The Damnation of Theron Ware eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 351 pages of information about The Damnation of Theron Ware.

“The difference does seem extremely curious to me,” said Theron.  “Now, those people in the hall—­”

“Go on,” put in the doctor, as the other faltered hesitatingly.  “I know what you were going to say.  It struck you as odd that he should let them wait on the bench there, while he came up here to smoke.”

Theron smiled faintly.  “I was thinking that my—­my parishioners wouldn’t have taken it so quietly.  But of course—­it is all so different!”

“As chalk from cheese!” said Dr. Ledsmar, lighting a fresh cigar.  “I daresay every one you saw there had come either to take the pledge, or see to it that one of the others took it.  That is the chief industry in the hall, so far as I have observed.  Now discipline is an important element in the machinery here.  Coming to take the pledge implies that you have been drunk and are now ashamed.  Both states have their values, but they are opposed.  Sitting on that bench tends to develop penitence to the prejudice of alcoholism.  But at no stage would it ever occur to the occupant of the bench that he was the best judge of how long he was to sit there, or that his priest should interrupt his dinner or general personal routine, in order to administer that pledge.  Now, I daresay you have no people at all coming to ‘swear off.’”

The Rev. Mr. Ware shook his head.  “No; if a man with us got as bad as all that, he wouldn’t come near the church at all.  He’d simply drop out, and there would be an end to it.”

“Quite so,” interjected the doctor.  “That is the voluntary system.  But these fellows can’t drop out.  There’s no bottom to the Catholic Church.  Everything that’s in, stays in.  If you don’t mind my saying so—­of course I view you all impartially from the outside—­but it seems logical to me that a church should exist for those who need its help, and not for those who by their own profession are so good already that it is they who help the church.  Now, you turn a man out of your church who behaves badly:  that must be on the theory that his remaining in would injure the church, and that in turn involves the idea that it is the excellent character of the parishioners which imparts virtue to the church.  The Catholics’ conception, you see, is quite the converse.  Such virtue as they keep in stock is on tap, so to speak, here in the church itself, and the parishioners come and get some for themselves according to their need for it.  Some come every day, some only once a year, some perhaps never between their baptism and their funeral.  But they all have a right here, the professional burglar every whit as much as the speckless saint.  The only stipulation is that they oughtn’t to come under false pretences:  the burglar is in honor bound not to pass himself off to his priest as the saint.  But that is merely a moral obligation, established in the burglar’s own interest.  It does him no good to come unless he feels that he is playing the rules of the game, and one of these is confession.  If he cheats there, he knows that he is cheating nobody but himself, and might much better have stopped away altogether.”

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The Damnation of Theron Ware from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.