Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 1.djvu/13

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Preface


The Catholic Encyclopedia, as its name implies, proposes to give its readers full and authoritative information on the entire cycle of Catholic interests, action and doctrine. What the Church teaches and has taught; what she has done and is still doing for the highest welfare of mankind; her methods, past and present; her struggles, her triumphs, and the achievements of her members, not only for her own immediate benefit, but for the broadening and deepening of all true science, literature and art—all come within the scope of The Catholic Encyclopedia. It differs from the general encyclopedia in omitting facts and information which have no relation to the Church. On the other hand, it is not exclusively a church encyclopedia, nor is it limited to the ecclesiastical sciences and the doings of churchmen. It records all that Catholics have done, not only in behalf of charity and morals, but also for the intellectual and artistic development of mankind. It chronicles what Catholic artists, educators, poets, scientists and men of action have achieved in their several provinces. In this respect it differs from most other Catholic encyclopedias. The Editors are fully aware that there is no specifically Catholic science, that mathematics, physiology and other branches of human knowledge are neither Catholic, Jewish, nor Protestant; but when it is commonly asserted that Catholic principles are an obstacle to scientific research, it seems not only proper but needful to register what and how much Catholics have contributed to every department of knowledge.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny. As for Catholics, their duty as members of the Church impels them to learn more and more fully its principles; while among Protestants the desire for a more intimate and accurate knowledge of things Catholic increases in proportion to the growth of the Church in numbers and in importance. The Catholic clergy are naturally expected to direct inquirers to sources of the needed information; yet they find only too often that the proper answers to the questions proposed are not to be met with in English literature. Even the writings of the best intentioned authors at times disfigured by serious errors on Catholic subjects, which are for the most part due, not to ill-will, but to lack of knowledge. It would be fatuous to hope to call into immediate existence a Catholic English literature adequate to supply this knowledge and correct errors. The Encyclopedia, therefore, is the most convenient means of doing both, enabling, as it does, the foremost Catholic scholars in every part

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