Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/744

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.



Editor's Table.


AFTER many uncomfortable turnings in his narrow theological quarters, the eminent biologist. Professor St. George Mivart, seems to have made up his mind that he may as well, before he dies, know what it is to enjoy the air of liberty. For many years he has been pining for this, and almost inviting the authorities of the Church to give him his passports. The Church was not anxious, however, to quarrel with a man of recognized ability and wide knowledge, and therefore writings which might well have been expected to give serious umbrage were allowed to pass unnoticed. The professor then made a most audacious raid upon the venerable doctrine that there remains for the majority of mankind a place of unutterable and eternal misery. He ventured to speak of The Happiness in Hell, maintaining that, while the inhabitants of that abode would always have a profound and harrowing sense of having missed the supreme happiness of heaven, they would still be able to occupy themselves in a variety of ways which would give them a certain amount of happiness, just as in this world a man may carry a profound sorrow in his heart and yet, under the stimulus of business or society or intellectual study, have his attention happily diverted for many hours every day. At this point the authorities drew the line. It is related of an old Scotch lady that, referring to the Universalists, she said, "Those people say that all men will be saved at last, but we hope for better things." Whether this was the point of view of the ecclesiastical powers or not, certain it is that they refused to sanction the notion of any happiness, of howsoever humble an order, in the abode of gloom, and gave a peremptory order to the professor to take it all back. Well, he took it back as a matter of submission to those whom he regarded as his lawful spiritual guides, but the submission did not give him rest. If ecclesiastical authority was entitled to respect on one side, science was urging even stronger claims on the other. In August last, as we now learn, the professor wrote to the Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of the Index, explaining how he wished his submission to be understood, and as he and the prefect could not come to an agreement about it, he withdrew the submission altogether. Then he resolved to relieve his mind. It took two articles in two separate magazines to do it—one in the Fortnightly and one in the Nineteenth Century—but then it was done in a manner admitting of no recall. No sooner had these articles appeared than Cardinal Vaughan drew up an iron-clad declaration affirming the falsity of every position the writer had taken, and required him to sign it. Too late! The biologist and evolutionist in Professor Mivart had finally triumphed over the theologian, and he met the cardinal's demand with a flat refusal. Thereupon his Eminence issued an order excluding the recalcitrant savant from the sacraments of the Church.

Mr. Mivart now knows where he is. He occupies the broad ground of scientific truth. He breathes the free air of intellectual and moral liberty. He still professes loyalty to the Church according to his own conception of it, but he will no