Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 72.djvu/151

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
147
GERMAN INFLUENCE IN LATIN AMERICA

prevailing in the South American republics and the "necessity of raising the standard of the clergy so that they may contribute to the better intellectual and moral condition and progress of the people of those countries." The clerical apprehension of approaching danger is shown in various attempts to hide or destroy ancient insignia of idolatrous superstition; thus, witness on the façade of the church of La Merced in Lima, the capital of Perú, there existed up to a few years ago the following inscription upon a fillet over the grand portal, "Indulgencia, plenaria, cuotidiana, perpetua por los vivos y los difuntos." It has now been removed under the sneers of an advancing civilization of the people and the sensitiveness of all to the comment of foreigners.

This is but a single instance among many illustrating the trend of a growing influence among the people, obliging the clergy to abandon its methods and pretensions. A half century ago, the priest in blessing the national troops in Costa Rica walked over the abased national flag to sprinkle it and the troops with holy water. To-day the flag is laid reverently upon a table and the priest walks around it in the performance of the ceremony.

Probably the story of the priest, Francisco Pablo De Vigil D.D., of Lima, is the most comprehensive illustration of the condition of life in its relation to the features here treated that can be presented in one single biography. This distinguished theologian, scholar and statesman was excommunicated from his church because he refused to accept the dogma of papal infallibility. Notwithstanding his expulsion, he continued to wear the ecclesiastical garb and the tonsure and to attend the functions of the church, occupying a seat among the laity. He had warm friends and sympathizers among the lower clergy, but could not receive absolution after confession, since he refused to renounce his error. The national government, recognizing his purity of character, his high degree of scholarship and devotion to liberty of thought, placed him in charge of the national museum, which is a great educational institution of Lima, and brought him into close intellectual contact with the students of the university, so that in this position he had the largest field he had ever yet possessed for influencing the growing mind of the nation. While occupying this station, he died. His death and funeral were as full of interest in the world of thought as his life had been. A personal friend in the priesthood attended him in the last hour and received his confession, but had been expressly forbidden to give him absolution, unless he renounced his error. His confessor relates that he was weeping as he knelt by the bedside of his dying friend, who laid his hand tenderly upon his head and said, "Don't weep for me, dear brother, but for the archbishop, whom you but obey; I am going before a greater judge than he." The body was refused admission to the church of La Merced for the ordinary requiem mass, and the clergy also refused the certificate required for burial in the