Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/799

This page has been validated.

Protestantism never had and never can have. The latter has, in its imitation of the ways and words of the mediæval rules of Catholic orders, proved one truth, and I emphasize that because here is the great difference between church nursing and modern nursing. “Clerical care of the sick is destined, under the rules, to serve the Church, whatever that may mean, while serving the sick; the main duties and aims in view are ecclesiastical, and not humane, and, instead of a nurse solely given to the performance of her duties, you deal with ecclesiastical officers” (Virchow). And the necessity is clear, that whatever organization is deemed advisable in the interest of the sick, that organization ought to be in our times unecclesiastical and unsectarian. I have alluded to the fact that whatever medical knowledge existed in the masses centuries ago did so through the medium of the clergy. That knowledge was but trifling, for the ancient medicine of the Greeks and the more recent labors of the Arabs were sealed books at that time. But, then, the clergyman was the doctor. Instead of being so at present, we are daily met with the fact that the exact tendency of modern medicine is an unknown territory to the clergy, and that among them the upholders of all sorts of doubtful practices find their most sincere supporters. Medicine is to them a matter of faith, not science. It is not necessary to refer to that Brooklyn impostor whose criminal career has been detailed but lately in the secular press. For no church and no denomination must be held responsible for his methods of fleecing the ignorant and credulous. But the instances where actual clergymen assume responsibilities beyond their clerical powers and duties are also very numerous, and the protection by the Church of a regular monk in a Jersey monastery, who, in the church of his own institution, plies his nefarious trade of laying on hands, and exorcising the devils of disease for cash, these ten years, proves to what extent faith can be abused and the essence of religion distorted. We still live in a time when mediæval ignorance and modern enlightenment appear to find resting-places side by side. That the latter is getting the upper hand, after all, this sketch will prove, I hope, for even the mediæval organizations in the interest of the poor and sick, which I was anxious to estimate at their full value, have finally failed ignominiously. Almost every large society of the kind would degenerate in the end. The uniform report concerning most of them, mainly the male orders, is this, that with increasing power and wealth the original unselfishness of the founder disappeared, the actual work was left to low servants, the wealth of the community was accumulated in the Church. Thus it was that every great calamity sweeping over the lands was a source of riches to the Church. Never was divine blessing more visible in the Church than when half the population of Europe succumbed under the destruction of the “black-death.” Never was more business shrewdness developed by “fathers” and “brothers” than when a patient, sick with leprosy—much less contagious than was made