Religions are founded, not upon knowledge, or science, but upon faith, or, as some term it, credulity. People have agreed to describe as an “act of faith” the operation of closing one’s eyes in order to see better. It is by walking with faith,—in other words, with one’s eyes shut,—that the gates of Paradise are reached. If we could take from afar the census of that locality, we should find there more of the illiterate than of the learned. A child that knows the catechism by heart is more pleasing in the sight of Heaven than all the five classes of the Institute. The Church will never hesitate between an astronomer and a Capuchin friar. Knowledge is full of dangers. Not only does it puff up the heart of man, but it often shatters by the force of reasoning the best-constructed fables. Knowledge has made terrible havoc in the Roman Catholic Church during the last two or three hundred years. Who can tell how many souls have been cast into hell through the invention of printing.
Applied to the industrial pursuits of this sublunary sphere, science engenders riches, luxury, pleasure, health, and a thousand similar scourges, which tend to draw us away from salvation. Science cures even those irreligious maladies wherein religion used to recognize the finger of God. It no longer permits the sinner to make himself a purgatory here below. There is danger lest it should one of these days render man’s terrestrial abode so blessed, that he may conceive an antipathy to Heaven. The Church, having the mission to conduct us to that eternal felicity which is the sole end of human existence, is bound to discourage our dealings with science. The utmost she can venture to do is to let a select number of her most trustworthy servants have free access to it, in order that the enemies of the faith may find somebody whom they can speak to.
This is why I undertake to show you in Rome a dozen men of high literary and scientific acquirements, to a hundred thousand who don’t know their ABC.
The Church is but the more flourishing for it, and the State by no means the less so. The true shepherds of peoples, they who feed the sheep for the sake of selling the wool and the skins, do not want them to know too much. The mere fact of a man’s being able to read makes him wish to meddle with everything. The custom-house may be made to keep him from reading dangerous books, but he’ll be sure to take the change out of the laws of the kingdom. He’ll begin to inquire whether they are good or bad, whether they accord with or contradict one another, whether they are obeyed or broken. No sooner can he calculate without the help of his fingers, than he’ll want to look up the figures of the Budget. But if he has reached the culminating point of knowing how to use his pen, the sight of the smallest bit of paper will give him a sort of political itching. He will experience an uncontrollable desire to express his sentiments as a man and a citizen, by voting for