Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 10.djvu/618

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MORAL


560


MORATIN


so. Yet even the monks, while denying the existence of a personal God, regarded as a heretic any who dis- puted the existence of heaven and hell. Thus they too help to l>car witness to the universal consensus that the moral law is ba-scd on supernatural sanctions. We may, however, readily admit that where the re- ligious conceptions antl the moral code were alike im- mature and inadequate, the relation lictwecn them w;is less clearly grasped in thought, and less intimate in practice, than it became when man foimd himself in possession of a fuller truth regarding them. A Greek or a Buddhist community may have preserved a cer- tain healthiness of moral tone even though the reli- eious obligation of the moral law was but obscurely felt, while ancestral precept and civic obligation were ^•iewed as the preponderating motives. A broad dis- tinction must be niatle between such cases and that of those nations which having once accepted theC'hristian faith with its clear profession of the connexion be- tween moral obligation anil a Di\ine law, have sul)se- quently repudiated this belief in favour of a purely natural morality. There is no parity between " Fore- Christians " and " .\fter-Christians ". The evidence at our command seems to establisli as certain that it is impossible for these latter to return to the inadequate grounds of obligation which may sometimes suffice for nations still in the immaturity of their knowledge ; and that for them the rejection of the religious sanction is invariably followed bj' a moral decay, leatling rapidly to the corruptions of the most degraded periods of our history. We may see this wherever the great revolt from Christianity, which began in the eighteenth cen- turj', and which is so potent a factor to-day, has spread. It is naturally in France, where the revolt began, that the movement has attained its fullest de- velopment. There its effects are not dis]iuted. The birth-rate has shrunk until the poiiiilation, were it not for the immigration of Flemings and Italians, would be a diminishing quantity; Christian family life is disappearing; the number of divorces and of suicides multiplies annually; while one of the most ominous of all symptoms is the alarming increase of juvenile crime. But these effects are not peculiar to France. The movement away from Christianity has spread to certain .sections of the population in the I'nited States, in England, in Germany, in Australia, countries pro- viding in other respects a wide variety of circum- stances. Wherever it is found, there in varying degrees the same results have followed, so that the unprejudiced observer can draw but one conclusion, namely: that for a nation which has attained matu- rity, morality is essentially dependent on the religious sanction, and that when this is rejected, morality will soon decay.

Granting religion to be the essential basis of moral action, we may further inquire what are the chief con- ditions requisite for the growth and development of morality in the indi\-idual and in the community. Three such may be singled out as of primary moment, namely: (1) a right education of the young, (2) a healthy public opinion, (3) sound legislation. It will be unnecessary for us to do more than touch in the briefest manner on these points. (1) Under education we include the early training of the home as well as the subsequent years of school life. The family is the true school of morality, a school which nothing can replace. There the child is taught obedience, truthfulness, self-restraint, and the other primary virtues. The obligation to practise them is impressed upon him by those whose claim on him he at once recognizes, and whose word he does not dream of doubting; while the observance of the precept is made easy by the affec- tion which unites him with those who impose it. It is, therefore, with reason that the Church lias ever de- clared divorce to be fatal to the truest interests of a nation. Where divorce is frequent, family life in its higher form disapiiears, and with it perishes the foun-


dation of a nation's morality. Similarly the Church maintains, tliat during the years of school life, the moral and religious atmosphere is of vital importance, and that apart from this the possession of intellectual culture is a tlanger rather than a safeguard. (2) It is hardly necessary to do more than call attention to the necessity of a sound public opinion. The great ma.ss of men nave neither opportunity nor leisure to deter- mine a standartl of morals for themselves. They ac- cept that which prevails around them. If it is high, they will not question it. If it is low, they will aim no higher. When the nations were Catholic, public opinion was predominantly swayed by the teaching of the Church, In these days it is largely formed by the press; and since the press as a whole views moral- ity apart from religion, the standard proposed is in- evitably very different from wdiat the Church would desiderate. Hence the immense importance of a Catholic press, which even in a non-Catholic en\'iron- ment will keep a true view before the minds of those who recognize the Church's authority. But public opinion is also largely influenced by voluntary associa- tions of one form or another; and of recent years im- mense work has been done by Catholics in organizing associations with this purpose, the most notable in- stance being the German Volksvcrcin. (3) It may be said with truth that the greater part of a nation's legislation affects its morality in some way or other. This is of course manifestly the case with all laws connected with the family or with education ; and with those, which like the laws regarding the drink traffic and the restriction of bad literature, have the public morals for their immediate object. But it is also true of all legislation which deals with the circumstances of the lives of the people. Laws, for instance, deteiTnin- ing the conditions of laboar and protecting the poor from the hands of the usurer, promote morality, for they save men from that degradation and despair in which moral life is practically impossible. It is thus evident how necessary it is, that in all such ques- tions the Church should in every country have a defi- nitely formed opinion and should make her voice heard. (See Etfiics; Law.)

C.vTHREiN. Religion und Moral (Freiburg, 1900); Fox. Reli- gion and Morality (New York, 1S99); Devas, Key to the World's Progress (London. 1906); Idem, Studies of Family Life (Lon- don, 18S6); Balfour, Foundations of Belief (London, 1895), Part I, i; Catholic Truth Society's Lectures on the History of Religions (London, 1910).

G. H. Joyce. Moral Philosophy. See Ethics. Moral Theology. See Theology.

Moran, P,\trick Francis. See Sydney, Arch- diocese OP.

Moratin, Leandro Fernandez de, Spanish poet and playwright, b. at Madrid, 10 March, 1760; d. at Paris, 21 June, 1828. He is usually known as the younger Moratin, and was the son of Nicolds Fernan- dez de Moratin (1737-80), a lawyer and professor of poetry at the Imperial College, also a playwright. The elder Moratin had devoted himself to attempting to reform the Spanish drama and had written several plays after the style of Racine and Corneille. In 1762 he had publi-shed his "Desengaiio al Teatro Espaiiol" in which he criticized the old drama and especially the "Auto Sacramental" which still flourished. So suc- cessful was this work, that three years later the exhibi- tion of "Autos" was forbidden by royal edict. Among his works were "La Petimetra", "Guzmdn el Bueno' and, probably the best known, "Hormesinda", a tragedy. Knowing by his own experience how pre- carious was literature as a means of livelihood, the elder Moratin apprenticed his son to a jeweller, think- ing in this way to develop his son's artistic skill. While serving as apprentice, young Leandro won two prizes offered liy the .\eademy, one in 1779 with an epic ballad entitUul "La toma de Granada", and the