Charities/Volume 13/Number 14/The Catholic Church and Bohemian Immigrants

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Charities, vol. 13, no. 14 (1904)
The Catholic Church and Bohemian Immigrants by John G. Kissner
2904422Charities, vol. 13, no. 14 — The Catholic Church and Bohemian Immigrants1904John G. Kissner

Communications to "Charities."

To the Editor of Charities:

The Catholic Church and Bohemian Immigrants.
Your number on the Slavs in America furnishes much information to those who are interested in the religious and moral welfare of these people. We are glad to see the attention of the public directed to this subject. But the articles on the Bohemians by Miss Alice Masaryk and Miss Nan Mashek were severely criticized by the Bohemian Catholic paper of Chicago, which is ably edited by the Rev. F. Kohlbeck, a competent judge of Bohemian affairs in this country. In the interest of the many readers of your excellent magazine who might be misled by some of the statements in those articles, would you kindly allow me to make an important correction?

In both articles it is stated or implied that intelligent Bohemians conversant with the history of their country naturally turn away from the Catholic Church; that the Catholic Church has been the enemy of Bohemian liberty and national aspirations; and this is given as a reason why there are so many freethinkers and infidels among the Bohemians in this country. Your Catholic readers will not agree to this assertion. There are many excellent Bohemian Catholics in Europe and here that are more conversant with the history of their fatherland than their freethinking brethren. The Catholic Church as such can never be the enemy of true liberty and just national aspirations. As regards Bohemia, we will not discuss the question of John Huss and the Hussite excesses. Suffice it to quote the words of Palacky, the greatest authority on Bohemian history. Although a Protestant, and admitting the occurrence of occasional scandals in the church which Catholics are the first to acknowledge, he candidly says: "I am convinced that the Catholic Church, during the whole time of her existence in Bohemia, has wrought incomparably more good than evil."

Can any one deny intelligence to those that agree with Palacky? And how can Bohemians agreeing with him be naturally hostile to the Church? No, the past history of the Catholic Church in Bohemia is no justification for apostasy, but only a pretext. The true reason is the weakening of religious convictions brought about within the last thirty years by iniquitous school legislation and forces similar to those at work in France at present. Hence many immigrants, when suddenly deprived of the protecting influence of Catholic environments and example, are too weak to withstand the temptations which beset them at their arrival here, or to bear the sacrifices which the conditions of the Catholic Church in this country demand. Thus many fall into religious indifference, which is negative, and from this state drift into positive or even violent infidelity. Economic conditions among the poorer classes in our cities also foster a tendency to socialism in its worst forms, because people without religious restraints easily fall into these errors. This is the more to be deplored as the Bohemians possess many natural virtues, which counteract to some extent the infidel influences that continually surround them.

We maintain that the Catholic Church always has been, and always will be the most potent factor for the moral welfare of the Bohemian people.

J. G. Kissner, C. SS. R.,
Pastor of the Bohemian Catholic Church,
323 East Sixty-first street, N. Y. City.

[It is not within the province of Charities to enter into religious discussions. At the same time, the church as a social institution and religion as a large factor in human motives, enter into movements of emigration and problems of assimilation in a very definite way. In these aspects—as in the conflicting interpretations put upon political history—the contributors to the Slav number of Charities were quite untrammeled in expressing opinion. Not only were the writers of different racial groups, but included among their number a Presbyterian minister, a leader among the Friends, priests of the Roman Catholic Church and the Greek Catholic Church, a Congregational minister, etc. The foregoing letter is published in the same spirit, and must be considered as closing, rather than as opening up, consideration of this phase of the Slav immigration in these columns.—Editor of Charities.]

This work was published before January 1, 1929, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

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