prolix in this list of absurdities, that, prior to the Vatican Council, ‘they had filled up all the sees of Latin Christendom with bishops of their own selection.’
“It is true that only the last mentioned charge appears in the present edition, and it is a fortunate concession for Littledale’s suffering victims; for if ‘there are no great intellects among the Jesuits,’ and if they are only a set of ‘respectable mediocrities,’ as this ‘revised’ article tells us, they can point with pride to this feat which makes a dozen Franco-Prussian wars pale into insignificance[203] alongside it. We doubt, however, if the 700 prelates who sat in the Vatican Council would accept that explanation of their promotion in the prelacy; and we feel certain that Cardinal Manning, who was one of the great figures in that assembly, would resent it, at least if it be true, as the Encyclop?dia assures us, that he considered the suppression of the Society in 1773 to be the work of God, and was sure that another 1773 was coming.
“The wonder is that a writer who can be guilty of such absurdities should, after twenty years, be summoned from the dead as a witness to anything at all. But on the other hand it is not surprising when we see that the Rev. Ethelred Taunton, who is also dead and buried, should be made his yoke-fellow in ploughing over this old field, to sow again these poisonous weeds. There are many post-mortems in the Encyclop?dia. Had the careless editors of the Encyclop?dia consulted Usher’s Reconstruction of the English Church, they would have found Taunton described as an author ‘who makes considerable parade of the amount of his research, but has not gone very far and has added little, if anything, to what we knew before. As a whole, his book on The History of the Jesuits in England is uncritical and prejudiced.’
“Such is the authority the Encyclop?dia appeals to for information. That is bad enough, but in the list of authors Taunton is actually described as a ‘Jesuit.’ Possibly it is one of the punishments the Almighty has meted out to him for his misuse of the pen while on earth. But he never did half the harm to the Jesuits by his ill-natured assaults as he has to the Encyclop?dia in being mistaken for an ‘S. J.’; for although there are some people who will believe anything an encyclop?dia tells them, there are others who are not so meek and who will be moved to inquire how, if the editor of this publication is so lamentably ignorant of the personality and antecedents of his contributors, he can vouch for the reliability of what newspaper men very properly call the stuff that comes into the office. We are not told who revised the writings of those two dead men, one of whom departed this life twenty, the other four years ago; and we have to be satisfied with a posthumous and prejudiced and partly anonymous account of a great Order, about which many important books have been written since the demise of the original calumniators, and with which apparently the unknown reviser is unacquainted.
“It may interest the public to know that many of these errors were pointed out to the managers[205] of the Encyclop?dia at their New York office when the matter was still in page proof and could have been corrected. Evidently it was not thought worth while to pay any attention to the protest.
“It is true that in the minds of some of their enemies, especially in certain parts of the habitable globe, Catholics have no right to resent anything that is said of their practices and beliefs, no matter how false or grotesque such statements may be; and, consequently, we are not surprised at the assumption by the Encyclop?dia Britannica of its usual contemptuous attitude. Thus, for instance, on turning to the articles Casuistry and Roman Catholic Church we find them signed ‘St. C.’ Naturally and supernaturally to be under the guidance of a Saint C. or a Saint D. always inspires confidence in a Catholic; but this ‘St. C.’ turns out to be only the Viscount St. Cyres, a scion of the noble house of Sir Stafford Northcote, the one time leader of the House of Commons, who died in 1887. In the Viscount’s ancestral tree we notice that Sir Henry Stafford Northcote, first Baronet, has appended to his name the title ‘Prov. Master of Devonshire Freemasons.’ What ‘Prov.’ means we do not know, but we are satisfied with the remaining part of the description. The Viscount was educated at[206] Eton, and Merton College, Oxford. He is a layman and a clubman, and as far as we know is not suspected of being a Catholic. A search in the ‘Who’s Who?’ failed to reveal anything on that point, though a glance at the articles over his name will dispense us from any worry about his religious status.
“We naturally ask why he should have been chosen to enlighten the world on Catholic topics? ‘Because,’ says the editor of the Encyclop?dia Britannica, ‘the Viscount St. Cyres has probably more knowledge of the development of th............
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