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I publish this letter with sincere thanks to Father St. John for his permission to use it.— M. C. S.
Reply to Father St. John, S.J.
Leatherhead, December 12, 1917.
Dear Father St. John,
Your letter wins my heart entirely by its apprecia- tion and kindness. It is a great help and encouragement to find that we are so far in essential agreement, and that you are so well disposed toward even part of my effort.
But and I wish I could say it in burning words— it is not because I am chiefly concerned with Time that I wrote Chapter IX., but just because I am so acutely and so per- sistently conscious that I am dealing with factors of Eternity. To me to-day is essentially a fart of my Life Everlasting.
I cannot separate time and eternity, this world and the next, as religious people often seem able to do; to me tins body is a tool in the service of (though not completely in the control of) my immortal soul. Now it seems to me that religious people — and even in your letter I fancy I detect the same tendency (forgive me if I am wrong)— are too ready to separate this world and the next, to act unreasonably or cruelly here and to trust to Eternity, or the Hereafter, to put all right. I do not think that is the way God wills us to work out His plans now that He is giving us the knowledge to do better.
Could there be. any thing more unreasonable or cruel than to bring into life half a dozen children doomed from birth to ill-health, poverty, and almost inevitable crime?
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Christ forgave the thief upon the Cross, but He said, “Woe unto him through whom offences come. It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck and he cast into the sea.” Would Christ approve of deliberately creating a thief by bringing forth a child who was one inevitably through predictable weakness of physique and mentality and an environment of poverty? (” Thief” stands for criminals in general.)
But more, what about others, born dead, born imbecile, thwarted of life by miscarriage, which tear and rend the overburdened mother so that she is forced to neglect the children she has, and her neglect turns then into thieves? The poor, uneducated mother commits this crime through ignorance : it is we who know and allow her to remain in ignorance who are really responsible. Is not our with- holding God-given knowledge the greatest stumbling-block of offence to these little ones, and shall we not deserve the millstone round our necks?
Were everyone to have all the children physiologically possible (now that infant mortality is so much reduced by science) in a few centuries there would not be standing room on the earth, and nowhere for a blade of grass or an ear of corn to grow between the crowding feet. Is then a Roman Catholic mother, the increases to whose large family get punier and punier, to be privileged to go deliberately with that host of puny children at the expense of others, not only through that part of Eternity called Time, but through all Eternity ?
But, dear Father St. John, it is not my place to preach or to argue with you, especially after your generous kindness and appreciation. And, alas ! I fully realise that even were I granted the tongues of men and of angels, and I converted you to my thought in this matter, you as a Roman Catholic priest could not uphold a position in opposition to your Church.
Oh, that the Churches would look to Christ’s own words instead of to the official Church interpretation of them !
I thank you very sincerely for your kindness to a stranger and remain, always yours respectfully,