Quite aside from any narrow spirit of controversy, most persons will view the recent remarks of Cardinal O'Connell in juxtaposition to those of President Eliot upon the same subject voiced on the day preceding the Cardinal's speech.
Dr. Eliot appeared before a Harvard audience on Sunday as apostle of a new religious order. Though having a strong sense of the descent of the present from the past, he rejects almost all the religious beliefs of the past. Eclectic of the best thought of preceding ages, he faces away from them toward the future, proclaiming the present the happiest age the world has ever known. He comes with no specific answers to the ultimate problems of life. But he comes with the specific recognition that they are unanswerable. He sets truth in a new light by drawing a sharp line between what one knows, and what one is impelled by inclination merely to believe. Adjusting the conflict between science and religion, he makes plain that the central idea of the religion of the future will be the development of cooperative goodwill, "inspiring men to works of beauty, love and duty."
On the other hand Cardinal O'Connell comes forward as the best qualified defender of the old order. His answers to the questions life puts to man are clear and authoritative, drawn from a historic past. That past is the eternal teacher, never to be outgrown, never to be doubted. He says in comparing the new attitude with his own: "They have some truth. They have not all the truth, unfortunately. . . . And therefore, the presence in this locality of this temple of God, which represents the whole truth, the real truth, the fundamental truth. . . . gives the lesson every day that life can really dispense with every other sort of half truth."
It is an irony capable of confounding all coiners of catch phrases that religious discussion should occupy a prominent place at Harvard, often called "godless" to imply its apathy to such matters. Quite the contrary to "godless", Harvard can not rest with a religious ideal in conflict with secular knowledge. The period is one of transition, in which every student decides for himself whether in his case
"The old order changeth, yielding place to new." But with its motto "Veritas", Harvard does not hesitate to enter fully and without fear into an inquiry fraught with so large a significance to Truth.