The Lenten Pastorals addressed by the Irish hierarchy to the people of their several dioceses and read in all the Catholic Churches throughout the country on Sunday last had, as might be expected, the war as the dominating subject for inculcating those lessons of penance and abstinence which the Church enjoins at this holy season of the year, as acts of reparation for the sins and transgressions of humanity. The war, regarded from the purely religious standpoint, is universally accepted as a scourge from the Almighty to remind men and nations of those spiritual obligations which they owe to their Creator, and which wordly power, prosperity and vanity was making them forgetful of. This being so, it is likewise concluded with similar unanimity amongst the bishops that the only way to bring about the blessings of peace is to get the men and nations who have fallen away from the Church and its teachings to acknowledge their faults and their forgetfulness, and return to the allegiance due to Divine direction and authority. The spiritual means advised to achieve these objects are principally prayer and supplication in order to propitiate the anger of the Almighty. Whose laws have been transgressed, and on these spiritual rather than temporal efforts, is reliance placed to bring to a close the bloody chapter of the world’s history at present being written across the face of Europe. There is nothing extraordinary or unusual in the unanimity of this spiritual outlook on the war, its causes, effects, and hoped for conclusion, having regard to the sacred solidarity and unity of the Church in its teaching and doctrines: but in the discussion of its wordly aspects it calls forth in two instances pronouncements remarkable for the divergent views they convey. The war, generally, is viewed by the bishops as becomes dignitaries of the Church and apostles of peace, and the suffering and waste in blood and treasure which it involves is regarded as abhorrent to Christian ideals. The pronounced convictions in certain passages in the pastorals alluded to regarding the righteousness of the struggle, however, bring them into prominence. Thus we have his Grace the Archbishop of Tuam expressing the hope that the people of his archdiocese will be able to fight against all comers, and especially the Germans; also that they would rally to the flag, not by compulsion or coercion, but from a sense of duty as becomes free men. “The man who strikes a blow against the Prussians, strikes a blow for justice, freedom, and right.” This advice is definite enough, and affords a sufficient indication of the views held by his Grace as to war as a means of rectifying wrongs, preserving people from injustice. But in turning to the other pastorals, we find the Bishop of Limerick equally pronounced in urging that “Truth, and right, and justice had have very little to say to this war, which is an outbreak of materialism and irreligion. The people do not want this war; there is no hatred of one another amongst them; but the governing cliques in each country have led or driven them like sheep to the slaughter.” The contrast between these two pronouncements of two of the most prominent Western prelates on the war, its wrongs and rights, is indeed, remarkable, and especially so as they are both popularly believed to be strongly Tory in their political tendencies. It is, however, a circumstance exemplifying how great minds may be differently swayed in their contemplation of men and movements of a far-reaching character, and in arriving at convictions which impel them to give them to the country on occasions of importance. Here we have two great dignitaries of the Church, both solicitous for the preservation of the people and their faith, thoroughly conversant with their needs and necessities, temporal as well as spiritual, vieng with each other in their homage of those ideals and beliefs taught by the Church of which they are such distinguished ornaments, and both presumably in agreement in their political convictions, yet on this question of the war, so much sundered in their outlook on its cause, effects, and responsibilities. Most of the other pastorals deal with the war; but in the main they confine themselves to deploring its horrors and consequences in the future, and the provisions that the people ought to make in view of what the future may bring. The Cardinal Primate, referring to the conduct of the war, describes it as not only the greatest and most destructive war in the history of the world, but that it seems to have stirred up to their lowest depts. The worst and most depraved of human passions, thus leading to acts and practices which render the horrors of war in the past comparatively mild by contrast. Those laws by which Christian feeling, even philanthropy and human feeling, sought to rob the war of its avoidable evils, have been thrown to the winds. How true all this is we have seen from descriptions of the fighting around Verdun during the past fortnight, where masses of men have been mangled and torn by death-dealing machines, and the wounded and disabled left out to die a lingering death in the snow and blood-frozen ground without pity. These are but some of the horrors of war as it is known today, and which do not place modern civilisation very high in contrast with the barbarism of the primeval past, when the arbitrament of the sword was the only recognised authority in the settlement of disputes. We have not travelled very much from that barbarous custom evidently, expect that the carnage of the field is carried on far more extensively and scientifically. Of course the subject of the war does not exhaust the evils of the day on which the bishops utter words of solemn warning. The existence of evil literature and the circulation of questionable prints from abroad still continue to do much harm, and although in an abated form, thanks to the work of the Vigilance and other Societies, still much requires to be done in entirely extirpating them. The extension of the Vigilance Committees to smaller towns and villages is one of the means suggested for furthering the campaign against evil literature, which in the smaller centres of population has now an aid in the corruption of the minds of the young in the latest entertaining innovation, the cinema house. There is not, of course, a sweeping condemnation of the Cinema entertainment which, properly conducted, might be utilized as the means of elevating and improving the mind, as well as affording innocent enjoyment, but that his newest form of entertainment has been corrupted to the reverse purpose in large cities and towns makes the warning now issued by the bishops all the more necessary. Intemperance in such a crises as that we are passing through is particularly and appropriately alluded to in all the pastorals, and although the edifying fact remains that this evil has been checked, and a big improvements effected in different parts of the country, there are other places in which it still flourishes, and these are by no means the most prosperous parts. The effects of the war, however, must in themselves prove powerful aids to temperance, and with supplies of all kinds scarce, there must be a corresponding reduction in the consumption of alcoholic drinks. More solemn and religious observance of the Sabbath which it would appear in some localities has been allowed to degenerate into a day of unseemly meetings for sport and gambling, is an evil whose growth has called forth grave words of warning from some of the bishops. Legitimate open air gatherings on Sundays for amusement within certain bounds is not objected to, and it is only when this is carried beyond the bounds of innocent and harmless pastimes, and are likely to interfere with the religious observances of the day, that their lord ships feel it incumbent upon them in the discharge of the duties of their sacred office and responsibilities, to admonish those whose spiritual interests they are charged with guarding. Other minor matters of a social character are also dealt with in the pastorals, all of which without exception, avail of the opportunity to impress upon the people the necessity for economy and thrift in preparing generally for the future which all agree is fraught with possibilities of scarcity in provisions and necessaries that will put the people to the severest possible test in meeting and overcoming. Peace, and prayers for a cessation of hostilities and the speedy end of the frightful struggle which is wasting wealth and human life on such a colossal scale, obtains a prominent place in the exhortations to the faithful, and the approach of the National Festival has been availed of to set this day apart for the entire children of St. Patrick to join in solemn supplication through their heavenly patron, to a Merciful God, to touch men’s hearts so that those countries, now torn by the ravages of war, may be spared a continuance of this awful affliction, and the warring nations again return to those religious practices and observances which will enable them to walk again the ways of peace, and live in amity and goodwill, caring for naught but the common weal of the world, and the greater glory of its Creator.

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