INTEMPERANCE is the immoderate use of anything, good or bad; here the
word is used to imply an excessive use of alcoholic beverages, which
excess, when it reaches the dignity of a habit or vice, makes a man a
drunkard. A drunkard who indulges in "highballs" and other beverages of
fancy price and name, is euphemistically styled a "tippler;" his
brother, a poor devil who swallows vile concoctions or red "pizen" is
a plain, ordinary "soak." Whatever name we give to such
gluttons, the evil in both is the same; 'tis the evil of gluttony.
This vice differs from gluttony proper in that its object is strong
drink, while the latter is an abuse of food and nourishment necessary,
in regulated quantity, for the sustenance of the body. But alcohol is
not necessary to sustain life as an habitual beverage; it may
stimulate, but it does not sustain at all. It has its legitimate uses,
like strychnine and other poison and drugs; but being a poison, it must
be detrimental to living tissues, when taken frequently, and cannot
have been intended by the Creator as a life-giving nourishment. Its
habitual use is therefore not a necessity. Its abuse has therefore a
more far-fetched malice.
But its use is not sinful, any more than the use of any drug, for
alcohol, or liquor, is a creature of God and is made for good purposes.
Its use is not evil, whether it does little good, or no good at all.
The fact of its being unnecessary does not make it a forbidden fruit.
The habit of stimulants, like the habit of tobacco, while it has no
title to be called a good habit, cannot be qualified as an
intrinsically bad habit; it may be tolerated as long as it is kept
within the bounds of sane reason and does not give rise to evil
consequences in self or others. Apart, therefore, from the danger of
abuse--a real and fatal danger for many, especially for the young--and
from the evil effects that may follow even a moderate use, the habit is
like another; a temperate man is not, to any appreciable degree, less
righteous than a moderate smoker. The man who can use and not abuse is
just as moral as his brother who does not use lest he abuse. He must,
however, be said to be less virtuous than another who abstains rather
than run the risk of being even a remote occasion of sin unto the weak.
The intrinsic malice therefore of this habit consists in the disorder
of excess, which is called intoxication. Intoxication may exist in
different degrees and stages; it is the state of a man who loses, to
any extent, control over his reasoning faculties through the effects of
alcohol. There is evil and sin the moment the brain is affected; when
reason totters and falls from its throne in the soul, then the crime is
consummated. When a man says and does and thinks what in his sober
senses he would not say, do, or think, that man is drunk, and there is
mortal sin on his soul. It is not an easy matter to define just when
intoxication properly begins and sobriety ends; every man must do that
for himself. But he should consider himself well on the road to guilt
when, being aware that the fumes of liquor were fast beclouding his
mind, he took another glass that was certain to still further obscure
his reason and paralyze his will.
Much has been said and written about the grossness of this vice, its
baneful effects and consequences, to which it were useless here to
refer. Suffice it to say there is nothing that besots a man more
completely and lowers him more ignobly to the level of the brute. He
falls below, for the most stupid of brutes, the ass, knows when it has
enough; and the drunkard does not. It requires small wit indeed to
understand that there is no sin in the catalogue of crime that a person
in this state is not capable of committing. He will do things the very
brute would blush to do; and then he will say it was one of the devil's
jokes. The effects on individuals, families and generations, born and
unborn, cannot be exaggerated; and the drunkard is a tempter of God and
the curse of society.
Temperance is a moderate use of strong drink; teetotalism is absolute
abstention therefrom. A man may be temperate without being a
teetotaler; all teetotalers are temperate, at least as far as alcohol
is concerned, although they are sometimes, some of them, accused of
using temperance as a cloak for much intemperance of speech. If this be
true--and there are cranks in all causes--then temperance is itself the
greatest sufferer. Exaggeration is a mistake; it repels right-thinking
men and never served any purpose. We believe it has done the cause of
teetotalism a world of harm. But it is poor logic that will identify
with so holy a cause the rabid rantings of a few irresponsible fools.
The cause of total abstinence is a holy and righteous cause. It takes
its stand against one of the greatest evils, moral and social, of the
day. It seeks to redeem the fallen, and to save the young and
inexperienced. Its means are organization and the mighty weapon of good
example. It attracts those who need it and those who do not need it;
the former, to save them; the latter, to help save others. And there is
no banner under which Catholic youth could more honorably be enrolled
than the banner of total abstinence. The man who condemns or decries
such a cause either does not know what he is attacking or his mouthings
are not worth the attention of those who esteem honesty and hate
hypocrisy. It is not necessary to be able to practice virtue in order
to esteem its worth. And it does not make a fellow appear any better
even to himself to condemn a cause that condemns his faults.
Saloon-keepers are engaged in an enterprise which in itself is lawful;
the same can be said of those who buy and sell poisons and dynamite and
fire-arms. The nature of his merchandise differentiates his business
from all other kinds of business, and his responsibilities are of the
heaviest. It may, and often does, happen that this business is
criminal; and in this matter the civil law may be silent, but the moral
law is not. For many a one such a place is an occasion of sin, often a
near occasion. It is not comforting to kneel in prayer to God with the
thought in one's mind that one is helping many to damnation, and that
the curses of drunkards' wives and mothers and children are being piled
upon one's head. How far the average liquor seller is guilty, God only
knows; but a man with a deep concern for his soul's salvation, it seems
would not like to take the risk.
WHEN envy catches a victim she places an evil eye in his mind, gives
him a cud to chew, and then sends him gadding.
If the mind's eye feeds upon one's own excellence for one's own
satisfaction, that is pride; if it feeds upon the neighbor's good for
one's own displeasure and unhappiness, that is envy. It is not alone
this displeasure that makes envy, but the reason of this displeasure,
that is, what the evil eye discerns in the neighbor's excellence,
namely, a detriment, an obstacle to one's own success. It is not
necessary that another's prosperity really work injury to our own; it
is sufficient that the evil eye, through its discolored vision,
perceive a prejudice therein. "Ah!" says envy, "he is happy,
prosperous, esteemed! My chances are spoiled. I am overshadowed. I am
nothing, he is everything. I am nothing because he is everything."
Remember that competition, emulation, rivalry are not necessarily envy.
I dread to see my rival succeed. I am pained if he does succeed. But
the cause of this annoyance and vexation is less his superiority than
my inferiority. I regret my failure more than his success. There is no
evil eye. 'Tis the sting of defeat that causes me pain. If I regret
this or that man's elevation because I fear he will abuse his power; if
I become indignant at the success of an unworthy person; I am not
envious, because this superiority of another does not appear to me to
be a prejudice to my standing. Whatever sin there is, there is no sin
We may safely assume that a person who would be saddened by the success
of another, would not fail to rejoice at that other's misfortune. This
is a grievous offense against charity, but it is not, properly
speaking, envy, for envy is always sad; it is rather an effect of envy,
a natural product thereof and a form of hatred.
This unnatural view of things which we qualify as the evil eye, is not
a sin until it reaches the dignity of a sober judgment, for only then
does it become a human act. Envy like pride, anger, and the other
vicious inclinations, may and often does crop out in our nature,
momentarily, without our incurring guilt, if it is checked before it
receives the acquiescence of the will, it is void of wrong, and only
serves to remind us that we have a rich fund of malice in our nature
capable of an abundant yield of iniquity.
After being born in the mind, envy passes to the feelings where it
matures and furnishes that supply of misery which characterizes the
vice. Another is happy at our expense; the sensation is a painful one,
yet it has a diabolical fascination, and we fondle and caress it. We
brood over our affliction to the embittering and souring of our souls.
We swallow and regurgitate over and over again our dissatisfaction, and
are aptly said to chew the cud of bitterness.
Out of such soil as this naturally springs a rank growth of uncharity
and injustice in thought and desire. The mind and heart of envy are
untrammeled by all bonds of moral law. It may think all evil of a rival
and wish him all evil. He becomes an enemy, and finally he is hated.
Envy points directly to hatred.
Lastly, envy is "a gadding passion, it walketh the street and does not
keep home." It were better to say that it "talketh." There is nothing
like language to relieve one's feelings; it is quieting and soothing,
and envy has strong feelings. Hence, evil insinuations, detraction,
slander, etc. Justice becomes an empty word and the seamless robe of
charity is torn to shreds. As an agent of destruction envy easily holds
the palm, for it commands the two strong passions of pride and anger,
and they do its bidding.
People scarcely ever acknowledge themselves envious. It is such a base,
unreasonable and unnatural vice. If we cannot rejoice with the
neighbor, why be pained at his felicity? And what an insanity it is to
imagine that in this wide world one cannot be happy without prejudicing
the happiness of another! What a severe shock it would be to the
discontented, the morosely sour, the cynic, and other human owls, to be
told that they are victims of this green-eyed monster. They would
confess to calumny, and hatred; to envy, never!
Envy can only exist where there is abundant pride. It is a form of
pride, a shape which it frequently assumes, because under this disguise
it can penetrate everywhere without being as much as noticed. And it is
so seldom detected that wherever it gains entrance it can hope to
Jealousy and envy are often confounded; yet they differ in that the
latter looks on what is another's, while the former concerns itself
with what is in one's own possession. I envy what is not mine; I am
jealous of what is my own. Jealousy has a saddening influence upon us,
by reason of a fear, more or less well grounded, that what we have will
be taken from us. We foresee an injustice and resent it.
Kept within the limits of sane reason, jealousy is not wrong, for it is
founded on the right we have to what is ours. It is in our nature to
cling to what belongs to us, to regret being deprived of it, and to
guard ourselves against injustice.
But when this fear is without cause, visionary, unreasonable, jealousy
partakes of the nature and malice of envy. It is even more malignant a
passion, and leads to greater disorders and crimes, for while envy is
based on nothing at all, there is here a true foundation in the right
of possession, and a motive in right to repel injustice.