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Home > Catholic Library > Radio Replies (Excerpts)

Radio Replies (Excerpts)

Please give me evidence that God exists. I have never had any such evidence, for I do not accept the Bible.

What do you mean by evidence? Some people think that evidence must be seen and touched, as an animal sees a patch of grass and eats it. But men are not mere animals. They have reason, and can appreciate intellectual evidence. For example, the evidence of beauty in music or in painting is perceived by man's mind, not by his senses. An animal could hear the same sounds, or see the same colors, without being impressed by their harmony and proportion. Apart from the Bible altogether, reason can detect sufficient evidence to guarantee the existence of God.

What is this evidence for God's existence, apart from the Bible?

There are many indications, the chief of which I shall give you very briefly:

You, as a Catholic, argue to a clockmaker. I, as a rationalist, ask, Who created your uncreated clockmaker?

That is not a rational question. I say that the universe is obviously created, and that what is created supposes a Creator who is uncreated, or the problem goes on forever, the whole endless chain of dependent beings as unable to explain itself as each of its links. It is rational to argue to an uncreated clockmaker. It is not rational to ask, Who created this uncreated clockmaker? God was not created. If He were, He would be a creature and would have a creator. His creator would then be God, and not He Himself. God always existed. He never began, and will never cease to be. He is eternal.

You talk of universal persuasion. Men used to believe that the world was flat!

The reason for that error was the lack of data, and the fact that men followed their senses, which seemed to say that the earth was flat. That was not a judgment of the pure reason. The senses supplied no immediate manifestations that there might be a God as they indicated that the world might be flat. The cases are not parallel, and the transition from a judgment based upon the senses to one based upon pure reason is not valid. In any case, the scientific and metaphysical proofs justify belief in God quite independently of this psychological reason. They would be valid supposing that only one man in a million believed in God's existence. This latter supposition, however, will never be verified, for the common rational judgment of the vast majority will always intuitively perceive this truth.

There is no need to talk of future balancing of the Scales. Virtue is its own reward in this life, even as the wicked endure remorse.

That will not do. Consciousness of virtue is not much good to a man about to be wrongfully hanged and who cannot live to enjoy it. Nor does vice always bring proportionate remorse. Many are too hardened to experience deep remorse. There will be a levelling-up some day, after this life, and by God.

Joseph McCabe believed in God, but he renounced bigotry and became an Agnostic.

There are many men who have given up their profession of a belief in God. But, they do not give up that belief because Agnosticism offers them a higher and holier life. They find Agnosticism less irksome, whether it be by emancipation from moral laws, or from the restraints of truth and logic. Nor should you talk of bigotry. Many Agnostics have a far worse bias than that which they attribute to believers, garbling facts and distorting evidence without any of the scruples which one who really believes in God would certainly experience.

If I sincerely believe that there is no God, and there be a God, would not invincible ignorance save me?

Such ignorance is not invincible. You can overcome it. You violated your reason in suppressing its spontaneous concept of God, and by persuading yourself that religion is false. If you took the pressure off your reason and let it swing back to the Supreme Cause of its very being, it would do so as the needle to the pole. Pascal rightly says that there are two types of men, those who are afraid to lose God, and those who are afraid that they might find Him.


What do you mean by the term God?

God is a spiritual, substantial, personal being, infinite in intelligence, in will, and in all perfection, absolutely simple or lacking composition, immutable, happy in Himself and by Himself, and infinitely superior to all that is or can be conceived apart from Himself. He is incomprehensible in His infinite perfection by all lesser intelligences, although knowable as to the fact of His existence as Living Creator and Lord of heaven and earth, almighty, eternal, immense, and distinct from all that He has created. That is what I mean by God.

How do you know that God is eternal, or always was, is and will be?

Because if God ever had a beginning, then before He began there was nothing. Now nothing, with nothing to work upon, and no faculties with which to work, could never turn its non-existent self into something. But there is obviously something, and there can never have been a time when there was nothing. God at least must always have existed, an if no one is responsible for His beginning, there is no one who could possibly bring His existence to an end. He always will be. God rightly declared Himself the eternally existent Being when He said to Moses, I am Who am.

Spinoza said that if God created the world for an object, He desires something He lacks, which denies His infinite perfection.

Spinoza's objection is not valid. He fails to distinguish between God's essential constitution, which is necessary to His being, and His free operations resulting in created things. If God's creating operations were necessary, Spinoza would be right. But God did not create in order to acquire perfection necessary to Himself. He created to bestow perfections upon others. If I am laboring to acquire, I lack something I want. If I give to others, that proves not my lack, but my superabundance.

Can men while earthbound understand the working of the Divine Mind?

The Divine Mind does not "work." God does not have to reason slowly and painfully to conclusions, as do men. His Divine Intelligence is a permanent and simultaneous act of perfect knowledge embracing all things, past, present, and future. We cannot fully understand God's being, knowledge, and plans. However, St. Paul rightly said that the pagan Romans were inexcusable for not noting the power and divinity of the true God in visible things, and for not having glorified Him, nor given Him thanks. If it were beyond the power of man to know this much of God, they would not have been inexcusable.

Have we attained to a full knowledge of God, or are we advancing towards the fulness of truth?

The fullest revelation of those things of God which man is intended to know has been made as far as this life goes. It has been given by Christ, as we shall see later on. No man yet has sounded the full depths of the truth revealed by Christ, and as we progress in the knowledge of His doctrines we get nearer and nearer to that fulness of truth which is possible on this earth. I am speaking of the knowledge to be attained by individuals. The fulness of truth is contained in the deposit of faith confided to the Catholic Church. The perfect fulness of knowledge is possible only in the heavenly vision of God.


What becomes of God when you think of the misery and starvation in the world?

We have already seen that there is a God. Inability to comprehend every detail in the universe does not prove that there is no God, but merely the limited capacity of the finite human mind. However, the human mind can propose certain principles which go a long way towards the removal of difficulties.

  1. Firstly, evil is really the negation or privation of good, and if there is evil in the world, there is also much good which can be accounted for only by the existence of God.
  2. Secondly, the fluctuations of this mutable life cannot affect God's existence. I mean that you cannot have God when things seem to be all right, and annihilate Him when things seem to go wrong. If God exists before things go wrong, He still exists despite the unhappiness of an individual. And note that word individual. Viewing the race as a whole, we find that life is a mixture of comfortable and uncomfortable things. When we are happy, others are suffering. When we are suffering, other are happy. And we cannot say that God is existing for the happy ones, and simultaneously not existing for the unhappy ones. We must not take local and individual views only, but a universal outlook.
  3. Thirdly, and particularly as regards the uneven distribution of this world's goods with consequent starvation for some, God's providence has not failed. Man's administration is at fault. While individuals suffer want, we know that the world has produced enough wheat, fruit, meat, and wool to feed and clothe everyone. God has not failed to provide enough to fill every mouth. But He has given this world over to the administration of men, and it is their bad management they must correct rather than blame God. At least their incapable administration should teach them the saving grace of humility.

Where is the justice of God, in permitting this uneven distribution?

A satisfactory explanation could scarcely be given, were this life all. But it is not. God permits these things only because He knows that there is a future life where He will rectify and compensate all inequalities. In the meantime he draws good out of these miseries, for they teach men not to set their hopes entirely upon this world as if there were no other, and help to expiate the sins of mankind. If we cannot be entirely happy here, let us at least make sure of being happy in the next life.

If God is almighty He could prevent volcanoes, earthquakes, etc., which kill innocent and wicked people alike.

If He were not almighty there would be no volcanoes to erupt, and no human beings to be injured or killed. These physical events happen according to natural laws established by God, with the operations of which He is not obliged to interfere because the finite minds of men are surprised by them. Nor does the death of such people terminate their real existence. The transition from earthly conditions to our future state is as normal as the transition from infancy to adolescence. Death is a natural law for all, and God permits it to come in various ways to various people.

If God is loving, just, and all-powerful, why does He permit moral evil, or sin?

Because God is Love, He asks the freely given love of man, and not a compelled love. Because He is just, He will not deprive man of the free will which is in accordance with his rational nature. Nor is this against the omnipotence of God, for even His power does not extend to contradictory things. Man cannot be free to love and serve God, without being free to reject Him and rebel against Him. We cannot have it both ways. Even God, if He wants men to be free, cannot take from them the power to choose evil. If He enforces goodness, He takes away freedom. If He leaves freedom, He must permit evil, even though He forbids it. It is man's dignity that he is master of his own destiny instead of having to develop just like a tree which necessarily obeys natural law. Men, as a matter of fact, misused their freedom, and sin and brutality resulted. But it was impossible to give man the gift of freedom and the dignity of being master of his own destiny without risking the permission of such failures.

At least, being all-powerful, just, and loving, He ought to give everyone a fair chance of obtaining the good things of this world.

Being all-powerful, there is no reason why He ought to do our bidding as if we were all-powerful.

Being just, He is not going to give us a tin trumpet and let us think that to be our real good when it is not.

Being loving, He will not usually allow man to have those riches which may cause difficulties in the way of salvation. I do not want Him to say to me, "Amen, I say to you, you have had your reward." We are Christians, and Christians are disciples of a crucified Master. We have no right to complain if we also must tread the path of suffering.

Do you tell me that a good God permits deformed children, with a lifetime of misery before them?

God is certainly good, and if He permits evil of any kind it is only because He knows that He can draw greater good from it in the end. The human race misused its freedom, abandoned God, and found not happiness but misery. It is good to be just, and God's justice permitted this misery. Also, in His wisdom, He may permit a child to be born deformed who with health and strength would fling itself into pleasures which wold end in eternal loss. Again, an imbecile is incapable of sin, and it would often seem to us a mercy had some apparently sane people been born imbeciles. Poor people, whether mentally or bodily deformed, do not spend the whole of their lives in misery and suffering. We must remember that what we call "the whole of their lives" is not confined to this earth. There is a continuance of existence in eternity, where all well be rectified.

We might say, "If God be good, why did He allow His Son to go through excruciated torture?" Sin is the real evil, not suffering. Christ found happiness in proving His love by suffering, a greater good than mere health. And the miseries of this world have driven thousands to God who would have been self-sufficient and independent only for the naturally insoluble problem of suffering. If only for this reason we can discern an indication of God's goodness in it.

Is it, then, God's will that people should suffer from such terrible diseases as cancer?

We must distinguish between God's positive will, and His permissive will. He positively wills all the good that happens. Suffering He permits to occur, and this only when he foresees that good can result from it. He positively wills that I should be holy. If He foresees that I will make use of good health to sin and to lose my soul, He may mercifully permit my health to be ruined, and thus lead me to Him where He would otherwise lose me. There would have been no diseases had men not sinned. God did not will sin, but having made men free, He permitted it and its consequences. This permission was a less serious thing than would have been the depriving us of our freedom.

My poverty is due to the oppression of capitalism, not to the loving will of God.

God has permitted it, but it has come about firstly, by mistaken conduct, with all good will, on the part of man; secondly, by faults both on the side of some capitalists and of some workers; thirdly; through mere force of circumstances. It is not against God's positive will to try to remedy these things. But, meantime, the present state of affairs would not exist, were in not for His permissive will.

Could not God at least have made life much easier, instead of making everything hard?

Everything is not hard. Some things are. The things that are difficult are made easier by the grace of which so many people deliberately deprive themselves. All difficulty cannot be removed, for God has a right to ask us to overcome at personal cost our self-inflicted bad habits, sins, and other injuries. Men's complaints are often about as reasonable as those of a man who cuts his throat, and then blames the doctor because it hurts to have it stitched up again.

But life seems to be becoming harder and more painful.

There has been a succession of world depressions and world recoveries through history. In any case temporal trials do not mean that life is becoming worse. It may be a means of great good. It is easy to follow all our lower instincts; difficult to battle against them. If your policy is to do only that which is easy and pleasant in life, you will never be much of a man. Christ came to make men better, and offers His grace and assistance whenever virtue demands what is difficult and painful to our lower nature and sensitiveness. He offers His special grace to those who have the good sense to pray for it.

Why does He permit those who do serve Hm to live in poverty, while the godless have a smooth path through life?

This is not always the case. However, when this does occur, it is not difficult to understand. The godless do not deserve to be invited to share with Christ in a life of suffering. Also, all men do some good in life sometimes. No one is entirely evil. God's justice rewards natural good, therefore, by natural prosperity, and that may be all that such men will receive. "You have had the reward of such good as you did," may be said at their judgement, "and now answer for the evil of your irreligious lives." On the other hand, those who love God are not given worthless and perishable rewards, but will receive a full return of supernatural happiness, the only kind that really matters. If Christ promised us happiness in this world, then let us murmur when we see the infidel prosper. But what did He promise? He promised what He Himself received, suffering here, and happiness hereafter. The disciple is not above his Master.

In all these replies to difficulties you are postulating free will, the sinful state of man, redemption by Christ, grace, and the eternal destiny of Man!

That is so. These things are facts, and no problem can be fully solved except in the light of all the facts. I am quite prepared to justify these facts. Meantime, without them, no reasonable solution of the problems of God's providence can be found at all; with them, the solution, even though inadequate, is at least rational and intelligible. The world with its miseries may be a problem difficult to reconcile with the existence of God; but that same world without God is a far greater problem, leaving exactly the same miseries to be endured in hopeless despair. Christianity does not deny the existence of suffering, but it can give happiness in the midst of suffering, and this practical solution is the true solution God gives to men of good will.


Do Catholics believe in the Second Coming of Christ?


What does the expression in the Creed mean: From thence He shall come to judge the both the living and the dead?

Those words refer to the general judgment of the whole human race at the end of the world. God has revealed that, in due time, our Lord will come in great power and majesty to judge all mankind.

If this is true, we should not believe that a person is judged the moment he dies.

That does not follow. Each individual soul is judged by God as it leaves this world. So Scripture tells us, "It is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment" (Hebrews 9:27). Some will say, "If each sould has its particular judgment as it goes from this world, then why the general judgment of all collectively at the end?" There are many reasons for that.

Our Lord tells us that there is nothing hidden which shall not be revealed. For wise reason time keeps its secrets; but time, at the end, will reveal all to all under the eyes of the great Judge. And all that God has done or permitted will be justified before the whole universe. Those who have died in the grace and friendship of God will find this general judgment to their glory and happiness. But those who have died at enmity with God will find it to their disgrace and misery. So God will triumph either in His mercy or in His justice.

Scientists say that the universe will last for millions of years, gradually losing energy till all life is frozen out.

If we allow for purely natural factors that is most probable. That is, the universe will probably go on for millions of years, gradually losing energy, provided God Himself does not step in and bring the existing state of affairs to an end in a way beyond the comprehension of men.

Is it after this scientific conclusion that the Day of Judgment is expected?

The Catholic Church teaches that Christ will certainly come again to judge the living and the dead and that will end the present era as far as mankind is concerned. And that will be before all life is frozen out from this globe. When it shall occur is not known to men and not included in the teachings of the Church. Also, while this coming of Christ will affect the human beings who inhabit the earth, the Church has nothing to say as to what will happen to the planet itself. It may go on cooling till it is as cold as the moon, or perhaps be destroyed by some cataclysm. That all rests with God, and matters little to men whose fate will long have been decided before such possibilites can materialize. The scientists would say: Judging by the apparent natural laws we observe, and absracting from any untoward and unsupernatural intervention by God, we think the world will go on for millions of years, and eventually grow so cold as to freeze all life out of existence. If you ask them: But is there any likelihood of a supernatural intervention by God? they would reply: Speaking purely as natural scientists, we don't know. Natural science is not competent to speak on such a subject positively. Christ has revealed that such an intervention will take place at some future time, and we scientists cannot say that it will not happen, nor can we say that there are any reasonable grounds for refusing to believe in the authority and capacity of Christ to fulfill His predictions.

St. Paul speaks of "That Day," of the crown of justice laid up for him, and of the blessed hope which looks forward to the glorious appearing of the great God, and our Savior Jesus Christ. When will this appearing take place?

There are two judgments, the particular judgment of each individual which takes place immediately after death; and the general judgment which will occur at the end of the world.

In the particular judgment, each soul will answer for its life on earth, and will be rewarded or punished accordingly. St. Paul knew that our Lord is not outdone in generosity, and after all his labors and sufferings, knew that he could confidently expect a crown of justice to be received as soon as his life was over. Therefore, he said, "Having a desire to be dissolved and to be with Christ, a thing by far the better" (Philippians 1:23). The day of each one's death, therefore, is "That Day" from the viewpoint of the individual's eternal fate.

But the glorious appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ refers to the general judgment of all mankind at the end of the world, when Christ will come in all His majesty and power to manifest His triumph in the sight of men and angels. When this final consummation of th eages will occur no man can say. God has revealed that it will occur, but purposely refrained from revealing when. Jesus, therefore, said expressly, "Of that day and hour no one knoweth, no not the angels of heaven, but the Father alone" (Matthew 24:36).

What did our Lord mean when He said, "Heaven and earth shall pass away; but My word shall not pass away" (Matthew 24:35)?

He primarily meant that His teachings were eternally true. It is as if He said: Though all else should fail, My doctrine can never fail. It will last forever.

Will this earth ever be destroyed?

Certainly in its present form and structure. Our Lord Himself has said that the heavens and the earth will pass away, but that His words never fail. In speaking to men, He was speaking of the heavens and of the earth as they saw them, meaning that things as they are now will cease to be so. We are told that all is to end in a vast cataclysm, both material and moral. An extraordinary transformation will come over the whole material universe, and Christ, who came as an infant in mercy, will appear as a Judge to administer justice.

Will heaven pass away?

No. Our Lord was referring to the heavens, not to heaven as a state of eternal happiness. The visible universe as we see it now is in a state of transition. At least in its present formation it will pass away sooner or later, even by merely natural processes. But apart from this, the final coming of Christ will mean a shock to the existing visible order of things, and a vast change in it. Through all such changes, however, the doctrine of Christ remains unchangeably true, and all that He has taught will most certainly be verified.

What is meant by a new heavens and a new earth?

Even were the present universe left as it is, every soul that goes out of this life must see a new heavens and a new earth, if only because it will see things from a completely different aspect. Science tells us that the atoms and molecules of even the most rigid objects are in motion and at an incalculable speed. If the soul could get a truly scientific vision of the dance of atoms and molecules, and of the very stars, it would certainly see the universe under a very new aspect. But the change to come should not only be attributed to the changed condition of the soul. There will be a change in the actual scheme of earth and the heavens. There will be a new order, and a perfect adaptation of all things to a new end. Christ will be the organizer, as He has organized the Church and humanity. It is quite possible that all may be spiritualized and submitted to the elect, the elect to Christ, and Christ to God. Thus, St. Paul himself says that all creation waits for the manifestation of the children of God. Exactly what will occur, of course, is a mystery which God has not deigned to reveal. But He has revealed the fact that Christ will come again in some glorious way to judge mankind. And we Catholics accept that fact on the authority of God's word.

What is meant by the New Jerusalem?

The very word Jerusalem means City of Peace. The New Jerusalem means the finally established and spiritual Kingdom of Christ, in which He will reign in eternal happiness and peace with those who are saved.

Let us suppose that the world has ended, and that there are some souls in heaven and some souls in hell.

Some will be in heaven, and some will be in hell.

On the one hand some will be enjoying unlimited happiness; on the other, suffering unlimited misery.

Neither the happiness nor the misery will be unlimited.

What do you suppose God will have got out of it?

I do not go in for suppositions. I know that God will get this much out of it. The very goodness which diffused itself generously in the creation of human beings will be acknowledged and proclaimed by those human beings whether they are in heaven or in hell. And that, not because it will be of any essential advantage to God, but because it is right that it should be so. You will not find it difficult to conceive this of those who attain heaven. Your difficulty will be to conceive it of those who lose their souls and go to hell. Let me try to help you. God's goodness not only gave man the gift of existence, but also the dignity of a free will by which he would be master of his own destiny. If man, however, yields to pride, rebels against God, and dies still obstinately refusing to make his peace with God, then unrepentant pride will by its very eternal punishment proclaim the eternal rights of the Supereme Good to be loved above all things. Hell is a proclamation of those rights, exemplifying as it will that supreme hatred of evil which is a necessary consequence of a supreme love of good. Love and hatred are really one and the same movement in reference to opposite objects. For evil is opposed to the good, and hatred is the reaction of love for what is good against the evil opposed to that good. Were there no love for good there would be no hatred of evil. And hell, by the very grimness of its penalties upon evil, will proclaim for eternity that the good should have been loved.

How much better off will God be than if the thing had never taken place?

Creation, and the consequence of creation, could not add to God's perfection and happiness. But God is just and will vindicate the rights of justice. Meantime, you have been created. And your chief concern is to fulfill the will of the God who made you. Instead of asking how much better off God will be whether you save your soul or lose it, the practical problem for you is to ask how much better off you will be if you save your soul and avoid hell. So Christ puts the question to you, as to all of us, "For what doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul" (Matthew 16:26). You cannot ask yourself that question too often.

If it had to be, to satisfy Himself in some way, then He is deficient in some respect.

We cannot say that God had to create anybody. God was free to create or not to create. Granted, however, that He freely chose to create you, endowing you with intelligence, free will, and immortality of soul, then if you abuse the gifts God have you, use them to offend God rather than to serve God, and die without being reconciled to God, God will have to send you to hell. And He will do this to vindicate the claims of justice. Far from this implying a deficiency in God, there would be a deficiency in Him if, having given the moral law, He did not vindicate that law. Men too easily assume that God's dominion over creatures must not under any circumstances involve inconvenience for those creatures. Their liberty must be supereme, even if God is to be deprived of the liberty to appoint the moral laws regulating their conduct. Men must be allowed to flout those laws, and do as they like, and even God has no right to threaten retribution. So men deny hell, and if they acknowledge religion at all, it is to be allowed no office but to soothe and comfort them. Genuine love of God casts out fear. But men want to cast out fear, without bothering about the love of God. And then they talk about a deficiency in God if they are not allowed to do so.

If God is really the All in All, it is rank foolishness to imagine that He would be complimented in any sense by the scheme you attribute to Him.

It is not I who attribute any scheme to God. I declare what He was revealed to be the eternal counterparts of the good and evil not only possible, but so evident in human life. And if we take the three great motives of conduct -- what is useful, what is pleasant, and what is right -- I have already said that God's treatement of creatures will not be based upon utility or pleasure, but upon what is right and just in itself. And the rank foolishness is to imagine that God must abandon what is right and just because a creature in rebellion against Him whines about the sacrilegious violation of its own utility and pleasure.


Why does the Catholic Church give so much honor to Mary when she was just an ordinary woman selected for a great purpose?

Firstly, I deny that Mary was just an ordinary woman. She was a human being, but among human beings there are degrees of dignity. And she was no ordinary woman to whom God thought fit to send an Archangel with the salutation, "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee." Nor was she an ordinary woman to whom Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Ghost, cried out, "Blessed art thou amongst women; and whence is this to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me." Had any ordinary woman come to visit Elizabeth, no such exclamation would have fallen from her lips.

Secondly, you yourself say that Mary was selected for a great purpose. Selected by whom? By God. Now God has ever fittingly prepared those whom He has designed to call to great duties. We see that in the case of the prophets, and above all, in the case of that greatest of all the prophets, St. John the Baptist. Yet not one of these had so close a relationship to Jesus as she who was destined to be His Mother.

Some female had to be selected, and it just happened to be Mary of Nazareth.

If one who professes to be a Christian and to believe in the Bible thinks to please Christ by speaking contemptuously of His Mother, he is very much mistaken. I do not know whether you hold your own mother in reverence and esteem. But I will presume that you do. And I will merely say that Jesus was a far better Son to His Mother than you ever have been to yours. If you would resent any attempt to belittle your mother, you have a faint indication of what Christ thinks of such words as yours. As for your remark that "it just happened," a moment ago you said that Mary was selected for a great purpose. Selection by an infintely wise God is not a haphazard proceeding. There were reasons for the selection of Mary rather than others, and those reasons had to do with her holiness and fitness above all others for the immense dignity.

The glory does not rest with her but with God.

Mary herself said that. She gave the glory to God, saying, "He that is mighty has done great things to me." But she did not deny that great things had been done to her which had not been done to others. And those who receive the greater gifts from God deserve the greater honor from us.

What is her place in the Christian religion?

Mary's place in the Christian religion should be obvious. She is the morning star preceding the Light of the World, Christ. The only difference is that all her light is derived from the Son she heralds. By God's eternal decree Mary has been associated with the highest mysteries of the Christian religion, being the very instrument of the Incarnation of the Eternal Son of God, and, therefore, of our redemption. We have devotion to her both because of our admiration of her, and because of her interest in our eternal welfare. When we honor Mary, of course, we are but honoring Christ in her. Without Him, she would be nothing, and she would be the first to admit it. And the honor we show her cannot displease Christ. He was the best Son who ever lived, and would rather be displeased were His Mother ignored or slighted. Remember the bootblack's answer to the parson. While having his boots polished, the parson saw a medal of the Virgin Mary hanging from the boy's neck on a string. "Sonny," he said, "why do you wear that?" "She is the Mother of Christ," said the boy. "But," objected the parson, "she's no different from your own mother." "No," replied the boy, "but there's a hell of a difference between the sons." We owe love and devotion to the Mother of Christ.

Scripture accords not attributes of deity to Mary, and outside the grace of God, she was as helpless as any other woman.

The Catholic Church forbids anyone to ascribe any attributes of deity to Mary, whether inside or outside the grace of God. However holy she might be by grace, she still remains a creature. Mary would be the first to say that, but for the grace of God, she would have no privileges beyond those of other women. The Catholic Church teaches the same. But she certainly did receive graces that no other woman ever received or ever will receive, and in supernatural dignity and power surpasses them all. In bringing forth Jesus Christ she brought forth the life of my soul, and she is as much my mother in the supernatural order as my earthly mother in the temporal and natural order. And I for one hope ever to retain a child's devotion to my Heavenly Mother till the day of my death and for all eternity. I know that as Eve was the mother of all the living, yet brought us forth to suffering, misery and death, so Mary, the second Eve, and between whom and Satan God promised to put enmity, brought me forth to the happiness and life of God's grace.

Eve listened to Satan, disobeyed God, gave us to eat of the tree of evil, left us miserable and driven from the paradise of the grace of God.

Mary listened to an angel, obeyed, gave us to eat of the tree of life, restored happiness to us and us to God's grace, and she is enthroned in Heaven with Christ. And there she is my Mother and my Queen. I can only wish she could be as proud of me as I am of her.

In what way did Mary take her part in the redemptive work of mankind, which was accomplished by Christ alone?

Christ was the principal Author of our redemption, but there were many secondary cooperators in the work. We even find St. Paul saying that we are to fill up what is wanting to the sufferings of Christ. The explanation of this, however, would demand a treatise on the mystical body of Christ as comprising all the members of the Church, and I can scarcely do justice to it now. All I can say is that Mary cooperated in the redemptive work in a way quite special to herself.

As Jesus is the second Adam, so Mary is the second Eve. As our first Mother Eve brought us forth to misery and suffering, so our second Mother Mary, in bringing forth our Savior, brought us forth to happiness and salvation. Mary's consent was asked by God when the time for the Incarnation was at hand; she consented to the full work of Christ from the cave of Bethlehem to the Cross of Cavalry. She provided the very blood that was shed for us. In union with Christ she had her own passion, and Simeon rightly predicted to her, under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, "Thy own soul a sword shall pierce." With, in, and through the work of Christ her sufferings also contributed secondarily towards our redemption. And she was given to us from the Cross as a mother for a mother's work. To all of us Christ said, in the person of St. John, "Son, behold thy Mother." We Catholics, therefore, regard Mary as our spiritual Mother, entertaining towards her the love and devotion of children. Every Christian woman, above all, should regard Mary, the Mother of Christ, as the glory of her sex.

Has the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception been defined by the Catholic Church as an article of faith?

Yes. Consequently the only way to disprove it is by disproving the infallibility of the Catholic Church. Meantime, none of your difficulties avails against it.

Why did the Church define it?

Because it rightly expresses the truth concerning Mary as contained in God's revelation. That truth is that Mary was exempted from any trace of inherited original sin.

At what date did the Catholic Church adopt the idea of the Immaculate Conception by Jesus' Mother?

I am afraid you are confusing two different doctrines. The Immaculate Conception is a term referring to the conception of Mary herself by her parents, Joachim and Anne. When Mary herself was conceived, her soul was preserved immaculate, or free from inherited original sin. But when Mary herself conceived Jesus, it was under the influence of the Holy Ghost, and not through any relations with man. This could be called the miraculous conception of the child Jesus. Usually it is referred to as the Virgin Birth, since it implies that Mary remained a virgin even though she gave birth to Jesus. Both the docrtine that Jesus was born of a virgin, and that the virgin was herself immaculate from the very moment of her own conception are taught in the Gospels. But the latter doctrine is not so clearly recorded as the former. That Jesus was born of a virgin Mother has been explicitly taught by the Catholic Church from the very beginning. So in the Apostles' Creed itself we say, "born of the Virgin Mary." That the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary herself is also part of the Christian revelation was defined by the Catholic Church in 1854. The Church did not invent a new doctrine then. She merely defined that such was the original Christian teaching of the New Testament.

How can you say that Mary was ever a virgin when the Bible speaks of the brethren of the Lord?

The expression, "brethren of the Lord," is no argument whatever that Mary had other children besides Jesus. For the Jews used that expression of any near relatives, without intending necessarily the first degree of blood relationship. It was enough for people to be descendants of the same tribe to be called brethren. James was called the brother of Jesus. Yet we know that he was the son of Alphaeus, and Mary was certainly never the wife of Alphaeus. This James, also, was the blood brother of Jude. And Jude begins his epistle with the words, "Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and the brother of James." Here he is using the word brother in the strict sense, and knows that he cannot in that sense call himself the brother of Jesus Christ. Yet in the broad sense of the word, he is ranked amongst the kinsmen of Christ, as we know from Matthew 13:55, where the Gospel speaks of "His brethren James and Joseph, and Simon and Jude."

I think the brothers and sisters referred to were the children of Joseph and Mary after Jesus was born. There is no reason to think otherwise.

There is every reason to think otherwise.

Mark 6:3 says, "Is not this carpenter, the Son of Mary, the brother of James and Joseph, and Jude and Simon? Are not also His sisters here with us?"

The reference to Jesus as the Son of Mary and the brother of James and Joseph, Jude and Simon, as also to His sisters is also quite compatible with our Lord's being the only Son of Mary. The term brothers or sisters was applied to any near relatives within the same tribe even though they were first, second or third cousins. In much the same way I could speak of a fellow countryman as a brother without suggesting that he was of the same mother as myself. Remember that in the Aramaic language used at the time, there was not word in existence to denote cousin. The Jews had to use the word Achim ("brethren") for the description of any kindred by collateral descent. I could give you a dozen references from the Old Testament proving the Jewish usage of those terms for half-brothers, nephews and nieces, cousins, and any blood relatives in general. Renan, quite an unbeliever in Christ and whose verdict here is above suspicion, says of this passage that the preliminary expression "the Son of Mary" followed by the mention of the other names takes it for granted that Jesus was known as the only son of a widow. Loisy, another who was by no means well disposed towards the Catholic doctrine, declares that, when Mary hesitated to accept the offer of the angel to become the Mother of Christ, she spoke so absolutely when she said, "How shall this be, for I know not man," that Catholics are justified in seeing the intention of perpetually preserving her virginity.

You pick the plums out of Renan when it suits your case.

The fact that Renan, so radically opposed to the supernatural element in the Gospels, says so few things that suit our case immeasurably intensifies the value of his verdict when he admits that Gospel text supposes that Jesus was the only child of Mary. All his inclinations would be against making that admission. You are not happier in deluding yourself that Mary had other children than Renan, the rationalist, would have been, could he have brought himself to believe that the text permitted such a persuasion.

Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor save in his own country and among his own kin, and in his own house" (Mark 6:3-4).

When Jesus said that He had no honor among His own kin, He was speaking quite intelligibly despite His not having brothers and sisters. The expression kith and kin is verified by relatives independently of the precise degree of consanguinity.

Matthew 13:55-56 implies the whole family.

He implies too big a family, if the strict sense you wish were true. In verse 56, he says, "His sisters, are they not all with us?" The use of the word "all" in reference to the sisters implies not one or two, but a large number in various degrees of relationship. They were certainly too many, together with four brothers, to be sisters of Jesus in the strict sense of the word. There is a little axiom that "he who proves too much proves nothing." The wording used by St. Matthew tells distinctly in favor of the Catholic interpetation.

Luke 8:19 implies the whole family when he says, "His Mother and brethren came to Him."

He implies that His Mother and other relatives in various degrees came to Him. Those relatives were not brothers and sisters in the first degree of consanguinity.

Luke 1:36 confutes the story that there was no word in the Greek to describe James, Joseph, Jude and Simon as cousins.

I have never heard it said that there was no word in Greek for cousin. It is certain that there was not word in Hebrew for cousin. The Hebrew word for brother, ah, and in the Aramaic, aha was used to describe brothers, half-brothers, nephews and nieces, cousins, and relatives in general. It is certain that any cousins of Jesus would have to be described in Aramaic as brethren. And, in translating the Hebrew expression literally by the Greek word brethren, the Evangelists merely followed the example already given in the Septuagint Greek version of the Old Testament.

St. Paul wrote: "But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord's brother. In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie" (Galatians 1:19-20).

Quite so. St. Paul did not lie. He saw St. James. But when he alluded to James as the Lord's brother, he had not in mind the sense you imagine. He made a perfectly lawful use of the term in the broad sense which included cousins, according to Jewish usage at that time. Critical scholarship demolishes the idea that these brethren were other children of Mary the Mother of Jesus. It observes that these brethren are depicted as older than Jesus, though it is certain that Mary had no children prior to Jesus. And precisely because Mary had no other children of her own, Jesus had to confide His Mother to the care of John, the son of Zebedee, as He died upon the Cross. One wonders why Protestants wish to assert that Mary had other sons after Jesus was born. Is it for the sheer love of truth, and that they may contribute to the greater honor of Jesus and Mary? Or is it that they want to drag Mary down from her true dignity, and Jesus down to the level of ordinary men, in order to show their contempt for Catholicism? I am afraid that, in some Protestants, faith in the Gospels and in Jesus Christ runs a bad second to their dislike of Catholicism. It is enough for them that the Catholic Church teaches a given doctrine to inspire them with zeal to deny it, whatever the consequences to the Jesus Christ they profess to serve, and to His Mother Mary, whom Jesus cannot desire to be held in anything but the highest reverence and esteem.

On the Cross Christ said to St. John, "Son, behold thy Mother," therefore, making out John was another son.

Christ, in His infinite wisdom, would not waste words in those precious and most painful last moments to tell John something of which John was already well aware. It was precisely because Mary was not the natural mother of John that Christ asked him to be a son to her. And the Gospel tells us that "From that hour the disciple took her as his own." Which means that only from that moment, in virtue of this commission of Christ, John recognized that he had filial obligations to Mary. Had he been her natural son, he would have had them all along. Scripture gives us the names of John's father and mother, and they were not Joseph and Mary. Mark 1:19 tells us that his father's name was Zebedee. In Mark 10:35, we again read that "James and John, the sons of Zebedee came to Christ saying . . ." In Matthew 20:20, we are told that the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Christ adoring Him and asking a favor. And she was not His own Mother. Who was she? Her name was Salome, mentioned in Mark 15:40. So that St. John was the natural son, not of Joseph and Mary, but of Zebedee and Salome. And it was precisely because Christ knew that His Mother Mary had not other children to care for her that He committed her to the care of His beloved disciple St. John, asking him to regard her henceforth as if she were his own Mother.

Was our Lady vowed to virginity from early childhood, or was she "espoused to a man named Joseph" with the intention of marrying him in the ordinary way, until the advent of the Angel Gabriel changed her plans?

According to the teaching of Catholic theologians, Mary, under the inspiration of God, had formed the determination to preserve life-long virginity, and under that same inspiration of God, had agreed later to be espoused to St. Joseph, both of them by mutual consent making a vow not to demand of each other the right to those marital relations which are one of the normal privileges of marriage. This espousal was in view of God's purpose to provide a protector for the Mother and Child, a purpose which became clear to Mary when the Angel Gabriel, as St. Luke says, "appeared to a virgin who was espoused to a man named Joseph." When the angel predicted that she would bear a child, consciousness of her determination to remain a virgin is evident from her reply, "How shall this be done, because I know not man." As St. Augustine points out, she would not have said this, despite her engagement to Joseph, had she not resolved to remain a virgin.

Do you believe that Mary ascended into Heaven, and was crowned amidst the glory of all the Saints?

Catholic teaching does not speak of Mary's ascending into Heaven. Christ, by His own divine power, ascended into Heaven. Mary was assumed or taken up into Heaven, body and soul, after her death. We Catholics believe, therefore, in the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. And we speak of the fitting honor with which God received her as her crowning with glory. There is nothing in this doctrine which is in any way opposed to sound and reasonable principles. Nor a single rational argument can be advanced to prove that it could not happen, or that it did not happen. On the other hand, there are solid reasons for the belief that it did happen, and also the teaching authority of the Catholic Church, an authority guaranteed by Sacred Scripture.

There is nothing in Scripture about this.

It is not necessary that there should be. We know that Christ is King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. We know that His Mother is in Heaven, and that the Mother of the King rejoices in a queenly dignity. It is quite certain that our Lady has a closer bond with Jesus than any other human being, and that, if He is going to crown His Saints with glory, He will give the highest honor to His Mother.

What authority is there for this doctrine?

Firstly, of course, the inherent teaching authority of Christ. The Catholic Church was commissioned to teach all nations with His authority and under His protection. The mere fact that she teaches the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven is sufficient assurance of the event. But what reasons support the teaching, apart from the authority of the Church? There is no express reference to the subject in Sacred Scripture. But it has ever been the tradition of Christians from the very beginning, and, as the Anglican Mozley has pointed out, "The conviction of the fact did not arise from mere belief; the belief can only be accounted for by the primitive fact." Theologically, the corruption of the body is a consequence of the corruption of original sin. But Mary was exempted from the corruption of original sin, and it was most fitting that she should be exempted from corruption in the grave. The Eastern Orthodox churches agree with the Catholic Church on this doctrine. High Church Anglicans are returning to it. I have just been reading an Anglican booklet on the subject, in which the author writes:

It would seem rash to deny such a bodily Assumption, for despite the prevalence of credulity in the matter of relics, no Church (or city) has ever claimed to possess the mortal remains of our Lady. Why not? It is a fact which requires explanation. Relics of our Lady would possess a greater value for Christians than any others. Do not urge that the Reformers abolished the festival of the Assumption. They abolished much that had been better left untouched. Many of their experiments have not proved successful. We may hope the day will come when the authorities of our provinces will repair the loss which has been sustained by its omission.
I quote that to show the High Anglican tendency, and also, because there is something in the historical fact that, while St. Peter's body, for example, is so deeply reverenced at Rome, no city has ever claimed to possess the remains of our Blessed Lady. Her assumption, body and soul, into Heaven is an obvious reason why.


May we say that man has a soul?

We may speak that way. Strictly speaking, however, man is a composite being consisting of both body and soul, the soul, of course, being the nobler component element.

Prove that a soul does exist in man.

A living human body is not the same thing as a corpse. Now the soul is the difference between a corpse and a living being. A dead body cannot move, eat, think, express itself, enjoy, or be miserable. It can but fall to pieces and go back to dust. There is something that stops your body from doing that now. It is your soul. For every activity you must find a principle of operation behind it. The principle in a man which thinks and loves, and is happy or miserable, is a very real thing. It is not nothing, less than the very body it animates. Nor is it a chemical. No doctor, examining a corpse, can tell you what chemical is missing that it should not live. If there be nothing else save chemical substances, let doctors and scientists gather together the requisite chemicals and say, "Live!" They can effect nothing like this. There is something that chemistry cannot reach; it is the soul or spirit. Look anyone in the face, and behind those animated features, those changing expressions, in the very eyes, you will read the soul.

If a soul is the difference between a living being and a corpse, then an animal, or even a vegetable, must have a soul.

That is so. Sane philosophy admits a vegetative soul, a sensitive animal soul, and an immortal, spiritual, and intelligent human soul.

Man does not possess a soul. He is a soul. The Bible says that God breathed the breath of life into the body, and it became a living soul.

That breath of life was either a definite something, or it was nothing. But you cannot tell me that nothing vitalized that body. It was a definite something, and that something was a created human intelligent soul. Again, if man has not got a soul, then instead of being composed of body and soul, he is a body. And if that body is a soul, then a soul wears boots! However you quote the Bible, the authority of which we shall consider later. Meantime, since you accept it, you will notice that Christ clearly shows the difference between the material body and a spiritual soul when He said, "Handle and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as you see me to have" (Luke 24:39). A body, of flesh and bone, could never become a living soul. Man was but named after the superior element of his being.

Do the words spirit and soul mean the same thing?

The word spirit can have a very wide meaning. It is derived from the Latin word spiritus, meaning a breath. Then because the soul of man is as invisible to bodily eyes as a breath, and also because its presence is manifested by the breathing of a living body, the word spirit acquired a transferred sense, becoming a substitute for the word soul. If then we intend by the word spirit the principle of life in a man, that principle which enables him to live, to know and to love, to be happy or to be sorrowful, then the spirit is the soul.

And in a further sense, because a man's dispositions depend upon his soul, we use the word spirit for character, and thus speak of a man's spirit. But this is only the soul, manifesting itself in a man's external conduct. The soul, therefore, is the living principle which makes the difference between a living man and a corpse, and spirit and soul in this sense mean the same thing.

Is not the soul the breath of God?

No, for God is spirit, a purely spiritual substance, and does not breathe. The expression is only a human way of putting things. The soul is a spirit, and is called the breath of God merely because caused or created by God in its spiritual or breath-like nature.

Did the soul exist before conception?

No. God creates each soul as each body is generated. It is difficult to fix the exact moment, but the more general opinion is as soon as the embryo begins to exist.


Is the soul immortal?

Yes. The body is naturally mortal; the soul by its very nature immortal.

What indications have you that the soul is immortal?

That the soul will, an indeed must, survive the death of the body is demonstrable from many points.

Reflection, then, upon the simple structure of the soul, upon the future administration of the sanctions attached to the moral law, upon the rectification of worldwide inequalities, and upon the teleological inclinations to a lasting and perfect good, makes it a violation of reason to deny the survival of the soul.

The idea of sanction proportioned to the individual's sense of moral obligation has much less influence upon men than you religious people think.

I admit that it has much less influence than it should have, but their not thinking of it does not alter the fact.

It has no real bearing on morality, and if anything would have a bad influence, making men cowards.

Since there is a future life, it has a lot to do with morality. Man is endowed with reason and is bound to exercise foresight. The future as such, whether here or hereafter, is a reasonable motive for present conduct. I refrain from eating certain foods now, because reason tells me that future indigestion will result. That is reasonable conduct. I try to refrain from morally wrong conduct because it is wrong; offends God; is a personal disgrace; and will wreck my whole future existence if I persist in it, dying without repentance. All these motives are good. If the nobler motives fail to impress me in a given temptation, the thought of hell at least will tend to stop me.

You will say, "So you are afraid of hell?" I reply, "Of course I am!" Knowing that hell is a reality, any sane man will live so as to avoid going there. It is not cowardice, but ordinary prudence. If a man leaps for his life off a railway line as an express tears past the spot where he was standing, you would not go up to him, tap him on the shoulder, and say, "You coward, you jumped for your life through sheer fear of that train!" God gave us our reason that we might use it for our well-being, and it is quite reasonable to weigh both advantages and penalties attached to moral law.

Nor is this influence probably to the bad. The knowledge that retribution will follow violations of the moral law makes that law a real law. Could we say that all the penalties attached to the laws of the State are to the bad? Thousands of temptations to crime are resisted by citizens because of the thought of the future penalties. Nor does it matter much whether the penalty be future by a few weeks and in this life, or by some years, and in the next life. The principle is the same.

Right is right, and wrong is wrong, whether we are mortal or immortal.

That is true. But the difficulty is to make people do right because it is right, and avoid wrong because it is wrong. We have to be trained to right conduct from childhood, and that very training demands commendation or punishment. "Spare the rod and spoil the child" is a truism. We must take a sound psychological view of man's nature, and realize that right because it is right does not always appeal as the best thing to be done in practice. The advantage to be gained from evil conduct often seems better to many men.

Our code of morality must be founded upon the only life of which we have any knowledge -- this one.

This life is not the only one of which we have knowledge. We can have knowledge in two ways, experimental knowledge, or knowledge based upon reason and authority. I have experimental knowledge of America for I have been in America, but I have no experimental knowledge of Africa. Yet you cannot say that I have no knowledge whatever of Africa. I certainly know that it exists. Now we have experimental knowledge of this earthly life. But we know by principles of reason and by the authority of God that we shall continue to exist when this earthly life shall have come to an end. We cannot expect to have experimental knowledge now of a state which is essentially future. The code of morality, moreover, should regulate your personal character throughout the whole of its existence, building up a moral perfection as a permanent attribute of your character as long as it shall exist. If your code is as extensive as your complete life, it cannot be limited to this brief section of it.

Your argument from justice weakens morality. If there were to be no rectification of things in the next life, all the more reason for men to remedy injustices in this world.

That might seem to you a reason why it would be better if there were no future life and reparation of justice. But we know that there is such a future life, and a priori possibilities cannot avail against fact. Also it is a fact that men who give up their belief in a future life are not consumed with a passion for the rectifying of injustice in this world. On the contrary, those who lead evil lives have every reason to persuade themselves that there is no future life. There are honorable exceptions of naturally good men who have not had all the data necessary for the formation of a right judgment, or who have not adverted to the force of the reason for immortality. But they are the few. Men do not have to persuade themselves that there is a future life, but try to persuade themselves that there is no future life, just as the Christian Scientist has to persuade herself that pain and suffering do not exist.

Why bother about justice here, if all injustice is to e rectified and compensated in the next world?

You are forgetting your own principles. We must do right always because right is right. If we don not, we shall be punished by God precisely because the right was right and we should have done it. It belongs to God to adjust all seeming inequalities in the next world, but that in no way exempts man from his present duties. Men must acknowledge the benefits they have received from God, and discharge their obligations towards God, even as they discharge their obligations towards fellow men. this is a strict duty. Not all men will fulfill this duty in practice, and God will deal with them sooner or later, compensating those who have suffered from the injustice of their fellow men.

Can we say that there will be justice in another world because it is conspicuously absent in this?

Yes, because you would not advert to the absence of justice unless you had a sense of justice. The relative and inferior sense of justice possessed by men supposes an absolute justice, and that absolute justice will secure the absolute balance it demands -- some day. The fact that absolute justice does not prevail in this life is indication enough that it will do so in a future life.

The injustices of this life demand another life, but I believe in reincarnation.

Justice does say that this life cannot be all. But your idea of re-incarnation is a mistaken notion based upon your notion that life is impossible unless on this earth. But there is no need for another life on this earth, which would involve further inequalities. There is a better life than this, afterwards and elsewhere. Re-incarnation is a myth.

Your doctrine of immortality supposes consciousness after death. I do not believe it, otherwise the soul would be conscious under chloroform, or when the body is knocked senseless in an accident.

This fact does not invalidate the reasons given already, and is also easily explained. The soul whilst in a state of union with the body operates by using the faculties of that body. If the sense instruments are incapacitated, the soul can no longer operate adequately whilst united to the body. But once released from the body, its intelligence and will and power to love at once assert themselves. Hydrogen and oxygen unite to form a drop of water. They can operate as water only whilst united. Hydrogen is there, but it cannot operate as hydrogen until released from the union. Soul and body make one human being. And both elements must be fit to co-operate in the activities of a bodily human being. The soul cannot operate separately as a distinct unit whilst still united. But once released, it can operate independently every bit as much as hydrogen when released from its essential union with oxygen to form water.

Are the souls of animals also immortal?

They are not immortal. Animals are not capable of any operations which transcend the conditions of matter, and do not rise above the sensitive to the intelligible order. Also they are devoid of the moral intuition. Animal souls are therefore dependent upon matter both for their being and their operations, and cease to exist with death.

Why should the fact of our being born give us the right to exist forever?

It is not the mere fact of being born, but of being born with such a nature. The soul is fitted by its very nature to live on forever, for a spiritual entity cannot disintegrate and die. Why should we have been endowed with such a nature? Because He who made us chose to give us such a nature. Since we did not make ourselves we did not give ourselves our rights. They came from the One who is responsible for our being. If an artist painted an image of a girl on canvas, and the image were endowed with the power of speech, the girl might say, "What right have you to give me brown hair?" The artist would rightly reply, "Since I made you, I have the right to give you whatever colored hair I wish." God had the right to create indestructible souls if He wished. He did so. And our right to live on is vested in His will to endow us with an immortal nature.

Excerpted from Radio Replies Volume II. Copyright © 1940 by Fathers Rumble and Carty.

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