29 JANUARY 1921, Page 7

THE PIOUS DEFENCE OF MURDER. L AST week, in commenting on

the apology offered by the editors of the Irish Theological Quarterly, published at Maynooth, for the appearance in their October number of an article by Professor O'Rahilly condoning murder, we said that it would require a Pascal in new Provincial Letters to do justice to the conditions under which the Irish Theological Quarterly is produced. The explanation given in the January number of the Quarterly of the appearance of Professor O'Rahilly's article was that it had never been seen by the Censor. " So far as the printers could remember," the article had been sent for censorship. But the Censor denied having received it. The editors therefore triumphantly put all the blame on the poor printer, apparently not considering that their own act in accepting the article and having it printed required an apology at all. But perhaps we ought not to be surprised. The collisions between casuistical theo- logians of the Roman Church, particularly the Jesuits, and the official teaching of the Roman Church as conveyed through the Councils and Papal encyclicals and bulls, are a very old story. The Roman Catholic Bishop of Cork, Dr. Cohalan, who we must say during the past few weeks has played a manful and admirable part by com- parison with his earlier performances, has treated Professor O'Rahilly (a Professor at University College, Cork) with pungent and merciless ridicule. He calls him " the lay theologian of the Cork Corporation." Professor O'Rahilly, who apparently is much less concerned at having written his infamous article than at being labelled with an humiliating nickname, protests angrily. In a letter to Dr. Cohalan, he says :- " A bogus, or mock, office—that of lay theologian to the Corporation of this city—is created for me so as to hold me up to the ridicule of clergy and laity. And during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass to-day in every church of the diocese this four-times-repeated witticism was, by order of your lordship, read from the altar. As a sally in a newspaper controversy this invention of a soubriquet, this jocular, sarcastic appoint- ment to a non-existent post, might doubtless pass. But as it is a deliberate insult, all the more felt and remembered because of its semi-humorous malice, publicly read by the pastors of the Church during divine service by order of my ecclesiastical superior, I have no doubt, my lord, that you will see the reason- ableness and justice of my formal request for a written explan- ation."

Dr. Cohalan, so far as we know, has not replied, but if he wishes to do so, and concludes, on reflection, that Professor O'Rahilly is likely to be more amenable to the rapier than to the bludgeon, he might refresh his memory as to the manner and contents of Pascal's Seventh Letter.

The letter, which is about murder, is a wonderful example of Pascal's power of polite irony in controversy. Never was there a more telling contrast between the gravity of the issue treated and the airiness of the touch. The ironic treatment of the Jesuits' casuistry which justified murder is elaborately urbane, yet it is devastating. Pascal improved upon Lucian, spoiled the savage wit of Swift in advance, and set an example of irony for all time. Pascal describes in Letter VI., which prepares the way for Letter VII., how the good Father Jesuit, with whom he had been conversing, demon- strated the Jesuits' method of explaining away their apparently flat contradictions of the teaching of the Popes, the Councils, and the Scripture. The good Father Jesuit in Letter_VI. is represented as speaking the following words :- " One method of reconciling these apparent [contradictions is, by the interpretation given to a term. For example, Pope Gregory XIV. declares that assassins are unworthy of enjoying • the protection of a church, and that they ought to be dragged out by force : our twenty-four elders say, tr. 6. ex. 4. n. 27 : ' Whoever kills another in a treacherous manner, does not incur the penalty of this bull.' This, you perceive, is contra. dictory, but by interpreting the word assassin, the passages are made to agree : thus, Are not assassins unworthy of enjoying the privilege of church protection ? Yes, by the bull of Gregory XIV. But, by the term assassins, we understand those who have received money to kill another in a treacherous manner. Hence those who have not committed murder fos hire or reward, but only to oblige their friends, are not called assassins. Thus we are exhorted in the Gospel, to give alms out of our abundance ; ' but many casuists have discovered a mode of exonerating even the most opulent persons from the obligation of alma-giving. This will, perhaps, to you appear a contradiction ; but it is easy to reconcile it, by an interpreta- tion of the term abundance or auperftuity, so that it can scarcely ever be shown that a person possesses it. The learned Vasquez has done this in his treatise on alms-giving, o. iv."

Pascal replies by narrating the history of John d'Alba, which narrative casts a very searching and disconcerting light upon the casuistry of the good Father. In Letter VII. we find the good Father somewhat recovered and quite ready to emit more casuistry. He explains that things apparently so opposite as religion and " points of honour," as men of the world understand this phrase, can easily be reconciled. Everything depends upon " directing the intention." " I perceive," replies Pascal, " that in this way one may 'do anything without exception." " You always go from one extreme to the other," complains the Father; " pray stop your impetu- osity." The Father then goes on :- " To convince you that we do not permit every thing, take this as a proof, that we never suffer the formal intention of sinning, for the sake of sinning, and whoever persists in having no other design in his wick ess than wickedness itself, we instantly discard. This would be diabolical indeed, a rule without exception of age, sex, or quality. But when this abandoned disposition does not exist, we endeavour to make use of our method of directing the intention, which consists Lu proposing a lawful object as the end of an action. We exert, indeed, the utmost of our power to dissuade men from doing what is forbidden ; but when we cannot prevent the action, we at least aim to purify the intention, making amends for the vice of the means by the purity of the end. Thus our Fathers have discovered a method of permitting those violent methods of defending their honour, to which gentlemen resort. It is only for them to renounce the intention of desiring revenge, which is criminal, and to substitute the desire of defending their honour, which our Fathers allow. In this manner they can discharge all their duty both to God and man."

After listening to a good deal more in the same strain, Pascal exclaims, " 0 Father, what admirable fruit does this direction of the intention produce ! "

Thus encouraged, the Father goes on to show how it is quite lawful for a Jesuit to kill another man in a duel :- "' He may, in order to preserve his honour, proceed to the appointed place, not indeed with the express intention of fighting, but only of defending himself, if his antagonist should unjustly attack him ; and this action would be in itself altogether in- different. For what harm would there be in going into a field and walking about, waiting for a person and defending oneself against any attack ? ' Thus he does not, in any respect, commit sin, because here is no acceptance of a duel, the intention being directed to other circumstances : for the acceptance of a duel consists in the express intention of fighting, which is by no means the case with such an individual."

" Here," says Pascal, " I was all admiration, to see that the piety of the king was employed in prohibiting and banishing duelling out of the State and the piety of the Jesuits was engaging all their subtlety to permit and authorise it in the Church."

The conversation passes from killing in a duel to slaying an enemy by treachery. Pascal is shocked at what he understands is a justification of treacherous slaying by the Father, whereupon the following exchanges occur :— " 'Did I say [went on the Father] that one man might kill another in a treacherous manner ? God forbid : I said he might kill him secretly, and hence you infer he may do it treacherously, as if these were one and the same thing ! Attend to Escobar, and then give your opinion, tr. 6. ex. 4. n. 36: " It may be called killing treacherously, when a man slays another who had not any reason to suspect him. Hence, lie who slays an enemy, cannot be said to kill him treacherously, though he perpetrated the deed by lying in wait or stabbing him--licet per ineidias, aut d tergo percutiat ; " and in the same treatise, n. 56 : " Whoever kills his enemy after a reconciliation, and under a promise no more to attempt his life, is not said absolutely to kill him in a treacherous manner, as there had been no very strict friendship subsisting between them—arctior amicitia." You see by this explanation that you are quite unacquainted even with the signification of the terms in use, and yet you presume to talk like a learned divine.' Well, I must acknowledge,' said I, ' this is new to me ; and from this definition it should seem that it is not possible to kill a man treacherously : for no one surely ever thought of destroying any but his enemies ! But, passing this, one may, according to Sanchez, kill a false accuser, I do not say treacherously, but only by stabbing him behind ! " Yes, but by rightly, directing your intention ;—you always forget the main point.

A little later the Father, worked up by his own arguments and exhibition of learning, declares that a priest is allowed to kill a calumniator who threatens to publish awkward facts about either the priest himself or the priest's So'ciety. Obviously, if a priest may defend his life it is right for him to defend his honour, which is more precious ! Upon Pascal protesting against all shedding of blood, the Father retorts :- " Oh, Sir, you need not perplex yourself ; our Father Lanny proves this doctrine, but, with a modesty worthy of so great a man, submits it to the prudence and discretion of the reader : and Caramuel, our illustrious defender in his Fundamental Theology, p. 543, considers it as so certain, that he maintains, ' the contrary is not probable,' and deduces many admirable inferences ; one of which, especially, he calls the conclusion of conclusions,' conclusionum conclusio, ' that a priest not only may, on certain occasions, kill a culumniator, but there are eases when he ought to do it ; etiam aliguando DEBET occidere.'" Having listened to all the arguments, Pascal remarks that it might be better to have to do with people totally destitute of religion, for these would not have received any instructions as to how to " direct the intention."

" I am afraid this intention of the murderer is no consolation to the wounded person. He can have no perception of this secret direction : poor man ! ho is conscious only of the blow he receives ; and I am not certain whether he would not be less indignant to be cruelly massacred by people in a violent transport of rage, than to be devoutly killed for conscience' sake."

Before the two part Pascal remarks that he would like to reproduce the Father's teaching in one of the letters which he writes to a friend in the country, but that he is rather afraid some strange and fanciful mortal may deduce extravagant doctrines from it. " You need not cherish any apprehensions," says the Father ; " our Fathers have printed nothing but with the approbation of their Superiors." Thus we see that in the middle of the seventeenth century Censors were as hard at work and as useful for their purpose as they are to-day.