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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/593

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A SURVIVAL OF MEDIEVAL CREDULITY.

A SURVIVAL OF MEDIEVAL CREDULITY.
By Professor E. P. EVANS.

ONE of the crassest and most impudent and yet most successful frauds of modern times is that recently practiced by Leo Taxil and his associates on the papal hierarchy in their pretended exposures of the Freemasons and the Satanic rites performed by this secret fraternity. On April 20, 1884, Leo XIII issued an encyclical letter in which he divides the human race "into two diverse and adverse classes" (in partes duas diversas adversasque): "the kingdom of God on earth—namely, the true Church of Jesus Christ"—and "the realm of Satan." All who are not members of the former belong to the latter, so that there is no alternative between being a good Catholic or a worshiper of the devil. His Holiness then proceeds to show that the headquarters of Satanism are the lodges of the Freemasons, a fact, he adds, fully recognized by his predecessors, who have never ceased to expose and denounce the diabolical character and flagitious aims of these archenemies of the Christian faith. The detailed description of the organization of this order, its devilish purposes, and the horrible crimes committed in order to accomplish them are very queer reading in an official document emanating from an infallible ecclesiastical authority at the close of the nineteenth century. On August 20, 1894, Leo XIII published a decree of the Inquisition putting under ban "Odd Fellows, Sons of Temperance, and Knights of Pythias "as" synagogues of Satan," and excluding them from the sacraments of the Church.

It is no wonder that such an exhibition of credulity, which excited the astonishment of many a Romanist and made all intelligent and unprejudiced persons smile and shrug their shoulders, should have suggested to an arrant wag and incorrigible player of practical jokes like Leo Taxil (pseudonym of Gabriel Jogand) the idea of appealing to this peculiar passion on a grand scale and seeing to what extent the "mother Church" could be led into fraud, as Milton says, like "Eve, our credulous mother." In tracing the development of this audacious plot through all its stages and perceiving by what silly tales and transparent deceptions the Holy Father permitted himself to be duped, one can hardly refrain from exclaiming, in the words of Ben Jonson:

"Had you no quirk
To avoid gullage, sir, by such a creature?"

Leo Taxil was born at Marseilles on March 21, 1854, and was therefore thirty years of age when he entered upon this career of