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A Columnist Barks Up The Wrong Tree

GEORGE E. SOKOLSKY, who writes for the New York Sun, hasn't an Irish name, yet he defends the Roman Catholic Hierarchy with the ardot of a Hibernian. Says Mr. Sokolsky:


"The Catholic Church needs no defense by me. It has survived for nearly two thousand years because it represents a discipled morality based upon the laws of God. Naturally the Church intervenes whenever a question of faith and morals arises."


Apparently Mr. Sokolsky has yet to learn that "the laws of God" are what the priests tell us they are. Often enough they express the wil of pious hoodlums. The expulsion of Jews from Spain, and the torturing of heretics by the Catholic Church were a part of "the laws of God" as decreed by the Vatican and executed by the "disciplined morality" of Roman Catholic priests. It was the Church's "disciplined morality" that gave us the Spanish Inquisition and such holy fete days as the Massacre of St. Bartholomew and the burnings of thousands at the stake. As for long-time "survivals", the cockroach has existed longer than the Church, and may even thrive long after Vatican City is a heap of dust. Under "the laws of God" it has existed for more millions of years than the Church can boast of in terms of centuries.


Sokolsky's pious flare-up and moral indignation at those who criticize Catholicism is a bit strained, coming from one who is "not a Catholic". He cannot "fathom" an article in the New Republic, which, mild though it is, hands the Catholic Church a well-deserved rebuke. We must be ready, says the article to which Mr. Sokolsky objects, "to take on in rough-and-tumble political combat those Catholics who attempt to coerce newspapers and producers of plays and pictures and public officials."


And why shouldn't we be ready to do this very thing? Those who blackmail or intimidate newspapers, lobby for special priveleges, hijack columnists like Sokolsky, and brow-beat public officials who stand in the way of the Church, are as beneficial to America as an importation of Asiatic rats. Would Mr. Sokolsky have us believe that he is actually in favor of Catholics who "coerce" newspapers?


The "disciplined morality" which the Catholic Church demands would make a Gestapo agent blush. Before me is a booklet bearing the saccharine title, "Assist the Souls in Pergatory", issued by a Benedictine convent and distributed to the faithful in St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York. Quite properly, it bears the "nihil obstat" and "imprimatur" of high functionaries of the Church. On page 6 is a bit of sadistic doctrine which may give even Mr. Sokolsky the creeps:


"Purgatory punishes, by tortures unknown to earth, the slightest stains of sin remaining upon the soul after death, and while punishing, purifies the soul from those stains. No human tongue can describe the intense pain which the suffering souls must endure in the process of purification. The Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas, says: 'The least pain in purgatory is greater than the greatest suffering in this world.' And elsewhere he adds: 'The same fire torments the reprobate in hell and the just in pergatory.'"


The pamphlet next proceeds to tell us that Purgatory "is not a place of eternal pain, but will end at the last judgment" and that many souls are punished from twenty to sixty years and some "even longer". "The learned St. Robert Bellarmine and others held the opinion that there are some souls who will have to suffer in purgatory until the end of time", and "to the suffering souls, hours seem as years, and years as centuries."


And there is no relief, no respite from the torments in this torture chamber of God? There is, of course: you can give your "offerings" to the priest for the saying of masses for the dead, and so lighten the agony of those who plead to you: "Hasten, for we suffer unspeakable pains!"


Here at work are the same despicable institution, the same swindling priesthood, the same gang of divinely-ordained brigands holding their captive "souls" for ransom, in the manner of a Mongolian bandit or a Chicago kidnapper threatening to torture your loved one if your do not come across. And it works, works beautifully, this extortion, among the poor, benighted numskulls who have been intimidated by the Church. Only by bulldozing and terrorization does the Catholic Church flourish.


Heretofore, Mr. Sokolsky's forte has been in ferreting our political and bureaucratic abuses. Should he ever be looking about for another target on which to concentrate his remarkably fine talent for blasting at strongholds of corruption, he will find it readily enough in the day-to-day intrigues and political machinations of the Roman Catholic Church, whose subversive and coercive tactics are thoroughly known to every well-informed man. It is unthinkable, however, that he can ever engage in this type of writing for the New York Sun, whose attitude and editorial policy are Catholic and whose opinions, in all matters touching religion, are, from first to last, hog-tired by the Church. But if he cannot assail Catholic corruption himself, he should at least lay off those who do, and leave to others the rougher work he cannot do himself.

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