Allan Kardec

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(See the November 1861 issue)

The Spanish newspapers were not as moderate in their assessment as were the French newspapers about this event. Whatever the opinion that one may have about the spiritist ideas, there is something so strange in these events considering the time we live in, that they entice more pity than rage against people that seem to have slept for centuries and suddenly woke up with no awareness of how far humanity has already come, believing it to still be at the starting point. Here is another excerpt from an article published by the Las Novedades, one of the largest newspapers in Madrid:

“The act of faith that was carried out a few months ago in A Coruña where a large number of books were burned at the doorsteps of a church had left in our spirits and in the spirits of all of those persons of liberal ideas a very sad impression. Yet, the news of a second act of faith celebrated in Barcelona was received with even greater indignation by us and all over Spain, an act of faith carried out in that civilized capital of Catalonia, amidst an essentially liberal population that knowingly has great qualities, to whom no doubt this barbaric insult was addressed.”

After reporting the facts from the Barcelona paper, it continues:

“This is the revolting spectacle authorized by the men of the Liberal Union, right here in the XIX century: a bonfire in A Coruña and another in Barcelona, and many others that will still come in other places. That is what should happen since it is consequence of the situation of the minds that currently dominate things and interfere in everything. Reaction inside regarding the bills of law that were proposed; reaction abroad support the reactionaries governments of Italy, before and after its fall, combating the liberal ideas in all occasions, seeking support to reaction all over the place and obtained to the price of inept concessions.”

It is then followed by lengthy considerations about the symptoms and consequences of such act but that due to its essentially political character don’t belong to the scope of our journal.

The Diário de Barcelona, an ultramontane journal, was the first to announce the act of faith reporting:

“The titles of the burned books were enough to justify their condemnation. It is the Church’s right and duty to ensure that its authority is respected, even more so when the freedom of press is given more latitude, particularly in countries that enjoy this terrible ulcer of freedom of religion.”

A Barcelona newspaper, La Corona, then publishes the following thoughts:

“We expected from our colleague (The Diário) who broke the news that he would be kind enough to satisfy the public’s curiosity, seriously alarmed by such an act, incredible in our current days, but it was in vain that we waited for the explanations. Since then we have been assaulted by questions about that event and to the benefit of truth we must say that the government’s allies suffer more with this than with those that make them opposition.”

“With the objective of satisfying the much excited curiosity we sought the truth and we regret to say that the fact is true and that in fact the act of faith was celebrated in the following conditions:”

(Following the report given in our last issue)

“The means employed to get to this result could not have been more expedited or effective. Customs were presented with the above books and the Commissioner was told that they could not be processed without the permission of Lord Bishop. Lord Bishop was absent; on his return he was presented with a copy of each book, and after reading them or having them read by persons of his trust and according to the judgment of his conscience, he ordered to have the books to be set on fire since they were immoral and contrary to the Catholic faith. An appeal was filed against the sentence and the government asked to allow the owner to return them to the place of origin considering that the circulation of such books were prohibited in Spain, but even that was refused under the allegation that since they were contrary to the Catholic moral and faith, the government could not consent that such books would corrupt the moral and religion of other countries. Despite all that, the owner was forced to pay the legal rights that, as it seems, should not have been demanded. A large crowd witnessed the act of faith that does not come as a surprise if taken into account the place and time of execution and in particular the spectacle. The effect produced upon the witnesses was that of astonishment to some, laughter from others and indignation onto the majority, as they gradually understood what was going on. Words of rage were pronounced by several, and then the jokes, the mockery and jest of people who saw with pleasure the blindness of certain men. They are right about it since they foresee in that reaction the fastest triumph of their ideas, much deserving of the times of Inquisition. They mocked so that their ceremony would not increase the prestige of the authority that so complacently is given to truly ridiculous demands. When the ashes of that new bonfire were cold, it was noticed that some people who were around or passers-by who heard about it, collected some ashes as reminders of the act of faith.”

“That is the report of the events that those people cannot stop talking about among themselves. They are outraged, sorry or even happy according to their way of seeing things. The honest partisans of peace, of the principle of authority and religion are afflicted by these reactive demonstrations because they understand that reactions precede revolutions and also because they know that whoever sows winds can only harvest storms. The liberals are annoyed by the fact that similar spectacles are brought to reality by men who don’t understand religion without intolerance and that want to impose their religion, like Mohammed imposed his Koran.”

“Now, abstraction made to the quality of the burned books, let us examine the fact in itself. Can jurisprudence admit that a diocesan bishop has the final authority and can prevent the publication and circulation of a book? People will say that the right of press will control what must be done in this case. But does such a law determine that the books, however bad and pernicious they are, must be thrown on fire to justify a syndicate spectacle? We cannot find in that law a single article that justifies such act. Besides, the books in question were declared publically. A Commissary declares the books to Customs because they could be classified in Article 6 and pass through the diocesan censorship. The government could have prohibited their circulation and the matter would have been settled. The priests should be content in giving their flocks advice as for abstinence of particular reading if considered contrary to moral and religion but one should not give them an absolute power that transforms them into judges and executioners. We abstain from issuing any opinion about the value of the burned books. What we see is the fact, the tendencies and the spirit behind it. From now on, which diocese would then abstain from using and abusing a prerogative that in our opinion the government itself does not have, if they do that in Barcelona, the liberal Barcelona? Absolutism is very sagacious. It tries to show authority everywhere. If successful it dares further. Let us hope, however, that the struggles of absolutism are useless and that every concession may not have any other result but to unmask the party that renewing scenes like those of last Thursday, precipitates even deeper into the abyss onto which it runs blindfolded. That is what we are led to expect by the effect produced by the act of faith of Barcelona.”

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