We should not deceive ourselves into believing this prevailing religion has lost its power, even though it is losing its religious hold upon the better classes. It still retains its social influence over these same educated classes, who despise its priests. This social power is a bulwark of strength that we shall experience great difficulty in breaking. Then, too, we may be sure these Latin lands will have reinforcement from the Spanish priesthood, which fact assures a most astute clerical leadership. The Spanish priest is today the most resourceful, alert and capable priest on the earth. I believe he is to be the last strong defender of the Roman Catholic organization. It is no accident that Merry de Val, the Pope’s prime minister, is a Spaniard. His appointment to that office is a just recognition of the most virile priesthood in the Roman realm. I was profoundly impressed with the Spanish priest. He looks you in the eye. He is on the street, “hail fellow well met” with the people. It is evident that he is conscious of power and possesses the gift of leadership which he is eager to use. Latin-America will feel the force of his capable leadership.
The situation in Brazil is complicated furthermore by the turn affairs have taken in Portugal. There were riots in Rio and public demonstrations against the local priests and against the exiled Portuguese priests that would probably enter Brazil after the establishment of the Portuguese Republic. But it appears that these Portuguese clerics are to be admitted. This increases the gravity of the situation. We shall be forced to take account of these men. They are a part of the religious problem of South America. Whether we wish to antagonize them or not, we shall be cognizant of their power. They will not let us alone. They will not give up South America to Protestantism without a bitter struggle.
Now I do not say all of these things of the Catholic phase of the religious problem in Latin-America for the purpose of recommending that we should gird ourselves for a polemical mission to these countries. We should look the situation squarely in the face that we may be able to estimate properly every force with which we shall have to do. I think that if the sole purpose in conducting these missions is to fight the Catholics, then we can find work to engage us more worthily. Let us evermore keep before us the fact that the Latin races have a real need of the gospel and the gospel is not being preached to them by the priests. If this is true, our duty is clear and our call is imperative. We must go and preach a positive, soul-saving gospel, avoiding conflict as far as possible and by satisfying the heart-hunger of the people with the Bread of Life, win them to Christ and a new life in Him.