Communion of Children. — In order to get some insight into the historical aspect of this subject it will be useful to dwell upon (I) the ancient practice, and (2) the present discipline of the Church in regard to the Communion of children.
(I) Ancient PRACTICE.—It is now well established that in the early days of Christianity it was not uncommon for infants to receive Communion immediately after they were baptized. Among others St. Cyprian (Lib. de Lapsis, c. xxv) makes reference to the practice. In the East the custom was pretty universal, and even to this day exists in some places, but in the West infant Communion was not so general. Here, moreover, it was restricted to the occasions of baptism and dangerous illness. Probably it originated in a mistaken notion of the absolute necessity of the Blessed Eucharist for salvation, founded on the words of St. John (vi, 54). In the reign of Charlemagne an edict was published by a Council of Tours (813) prohibiting the reception by young children of Communion unless they were in danger of death (Zaccaria, Bibl. Rit., II, p. 161) and Odo, Bishop of Paris, renewed this prohibition in 1175. Still the custom died hard, for we find traces of it in Hugh of St. Victor (De Saer., I, e. 20) and Martene (De Ant. Eee. Rit., I bk., I, c. 15) alleges that it had not altogether disappeared in his own day. The manner of Communicating infants was by dipping the finger in the consecrated chalice and then applying it to the tongue of the child. This would seem to imply that it was only the Precious Blood that was administered, but evident is not wanting to show that the other Consecrated Species was also given in similar circumstances. (cf. Sebastiano Giribaldi, Op. Mor., I, c. 72). That in (ants and children not yet come to the use of reason may not only validly but even fruitfully receive the Blessed Eucharist is now the universally received Communion of Saints (communio sanctorum, opinion, but it is opposed to Catholic teaching to hold gk KoLvwvia c?yiwv, a fellowship of, or with, the saints), the that this sacrament is necessary for their salvation doctrine expressed in the second clause of the ninth (Council of Trent, Sess. XXI, can. iv) article in the received text of the Apostles' Creed: I
II. PRESENT DISCIPLINE.—The existing legislation believe the Holy Catholic Church, the regard to the Communion of children has been definitely settled by the Fourth Lateran Council, was afterwards confirmed by the authority of Council of Trent. According to its provisions children may not be admitted to the Blessed Eucharist until they have attained to years of discretion, but Caesarius of Arles (c. 543); in the "De Spiritu Sancto" when this period is reached then they are bound to receive this sacrament. When may they be said to have of attained the age of discretion? In the best-supported view of theologians this phrase means, not the attainment of a definite number of years, but rather the arrival at a certain stage in mental development, when children become able to discern the Eucharistic from ordinary bread, to realize in some measure the dignity and excellence of the Sacrament of the Altar, to believe in the Real Presence, and adore Christ under the sacramental veils. De Lugo says that if children are observed to assist at Mass with devotion and attention it is a sign that they are come to this discretion.
Thus it is seen that a keener religious sense, so to speak is demanded for the reception of than for confession. Moreover, it is agreed that children in danger of death ought to be admitted to Communion even though they may not have the same degree fitness that would be required in ordinary circumstances. In answer to a question as to whether a certain episcopal ordinance should be upheld that fixed a definite age-limit under which children could not be admitted to First Communion, the Congregation of Catholic the Council replied in the affirmative, provided, however, that those children adjudged to have reached the discretion required by the Councils Trent might not be excluded (July 21, 1888). This reply bears out the interpretation already given of the "the years of discretion" and it may be said in the words of the Catechism of the Council of Trent (pt. II, c. iv, q. 63) that "no one can better determine the age than their parents and confessor".
The duty of preparing candidates for First Communion is the most important that can fall to the lot of a pastor (O'Kane, Rubrics of Rom. Rit., p. 391). This is amply recognized by the Church in every country, for almost every diocese has its statutes regulating with scrupulous exactness all the preliminaries of this and of their partaking of the fruits of the Redemption sacred and solemn event (cf. Deer. of III Plen. Bait., (I Cor., i, 2—Greek Text). A long course of religious instruction is usually prescribed while the moral training and virtuous formation of the mind is also urgently insisted upon. In regard to First Communion it may be observed: (I) that it should take place during pascal time; (2) that it should be received as a rule in the parochial church, unless the consent of the pastor is had for receiving it elsewhere; (3) that no effort should be spared to fix the occasion indelibly on the mind of the young communicant; and (4) that for this purpose the Mass at which it is received should be celebrated with special solemnity, boys and girls being suitably attired and assigned to separate sections of the Church. A short address may be given in this case immediately before the distribution of Communion (De Herdt, Praxis Lit., I, 277; Rom. Rit., De only in so far as they integrate the transcendent idea Euch., t. XXIII). The decree "Sacra Tridentina Synodus", published December, 1905, about daily Communion applies to all persons, young and old, who have formally made their First Communion (Anal. Eccl., 1906, p. 833).
COMMUNISTIC SOCIETIES IN THE UNITED STATES.—
The Ephrata Community (Pennsylvania) was, with two unimportant exceptions, the earliest. It was founded in 1732 by Conrad Beissel, a German, who had for some years led the life of a religious hermit. Three men and two women who shared his views on the Sabbath were permitted to join him, and thus the six became a community. The members held property in common, labored in common, lived in common, and observed complete equality of conditions. They regarded celibacy as preferable to the wedded state, and during the early years of the community the majority remained unmarried. Their primary aim, therefore, was religious and spiritual instead of social and economic. The community never had more than three hundred members; in 1900 it had only seventeen.
The most important communistic organization in the United States is that of the Shakers. Their first community was founded at Mt. Lebanon, N. Y., in 1787. At present there are thirty-five separate communities with a total membership of one thousand; once they aggregated five thousand. Like the Ephratans, the Shakers are a religious sect and live a community life for a religious purpose. The founders of their first American settlement were a band of English Quakers to whom the name Shakers was given because of their bodily agitations under the supposed influence of spiritual forces in their religious meetings. In the Shaker communities property is held in common (except in the case of members who have not reached the Third, or Senior Order), meals are taken in common, there is a common hour for rising, modes of dress are uniform, and there are minute rules governing manners and conduct generally. While all members are on a footing of equality, the government is hierarchical rather than democratic. They make confession of sin before entering, observe celibacy, abstain from alcoholic drinks, discourage the use of tobacco, and endeavor to avoid "all worldly usages, manners, customs, loves and affections, which inter-pose between the individual citizen of the heavenly kingdom and his duties and privileges therein". Owing to its principles and practices, Shaker communism is as little suited to the generality of men as monasticism. Their membership is recruited mostly through religious revivals and the reception of homeless children. Nevertheless the community has not been a complete failure as regards those who have remained faithful to its life. "For more than a hundred years", they maintain, "they have lived prosperous, contented, happy lives, making their land bloom like the fairest garden; and during all these years have never spent among themselves a penny for police, for lawyers, for judges, for poor-houses, for penal institutions or any like `improvements' of the outside world."
Two communities that had a considerable resemblance to each other were the Harmonists, established in Pennsylvania in 1805 by George Rapp, and the Separatists of Zoar, founded in 1818 by Joseph Baumeler in Ohio. Both communities were German, were religious rather than economic, held the same religious views, and practiced celibacy. Early in their history the Separatists abandoned celibacy, but continued to regard it as a higher state than marriage.
The Harmonists had at one time one thousand members, but by the year 1900 dissensions had reduced them to nine. The Separatists never numbered more than five hundred. They ceased to exist as a community in 1898. The New Harmony Community was established in 1825 on land in Indiana that had once been occupied by the Harmonists. Its founder was Robert Owen, a Welshman, who had managed with remarkable success the New Lanark mills in Scotland. He was the first to introduce the ten-hour day into factories and to refuse to employ very young children and pauper children. He also established the first infant schools in England. He made the village of New Lanark a model of good order, temperance, thrift, comfort, and contentment. He was a humanitarian and reformer who did not shrink from large sacrifices on behalf of his theories. Encouraged by the success of his efforts at New Lanark, and believing that men were good by nature and needed only the proper environment to become virtuous, strong, intelligent, and contented, he began to dream of a communism that should be world-wide. He would have all persons gathered into villages of between three hundred and two thousand souls, each of whom was to have from one-half to one and one-half acres of land. The dwellings of each village would be arranged in a parallelogram, with common kitchens, eating-houses, and schools in the center. Individual property was to be abolished. Such were the plans that he intended to try for the first time in the community of New Harmony. Before the end of its first year this community had nine hundred souls and thirty thousand acres of land. Before two years had passed dissensions had arisen, two new communities had been formed by seceders, and the original community had been dissolved. Several other communistic settlements which owed their existence to the teaching and example of Owen, were established in different States, but none of them outlived New Harmony. Like the latter, they all expressly rejected any religious basis. This seems to have been one of the chief reasons for their early dissolution. Toward the end of his life Owen gave up his materialistic notions, and admitted the supreme importance of spiritual forces in the formation of sound character.
The Oneida Community of Oneida, N. Y., was founded in 1848 by J. H. Noyes. Its purpose was primarily religious, "the establishment of the kingdom of God". At one period it had five hundred members. For more than thirty years its members practiced not only community of property and of life generally, but also of women, through their so-called "complex marriages". The rearing of children was partly a parental but chiefly a community function. In deference to public sentiment outside, the practice of "complex marriage" was in 1879 discontinued. They then divided themselves into two classes, "the married and the celibate, both legitimate but the last preferred". However, nearly all of them got married within a very short time. In 1881 the community was converted into a joint-stock company, the members owning individual shares. Financially, the new corporation has been a success, but most of its common-life features disappeared with "complex marriage".
Between 1840 and 1850 some thirty communities modeled upon the phalanxes of Fourier were established in different parts of the United States. Only one lasted longer than six years, and the great majority disappeared within three years. Their rise was due chiefly to the writings and efforts of an exceptionally able, cultured, and enthusiastic group of writers which included Horace Greeley, Albert Brisbane, George Ripley, Parke Goodwin, William Henry Channing, Charles A. Dana, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Elizabeth Peabody. The most notable of these experiments was the one at Brook Farm. Although it took the form of a joint-stock company, paying five per cent interest, it exemplified the principles of communism in many particulars. The industries were managed by the community and all the members took turns at the various tasks; all received the same wages, all were guaranteed support for themselves and their dependents, and all enjoyed the same advantages in the matter of food, clothing, and dwellings. For the first two years (1841-43) the life was charming; but the enterprise was not a success financially. In 1844 the organization was converted into a Fourieristic phalanx, which had an unsuccessful existence of a few brief months. Brook Farm failed thus early because it had too many philosophers and too few "hard-fisted toilers".
The Amana Community (Iowa) was begun in 1855 by a band of Germans who called themselves "True Inspirationists", on account of their belief that the inspiration of the Apostolic age is still vouchsafed to Christians. Their distinctive religious tenets reach back to the Pietists of the seventeenth century, but as an organization they began at Hesse, Germany, in 1714. They came to America to escape religious persecution, not to practice communism. According to their own testimony, the communistic feature was introduced solely as a means to a better Christian life. The community tolerates marriage but prefers celibacy. Those who marry suffer a decline in social standing, and are compelled to wait for some time before they can regain their former position. One of their "Rules for Daily Life" reads thus: "Fly from the society of woman-kind as much as possible, as a very highly dangerous magnet and magical fire." The families live separately, but eat in groups of from thirty-five to fifty. All property belongs to the community. In order the better to achieve their supreme purpose—self-denial and the imitation of Christ—their life is very simple, and barren not only of luxury but of any considerable enjoyment. The Amana Community has for a long time been the largest community in existence, numbering between seventeen and eighteen hundred members. During sixty years the members of this community have lived in peace, comfort, and contentment, having neither lawyers, sheriffs, nor beggars. None of the other communistic settlements of America presents features worthy of special mention. Of all the experiments made only the Amana Community and the Shakers survive. Societies like the Cooperative Brotherhood and the Equality Commonwealth of the State of Washington are examples of cooperation, or at most of socialism. Besides, they are all very young and very small.
GENERALIZATIONS DRAWN FROM COMMUNISTIC EXPERIMENTS.—The history of communistic societies suggests some interesting and important generalizations. First: All but three of the American communities, namely those founded by Robert Owen, the Icarians, and the Fourieristic experiments, and absolutely all that enjoyed any measure of success, were organized primarily for religious ends under strong religious influences, and were maintained on a basis of definite religious convictions and practices. Many of their founders were looked upon as prophets. The religious bond seems to have been the one force capable of holding them together at critical moments of their history. Mr. Hinds, who is himself a firm believer in communism, admits that there must be unity of belief either for or against religion. The importance of the spiritual and ascetic elements is further shown by the fact that nearly all the more successful communities either enjoined, or at least preferred, celibacy. If communism needs the ascetic element to this extent it is evidently unsuited for general adoption.
Second: It would seem that where religion and asceticism are not among the primary ends, community of wives as well as of property easily suggests itself to communists as a normal and logical feature of their system. Even Campanella declared that "all private property is acquired and improved for the reason that each one of us by himself has his own home and wife and children". Speaking of the decline of the Oneida Community, Mr. Hinds says: "The first step out of communism was taken when mine and thine were applied to husband and wife; then followed naturally an exclusive interest in children; then the desire to accumulate individual property for their present and future use." The founder of this community was of opinion that if the ordinary principles of marriage are maintained, communistic associations will present greater temptations to unlawful love than ordinary society. Communism therefore seems to face the Scylla of celibacy and the Charybdis of promiscuity.
Third: All the American communities except those founded by Owen, were composed of picked and select souls who were filled with enthusiasm and willing to make great sacrifices for their ideal. Owen admitted recruits indiscriminately, but keenly regretted it afterwards; for he recognized it as one of the chief causes of premature failure. Moreover, the other communities separated themselves from and discouraged contact with the outside world. Most of the deserters were members who had violated this injunction, and become enamored of worldly ways.
Fourth: The success attained by the American communities was in a very large measure due to exceptionally able, enthusiastic, and magnetic leaders. As soon as these were removed from leadership their communities almost invariably began to decline rapidly. This fact and the facts mentioned in the last paragraph add weight to the conclusions drawn from the first two, namely that communism is utterly unsuited to the majority.
Fifth: It is possible for small groups of choice spirits, especially when actuated by motives of religion and asceticism, to maintain for more than a century a communistic organization in contentment and prosperity. The proportion of laziness is smaller and the problem of getting work done simpler than is commonly assumed. And the habit of common life does seem to root out a considerable amount of human selfishness.
Finally: The complete equality sought by communism is a well-meant but mistaken interpretation of the great moral truths, that, as persons and in the sight of God, all human beings are equal; and that all have essentially the same needs and the same ultimate destiny. In so far as they are embodied in the principle of common ownership, these truths have found varied expressions in various countries and civilizations. Many economic historians maintain that common ownership was everywhere the earliest form of land tenure. It still prevails after a fashion in the country districts of Russia. Within the last half-century, the sphere of common or public ownership has been greatly extended throughout almost all of the Western world, and it is certain to receive stillwider expansion in the future. Nevertheless, the verdict of experience, the nature of man, and the attitude of the Church, all assure us that complete communism will never be adopted by any considerable section of any people. While the Church sanctions the principle of voluntary communism for the few who have a vocation to the religious life, she condemns universal, compulsory, or legally enforced communism, inasmuch as she maintains the natural right of every individual to possess private property. She has reprobated communism more specifically in the Encyclical "Rerum Novarum" of Pope Leo XIII. For the theories condemned in that document under the name of socialism certainly include communism as described in these pages.
JOHN A. RYAN