CHAPTER XIV. MARIOLATRY AND IMAGE WORSHIP.
From Goldsmith's "Rome" we learn that the vestal virgins possessed the power to pardon any criminal whom they met on the road to execution. Thus does Romanism follow paganism. With the Virgin is often the image of St. Peter. The followers of this saint affirm that they are always warned, three days before they die, to prepare for death. St. Peter comes in person and knocks on the wall beside their bed.
As the virgin, Diana, was the guardian of Ephesus, so the Virgin Mary protects Argentina.
The Bishop of Tucuman, in a recent speech, said: "Argentina is now safe against possible invasion. The newly-crowned Lady of the Miracles defends the north, and the Lady of Lujan guards the south."
A writer in The Times of Argentina naively asks: "If these can safely defy and defeat all comers, is there any further necessity for public expenditure in military matters?"
South America groans under the weight of a mediaeval religion which has little to do with spiritual life. In Spain and Portugal, perhaps the two most deluded of European lands, I have seen great darkness, but even there the priest is often good, and at least puts on a veneer of piety. In South America this is not generally considered necessary. Frequently he is found to be the worst man in the village. If you speak to him of his dissolute life, he may tell you that he, being a priest, may do things you, a layman, must not. In Spain, Portugal and Italy, next door to highly enlightened countries, the priest cannot, for very shame, act as he is free to do in South America. That great continent has been ruled and governed only by Roman Catholics, without outside interference, and Romanists in other lands do not, and would not, believe the practices there sanctioned.
"You ask about this nation and the Roman Catholic Church," said the American Minister in one South American capital. "Well, the nation is rotten, thanks to the Church and to Spain. The Church has taught lies and uncleanness, and been the bulwark of injustice and wrong for 300 years. How could you expect anything else?" "Lies," said a priest to a friend, who told the remark to us, "what do lies have to do with religion." [Footnote: "Missions In South America," Robt. E. Speer.]
A missionary writes: "Recently the Roman bishop and several other priests visited the various towns. It was a business trip, for they charged a good price for baptisms, confirmations, etc., and carried away thousands of dollars. In Santa Cruz a disgraceful scene was publicly enacted in the church by the resident priest and one of the visitors. Both saw a woman drop a twenty-five cent piece into the pan; each grabbed for it, and then they fought before the people! The village priest wanted me to take his photo, but he was so drunk I had to help him put on his official robes. He was taken standing in the doorway of the church beside an image of the Virgin."
"There wan a feast in honor of the image of the Holy Spirit in the church. This is a figure of a man with a beard; beside it sits a figure of Christ, and between them a dove. Great crowds of people attend these feasts to buy, sell and drink. On a common in the town a large altar was erected, and another image of the Holy Spirit placed, and before it danced Indians fantastically dressed to represent monkeys, tigers, lions and deer. Saturday, Sunday and Monday were days of debauchery. Men, women and children were intoxicated; the jails were full, and extravagances of all kinds were practised by masked Indians. The vessels in the church are of gold and silver, and the images each have a man to care for them. The patron saint is a large image of the Virgin, dressed in clothing that cost $2,500."
Since returning to more civilized lands, I have been asked: But do they really worship the Virgin, or God, through her? I answer that in enlightened countries where Roman Catholicism prevails, the latter may be true, but that in South America, discovered and governed by Romanists from the earliest times, millions of people worship the Virgin without any reference to God. She is the great goddess of the people, and while one may see her image in every church, it is seldom indeed that God is honored with a place - then He may be seen as an old man with a long white beard. What kind of God they think He is may be seen from the words of Missionary F. Glass: "I found a 'festa' in full swing, called the 'Feast of the Divine Eternal Father,' and a drunken crowd were marching round, with trumpets, drums and a sacred banner, collecting alms professedly on His behalf." [Footnote: "Through the Heart of Brazil"]
Mary is the one to whom the vast majority of people pray. They have been taught to address supplications to her, and, being a woman, her heart is considered more tender than a man's could be. During a drought their earnest prayer for rain was answered in an unexpected way, for not only did she send it, but with such accompanying violence that it washed away the church!