Given from the Catholic Broadcasting Station 2SM Sydney Australia
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They are rather a continuation of the Russellites. The present leader of the Witnesses of Jehovah, who calls himself Judge Rutherford, is but the successor of Pastor Charles T. Russell, who founded the movement.
Pastor Russell was born in America in 1852. He was first a Congregationalist, then dabbled in Seventh Day Adventism, and finally set up for himself as a prophet announcing the Second Coming of Christ. His piety was not true piety. It was an unbalanced religious mania centered entirely in himself. He set himself up on a pedestal as the sole object of his worship. Nor was he a Christian, for he denied the divinity of Christ, declaring that Christ was really Michael the Archangel who came in the flesh to redeem mankind. That is not Christian doctrine. Nor was Russell a follower of Christ in practice. His wife divorced him for infidelity; and he made money by selling what he called "miracle wheat" at sixty dollars a bushel to credulous farmers, the fraud being eventually stopped by the Federal authorities, who made him refund the money.
Without any digging at all the writers in Russellite books and papers delight in inventing scandals about Catholics. But do not think for a moment that I have any idea of retaliation. I do not believe in arguments against a religion which are drawn from unworthy conduct of members belonging to that religion. If a man does not live up to a religion, it is proof only that he does not live up to it. It is not necessarily proof that his religion is bad. It may be that he has not really practiced his religion. And one judges the value of a medicine from people who take it, not from those who neglect it. But Pastor Russell himself is in a very different position from that of subsequent followers. He offers himself to the public as a prophet, and as the founder of a new religion. And as he wants his religion to be public property, he is a public figure whose life should be an open book. Christ is the Founder of the Catholic Church, and we are willing that men should examine both His teachings and His life. But, in the same way, we claim the right to test both the life and teachings of all other founders of religions offered to the public.
How do you know that? What knowledge have you of Scripture by which you can check his interpretations? Russell traded on the ignorance of simpletons; and his followers still do the same. Throughout his books Russell pretended to deep learning, quoting Greek words, and frequently attributing a special sense to them which they never possessed in the original language at all. Challenged in an American Court, he had to admit that he did not know Greek, and he was unable to name the letters of the Greek alphabet, Russell poured out page after page of arrant nonsense which he tried to support by myriads of texts torn from their context and forced to mean whatever he wanted them to mean. If ever a man misused and abused Sacred Scripture, that man is Pastor Russell, although his successor, Judge Rutherford, runs him a very close second. Seldom have men given to the world a better example of those whom St. Peter describes as "wresting the Scriptures to their own destruction."
He taught that the Second Coming of Christ began to take place, not visibly, but invisibly, in 1874. From that year commenced the "Millennium," or the reign of Christ in this world for 1000 years. At the end of the "Millennium" this earth will be turned into a vast garden of Eden. The wicked will be finally annihilated, and the good will inhabit this earthly paradise for all eternity, earthly rulers being abolished in favor of Christ, the King of the world. Religion, for him, was but a means to magnificent material prosperity.
He is the successor of Pastor Russell as leader of this fantastic movement—a kind of Elisha upon whom the mantle of the original prophet has fallen. Pastor Russell died in 1916, and Mr. Joseph Rutherford, one of the editorial committee of Russell's paper, "Zion's Watch Tower," secured control of the movement
He teaches the basic ideas of Pastor Russell, with additional ideas of his own. He declares that the 1000 years' period is going on apace, and being rapidly inaugurated. In 1914 God handed over to Christ full authority over this world. A war at once took place in heaven between Christ with the good angels, and Satan with his evil gang. How Satan got back into heaven Mr. Rutherford does not say. However, Satan was cast out, and at once plunged "Christendom" into the World War of 1914. God stopped that war in 1918 for the express purpose of allowing Rutherford's agents to travel about distributing Rutherford's books by the millions, giving testimony of the approaching end. Rutherford has changed the name of the organization from that of the "Watch Tower Society" to that of the "Witnesses of Jehovah"—he being the Chief Witness. An additional contribution to the cause on his part is a still more fervent denunciation of all Christian Churches, Catholic and Protestant, as being in the hire of the devil; and more exact descriptions of the imminent and final catastrophe about to overwhelm mankind.
No. He has deluded many people into distributing his books which explain what he mistakenly thinks the Bible to teach. In reality he teaches what is directly opposed to the Bible. He proclaims that some leader is to set up a kingdom in this world to the destruction not only of the Churches of all kinds, but of all present forms of government. He denounces all authority, civil or ecclesiastical, teaching principles of anarchy opposed to the explicit doctrine of Christ and the Apostles. St. Paul wrote to the Romans, "Let every soul be subject to higher powers, for there is no power but from God; and those that are, are ordained of God. Therefore he that resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God." St. Paul therefore insisted on obedience to lawful civil authority, even in pagan Rome. St. Peter said, "Be ye subject, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors sent by him. For so is the will of God. Honor all men. Fear God. Honor the king." Yet Judge Rutherford tells us that "Christendom" is Satan's organization, and chiefly America and the British Empire. And in his fanaticism he promises the nations and the Churches a war such as has never been seen on the face of the earth, with all the forces of heaven pitted against his adversaries. He declares that "the worst tribulation that has ever afflicted mankind" is to come upon organized Christendom; and that the nations will get a "terrible drubbing." Of course he declares that he is not inciting sedition, and that he is merely advocating the cause of Christ who is to become the temporal king of this world—a title Christ indignantly repudiated and refused. "My kingdom," He said, "is not of this world."
No. He has no real title to call himself a judge at all. He was originally a court reporter at Boonville, Cooper County, Missouri, U. S. A. Familiar with court procedure, but without any formal training in law, he managed to get a license to practice as a lawyer in the State of Missouri, U. S. A. in 1892. Four times in Cooper County his turn as a local lawyer came to preside over the local court owing to the absence of the regular judge. And on each occasion he presided for one day only. The other local lawyers also took their turn on other occasions, and if Mr. Rutherford is entitled to claim to be a judge, then every lawyer in the State of Missouri is a judge! Every other lawyer rejects the idea; and "Judge" Rutherford, never officially appointed to such a position in his life, is masquerading under a title to which he has no real claim at all.
His record is not very impressive. In 1894, 1895, and again in 1897, he was in legal trouble himself, accused of sharp practice and unprofessional conduct. Later he was employed by Pastor Russell who was frequently involved in litigation, and thus came into contact with the Russelite organization. In 1916, as I have already said, he succeeded to the full control of that organization. In 1918 he was sentenced to twenty years' imprisonment for conspiracy and disloyalty in promoting military revolt in America, but was released with many other prisoners by an amnesty in 1919, after having served nine months in Atlanta Penitentiary.
Its trend is to turn people into simple fools, impelling them to wander about, calling themselves Witnesses of Jehovah, and selling Judge Rutherford's booklets. Its gist is this: Civil governments, and all Churches, in fact, all religious, political and commercial, powers in this world organized before the new commercialized religion of Judge Rutherford are the work of Satan, and under the control of Satan. Any day now—and so soon that "Millions Now Living Will Never Die"—God is going to smite all except those who accept Joseph Rutherford as their infallible guide and teacher. Of what authority is all this? Of none whatever. God neither invited Rutherford and his dupes to be His "Witnesses," nor did He dictate their "message."
The Russellites do not prove their claim by pointing triumphantly to such a text. What they have to prove, if they wish to establish their case, is that those words were written of them, and truly apply to them.
It is harmful from almost every point of view. It is not in the least constructive. It is destructive, not only of Christianity, but of all lawful civil authority. Recently in Canada two distributors of Rutherford's books were sentenced to two months in jail and a fine of three hundred dollars. They appealed against the sentence, but their appeal was dismissed. The presiding judge said, "I find in these pamphlets a sapping of all authority, to be replaced only by anarchy and mob rule, unless some despot should present himself. The language, repeated and again repeated is grossly insulting." He added that their contents were beyond all permissible fair comment on other people's political, social, and religious tenets.
Rutherford uses the term "Jehovah" for God. The word "Jehovah" is an English misspelling for "Jahveh" or "Yahweh," the Hebrew word for God. As the Mahometans say, "There is no God but Allah, and Mahomet is His prophet," so the Witnesses of Jehovah believe that there is no God but Jehovah, and that Rutherford is His prophet. Rutherford's main prophecy is that the end of the world is at hand, and that the only means of escape from the impending disasters is to join his Witnesses of Jehovah and sell his books from door to door.
Rutherford declares that he does not believe in religion of any kind. He says that Satan invented religion, and that his own followers will have no religious obligations save to help him attack and denounce religion, sell his literature, and play his gramaphone records wherever possible.
Satan has no visible organization on earth. Christ has a visible organization—Catholic Church. But Satan is the adversary of Christ, and adopts quite other methods. As Christ remarked, "Those that love the works of darkness come not to the light." Jn. III., 20. Satan is not so foolish as to betray his hand in his nefarious schemes. He is essentially a hidden worker. But whilst he has no visible organization of his own, he subtly makes use of organizations ostensibly established by men for commercial or other purposes. He inspires the daily press to give publicity to antichristian theories; he relishes the sight of publishing houses deluging the world with the thinly-veiled immorality of novels and other literature; birth-control clinics and easier divorce are favorable to his cause; and he influences political regimes to try to legislate religion out of existence. But, whilst with devilish cunning Satan makes a parasitical use of various human organizations, he has no visible organization of his own.
Because that is the peculiar form in which the religious fanaticism of Mr. Joseph Rutherford happens to manifest itself. No mania, whether it be religious or otherwise, has any real reason other than the fact that it does break out as it does. Lunacy follows no set laws. Financially, of course, Rutherford's lunacy is very profitable.
Rutherford's doctrine is self-contradictory. If we are completely extinguished by death, there will be no "you" to stay in the grave. Nor will the non-existent "good" be able to rise again. Being non-existent, they won't be able to do anything. They won't "be." Resurrection supposes some kind of continuity of existence. Complete cessation of existence denies the possibility of resurrection. God could choose to create other beings, but they would be other beings, and not the previous beings who had been completely annihilated. God will not utterly destroy any soul. The human soul is immortal of its very nature, and it is an insult to God's wisdom to suggest that He purposely endowed the soul with an indestructible nature only to undo His work in millions of human beings.
Surely I, as a Catholic priest, should know what the Catholic religion really is. And I can assure you that Judge Rutherford has no idea of the Catholic religion. Of course you may doubt my honesty, and believe that I am only saying what I have to say. But if so, you will not doubt the verdict of the Anglican Bishop of Ballarat, Victoria, Australia, to whom the Witnesses of Jehovah submitted some of their literature, hoping that this Protestant Bishop would sympathize with their anti-Catholic bias. The Bishop wrote back to them, "I most strongly condemn the literature which you are distributing and selling. It is not, as you claim, Bible truth. It is most bigoted and dangerous error. You left me a booklet called "Uncovered," in which Judge Rutherford purports to deal with the teachings and claims of the Roman Catholic Church. This book is dangerously misleading on account of Judge Rutherford's profound ignorance of theology, and his gross misrepresentation of Bible truth. As an attempt to deal with the Roman Catholic position it is worthless. The books are so full of dangerously misleading matter that I feel they should be destroyed." There is no need for me to add anything to that verdict of the Anglican Bishop of Ballarat, who is no more inclined to accept the Roman Church than Judge Rutherford.
No sane person would humor an ignorant, deranged, and abusive charlatan whose one craving is publicity. Rutherford is as ignorant of his subject as he well could be. His challenge is as absurd as would be that of a child who is just commencing school, yet who would challenge Einstein to a debate on relativity. Again, Rutherford's books are filled with scurrilous abuse of the Catholic Church. Imagine a man calling another an unmitigated liar, and then calmly inviting him to a debate as to whether he is really an unmitigated liar or not!
Rutherford is not wily. He is but persistent and noisy. And his books can safely be left to the common sense of the average reader. If a person is so unintelligent that he cannot perceive their absurdity at a glance, he would certainly lack sufficient intelligence to see the force of any reply given during a debate.
I gravely doubt whether the Pope is aware of that. But Judge Rutherford should not be upset. He is not the only one to be deprived of such a glorious experience. Even Aimee MacPherson has not had the honor of a debate with the Pope on the respective merits of Catholicism and the "Hot Gospellers."
By their ignorance and superstition, and by Rutherford's publicity methods. If you were to apply an intelligence test to the average simple soul engaged in tramping from door to door with Rutherford's books, the results would not be very impressive. In the midst of the misery resulting from economic distress and disastrous wars, there is a vast field for such exploitation amongst thousands of people who lack any real knowledge of religion yet are religiously inclined. A man who comes with the doctrine that Satan is directly responsible for the things they hate and dread is sure of disciples. And above all when he trades on their fears of a still more dreadful catastrophe in the near future, continually asserting that he alone knows the secret by which it can be escaped.
No. In many countries the civil authorities are beginning to realize that Rutherford's doctrines are anarchical and subversive of all lawful authority. When a man scatters far and wide throughout the land streams of booklets urging people to detest, hate, and fight against the "Beast," and then identifies the "Beast" as the United States of America and the British Empire, those responsible for the welfare of those countries are not doing their duty if they allow such propaganda to continue. Then, too, the fanatics who peddle the books from door to door disturb the peace and comfort of their fellow citizens, and constitute a public nuisance. People have the right to complain and ask protection from it. The Witnesses of Jehovah, of course, make capital out of this by calling it persecution. But because one who tells the truth may be persecuted, it does not follow that all who suffer opposition are telling the truth. There is scarcely a lunatic in an asylum who does not regard the restrictions placed upon him as a form of persecution. But sane people cannot help that, and they are quite justified in restraining a dangerous maniac. And the religious mania of Judge Rutherford is contagious among simpletons, and dangerous to the welfare of the State.