A “dialogue” between Communism and the Church? Lest we forget exactly what Communism is, I would like to publish terrifying accounts of the events in Russia in the years following the Bolshevik Revolution. What follows are excerpts from three articles which first appeared National Catholic Welfare Council bulletin of April 1925 written by Princess Christina Giustiniani Bandini of Rome. With hostility towards Catholicism growing in the United States and socialism on the rise, it is hard not to fear that this is where we are headed. After reading these accounts, please ask yourself if Communism is something to be dialogued with or destroyed?
EDITOR'S NOTE-The following article, the first of a series of three by Princess Christina Giustiniani Bandini, of Rome, has been forwarded to the National Council of Catholic Women by the President of the International Union of Catholic Women's Leagues with permission to publish it in the “N. C. W. C. Bulletin” and the Catholic press of the country. The purpose of these articles is to show the dangers which threaten the principle of the right of parents to control the education of their children and the teaching of religion in general. It is hoped that this description of the disastrous results which have occurred in only seven years as a consequence of the system instituted in Russia will serve to promote international cooperation in defense of Christian education.
Princess Giustiniani Bandini is one of the presidents of the Italian Catholic Women's Union and a director of the International Union of Catholic Women's Leagues to which the Pope two years ago granted special cardinal protector, Cardinal Merry del Val.
WHEN WE RECALL the tragic work which the Soviet Government has accomplished in Russia during the last seven years, our thoughts dwell most of all on the economic ruin which that country has suffered. Very rarely does our mind embrace in its full complexity the program of religious, moral and social degradation which is being so relentlessly executed. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine, it is almost impossible to conceive of the satanic plan which has dictated this program. Our Catholic organizations should not remain in ignorance of it, because the danger which threatens us is very great, especially since Bolshevism is but the practical application of doctrines theories which have been in evolution for about a hundred and fifty years.
A book which has just been published in Rome, “L’Ame Religieuse des Russes”—(The Religious Soul of the Russians) by Michel d'Herbigny, S.J., is very enlightening, for the benefit of our Catholic women, particularly our Catholic mothers, I shall quote that part of the program which it describes which applies more particularly to the family and the child, beginning with the program of religion through the school. The full text of this program can be found in an official publication of the Bolshevik Russian Communist Party entitled “The A. B. C. of Communism.”
Chapter X of this publication describes the school plan of the Bolsheviks. It is divided into 13 sections, but the quotation of a few paragraphs will suffice to give an idea of the remainder. Paragraph 77 has for its title Communism and its destructive tasks. It reads as follows:
The old school was bound up with religion through the compulsory learning of the divine law, by the obligation to pray and to attend church. The new school will achieve the compulsory expulsion of religion under whatever form this religion may seek to penetrate it, and whatever form backward groups of parents may seek to have it maintained.
78: The school as an agency of communist training and propaganda.
The task of the new school will be to rear the children of the bourgeoisie and the upper classes in a proletarian spirit. . . . It is difficult to build up communist society with masses of people who remain firmly committed to bourgeois society and its prejudices. The task of the new school will be to adapt the mentality of adults to the new social relations and especially to prepare the younger generation to depend psychologically, solely on the new communist form of society. These views must guide all school reforms, both those which are being planned and those which are already being carried out.
Par. 79: Pre-school education.
In bourgeois society the child is considered if not absolutely at least in a large measure and to a considerable degree as the property of his parents. When parents say 'my son, my daughter', this does not signify the mere individual relation of parent to child, but also a right of the parents over the education of their children. This right, from the socialist point of view, is founded on absolutely nothing. The individual does not belong to himself but to society, to the whole of humanity. It is thanks to society alone that each individual is able to live and develop. The child, therefore, belongs to this society thanks to which he was born and not merely to his parents. To society, then, belongs the primordial and fundamental right to rear children. From this point of view, when parents would utilize education in the home to implant their own narrow views in the minds of their children, this claim must be rejected, even more, it must be opposed in the most unrelenting manner. Society may entrust the education of children to their parents; but it may also not entrust it to them. Among a hundred mothers there are perhaps one or two who are fit to be educators. Besides, by freeing hundreds, thousands and millions of mothers from the education of their children, we are liberating forces of production. Socialist education will permit the party to form the future population according to its needs with a minimum of effort and expenditure. From the beginning we must create kindergartens and make them compulsory. Communist women must convince the mothers that this organization is advantageous to them.
Par. 80: The single labor school.
Preparatory education lasts until the age of 7 years after which school attendance is compulsory. This education, common, equal and compulsory for all is given from the ages of 8 to 17. There is but a single school for all, any distinction between boys and girls schools will therefore be suppressed. Children of both sexes will be reared in the same building. . . . The rest of the para graph describes the manner in which every school is to be transformed into an instrument for soviet propaganda.
…Paragraph 91 claims that the “Separation of Church and School” is an absolute necessity…
FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE EXCEPT FOR PARENTS
“The decree on the separation of the School and Church must remain in full force. Under no circumstances must the proletarian government go back to the Middle Ages. What has already been done in this regard is not enough, for ignorant parents are still able to cripple the minds of their children with religious tales. The soviet power authorizes freedom of conscience for adults. But this freedom of conscience for parents would be equivalent to poisoning the minds of their children with the same opium with which the Church used to poison them. The parents would impose on their children their own imbecility and fanaticism. They would tell all sorts of nonsense as being truth and would make the task of the communist school too difficult.”
…Paragraph 2, "The Fight Against the Religious Prejudices of the Masses," reveals still more of the plan of dechristianization….
"But the fight against the backward religious ideas of the masses must be carried on relentlessly and continuously, with the necessary prudence and patience. The masses of the faithful are very vigilant where anything that touches their religious sentiments and beliefs is concerned : to impose atheism on the masses by force by forbidding religious services and by seizing the objects of worship would not hasten but, on the contrary, would delay the fight against religion. The Church, if persecuted, would gain sympathy and compassion among the masses, and would awaken among the latter the habit of associating religion with the defense of national liberty. It would strengthen anti-semitism and, in a general way, all the surviving forces of a half -extinct ideology would again be revived."
…I stop here as the quotations given suffice to show that a methodical plan carried to the most extreme consequences, is directing the legislative measures of the bolshevist regime. There remains only to give some quotations which describe the fruits of this school propaganda.
Mr. Charles Sarolea, Professor at the University of Edinburgh, after visiting several of these schools in Russia wrote as follows (May, 1924):
While an iron despotism weighed over the parents, the children were authorized to live in a state of happy anarchy. Boys and girls were reared together. . . . The children had free run of the corridors, recreation halls and dormitories. The results were obvious, for according to a nurse who was in a position to know, during the last eighteen months more than one hundred young girls had been sent to the neighboring maternity hospital.
The visitor heard the professors boast invariably of the fact that all their students were atheists. For unless they renounce Christianity no children can belong to the soviet school clubs. “Here,” Mr. Sarolea writes, “children of 15 acquire easy assurance in public speaking and impose on adults and their own parents as propagandists of communism. Very obviously this ignorant and loquacious youth has been persuaded that it represents ‘science as opposed to the ‘imbecile obscurantism of the former university professors and other old people.’”
Children from the rural districts are brought to the city in herds and filled with soviet doctrines during a stay of several days devoted to visiting exhibitions and museums of Marxism. Then they are taken home, after having been filled with the impression that the great city has definitely proved the falsity of Christianity and all religion. There is nothing real but matter, force and sensual pleasure. “The systematic demoralization of these millions of children,” Mr. Sarolea adds, “is perhaps the most terrible heritage of the bolshevist regime . . . the training of these children is perhaps the greatest and most durable result attained by the Soviet government.”
A Russian student of the polytechnic school, in a letter written April 27, 1924, to some near relatives who had sought refuge in France, says quite frankly: “I have many contracts with students of all kinds and of every social class. And I must tell you that among them there is not a single one who has the slightest interest in religious questions.”
The city from which this letter was written has several thousand students.
“If you tell anyone here that you believe in God,” the letter continues, “you will simply be the laughing stock of everyone. Religion is considered here as something antiquated, a bad institution. The government is striving in every possible way to uproot religious sentiment from the minds of the people. The churches are open, in reality, but you will not find anyone in them but women and old men, outcasts from life for whom nothing remains but to go to church.”
The mother of this student, on the last page of the above letter, adds further details concerning the means used to “materialize" the students:
“The KOMSOMOL (Committee of Soviet Youth) organizes processions in costume. They disguise themselves as priests… then they dance the cancan, force actresses to play the role of the Mother of God, then they take off these costumes, dress dummy figures with them and burn these figures at the stake. All this is frightfully painful for us who believe, for us who carry God in our hearts, but as for the young people, for the children who are constantly told that God does not exist, that there is no religion, it does not affect them at all.”
“At the school of Raditschew,” Mr. Sarolea writes further, "I saw a little boy expelled from school because he had been caught visiting a church.” The sentence had been imposed by the council of students. The teacher ventured an explanation illustrating, she said, the intolerable and unscrupulous tyranny of parents: "a bigoted mother had persuaded her little boy to go to church by promising him a new pair of shoes. And the boy, after making "due excuses and the necessary promises was finally readmitted to the dignity of communist comradeships.”
…lectures were not enough for this propaganda. Newspapers were created. Posters and caricatures were spread broadcast throughout even the most remote parts of Russia. I have seen with my own eyes several numbers of “Bezbojnik” (without God) in which our most sacred mysteries: the Annunciation, the Nativity of Our Lord, etc., were the subject of the vilest caricatures.
MISSIONARIES TRAINED IN IMPIETIES
In addition to all this, missionaries of “impiety,” trained under the direction of the People's Commissioner for Instruction, Lunatcharsky, and committees of Soviet youth (Komsomol) have been instructed in blasphemy and prepared to conduct anti-religious parades and masquerades.
Father d'Herbigny states that these boys and girls, proud of having been called by the government to glorify science against religion, have become recruiting agents, the “converters” of young and old.
The army, acting under orders, took part in the anti-Christian carnivals of Christmas 1922, Christmas 1923, and subsequent feasts. These carnivals consisted in processions such as that described by Mark Krinitzky in “Izvestia” of January 10, 1923, as follows:
"Let us go out into the street. The pious crowd of bourgeois Muscovites sees a spectacle appear unlike any it had ever witnessed. From Sadova street to the Palace of the Revolution marches a parade composed of all the gods and all the prophets of the world, an unequalled exposition of all the superstitions which have been stupefying humanity for thousands of years. Here is a yellow Buddha, riding astride, stupid, sly and dishonest, with hands up lifted to bless. Here is Marduk of Babylon, and the Orthodox “Mother of God"; here are Chinese monks and Catholic priests, the Pope of Rome wearing a golden tiara blessing the crowd of his followers from a multi-colored automobile. Here is a Protestant pastor, tall and thin as a pole. Here is a Russian priest who promises to marry anybody for a modest fee. Here is a monk astride a bier containing relics. A rabbi raises his arms and sings the popular song about ‘The Pope who loved his dog. The actors in this procession are praying in all tongues and dialects. As for the public, they crowd the sidewalks and are nearly dying of laughter.”
According to Peter Arschewsky, during the last few years Moscow has seen a number of popular demonstrations, but none as compelling as this, “Czars and sovereigns fall rather often but the gods generally last thousands of years. I do not hesitate to affirm,” he continues, “that January 7, 1923, will be an important date in history, not only for Moscow and Soviet Russia, but for the whole of humanity. The world will remember with gratitude that the first challenge to God was given on that day in Soviet Russia.”
The Moscow procession ended with bonfires where dummy figures representing God the Father, Christ, the Saints and the Blessed Virgin were burned. A young boy, attired as a scullion, roasted on a spit a dove declared to represent the Holy Ghost. These scenes occurred on Serpukhowska square and Georgian square.
Similar solemnities were held in the capitals of the various provinces. According to the papers, dummies of the same kind were burned at Petrograd, Rostow, Bielgorod, Berys seglebsk, Briansk, Kazan, Pskow, Omsk, Krementchuk, Ekaterinoslaw. . . . The processions were held at night, by torchlight and illuminated by fireworks. They stopped in the churches where lectures, concerts and ballets were improvised.
ORGIES STAGED ON RELIGIOUS FEAST DAYS
Since then the principal religious feasts have been marked by similar orgies. Young and old—the young particularly—even in the most aristocratic families, are being persuaded that these shameless performances are a mark of progress, of enfranchisement, a victory of “science” over “obscurantism.”
Renowned publicists are cooperating in this anti-religious war. The “Communist” of Kharkoff published, on January 7, 1923 (the Orthodox Christmas), not only some “scientific” articles against the feast, but a series of pornographic poems on the Nativity of Our Lord. These poems are now being sung by the young people throughout the whole of South Russia, to the air of a popular song “The Last Tango."
The theater, Father d'Herbigny tells us again, is devoted above all else to communist meetings and anti-religious exhibitions. Very often the actors do not present a play prepared in advance, but a drama outlined at the last minute, upon which they improvise. Even the "Russian Ballet,” still the best of the lot, is more licentious than ever, being executed frequently by children who are brazen in their lack of shame. And the ignominious character of these performances is frequently made worse by explanations or dialogue of the most immoral nature, and these children, and those who train them, take the part of the most august personages: priests, monks, bishops, nuns, popes. But this is not the worst. In some theaters, in many disaffected churches and public halls, performances so ignoble that I scarcely dare mention them are held. The Blessed Virgin is most especially outraged by these blasphemous corrupters of youth. The Annunciation, the doubts of St. Joseph, the arrival of the Holy Ghost are made the subject of the vilest insinuations, and other scenes from the Gospel, such as the Marriage at Cana, the parable of the Virgins, the conversation at Jacob's Well, the story of Mary Magdalene, are exploited in like manner.
“I fear that I have said too much,” Father d'Herbigny adds, after giving these descriptions. But how otherwise can all the hideousness of the evil be made known. The result may be a reaction and, let us hope, more prayers for these unhappy people.
WORLD-WIDE PROPAGANDA PLANNED
The communists aim to extend this propaganda to whole world. They are making propaganda films of the spectacles. . . . Let Catholics be on guard. The challenge delivered by Soviet Russia on January , 1923, was not a challenge to God. In Heaven the Divine Redeemer, showing His sacred wounds, still says: “Father forgive them . . . they know not what they do." It is to us Catholics, negligent, indifferent, closing eyes in order not to see and not to act, it is to society's whole that the challenge is directed.