The monk drew a breath and leaned back, and his movement had the effect of a call for silence. Neither spoke for a moment.
“Just tell me quite simply, from the beginning,” said the monk.
It was nearly half an hour later that Monsignor ended, and leaned back, at once exhausted and excited. He had said it all—he had said even more than he had previously formulated to himself. Now and then, as he paused, the monk with a word or two, or a strangely compelling look, had soothed or encouraged him. And he had told the whole thing—the sense that there was no longer any escape from Christianity, that it had dominated the world, and that it was hateful and tyrannical in its very essence. He confessed that logic was against him, that a wholly Christian society must protect itself, that he saw no way of evading the consequences that he had witnessed; and yet that his entire moral sense revolted against the arguments of his head. It seemed to him, he said in effect, as if he were held in a grip which outraged his whole sentiment; as if the universe itself were in a conspiracy against him. For there was wanting, he said, exactly that which was most characteristic of Christianity, exactly that which made it divine—a heavenly patience and readiness to suffer. The cross had been dropped by the Church, he said, and shouldered by the world.
The monk sat silent a moment or two, as motionless as he had been at the beginning. Monsignor perceived by now, even through his fierce agitation, that this man never moved except for a purpose; he made no gestures when he spoke; he turned his head or lifted his eyes only when it was necessary. Then the monk’s voice began again, level and unemotional:
* * * * *
“A great deal of what you say, Monsignor, is merely the effect of a nervous strain. A nervous strain means that the emotional or the receptive faculties gain an undue influence over the reasonable intelligence. You admit that the logic is flawless, yet that fact does not reassure you, as it would if you were in a normal condition.”
“Wait, please, till I have done. I know what you wish to say. It is that your sense of protest is not merely sentimental, but rather moral; is it not so?”
Monsignor nodded. It was precisely what he had wished to say.
“That is not true, however. It is true that your moral sense seems outraged, but the reason is that you have not yet all the data (the moral sense is a department of the reason, remember). Well, you admit the logic of society’s defending itself; but it seems to you that that which is, as you very properly said, the divine characteristic of Christianity—I mean, readiness to suffer rather than to inflict suffering—is absent from the world; that the cross, as you said again, has been dropped by the Church.