The Signs of the Times, vol. 25

2/18

January 11, 1899

“Columbus’ Wise and Worthy Example” The Signs of the Times 25, 2, pp. 1, 2.

FOR a good while Cuba has been the chief subject before the minds of the people of the United States. And since President McKinley, Cardinal Gibbons, and Archbishop Ireland, after “numerous conferences,” have reached the determination that “sufficient money will be advanced by this government to support the Catholic Church” in Cuba, it is quite certain that Cuba will occupy a place in the experience of the American people that they hadn’t expected. SITI January 11, 1899, page 1.1

But how comes it that the President of the United States determines that money shall be advanced by this government to support the Catholic Church? Thereby hangs a tale. SITI January 11, 1899, page 1.2

It was by believing that the earth is round, against the dogma of the Catholic Church that it is flat, that Columbus ever discovered Cuba and the western continent. SITI January 11, 1899, page 1.3

Of course every American schoolboy knows that before Columbia discovered America the Catholic Church insisted that the earth was flat. But it is too sadly true that along with this the impression is left, if not actually inculcated, upon the minds of the school-children that at that time all the world supposed the earth to be flat. But that is a great mistake. All except the Catholic world knew then that the earth is round. SITI January 11, 1899, page 1.4

The ancients knew that the earth is round. The Jews knew it always. Aristotle taught it; so did Ptolemy the Geographer. Indeed, this was a familiar truth among the people of those times. SITI January 11, 1899, page 1.5

It was the church fathers who, with the many other falsehoods of the great apostasy, brought in the dogma that the earth should be flat. The chief of the church fathers, and the chief author of the dogma that the earth was flat, was Augustine—the father also of the Inquisition—tho in point of time Lactantius preceded him in advocating the dogma. SITI January 11, 1899, page 1.6

Lactantius lived in the time of Constantine, and was one of the important factors in forming the union of Church and State, having so much of the favor of Constantine that Constantine gave him a place in the imperial family as tutor to the emperor’s eldest son. Augustine lived from 354 to 430. He became a churchman in 386. SITI January 11, 1899, page 1.7

Thus the period in which lived Lactantius and Augustine was the very period in which the church of the apostasy got full control of the power of the State, and used that power to compel all, even to the penalty of death, to conform to her dogmas, Augustine consecrating the whole scheme by his final proposition that it is “by the rod of temporal suffering,” that dissenting parties “attain the highest grade of religious development.” SITI January 11, 1899, page 1.8

The apostasy having full control of the imperial power, and compelling all to conform to her teaching, and two of the chief factors in the creation of this Church-and-State combination being the chief authors of the dogma that the earth is flat; thus in that time and onward through the consequent Dark Ages, the truth that the earth is round was forced out of all the realm which the church controlled. SITI January 11, 1899, page 1.9

Yet outside of the region of papal influence the truth that the earth is round still prevailed. There, from Central Asia through all North Africa and Spain to the southern border of France, the Mohammedans ruled. In all this vast domain, schools flourished and enlightenment and civilization reigned. And in all this realm it was known that the earth is round. While Constantinople and Rome were “asserting in all its absurdity the flatness of the earth, the Spanish Moors and the Saracens in Africa and Asia were teaching geography in their common schools from globes.” SITI January 11, 1899, page 1.10

In spite of all the opposition of the Papacy, some of this knowledge crept into her dark domains. Gerbert, who became pope in 999, when a boy studied in the Mohammedan schools of Spain, and there learned that the earth is round, and afterwards established a school at Rheims, and used in it a geographical globe which he brought from Cordova, the Mohammedan capital of Spain. And the Moorish State of Grenada, in Spain, continued until the very year that Columbus discovered America. SITI January 11, 1899, page 1.11

Columbus had been a sailor from the age of fourteen, and had spent many years especially in the Syrian trade from all parts of the Mediterranean, as well as having made several voyages to Guinea; and as he had thus been in almost daily contact with the Mohammedan nations, from this sketch it is easy to understand how he caught the truth that the earth is round. “Tho the state of public opinion at the time did not permit such doctrine to be openly avowed in Catholic countries, yet Columbus was thoroughly convinced of its truth.” SITI January 11, 1899, page 1.12

Being so thoroughly convinced, he at last decided to brave public opinion and present his views to those in power who might help him put them to the test. “After many wearisome delays, his suit was referred to a council at Salamanca, before which, however, his doctrines were confuted” from the saints and fathers of the church; and from “reason,” since, even if he should depart from Spain, “the rotundity of the earth would present a kind of mountain up which it was impossible for him to sail, even with the fairest wind, and so he could never get back. The Grand Cardinal of Spain had also indicated their irreligious nature; and Columbus began to fear that instead of receiving aid as a discoverer, he should fall into trouble as a heretic. However, after many years of mortification and procrastination, he at length prevailed with Queen Isabella; and April 17, 1492, in the field before Granada, then just wrenched from the Mohammedans, by the arms of Ferdinand and Isabella, he received his commission.” SITI January 11, 1899, page 1.13

The island of Cuba was discovered on the first voyage, October 28, 1492. The first settlement of Spaniards was in 1511, and from that year until 1898 the Church of Rome, by means of the Spanish power, has held complete possession of the island. The natives, tho under the complete control of the clergy, have been always “deprived of all political, civil, and religious liberty; have been excluded from all public stations,” and yet “have been heavily taxed to maintain their Spanish rulers” and the Church of Rome. SITI January 11, 1899, page 34.1

And, tho the Church of Rome has had sole control of the people educationally these three hundred and eighty-eight years, and tho, further, she has there “a vast number of priests and high church dignitaries,” yet, true to her original character, she has kept them in densest ignorance. SITI January 11, 1899, page 34.2

The Spanish Government has all these years made annual appropriations for the support of the Catholic Church and its clergy in Cuba. As the consequence, of course, “the people of Cuba have never been taught to support their church and clergy by direct voluntary contribution.” SITI January 11, 1899, page 34.3

Yet at the same time these same people have been obliged to pay to the church such fees as she demanded for christenings, marriages, confirmations, exorcisms, extreme unctions, burials, masses, etc., etc. And now, upon all this, she sets up the plea that “so dire is the poverty on the island that it is doubtful if the Cubans could by any possibility raise sufficient money to keep their churches open and their priests from starving.”* 1 Therefore, since the Spanish Government, with her appropriations to the Catholic Church, is cut off from Cuba, the Catholic Church demands that the United States Government shall take the place of the Spanish Government and make governmental appropriations for the support of the Catholic Church and clergy in Cuba. SITI January 11, 1899, page 34.4

And that is not the worst. It would be bad enough for the church only to make such demands; yet not only does she make the demand, but “President McKinley has held numerous conferences with Cardinal Gibbons and Archbishop Ireland on the subject,” with the result that “it is the determination of President McKinley that the Catholic Churches shall be kept open, and that public worship shall be provided for. To this end sufficient money will be advanced by this government to support the Catholic Church.” SITI January 11, 1899, page 34.5

In thus “determining to support the Catholic priests in Cuba,” it is declared that “President McKinley has acted wisely from other points of view than mere humanity.” SITI January 11, 1899, page 34.6

Mere humanity,” indeed! Of course “mere humanity” must needs be supplemented by some more important consideration, to make such action entirely worthy of approbation. And so it is. And here is the consideration upon which, as it is published, President McKinley “wisely” supplements that of “mere humanity“:— SITI January 11, 1899, page 34.7

President McKinley has acted wisely from other points of view than mere humanity. The Cuban priests, as in all countries whose population is densely ignorant, exercise complete control over their parishioners. Apart from the cruelty of withdrawing all aid from these priests, it is easy to believe that the new American Government in Cuba would have at its very inception built up a dangerous set of enemies, if the priesthood of Cuba were given reason to regret the presence of the American flag on the island. The Spanish Government at Madrid could easily give the American Government some dearly-bought information as to the malign influence that is in the power of a hostile clergy to exercise. Ever since the first Carlist uprising in 1833, every movement directed against the government of Spain has found its principal support in the clergy of Spain, who almost to a man are Carlists. SITI January 11, 1899, page 34.8

That is to say: The Government of Spain has always supported the Catholic clergy and the Catholic Churches in Cuba. And now, the United States having supplanted the Government of Spain in Cuba, if this government does not undertake “the entire responsibility for their support,” “the priesthood of Cuba” will be “given reason to regret the presence of the American flag on the island.” Then, having such “reason to regret the presence of the American flag on the island,” and having “complete control” of their “densely ignorant” parishioners, “the new American Government in Cuba would have at its very inception built up a dangerous set of enemies.” Therefore, to placate this “dangerous set of enemies,” the Government of the United States must undertake the entire responsibility for their support. And if anybody does not believe it wise thus to placate these “dangerous enemies,” then the Spanish Government at Madrid could easily give him pointers in “some dearly-bought information as to the malign influence that is in the power of a hostile clergy to exercise.” SITI January 11, 1899, page 34.9

But when such consideration as that is counted as “wisely” supplemental to that of mere humanity, we are led to query whether the people of the United States are ready to accept either this supplemental or the original consideration as sufficient justification of the President of the United States in advancing the money of all the people of the United States for the support of the Catholic clergy in Cuba. SITI January 11, 1899, page 34.10

Yet more than this: Why should the President of the United States follow the counsels of Catholic cardinals and archbishops, any more than did Columbus? If Columbus had conformed to the views of the cardinals and archbishops of his day, he would have agreed that the earth is flat. And if all others had done so, the world would have perished in just such ignorance and despotism as have ruined Cuba. But by thinking for himself, and following wiser counsels, he repudiated Catholic ignorance, and so was successful in giving to mankind a new world. SITI January 11, 1899, page 34.11

Why should not now the President of the United States follow the example of Columbus, in repudiating Catholic ignorance, and the wise counsels of the noble men who made this nation, in the repudiation of the Catholic principles of governmental support of the church? Why should not the President of the United States thus look out and on new worlds of light and liberty, rather than turn back to the principles and practises [sic.] of the Dark Ages, and put the United States Government in the lost position of Spain in supporting the Catholic Church and clergy in Cuba, whose record of three hundred and eighty-eight verses is written in the dense ignorance and desolation of Cuba as it was two months ago? Why? SITI January 11, 1899, page 34.12

ALONZO T. JONES.