Freethought Archives > G W Foote & J M Wheeler > Crimes of Christianity



CATHOLIC writers do not hesitate to declare that Jesus Christ was the first monk. [48:1] That he lived the life of an anchorite, may be inferred from his baptism by the ascetic John, his celibacy, and his living in no regular abode. [48:2] Tradition points to a lonely place of the Quarantania mountain, near Jericho, as the "monastery of our Lord." [48:3] His maxims of selling all; quitting father, mother, wife, and child; taking no thought for the morrow; and his apparent approval of bodily mutilation, all tend in the same unmistakable direction.

There is abundant evidence that monkery existed in India long anterior to the Christian epoch. "In this, as in some other forms of asceticism, we must look to Buddhism for the model on which the Church fashioned her institutions." [48:4] Dr. Oldenberg tell us that the community established by Buddha was "a church of monks and nuns." There is proof from Philo, Josephus, and Pliny, that vegetarian, celibate and contemplative communities, in many respects strikingly resembling the Buddhists, existed in Egypt and near the Red Sea. Philo says they abounded both among the Greeks and barbarians under the names of Essenes and Therapeuts. So similar were these communities to the early Christians, that Eusebius devotes a chapter of his ecclesiastical history to proving that they were Christians. [49:5] Certainly monasticism flourished much earlier than Protestants usually allow. In the Acts of the Apostles we find the faithful living in common, and having deacons or stewards to manage the common affairs; and in the Epistle to Timothy are directions as to a distinct order of widows, and in regard to exercises. The apocryphal Acts of Paul and Thecla was certainly in existence in the second century, for it is referred to by Tertullian as being comparatively old. Thecla, listening to Paul's preaching, leaves her home and her betrothed, and in the words of the book, "lived a monastic life." James, the brother of the Lord, according to Hegesippus, a writer of the second century, was never known to drink wine or fermented beverages, or to eat flesh. He never permitted his hair to be cut or used a bath. From kneeling so often and for so long a time his knees had become horny like those of a camel. [49:6]

It was in Egypt, the motherland of superstition, as Shaftesbury calls it, that Christian monasticism first took its rise, and it was there that it attained its most austere developments. There were the colonies of Essenes and Therapeuts, and possibly it was Alexandria, the great emporium of the East, that was meant in the reference to "Alassada, the capital of the Yona country," in the Buddhist chronicles relating that a colony of Buddhists settled there. [49:7] The priests of Serapis were in reality monks, and in demolishing the Serapion the Christians were destroying the principal edifice of a rival monastic system. Dr. Weingarten says:

"Just as the Christian stylite saints of the fifth century were a mere imitation of the stylite saints of the Syrian Astarte, so the Christian monks of the fourth century were a simple imitation of the Egyptian monks of Serapis." [50:8]

Origen, as is well known, made himself a eunuch for the kingdom of heaven's sake. All the disciples of his contemporary, Valens of Barathis, castrated themselves, and held that none else could live a life of purity. Entertaining this notion, they not only dismembered those of their own persuasion, but all others on whom they could lay their hands. [50:9] The thirty-third Canon of the Council of Elvira (305), forbade the connubial intercourse of bishops, priests, deacons, and subdeacons with their wives. [50:1]

St. Antony is usually termed the first of the fathers of the desert. He owes this distinction rather to his life having been written by St. Athanasius for the emulation of the monks of the West than to any other circumstance. He was an Egyptian (born A.D. 251). In youth he refused to learn his letters, despising the vanity of secular knowledge. Before leaving the world, he put his sister in a nunnery and sold all his goods, giving the proceeds to the poor. He then retired into a lonely part of the country, devoting himself to prayer and self-mortification. Here he had a great many contests with the Devil, whom he overcame by prayer and fasting. By day the Devil would seek to inspire him with love of money, or beset him in the shape of animals, and by night would make him blush by tickling his flesh and assuming the shape and blandishments of a female. These temptations have frequently been made the subject of art, and by means of literature and painting the trials of St. Antony were better known to the Christians of the middle ages than those of Abraham himself. "He ate once a day, after the setting of the sun, and sometimes only once in two days, often even in four. His food was bread with salt, his drink nothing but water." [50:2] This sufficiently explains his visions. He wore next his body a hair shirt, and upon this the skin of an animal. These he never changed; he never washed, nor would he allow his feet to touch water. He predicted future events, cast out devils, and performed a great number of miracles. On one occasion, Saint Jerome tells us, he visited St. Paul of Thebes, then a very old man, who had been fed daily for sixty years on half a loaf of bread brought by a raven. On this occasion the bird brought a double allowance. Paul died and was buried by two lions, who had for some time been his friends and companions. Saint Jerome, in his Life of Paul of Thebes, declares that he had seen a monk who for thirty years had lived exclusively on a little barley bread and muddy water; another when a beautiful female by her blandishments endeavored to make him violate his chastity while his hands were tied with a cord, bit off his tongue and spat it into her face, in order that the pain might mortify his rebellious nature.

St. Hilarion, hearing of the fame of Antony, went to visit him when but fifteen years old, and determined to copy him in the Holy Land. Here he built a little cell four feet wide and five feet high, in which he could neither sit nor lie. He cut his hair only once a year, on Easter day, and never washed the sack in which he was clothed, saying it was superfluous to seek for cleanliness in hair cloth. Nor did he change his linen tunic till it fell to pieces. Another of the Egyptian fathers, Arsenius, cried himself blind. He would never look upon the face of a woman. A noble lady, whom he had probably known, came all the way from Rome to see him, but he repulsed her with the words: "Remember you! it shall be the prayer of my life to forget you." Socrates tells us that an Egyptian named Ammon, in the time of Antony, the moment he was married, represented to his virgin bride the glories of a life of chastity, whereupon both agreed to become hermits and live as if unmarried, which they did till death, practising the most severe mortifications.

St. Pachomius, also of Egypt, and a disciple of Antony, was famous as a reformer of the Egyptian monasteries. We are told that when he was meditating in a cave, an angel appeared and delivered to him, inscribed on a metal plate, a code of laws by which the monks he had under him were to be governed. They were to be three in a cell, to eat their food in perfect silence with covered face, to be clad in sackcloth, to sleep in a half- standing position, to undergo three years' severe probation before being fully initiated, and to be in strict obedience to the abbots. [52:3]

"A blind submission to the commands of the abbot, however absurd, or even criminal, they might seem, was the ruling principle, the first virtue of the Egyptian monks; and their patience was frequently exercised by the most extravagant trials. They were directed to remove an enormous rock; assiduously to water a barren staff that was planted in the ground, till, at the end of three years, it should vegetate and blossom like a tree; to walk into a fiery furnace; or to cast their infant into a deep pond: and several saints, or madmen, have been immortalised in monastic story, by their thoughtless and fearless obedience." [52:4]

Gibbon says that "The progress of the monks was not less rapid or universal than that of Christianity itself." According to Jortin there were, on a moderate computation, no less than seventy thousand monks and twenty-one thousand nuns in Egypt in the fourth century. [52:5] The number may have been immensely greater, for St. Jerome says that fifty thousand monks and nuns assembled at the Easter festival. Rufinus states that in Egypt the number of the monks equalled the remainder of the people; and "posterity might repeat the saying, which had formerly been applied to the sacred animals of the same country, that, in Egypt, it was less difficult to find a god than a man." [52:6]

In many cases the monks were driven to the worst forms of madness. It is related of Pachomius that one day as he and St. Palaemon were conversing in the desert, a young monk rushed into their presence and, in a distracted voice, told them how he had been pursued by a seductive woman. Then, with a shriek, he broke away from his saintly listeners. Impelled, as they imagined, by an evil spirit, he rushed across the desert to the nearest village, where, leaping into an open furnace, he perished in the flames. Gregory Nazianzen tells us that some monks killed themselves to be released from the wicked world. St. Pachomius enjoined confession on the monks, lest, by concealing their sins, they should commit suicide in despair; for he assured them that many had flung themselves from the rocks, cut open their bellies, and killed themselves in various other ways. [53:7]

St. Macarius of Alexandria, another celebrated ascetic, carried about with him eighty pounds of iron chain. He is said to have never lain down during an entire week. Sozomen relates of this devotee that he had so hardened his body by austerities that the beard could not get through his skin! Returning one day to his cell, humbled by a sense of his inferiority to two anchorites he had seen stark naked, he exclaimed, "I am not yet a monk, but I have seen monks." [53:8]

St. Eusebius carried one hundred and fifty pounds of iron, and lived for three years in a dried-up well. St. Besarion spent forty days and nights in the midst of thorn bushes to subdue the flesh, and for forty years never lay down when he slept, which last penance was also during fifteen years practised by St. Pachomius. [53:9] Baradatus, a Syrian monk, lived crouching in a wooden box on the top of a mountain, and afterwards in a skin sack, with a single hole to breathe through. His contemporary James, celebrated for his sanctity and his miracles, wore iron chains round his neck, waist and arms, and remained for three days and nights prostrate in the snow. Theodorus lived alternately in two cages, one of iron for the summer and one of wood for the winter, both without a top. He also wore a coat of mail and iron shoes and gloves. The English Saint Godric of Finchale wore a hair shirt and iron waistcoat. He sat, by night, in midwinter, in the river Wear, and afterwards in a barrel sunk in the ground. He ate wheat mingled with ashes, and never tasted his food till it was rotten. [54:1] Some anchorites immured themselves in cells, usually attached to a church, with a hole on one side through which they could hear the service, and a hole on the other through which they heard the neighboring scandal. As the faithful brought them offerings, they were naturally encouraged by the churches. Many unhappy monks and nuns were relieved from their sufferings by madness or death, and, according to Gibbon, a hospital was founded at Jerusalem in the sixth century to shelter monastic maniacs. [54:2]

The words of Christ, "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26) were adopted as the rule of monkery. St. Ambrose exhorted girls to enter the nunneries though against the wish of their parents. [54:4] Milman says, "It is the highest praise of St. Fulgentius that he overcame his mother's tenderness by religious cruelty." [54:5] St. Jerome, when exhorting Heliodorus to desert his family and become a hermit, expatiated with fond minuteness on every form of natural affection he desired him to violate. [54:6] An inhabitant of Thebes once came to the abbot of Sisoes, and requested to be made a monk. The abbot asked him if he had anyone belonging to him. He answered "A son."  "Take your son," rejoined the old man, "and throw him into the river, and then you may become a monk." The father hastened to fulfil the command, and the deed was almost consummated when a messenger sent by Sisoes revoked the order. [54:7] The mother of St. Theodorus came armed with letters from the bishops permitting her to see her son, but he implored his abbot, St. Pachomius, to permit him to decline the interview; and finding all her efforts in vain, she retired into a convent, together with her daughters, who had made a similar expedition with the same result. [55:8] The mother of St. Marcus persuaded his abbot to command the saint to go out to her. Placed in a dilemma between the sin of disobedience and the perils of seeing his mother, St. Marcus extricated himself by the ingenious device of disguising his face and shutting his eyes. The mother did not recognise her son; the son did not see his mother. [55:9] One cannot read of these perversions of natural affection without reflecting that they were the legitimate outcome of that disregard for family life and domestic ties which was exhibited by the founder of Christianity.

One of the most famous of these fathers of the desert was St. Simeon Stylites, whose mingled piety and spiritual pride are so well depicted by Tennyson. St. Simeon, in adopting the hermit life refused to see his dying mother. At first he dwelt in a deserted tank, but, as his thoughts aspired, he ascended a pillar which was successively raised from the height of nine to that of sixty feet from the ground. He commanded a wall to be made round him, and chained himself by the right foot so that he could not, if he wished, leave his bounds. Here he would extend his arms in the form of a cross, or bend his meagre skeleton from the forehead to the feet. He would often fast for forty days together, and for a whole year we are told this heavenly saint roosted on one leg, the other being covered with hideous ulcers, while his biographer was commissioned to stand by his side, pick up the worms that fell from his body, and replace them in the sores, the saint saying to the worm, "Eat what God has given you." The whole proceedings of this renowned saint forcibly remind us of the self-torture of the worst school of Hindu yogis. Simeon, whose fame made his opinions of consequence even to the Emperor Theodosius, wrote to him upon the same occasion as St. Ambrose (see p. 35), reprimanding him for ordering restoration to be made to the Jews when Christians burnt down their synagogue. [55:1]

Such were the examples held up for imitation to all the Christian world. Lecky remarks:

"A hideous, sordid and emaciated maniac, without knowledge, without patriotism, without natural affection; passing his life in a long routine of useless and atrocious self-torture, and quailing before the ghastly phantoms of his delirious brain, had become the ideal of the nations which had known the writings of Plato and Cicero and the lives of Socrates and Cato." [56:2]

Such solitary ascetics as Simeon, however, were harmless compared with the bands of fierce bigoted monks who prowled round the country or swarmed in the great cities of the empire, often filling their streets with violence and bloodshed.

"The effect of the mortification of the domestic affections upon the general character was probably very pernicious. The family circle is the appointed sphere, not only for the performance of manifest duties, but also for the cultivation of the affections; and the extreme ferocity which so often characterised the ascetic was the natural consequence of the discipline he imposed upon himself. Severed from all other ties, the monks clung with desperate tenacity to their opinions and to their Church, and hated those who dissented from them with all the intensity of men whose whole lives were concentrated on a single subject, whose ignorance and bigotry prevented them from conceiving the possibility of any good thing in opposition to themselves, and who had made it a main object of their discipline to eradicate all natural sympathies and affections. We may reasonably attribute to the fierce biographer the words of burning hatred of all heretics, which St. Athanasius puts in the mouth of the dying patriarch of the hermits. (Life of Anthony. See, too, the sentiments of St. Pachomius, Vit. cap. xxvii.) But ecclesiastical history, and especially the writings of the later Pagans, abundantly prove that the sentiment was a general one." [56:3]

The Council of Chalcedon (A.D. 451), at the instigation of the Emperor Marcian, ordered the monks to confine themselves to the holy life under pain of anathema. But this did not deter them from entering into religious broils.

"The Council of Chalcedon had commanded, had defined the orthodox creed in vain. Everywhere its decrees were received or rejected, according to the dominant party in each city, and the opinions of the reigning emperor. On all the metropolitan thrones there were rival bishops, anathematising each other, and each supported, either by the civil power, or by a part of the populace, or by the monks, more fierce and unruly than the unruly populace. For everywhere monks were at the head of the religious revolution which threw off the yoke of the Council of Chalcedon. In Jerusalem Theodosius, a monk, expelled the rightful prelate, Juvenalis; was consecrated by his party, and maintained himself by acts of violence, pillage and murder, more like the lawless bandits of the country than a Christian bishop. The very scenes of the Savior's mercies ran with blood shed in his name by his ferocious self-called disciples." [57:4]
The monks of Nitria, near Alexandria, were always ready to rush down with arms into the city to interfere in behalf of a favorite doctrine or a popular prelate. [57:5] Milman, speaking of the fifth century, says:
"The monks, in fact, exercise the most complete tyranny, not merely over the laity, but over bishops and patriarchs, whose rule, though nominally subject to it, they throw off whenever it suits their purpose... Monks in Alexandria, monks in Antioch, monks in Jerusalem, monks in Constantinople, decide peremptorily on orthodoxy and heterodoxy. The bishops themselves cower before them. Macedonius in Constantinople, Flavianus in Antioch, Elias in Jerusalem, condemn themselves and abdicate or are driven from their sees. Persecution is universal; persecution by every means of violence and cruelty. The only question is in whose hands is the power to persecute. In Antioch, Xenaias justifies his insurrection by the persecutions which he has endured; Flavianus bitterly, and justly, complains of the persecutions of Xenaias. Bloodshed, murder, treachery, assassination, even during the public worship of God. These are the frightful means by which each party strives to maintain its opinion, and to defeat its adversary." [57:6]
Cleanliness is next to godliness, but the monks never stepped from their favorite virtue. They were always remarkable for dirt. Their usual mode of life is thus described by Gibbon:
"It was the practice of the monks either to cut or shave their hair; they wrapped their heads in a cowl, to escape the sight of profane objects; their legs and feet were naked, except in the extreme cold of winter; and their slow and feeble steps were supported by a long staff. The aspect of a genuine anachoret was horrid and disgusting; every sensation that is offensive to man was thought acceptable to God; and the angelic rule of Tabenne condemned the salutary custom of bathing the limbs in water, and of anointing them with oil." [58:7]

Athanasius boasts of Antony's holy horror of clean water, with which he never contaminated his feet except in the direst necessity. St. Euphraxia joined a convent of one hundred and thirty nuns who never washed their feet, and who shuddered at the mention of a bath. [58:8] St. Ammon had never seen himself naked. On one occasion, coming to a river, he was too squeamish to undress, and on praying, an angel transported him to the other side. No wonder Jortin remarks of a miraculous monk, whose corpse was said to have emitted a heavenly perfume, that it was not surprising that he should smell like a civet-cat when dead who had smelt like a pole-cat when living.

For six months St. Macarius slept in a marsh, and exposed his naked body to the stings of venomous flies. Another saint anointed himself with honey to attract the bees. Others went about stark naked, covered only with their matted hair. "Some of them," says Jortin, "out of mortification, would not catch or kill the vermin that devoured them, in which they far surpassed the Jews, who only spared them upon the Sabbath day." [58:9]

In Mesopotamia and Palestine the Boskoi wandered on all fours, grazing like cattle. St. Mark, of Athens, lived in this way till his body was covered with hair like a wild beast's. St. Mary, of Egypt, also, during her penance, lived on grass, after the manner of Nebuchadnezzar. The great St. Ephrem, according to Tillemont, composed a panegyric on these pious cattle.

"A cruel and unfeeling temper," says Gibbon, "has distinguished the monks of every age and country." [58:1] The Roman soldiers, against whom they protected Chrysostom in his banishment, dreaded them "worse than the wild beasts of the desert." Theophilus of Alexandria, kept a body-guard of them, who fought his battles; his successor, Cyril, called in five hundred monks from the desert to assist him in his quarrel with the Roman governor; and it was a mob of these black dragoons that murdered Hypatia.

In the destruction of the Pagan temples the monks signalised their zeal for Christ. When Theophilus obtained leave to demolish those of Alexandria, he "sent for the monks to assist him with their prayers," according to Fleury; or more properly, as Jortin says, "with their fists." When Chrysostom. instigated the demolition of the temples of Phoenicia, "many of the monks were wounded and slain; for they were the dragoons generally employed on these occasions." [59:2] Theodosius was obliged to restrain them and drive them back to their deserts. His edict, says Jortin:

"Seems principally to have concerned the monks of Egypt and Syria, who, under pretence of zeal, used to frequent the cities, and importune the magistrates and judges, soliciting them to forgive and discharge criminals, and even exciting tumults and seditions, and who also waged open war with the Pagans, destroying their idols, and demolishing their temples." [59:3]

But in less than two years the law was repealed, and these barbarians resumed the destruction of edifices they had not the genius to build nor the taste to admire.

Humble, nay abject, as they were, the monks in general, and the hermits in particular, prided themselves on their chastity. Some were so vain of their continence and superiority to temptation that they frequented the baths continually, and washed with the women. [59:4] We have already related how the monks and nuns shared the same bed to show their power of resisting temptation. Sometimes, however, the flesh was too strong for the spirit, and they succumbed. Gibbon tells a capital anecdote of a Benedictine abbot who confessed, "My vow of poverty has given me a hundred thousand crowns a year; my vow of obedience has raised me to the rank of a sovereign prince." The historian sarcastically adds, "I forget the consequence of his vow of chastity." [60:5]

Physical and mental disorders were the result of a strict fulfilment of the vow of chastity, for insulted nature claims her revenge. Dr. Gieseler says that:

"In many cases these measures had only the contrary effect, and temptations increased; many monks were driven to despair by a sense of the hopelessness of their efforts; in the case of others complete madness was superinduced by that excessive asceticism, and by the pride associated with it, under the influence of a burning climate." [60:6]

It should be noticed that the Devil generally appeared to these unnatural recluses in a female form, tempting them to unchastity; and sometimes, when the mind was depraved by long excitement, in the form of a lecherous goat. St. Antony's temptation is known to everyone. Rufinus, in his History of Monasticism, tells of a young monk who admitted a fainting woman to his cell. Passions long slumbering awoke, and he sought to clasp her to his heart, but she vanished from his sight, and a chorus of demons, with peals of laughter, exulted over his fall. The maddened monk, though knowing the fair form to be a deception luring him to ruin, was still under her dominion. He fled the desert, plunged anew into the pleasures of the world, following the light of that phantasmal beauty, even into the Jaws of hell.

Following Jesus and Paul, the monks cried up virginity as the supreme virtue. St. Ambrose declaimed in its favor and drove many young women into nunneries. "But of all the praisers of virginity," says Jortin, "Jerome seems to have performed his part the best, who calls Eustochium, the nun, His Lady because she was the spouse of his Lord, and reminds the mother of this lady that she has the honor to be God's mother-in-law." [60:7]

But the monks were not all as chaste as they pretended. St. Athanasius said that many of the bishops kept themselves even from matrimony, while monks were the fathers of children. As they grew richer, and dispensed with manual labor, they naturally became more licentious, and in time they "led lawless and scandalous lives, and indulged themselves in all sorts of vices without control." Mosheim describes the monks of the West as "most ignorant and profligate wretches.'' Hallam says that "their extreme licentiousness was sometimes hardly concealed by the cowl of sanctity." [61:8] St. Theodore Studita, in the ninth century, was obliged to prohibit the entrance of female animals into the monasteries. [61:9]

During the Middle Ages the licentiousness of monks and nuns was proverbial. We have only to open the works of popular authors to see how these professors of chastity were esteemed by the multitude. Chaucer and Skelton in England; Boccaccio in Italy; Erasmus in Germany; Rabelais, Desperiers, and Marguerite of Navarro, in France; all furnish us with racy pictures of monastic vice. The great glutton, the great drunkard, the great lecher, is sure to be a monk; and the nunneries are represented as nests of intrigue, where the spouses of Christ exhibited far more love for man than God.

The monks mingled with their fanaticism a considerable share of cunning and knavery. They were hated at Rome "as beggarly impostors and hungry Greeks, who seduced ladies of fortune and quality." [61:1] Noble and wealthy women frequently made pilgrimages to the haunt of a famous saint, and always "used to carry alms and oblations with them, to be distributed as the directors of their conscience should advise." [61:2] Theodosius found it necessary "to make a law against pious donations to the clergy and to the monks, who preyed upon stupid bigots and devoured widows' houses. [61:3] The popular monks, says Gibbon, "insinuated themselves into noble and opulent families; and the specious arts of flattery and seduction were employed to secure those proselytes who might bestow wealth or dignity on the monastic profession." [62:4] They "kindly imparted the merits of their prayers and penance to a rich and liberal sinner," and the estates of the monasteries so increased that "in the first century of their institution, the infidel Zosimus has maliciously observed that, for the benefit of the poor, the Christian monks had reduced a great part of mankind to a state of beggary." [62:5]

St. Augustine, writing in the fifth century on "The Business of Monks," gives the following picture of the "hypocrites" in monastic habits, with whom the Devil had overspread the world:

"They travel from province to province without any mission; they have no fixed habitation, and abide in no place; they continually alter their station. Some carry relics about, if relics they are, and make an advantage of them … They all beg, and take it ill if you give them not, either to supply the wants of such a poverty as enriches them, or to recompense a seeming and counterfeit honesty." [62:6]

Jortin says they were a collection of "beggars, fugitives, vagabonds, slaves, day laborers, peasants, mechanics, of the lowest sort, thieves and highwaymen," who found that "by becoming monks, they became gentlemen and a sort of saints." [62:7] These fellows were the relic-mongers of early and mediaeval Christianity, and turned many a dishonest penny by selling the trumpery of superstition.

It is beside our purpose to trace the later developments of Monasticism through the history of the great religious orders, like the Benedictines, the Dominicans, and the Franciscans. The first of these produced many learned men, but it departed, in this respect, from the primitive tradition of Monkery, which was one of unmitigated ignorance. Nothing could be falser than the plea that the monks, as a body, rendered a service to the cause of letters. They contributed nothing to literature themselves; they boasted their hatred of Pagan learning; and the partial preservation of classical masterpieces is largely due to accident. The monks destroyed or obliterated multitudes of ancient manuscripts. They copied others, but their activity in this direction has been greatly exaggerated. Berington remarks that "In the most wealthy convents where libraries were chiefly formed, a short catalogue was sufficient to comprise the number of their books; and the price, to those who were disposed to purchase, was exorbitant." [63:8]

Monastic institutions have been defended on the ground that they afforded a shelter to those who were weary of the world; but when that sentiment leads to a neglect of secular duties it is only a subtle form of self-love. During the Middle Ages, it is alleged that many fine spirits of both sexes, who were unfit to cope with the violence of the period, found a haven of rest in abbeys and convents. But how much better it would have been for the world if they had become fathers and mothers, and by transmitting their finer qualities of patience and temperance, leavened mankind with the virtues it most needed. Evolution, no less than common sense and humanity, condemns monasticism as a crime against civilisation.

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