I. (i) It is a very common complaint against Catholics, laymen as well as clergy, that they are overzealous in their attempts to proselytize. True and spiritual religion, we are told, is as intimate and personal an affair as the love between husband and wife; it is essentially private and individual. “The religion of all sensible men,” it has been said, “is precisely that which they always keep to themselves.” Tolerance, therefore, is a mark of spirituality, for if I am truly religious I shall have as much respect for the religion of my neighbour as for my own. I shall no more seek to interfere in his relations with God than I shall allow him to interfere with mine.
Now Catholics are notoriously intolerant. It is not merely that there are intolerant Catholics, for intolerance is of course to be found in all narrow-minded persons, but it is Catholic principles themselves that are intolerant; and every Catholic who lives up to them is bound to be so also. And we can see this illustrated every day.
First, there is the matter of Catholic missions to the heathen. There are no missionaries, we are told, so untiring and so devoted as those of the Church. Their zeal, of course, is a proof of their sincerity; but it is also a proof of their intolerance: for why, after all, cannot they leave the heathen alone, since religion is, in its essence, a private and individual matter? Beautiful pictures, accordingly, are suggested to us of the domestic peace and happiness reigning amongst the tribes of Central Africa until the arrival of the Preaching Friar with his destructive dogmas. We are bidden to observe the high doctrines and the ascetic life of the Brahmin, the significant symbolism of the Hindu, and the philosophical attitudes of the Confucian. All these various relationships to God are, we are informed, entirely the private affairs of those who live by them; and if Catholics were truly spiritual they would understand that this was so and not seek to supplant by a system which is now, at any rate, become an essentially European way of looking at things, these ancient creeds and philosophies that are far better suited to the Oriental temperament.
But the matter is worse, even, than this. It may conceivably be argued, says the modern man of the world, that after all those Oriental religions have not developed such virtues and graces as has Christianity. It may perhaps be argued that in time the religion of the West, if missionaries will persevere, will raise the Hindu higher than his own obscenities have succeeded in doing, and that the civilization produced by Christianity is actually of a higher type, in spite of its evil by-products, than that of the head-hunters of Borneo and the bloody savages of Africa. But at any rate there is no excuse whatever for the intolerant Catholic proselytizer in English homes. For, roughly speaking, it is only the Catholic whom you cannot trust in your own home circle; sooner or