Upton Sinclair: The Profits of Religion

Book Three - The Church of the Servant-Girls


For another five cents - how cheaply a man of insight can obtain thrills in this fantastic world! - I purchase a copy of the "Messenger of the Sacred Heart," a magazine published in New York, the issue for October, 1917. There are pages of advertisements of schools and colleges with strange titles: "Immaculata Seminary," "Holy Cross Academy," "Holy Ghost Institute," "Ladycliff," "Academy of Holy Child Jesus." The leading article is by a Jesuit, on "The Spread of the Apostleship of Prayer among the Young"; and then "Sister Clarissa" writes a poem telling us "What are Sorrows"; and then we are given a story called "Prayer for Daddy"; and then another Jesuit father tells us about "The Hills that Jesus Loved." A third father tells us about the "Eucharistic Propaganda"; and we learn that in July, 1917, it distributed 11,699 beads, and caused the expenditure of 57,714 hours of adoration, and then the faithful are given a form of letter which they are to write to the Honorable Baker, Secretary of War, imploring him to intimate to the French government that France should withdraw from one of her advances in civilization, and join with medieval America in exempting priests from being drafted to fight for their country. And then there is a "Question Box" - just like the Hearst newspapers, only instead of asking whether she should allow him to kiss her before he has told her that he loves her, the reader asks what is the Pauline Privilege, and what is the heroic Act, and is Robert a saint's name, and if food remains in the teeth from the night before, would it break the fast to swallow it before Holy Communion. (No, I am not inventing this.)

I quoted the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, and pointed out how deftly the Church has managed to slip in a prayer for worldly prosperity. But the Catholic Church does not show any squeamishness in dealing with its "million imbeciles," its "rough, purblind mass." There is a department of the little magazine entitled "Thanksgiving," and a statement at the top that "the total number of Thanksgivings for the months is 2,143,911." I am suspicious of that, as of German reports of prisoners taken; but I give the statement as it stands, not going through the list and picking out the crudest, but taking them as they come, classified by states:

GENERAL FAVORS: For many of these favors Mass and publication were promised, for others the Badge of Promoter's Cross was used, for others the prayers of the associates has been asked.

Alabama - Jewelry found, relief from pain, protection during storm.

Alaska - Safe return, goods found.

Arizona - Two recoveries, suitable boarding place, illness averted, safe delivery.

British Honduras - Successful operation.

California - Seventeen recoveries, six situations, two successful examinations, house rented, stocks sold, raise in salary, return to religious duties, sight regained, medal won, Baptism, preservation from disease, contract obtained, success in business, hearing restored, Easter duty made, happy death, automobile sold, mind restored, house found, house rented, successful journey, business sold, quarrel averted, return of friends, two successful operations.

And for all these miraculous performances the Catholic machine is harvesting the price day by day - harvesting with that ancient fervor which the Latin poet described as "auri sacra fames." As Christopher Columbus wrote from Jamaica in 1503: "Gold is a wonderful thing. By means of gold we can even get souls into Paradise."

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