Page:Vactican as a World Power.djvu/432

This page needs to be proofread.


stand under the supervision of the Holy Office and owe it an explana- tion for every departure from the prescribed teaching, but even the specialist in a profane science is under its jurisdiction. It may in- vestigate the conclusions arrived at by an historian, or the system of a philosopher, a sociologist, or a political scientist, in so far as these touch upon questions of Church law and social ethics. It opposes the biologist and geologist when they reach conclusions at variance with orthodoxy; it disciplined Galileo and threatened Columbus. The spirit of resistance to innovations that seem dangerous abides today, though the means employed are different. Since the Holy Office can no longer appeal to the secular arm, it has power only over the conscience. Yet this is still a very important force, as experience in daily life proves.

The Holy Office, noted for its calm deliberation, has also to decide on the value of visions, prophecies, and seemingly miraculous occur- rences. The attitude of the faithful towards these apparitions is de- pendent upon its decisions. Thus Catholics are forbidden by it, as their protector against deceit and superstition, to participate in spiritistic seances. It also lays down the rules which govern the relationship between Catholics and mixed schools, or their intercourse with those of other faiths. The printed publications not only of priests, but in the strict sense of all Catholic laymen as well, is subject to ecclesiastical censorship exercised by the Holy Office. The ethical jurisdiction of this highest moral court of the Church extends even into medicine: a loyal Catholic doctor is not permitted to kill a child in the womb in order to save the mother, for Rome has condemned this practice. It is evident that the General Inquisitors of the Holy Office they are still so-called have a broad field in which to carry on their activities. Of necessity they deal most directly with what is done by priests in the realm of faith and morals, since here the Holy Office can impose other penalties (such as removal from office and degradation) , than excom- munication.

Originally censorship of books, often effectively employed in spirit- ual warfare, was one of the duties of the Holy Office. But when, as a result of the discovery of printing, the number of books began to multiply rapidly, the Holy Office was relieved of the burden of scrutiny by a special commission known as the Congregation of the Index.