The Faith of Our Fathers
Being a Plain Exposition and Vindication of the
Church Founded by Our Lord
James Cardinal Gibbons
Archbishop of Baltimore
Ninety-third Carefully Revised and Enlarged Edition
John Murphy Company
Baltimore, MD. New York
R. & T. Washbourne, Ltd.
10 Paternoster Row, London, and at Manchester.
Birmingham and Glasgow
Preface To The Eleventh Edition. Preface To The Forty-Seventh Edition. Preface. Preface To Eighty-Third Revised Edition. Introduction. Chapter I. The Blessed Trinity, The Incarnation, Etc. Chapter II. The Unity Of The Church. Chapter III. The Holiness Of The Church. Chapter IV. Catholicity. Chapter V. Apostolicity. Chapter VI. Perpetuity Of The Church. Chapter VII. Infallible Authority Of The Church. Chapter VIII. The Church And The Bible. Chapter IX. The Primacy Of Peter. Chapter X. The Supremacy Of The Popes. Chapter XI. Infallibility Of The Popes. Chapter XII. Temporal Power Of The Popes. I. How The Popes Acquired Temporal Power. II. The Validity And Justice Of Their Title. III. What The Popes Have Done For Rome. Chapter XIII. The Invocation Of Saints. Chapter XIV. The Blessed Virgin Mary. I. Is It Lawful To Honor Her? II. Is It Lawful To Invoke Her? III. Is It Lawful To Imitate Her As A Model? Chapter XV. Sacred Images. Chapter XVI. Purgatory And Prayers For The Dead. Chapter XVII. Civil And Religious Liberty. Chapter XVIII. Charges of Religious Persecution. I. The Spanish Inquisition. II. What About The Massacre Of St. Bartholomew? III. Mary, Queen of England. Chapter XIX. Grace—The Sacraments—Original Sin—Baptism—Its Necessity—Its Effects—Manner Of Baptizing. Chapter XX. The Sacrament Of Confirmation. Chapter XXI. The Holy Eucharist. Chapter XXII. Communion Under One Kind. Chapter XXIII. The Sacrifice Of The Mass. Chapter XXIV. The Use Of Religious Ceremonies Dictated By Right Reason. Chapter XXV. Ceremonials Of The Mass. Chapter XXVI. The Sacrament Of Penance. I. The Divine Institution Of The Sacrament Of Penance. II. On The Relative Morality Of Catholic And Protestant Countries. Chapter XXVII. Indulgences. Chapter XXVIII. Extreme Unction. Chapter XXIX. The Priesthood. Chapter XXX. Celibacy Of The Clergy. Chapter XXXI. Matrimony. Index. Footnotes
Affectionately Dedicated To The Clergy and Laity Of The Archdiocese And Province Of Baltimore.
PREFACE TO THE ELEVENTH EDITION.
The first edition of "The Faith of Our Fathers" was issued in December, 1876. From that time to the present fifty thousand copies of the work have been disposed of in the United States, Canada, Great Britain and Ireland, and in the British Colonies of Oceanica.
This gratifying result has surpassed the author's most sanguine expectations, and is a consoling evidence that the investigation of religious truths is not wholly neglected even in this iron age, so engrossed by material considerations.
Besides carefully revising the book, the author has profited by the kind suggestion of some friends, and inserted a chapter on the prerogatives and sanctity of the Blessed Virgin, which, it is hoped, will be not less acceptable to his readers than the other portions of the work.
He is also happy to announce that German editions have been published both in this country and in Germany.
He takes this occasion to return his hearty thanks to the editors of the Catholic periodicals, as well as of the secular press, for their favorable notices, which have no doubt contributed much to the large circulation of the book.
BALTIMORE, Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, 1879.
PREFACE TO THE FORTY-SEVENTH EDITION.
It is very gratifying to the author to note the large increase in the sale of "The Faith of Our Fathers." Apart from personal considerations, it is pleasing to know that the popular interest in the Catholic Church and whatever pertains to her doctrines and discipline, is growing more widespread and earnest.
Since 1879, when the eleventh revised edition was given to the public, there have been thirty-five editions, and the number of copies sold reaches nearly a quarter of a million.
This desire to understand the teachings of the Church of our Fathers is not confined to our own country. It is manifest in other lands, as shown by the translations that have been made of this exposition of Catholic belief into French, German, Spanish, Italian, Norwegian and Swedish.
In the hope that they will add to the usefulness of the book, several passages upon doctrinal subjects have been inserted.
With these few remarks, the forty-seventh edition of "The Faith of Our Fathers" is presented to the sincere and earnest seeker after religious truth by
THE AUTHOR Feast of St. Anselm, 1895.
The object of this little volume is to present in a plain and practical form an exposition and vindication of the principal tenets of the Catholic Church. It was thought sufficient to devote but a brief space to such Catholic doctrines and practices as are happily admitted by Protestants, while those that are controverted by them are more elaborately elucidated.
The work was compiled by the author during the uncertain hours which he could spare from the more active duties of the ministry. It substantially embodies the instructions and discourses delivered by him before mixed congregations in Virginia and North Carolina.
He has often felt that the salutary influence of such instructions, especially on the occasion of a mission in the rural districts, would be much augmented if they were supplemented by books or tracts circulated among the people, and which could be read and pondered at leisure.
As his chief aim has been to bring home the truths of the Catholic faith to our separated brethren, who generally accept the Scripture as the only source of authority in religious matters, he has endeavored to fortify his statements by abundant reference to the sacred text. He has thought proper, however, to add frequent quotations from the early Fathers, whose testimony, at least as witnesses of the faith of their times, must be accepted even by those who call in question their personal authority.
Though the writer has sought to be exact in all his assertions, an occasional inaccuracy may have inadvertently crept in. Any emendations which the venerated Prelates or Clergy may deign to propose will be gratefully attended to in a subsequent edition.
RICHMOND, November 21st, 1876.
PREFACE TO EIGHTY-THIRD REVISED EDITION.
The new edition of "The Faith of Our Fathers" has been carefully revised, and enriched with several pages of important matter.
It is gratifying to note that since the first edition appeared, in 1876, up to the present time, fourteen hundred thousand copies have been published, and the circulation of the book is constantly increasing.
The work has also been translated into nearly all the languages of Europe.
BALTIMORE, May 1st, 1917.
MY DEAR READER:—Perhaps this is the first time in your life that you have handled a book in which the doctrines of the Catholic Church are expounded by one of her own sons. You have, no doubt, heard and read many things regarding our Church; but has not your information come from teachers justly liable to suspicion? You asked for bread, and they gave you a stone. You asked for fish, and they reached you a serpent. Instead of the bread of truth, they extended to you the serpent of falsehood. Hence, without intending to be unjust, is not your mind biased against us because you listened to false witnesses? This, at least, is the case with thousands of my countrymen whom I have met in the brief course of my missionary career. The Catholic Church is persistently misrepresented by the most powerful vehicles of information.
She is assailed in romances of the stamp of Maria Monk, and in pictorial papers. It is true that the falsehood of those illustrated periodicals has been fully exposed. But the antidote often comes too late to counteract the poison. I have seen a picture representing Columbus trying to demonstrate the practicability of his design to discover a new Continent before certain monks who are shaking their fists and gnashing their teeth at him. It matters not to the artist that Columbus could probably never have undertaken his voyage and discovery, as the explorer himself avows, were it not for the benevolent zeal of the monks, Antonio de Marchena and Juan Perez, and other ecclesiastics, as well as for the munificence of Queen Isabella and the Spanish Court.
The Church is misrepresented in so-called Histories like Foxe's Book of Martyrs. It is true that he has been successfully refuted by Lingard and Gairdner. But, how many have read the fictitious narratives of Foxe, who have never perused a page of Lingard or Gairdner? In a large portion of the press, and in pamphlets, and especially in the pulpit, which should be consecrated to truth and charity, she is the victim of the foulest slanders. Upon her fair and heavenly brow her enemies put a hideous mask, and in that guise they exhibit her to the insults and mockery of the public; just as Jesus, her Spouse, was treated when, clothed with a scarlet cloak and crowned with thorns, He was mocked by a thoughtless rabble.
They are afraid to tell the truth of her, for
"Truth has such a face and such a mien, As to be loved needs only to be seen."(1)
It is not uncommon for a dialogue like the following to take place between a Protestant Minister and a convert to the Catholic Church:
MINISTER.—You cannot deny that the Roman Catholic Church teaches gross errors—the worship of images, for instance.
CONVERT.—I admit no such charge, for I have been taught no such doctrines.
MINISTER.—But the Priest who instructed you did not teach you all. He held back some points which he knew would be objectionable to you.
CONVERT.—He withheld nothing; for I am in possession of books treating fully of all Catholic doctrines.
MINISTER.—Deluded soul! Don't you know that in Europe they are taught differently?
CONVERT.—That cannot be, for the Church teaches the same creed all over the world, and most of the doctrinal books which I read, were originally published in Europe.
Yet ministers who make these slanderous statements are surprised if we feel indignant, and accuse us of being too sensitive. We have been vilified so long, that they think we have no right to complain.
We cannot exaggerate the offense of those who thus wilfully malign the Church. There is a commandment which says: "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor."
If it is a sin to bear false testimony against one individual, how can we characterize the crime of those who calumniate three hundred millions of human beings, by attributing to them doctrines and practices which they repudiate and abhor. I do not wonder that the Church is hated by those who learn what she is from her enemies. It is natural for an honest man to loathe an institution whose history he believes to be marked by bloodshed, crime and fraud.
Had I been educated as they were, and surrounded by an atmosphere hostile to the Church, perhaps I should be unfortunate enough to be breathing vengeance against her today, instead of consecrating my life to her defence.
It is not of their hostility that I complain, but because the judgment they have formed of her is based upon the reckless assertions of her enemies, and not upon those of impartial witnesses.
Suppose that I wanted to obtain a correct estimate of the Southern people, would it be fair in me to select, as my only sources of information, certain Northern and Eastern periodicals which, during our Civil War, were bitterly opposed to the race and institutions of the South? Those papers have represented you as men who always appeal to the sword and pistol, instead of the law, to vindicate your private grievances. They heaped accusations against you which I will not here repeat. Instead of taking these publications as the basis of my information, it was my duty to come among you; to live with you; to read your life by studying your public and private character. This I have done, and I here cheerfully bear witness to your many excellent traits of mind and heart.
Now I ask you to give to the Catholic Church the same measure of fairness which you reasonably demand of me when judging of Southern character. Ask not her enemies what she is, for they are blinded by passion; ask not her ungrateful, renegade children, for you never heard a son speaking well of the mother whom he had abandoned and despised.
Study her history in the pages of truth. Examine her creed. Read her authorized catechisms and doctrinal books. You will find them everywhere on the shelves of booksellers, in the libraries of her clergy, on the tables of Catholic families.
There is no Freemasonry in the Catholic Church; she has no secrets to keep back. She has not one set of doctrines for Bishops and Priests, and another for the laity. She has not one creed for the initiated and another for outsiders. Everything in the Catholic Church is open and above board. She has the same doctrines for all—for the Pope and the peasant.
Should not I be better qualified to present to you the Church's creed than the unfriendly witnesses whom I have mentioned?
I have imbibed her doctrine with my mother's milk. I have made her history and theology the study of my life. What motive can I have in misleading you? Not temporal reward, since I seek not your money, but your soul, for which Jesus Christ died. I could not hope for an eternal reward by deceiving you, for I would thereby purchase for myself eternal condemnation by gaining proselytes at the expense of truth.
This, friendly reader, is my only motive. I feel in the depth of my heart that, in possessing Catholic faith, I hold a treasure compared with which all things earthly are but dross. Instead of wishing to bury this treasure in my breast, I long to share it with you, especially as I lose no part of my spiritual riches by communicating them to others.
It is to me a duty and a labor of love to speak the truth concerning my venerable Mother, so much maligned in our days. Were a tithe of the accusations which are brought against her true, I would not be attached to her ministry, nor even to her communion, for a single day. I know these charges to be false. The longer I know her, the more I admire and venerate her. Every day she develops before me new spiritual charms.
Ah! my dear friend, if you saw her as her children see her, she would no longer appear to you as typified by the woman of Babylon. She would be revealed to you, "Bright as the sun, fair as the moon;" with the beauty of Heaven stamped upon her brow, glorious "as an army in battle array." You would love her, you would cling to her and embrace her. With her children, you would rise up in reverence "and call her blessed."
Consider what you lose and what you gain in embracing the Catholic religion.
Your loss is nothing in comparison with your gain. You do not surrender your manhood or your dignity or independence or reasoning powers. You give up none of those revealed truths which you may possess already. The only restraint imposed upon you is the restraint of the Gospel, and to this you will not reasonably object.
You gain everything that is worth having. You acquire a full and connected knowledge of God's revelation. You get possession of the whole truth as it is in Jesus. You no longer see it in fragments, but reflected before you in all its beauty, as in a polished mirror. While others are outside criticising the architecture of the temple, you are inside worshiping the divine Architect and saying devoutly with the Psalmist: "I have loved O Lord, the beauty of Thy house and the place where Thy glory dwelleth." While others from without find in the stained-glass windows only blurred and confused figures without symmetry or attraction or meaning, you from within, are gazing with silent rapture on God's glorified saints, with their outlines clearly defined on the windows, and all illuminated with the sunlight of heaven. Your knowledge of the truth is not only complete and harmonious, but it becomes fixed and steady. You exchange opinion for certainty. You are no longer "tossed about by every wind of doctrine," but you are firmly grounded on the rock of truth. Then you enjoy that profound peace which springs from the conscious possession of the truth.
In coming to the Church, you are not entering a strange place, but you are returning to your Father's home. The house and furniture may look odd to you, but it is just the same as your forefathers left it three hundred years ago. In coming back to the Church, you worship where your fathers worshiped before you, you kneel before the altar at which they knelt, you receive the Sacraments which they received, and respect the authority of the clergy whom they venerated. You come back like the Prodigal Son to the home of your father and mother. The garment of joy is placed upon you, the banquet of love is set before you, and you receive the kiss of peace as a pledge of your filiation and adoption. One hearty embrace of your tender Mother will compensate you for all the sacrifices you may have made, and you will exclaim with the penitent Augustine: "Too late have I known thee, O Beauty, ever ancient and ever new, too late have I loved thee." Should the perusal of this book bring one soul to the knowledge of the Church, my labor will be amply rewarded.
Remember that nothing is so essential as the salvation of your immortal soul, "for what doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?"(2) Let not, therefore, the fear of offending friends and relatives, the persecution of men, the loss of earthly possessions, nor any other temporal calamity, deter you from investigating and embracing the true religion. "For our present tribulation, which is momentary and light, worketh for us above measure exceedingly an eternal weight of glory."(3)
May God give you light to see the truth, and, having seen it, may He give you courage and strength to follow it!
THE BLESSED TRINITY, THE INCARNATION, ETC.
The Catholic Church teaches that there is but one God, who is infinite in knowledge, in power, in goodness, and in every other perfection; who created all things by His omnipotence, and governs them by His Providence.
In this one God there are three distinct Persons,—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, who are perfectly equal to each other.
We believe that Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, is perfect God and perfect Man. He is God, for He "is over all things, God blessed forever."(4) "He is God of the substance of the Father, begotten before time; and He is Man of the substance of His Mother, born in time."(5) Out of love for us, and in order to rescue us from the miseries entailed upon us by the disobedience of our first parents, the Divine Word descended from heaven, and became Man in the womb of the Virgin Mary, by the operation of the Holy Ghost. He was born on Christmas day, in a stable at Bethlehem.
After having led a life of obscurity for about thirty years, chiefly at Nazareth, He commenced His public career. He associated with Him a number of men who are named Apostles, whom He instructed in the doctrines of the religion which He established.
For three years He went about doing good, giving sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, healing all kinds of diseases, raising the dead to life, and preaching throughout Judea the new Gospel of peace.(6)
On Good Friday He was crucified on Mount Calvary, and thus purchased for us redemption by His death. Hence Jesus exclusively bears the titles of Savior and Redeemer, because "there is no other name under heaven given to men whereby we must be saved."(7) "He was wounded for our iniquities; He was bruised for our sins, ... and by His bruises we are healed."(8)
We are commanded by Jesus, suffering and dying for us, to imitate Him by the crucifixion of our flesh, and by acts of daily mortification. "If anyone," He says, "will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me."(9)
Hence we abstain from the use of flesh meat on Friday—the day consecrated to our Savior's sufferings—not because the eating of flesh meat is sinful in itself, but as an act of salutary mortification. Loving children would be prompted by filial tenderness to commemorate the anniversary of their father's death rather by prayer and fasting than by feasting. Even so we abstain on Fridays from flesh meat that we may in a small measure testify our practical sympathy for our dear Lord by the mortification of our body, endeavoring, like St. Paul, "to bear about in our body the mortification of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our bodies."(10)
The Cross is held in the highest reverence by Catholics, because it was the instrument of our Savior's crucifixion. It surmounts our churches and adorns our sanctuaries. We venerate it as the emblem of our salvation. "Far be it from me," says the Apostle, "to glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ."(11) We do not, of course, attach any intrinsic virtue to the Cross; this would be sinful and idolatrous. Our veneration is referred to Him who died upon it.
It is also a very ancient and pious practice for the faithful to make on their person the sign of the Cross, saying at the same time: "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." Tertullian, who lived in the second century of the Christian era, says: "In all our actions, when we come in or go out, when we dress, when we wash, at our meals, before retiring to sleep, ... we form on our foreheads the sign of the cross. These practices are not commanded by a formal law of Scripture; but tradition teaches them, custom confirms them, faith observes them."(12) By the sign of the cross we make a profession of our faith in the Trinity and the Incarnation, and perform a most salutary act of religion.
We believe that on Easter Sunday Jesus Christ manifested His divine power by raising Himself to life, and that having spent forty days on earth, after His resurrection, instructing His disciples, He ascended to heaven from the Mount of Olives.
On the Feast of Pentecost, or Whitsunday, ten days after His Ascension, our Savior sent, as He had promised, His Holy Spirit to His disciples, while they were assembled together in prayer. The Holy Ghost purified their hearts from sin, and imparted to them a full knowledge of those doctrines of salvation which they were instructed to preach. On the same Feast of Pentecost the Apostles commenced their sublime mission, from which day, accordingly, we date the active life of the Catholic Church.
Our Redeemer gave the most ample authority to the Apostles to teach in His name; commanding them to "preach the Gospel to every creature,"(13) and directing all, under the most severe penalties, to hear and obey them: "He that heareth you, heareth Me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth Me. And He that despiseth Me, despiseth Him that sent Me."(14)
And lest we should be mistaken in distinguishing between the true Church and false sects, which our Lord predicted would arise, He was pleased to stamp upon His Church certain shining marks, by which every sincere inquirer could easily recognize her as His only Spouse. The principal marks or characteristics of the true Church are, her Unity, Sanctity, Catholicity, and Apostolicity,(15) to which may be added the Infallibility of her teaching and the Perpetuity of her existence.
I shall treat successively of these marks.
THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH.
By unity is meant that the members of the true Church must be united in the belief of the same doctrines of revelation, and in the acknowledgment of the authority of the same pastors. Heresy and schism are opposed to Christian unity. By heresy, a man rejects one or more articles of the Christian faith. By schism, he spurns the authority of his spiritual superiors. That our Savior requires this unity of faith and government in His members is evident from various passages of Holy Writ. In His admirable prayer immediately before His passion He says: "I pray for them also who through their word shall believe in Me; that they all may be one, as Thou, Father, in Me and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us; that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me,"(16) because the unity of the Church is the most luminous evidence of the Divine mission of Christ. Jesus prayed that His followers may be united in the bond of a common faith, as He and His Father are united in essence, and certainly the prayer of Jesus is always heard.
St. Paul ranks schism and heresy with the crimes of murder and idolatry, and he declares that the authors of sects shall not possess the Kingdom of God.(17) He also addresses a letter to the Ephesians from his prison in Rome, and if the words of the Apostle should always command our homage, with how much reverence are they to be received when he writes in chains from the Imperial City! In this Epistle he insists upon unity of faith in the following emphatic language: "Be careful to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace; one body and one Spirit, as you are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in us all."(18) As you all, he says, worship one God, and not many gods; as you acknowledge the same Divine Mediator of redemption, and not many mediators; as you are sanctified by the same Divine Spirit, and not by many spirits; as you all hope for the same heaven, and not different heavens, so must you all profess the same faith.
Unity of government is not less essential to the Church of Christ than unity of doctrine. Our Divine Saviour never speaks of His Churches, but of His Church. He does not say: "Upon this rock I will build my Churches," but "upon this rock I will build My Church,"(19) from which words we must conclude that it never was His intention to establish or to sanction various conflicting denominations, but one corporate body, with all the members united under one visible Head; for as the Church is a visible body, it must have a visible head.
The Church is called a kingdom: "He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there shall be no end."(20) Now in every well-regulated kingdom there is but one king, one form of government, one uniform body of laws, which all are obliged to observe. In like manner, in Christ's spiritual kingdom, there must be one Chief to whom all owe spiritual allegiance; one form of ecclesiastical government; one uniform body of laws which all Christians are bound to observe; for, "every kingdom divided against itself shall be made desolate."(21)
Our Savior calls His Church a sheepfold. "And there shall be made one fold and one shepherd."(22) What more beautiful or fitting illustration of unity can we have than that which is suggested by a sheepfold? All the sheep of a flock cling together. If they are momentarily separated, they are impatient till reunited. They follow in the same path. They feed on the same pastures. They obey the same shepherd, and fly from the voice of strangers. So did our Lord intend that all the sheep of His fold should be nourished by the same sacraments and the same bread of life; that they should follow the same rule of faith as their guide to heaven; that they should listen to the voice of one Chief Pastor, and that they should carefully shun false teachers.
His Church is compared to a human body. "As in one body we have many members, but all the members have not the same office; so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of the other."(23) In one body there are many members, all inseparably connected with the head. The head commands and the foot instantly moves, the hand is raised and the lips open. Even so our Lord ordained that His Church, composed of many members, should be all united to one supreme visible Head, whom they are bound to obey.
The Church is compared to a vine. "I am the Vine, ye the branches; he that abideth in Me and I in him, the same beareth much fruit, for without Me ye can do nothing."(24) All the branches of a vine, though spreading far and wide, are necessarily connected with the main stem, and from its sap they are nourished. In like manner, our Saviour will have all the saplings of His Vineyard connected with the main stem, and all draw their nourishment from the parent stock.
The Church, in fine, is called in Scripture by the beautiful title of bride or spouse of Christ,(25) and the Christian law admits only of one wife.
In fact, our common sense alone, apart from revelation, is sufficient to convince us that God could not be the author of various opposing systems of religion. God is essentially one. He is Truth itself. How could the God of truth affirm, for instance, to one body of Christians that there are three persons in God, and to another there is only one person in God? How could He say to one individual that Jesus Christ is God, and to another that He is only man? How can He tell me that the punishments of the wicked are eternal, and tell another that they are not eternal? One of these contradictory statements must be false. "God is not the God of dissension, but of peace."(26)
I see perfect harmony in the laws which govern the physical world that we inhabit. I see a marvelous unity in our planetary system. Each planet moves in its own sphere, and all are controlled by the central Sun.
Why should there not be also harmony and concord in that spiritual world, the Church of God, the grandest conception of His omnipotence, and the most bounteous manifestation of His goodness and love for mankind!
Hence, it is clear that Jesus Christ intended that His Church should have one common doctrine which all Christians are bound to believe, and one uniform government to which all should be loyally attached.
With all due respect for my dissenting brethren, truth compels me to say that this unity of doctrine and government is not to be found in the Protestant sects, taken collectively or separately. That the various Protestant denominations differ from one another not only in minor details, but in most essential principles of faith, is evident to every one conversant with the doctrines of the different Creeds. The multiplicity of sects in this country, with their mutual recriminations, is the scandal of Christianity, and the greatest obstacle to the conversion of the heathen. Not only does sect differ from sect, but each particular denomination is divided into two or more independent or conflicting branches.
In the State of North Carolina we have several Baptist denominations, each having its own distinctive appellation. There is also the Methodist Church North and the Methodist Church South. There was the Old and the New School Presbyterian Church. And even in the Episcopal Communion, which is the most conservative body outside the Catholic Church, there is the ritualistic, or high church, and the low church. Nay, if you question closely the individual members composing any one fraction of these denominations, you will not rarely find them giving a contradictory view of their tenets of religion.
Protestants differ from one another not only in doctrine, but in the form of ecclesiastical government and discipline. The church of England acknowledges the reigning Sovereign as its Spiritual Head. Some denominations recognize Deacons, Priests, and Bishops as an essential part of their hierarchy; while the great majority of Protestants reject such titles altogether.
Where, then, shall we find this essential unity of faith and government? I answer, confidently, nowhere save in the Catholic Church.
The number of Catholics in the world is computed at three hundred millions. They have all "one Lord, one faith, one baptism," one creed. They receive the same sacraments, they worship at the same altar, and pay spiritual allegiance to one common Head. Should a Catholic be so unfortunate as contumaciously to deny a single article of faith, or withdraw from the communion of his legitimate pastors, he ceases to be a member of the Church, and is cut off like a withered branch. The Church had rather sever her right hand than allow any member to corrode her vitals. It was thus she excommunicated Henry VIII. because he persisted in violating the sacred law of marriage, although she foresaw that the lustful monarch would involve a nation in his spiritual ruin. She anathematized, more recently, Dr. Doellinger, though the prestige of his name threatened to engender a schism in Germany. She says to her children: "You may espouse any political party you choose; with this I have no concern." But as soon as they trench on matters of faith she cries out: "Hitherto thou shalt come, and shalt go no farther; and here thou shalt break thy swelling waves"(27) of discord. The temple of faith is the asylum of peace, concord and unity.
How sublime and consoling is the thought that whithersoever a Catholic goes over the broad world, whether he enters his Church in Pekin or in Melbourne, in London, or Dublin, or Paris, or Rome, or New York, or San Francisco, he is sure to hear the self-same doctrine preached, to assist at the same sacrifice, and to partake of the same sacraments.
This is not all. Her Creed is now identical with what it was in past ages. The same Gospel of peace that Jesus Christ preached on the Mount; the same doctrine that St. Peter preached at Antioch and Rome; St. Paul at Ephesus; St. John Chrysostom at Constantinople; St. Augustine in Hippo; St. Ambrose in Milan; St. Remigius in France; St. Boniface in Germany; St. Athanasius in Alexandria; the same doctrine that St. Patrick introduced into Ireland; that St. Augustine brought into England, and St. Pelagius into Scotland, and that Columbus brought to this American Continent, and this is the doctrine that is ever preached in the Catholic Church throughout the globe, from January till December—"Jesus Christ yesterday, and today, and the same forever."(28)
The same admirable unity that exists in matters of faith is also established in the government of the Church. All the members of the vast body of Catholic Christians are as intimately united to one visible Chief as the members of the human body are joined to the head. The faithful of each Parish are subject to their immediate Pastor. Each Pastor is subordinate to his Bishop, and each Bishop of Christendom acknowledges the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome, the successor of St. Peter, and Head of the Catholic Church.
But it may be asked, is not this unity of faith impaired by those doctrinal definitions which the Church has promulgated from time to time? We answer: No new dogma, unknown to the Apostles, not contained in the primitive Christian revelation, can be admitted. (John xiv. 26; xv. 15; xvi. 13.) For the Apostles received the whole deposit of God's word, according to the promise of our Lord: "When He shall come, the Spirit of truth, He shall teach you all truth." And so the Church proposes the doctrines of faith, such as came from the lips of Christ, and as the Holy Spirit taught them to the Apostles at the birth of the Christian law—doctrines which know neither variation nor decay.
Hence, whenever it has been defined that any point of doctrine pertained to the Catholic faith, it was always understood that this was equivalent to the declaration that the doctrine in question had been revealed to the Apostles, and had come down to us from them, either by Scripture or tradition. And as the acts of all the Councils, and the history of every definition of faith evidently show, it was never contended that a new revelation had been made, but every inquiry was directed to this one point—whether the doctrine in question was contained in the Sacred Scriptures or in the Apostolic traditions.
A revealed truth frequently has a very extensive scope, and is directed against error under its many changing forms. Nor is it necessary that those who receive this revelation in the first instance should be explicitly acquainted with its full import, or cognizant of all its bearings. Truth never changes; it is the same now, yesterday, and forever, in itself; but our relations towards truth may change, for that which is hidden from us today may become known to us tomorrow. "It often happens," says St. Augustine, "that when it becomes necessary to defend certain points of Catholic doctrine against the insidious attacks of heretics they are more carefully studied, they become more clearly understood, they are more earnestly inculcated; and so the very questions raised by heretics give occasion to a more thorough knowledge of the subject in question."(29)
Let us illustrate this. In the Apostolic revelation and preaching some truths might have been contained implicitly, e.g., in the doctrine that grace is necessary for every salutary work, it is implicitly asserted that the assistance of grace is required for the inception of every good and salutary work. This was denied by the semi-Pelagians, and their error was condemned by an explicit definition. And so in other matters, as the rising controversies or new errors gave occasion for it, there were more explicit declarations of what was formerly implicitly believed. In the doctrine of the supreme power of Peter, as the visible foundation of the Church, we have the implied assertion of many rights and duties which belong to the centre of unity. In the revelation of the super-eminent dignity and purity of the Blessed Virgin there is implied her exemption from original sin, etc., etc.
So, too, in the beginning many truths might have been proposed somewhat obscurely or less clearly; they might have been less urgently insisted upon, because there was no heresy, no contrary teaching to render a more explicit declaration necessary. Now, a doctrine which is implicitly, less clearly, not so earnestly proposed, may be overlooked, misunderstood, called in question; consequently, it may happen that some articles are now universally believed in the Church, in regard to which doubts and controversies existed in former ages, even within the bosom of the Church. "Those who err in belief do but serve to bring out more clearly the soundness of those who believe rightly. For there are many things which lay hidden in the Scriptures, and when heretics were cut off they vexed the Church of God with disputes; then the hidden things were brought to light, and the will of God was made known." (St. Augustine on the 54th Psalm, No. 22.)
This kind of progress in faith we can and do admit; but the truth is not changed thereby. As Albertus Magnus says: "It would be more correct to style this the progress of the believer in the faith than of the faith in the believer."
To show that this kind of progress is to be admitted only two things are to be proved: 1: That some divinely revealed truths should be contained in the Apostolic teaching implicitly, less clearly explained, less urgently pressed. And this can be denied only by those who hold that the Bible is the only rule of Faith, that it is clear in every part, and could be readily understood by all from the beginning. This point I shall consider farther on in this work. 2. That the Church can, in process of time, as occasions arise, declare, explain, urge. This is proved not only from the Scriptures and the Fathers, but even from the conduct of Protestants themselves, who often boast of the care and assiduity with which they "search the Scriptures," and study out their meaning, even now that so many Commentaries on the sacred Text have been published. And why? To obtain more light; to understand better what is revealed. It would appear from this that the only question which could arise on this point is, not about the possibility of arriving by degrees at a clearer understanding of the true sense of revelation, as circumstances may call for successive developments, but about the authority of the Church to propose and to determine that sense. So that, after all, we are always brought back to the only real point of division and dispute between those who are not Catholics and ourselves, namely, to the authority of the Church, of which I shall have more to say hereafter. I cannot conclude better than by quoting the words of St. Vincent of Lerins: "Let us take care that it be with us in matters of religion, which affect our souls, as it is with material bodies, which, as time goes on, pass through successive phases of growth and development and multiply their years, but yet remain always the same individual bodies as they were in the beginning.... It very properly follows from the nature of things that, with a perfect agreement and consistency between the beginnings and the final results, when we reap the harvest of dogmatic truth which has sprung from the seeds of doctrine sown in the spring-time of the Church's existence, we should find no substantial difference between the grain which was first planted and that which we now gather. For though the germs of the early faith have in some respects been evolved in the course of time, and still receive nourishment and culture, yet nothing in them that is substantial can ever suffer change. The Church of Christ is a faithful and ever watchful guardian of the dogmas which have been committed to her charge. In this sacred deposit she changes nothing, she takes nothing from it, she adds nothing to it."
THE HOLINESS OF THE CHURCH.
Holiness is also a mark of the true Church; for in the Creed we say, "I believe in the holy Catholic Church."
Every society is founded for a special object. One society is formed with the view of cultivating social intercourse among its members; a second is organized to advance their temporal interests; and a third for the purpose of promoting literary pursuits. The Catholic Church is a society founded by our Lord Jesus Christ for the sanctification of its members; hence, St. Peter calls the Christians of his time "a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people."(30)
The example of our Divine Founder, Jesus Christ, the sublime moral lessons He has taught us, the Sacraments He has instituted—all tend to our sanctification. They all concentre themselves in our soul, like so many heavenly rays, to enlighten and inflame it with the fire of devotion.
When the Church speaks to us of the attributes of our Lord, of His justice and mercy and sanctity and truth, her object is not merely to extol the Divine perfections, but also to exhort us to imitate them, and to be like Him, just and merciful, holy and truthful. Behold the sublime Model that is placed before us! It is not man, nor angel, nor archangel, but Jesus Christ, the Son of God, "who is the brightness of His glory, and the figure of His substance."(31) The Church places His image over our altars, admonishing us to "look and do according to the pattern shown on the Mount."(32) And from that height He seems to say to us: "Be ye holy, for I the Lord your God am holy."(33) "Be ye perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect."(34) "Be ye followers of God as most dear children."(35)
We are invited to lead holy lives, not only because our Divine Founder, Jesus Christ, was holy, but also because we bear His sweet and venerable name. We are called Christians. That is a name we would not exchange for all the high-sounding titles of Prince or Emperor. We are justly proud of this appellation of Christian; but we are reminded that it has annexed to it a corresponding obligation. It is not an idle name, but one full of solemn significance; for a Christian, as the very name implies, is a follower or disciple of Christ—one who walks in the footsteps of his Master by observing His precepts; who reproduces in his own life the character and virtues of his Divine Model. In a word, a Christian is another Christ. It would, therefore, be a contradiction in terms, if a Christian had nothing in common with his Lord except the name. The disciple should imitate his Master, the soldier should imitate his Commander, and the members should be like the Head.
The Church constantly allures her children to holiness by placing before their minds the Incarnation, life and death of our Savior. What appeals more forcibly to a life of piety than the contemplation of Jesus born in a stable, living an humble life in Nazareth, dying on a cross, that His blood might purify us? If He sent forth Apostles to preach the Gospel to the whole world; if in His name temples are built in every nation, and missionaries are sent to the extremities of the globe, all this is done that we may be Saints. "God," says St. Paul, "gave some Apostles, and some Prophets, and others Evangelists, and others Pastors and Doctors, for the perfecting of the Saints, for the work of the ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ, until we all meet unto the unity of faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God unto a perfect man."(36)
The moral law which the Catholic Church inculcates on her children is the highest and holiest standard of perfection ever presented to any people, and furnishes the strongest incentives to virtue.
The same Divine precepts delivered through Moses to the Jews, on Mount Sinai, the same salutary warnings which the Prophets uttered throughout Judea, the same sublime and consoling lessons of morality which Jesus gave on the Mount—these are the lessons which the Church teaches from January till December. The Catholic preacher does not amuse his audience with speculative topics or political harangues, or any other subjects of a transitory nature. He preaches only "Christ, and Him crucified."
This code of Divine precepts is enforced with as much zeal by the Church as was the Decalogue of old by Moses, when he said: "These words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thy heart; and thou shalt tell them to thy children; and thou shalt meditate upon them, sitting in thy house, and walking on thy journey, sleeping and rising."(37)
The first lesson taught to children in our Sunday-schools is their duty to know, love and serve God, and thus to be Saints; for if they know, love and serve God aright they shall be Saints indeed. Their tender minds are instructed in this great truth that though they had the riches of Dives, and the glory and pleasures of Solomon, and yet fail to be righteous, they have missed their vocation, and are "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked."(38) "For, what doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?"(39) On the contrary though they are as poor as Lazarus, and as miserable as Job in the days of his adversity, they are assured that their condition is a happy one in the sight of God, if they live up to the maxims of the Gospel.
The Church quickens the zeal of her children for holiness of life by impressing on their minds the rigor of God's judgments, who "will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and make manifest the counsels of the hearts," by reminding them of the terrors of Hell and of the sweet joys of Heaven.
Not only are Catholics instructed in church on Sundays but they are exhorted to peruse the Word of God, and manuals of devotion, at home. The saints whose lives are there recorded serve like bright stars to guide them over the stormy ocean of life to the shores of eternity; while the history of those who have fallen from grace stands like a beacon light, warning them to shun the rocks against which a Solomon and a Judas made shipwreck of their souls.
Our books of piety are adapted to every want of the human soul, and are a fruitful source of sanctification. Who can read without spiritual profit such works as the almost inspired Following of Christ by Thomas a Kempis; the Christian Perfection of Rodriguez; the Spiritual Combat of Scupoli; the writings of St. Francis de Sales, and a countless host of other ascetical authors?
You will search in vain outside the Catholic Church for writers comparable in unction and healthy piety to such as I have mentioned. Compare, for instance, Kempis with Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, or Butler's Lives of the Saints with Foxe's Book of Martyrs. You lay down Butler with a sweet and tranquil devotion, and with a profound admiration for the Christian heroes whose lives he records; while you put aside Foxe with a troubled mind and a sense of vindictive bitterness. I do not speak of the Book of Common Prayer, because the best part of it is a translation from our Missal. Protestants also publish Kempis, though sometimes in a mutilated form; every passage in the original being carefully omitted which alludes to Catholic doctrines and practices.
A distinguished Episcopal clergyman of Baltimore once avowed to me that his favorite books of devotion were our standard works of piety. In saying this, he paid a merited and graceful tribute to the superiority of Catholic spiritual literature.
The Church gives us not only the most pressing motives, but also the most potent means for our sanctification. These means are furnished by prayer and the Sacraments. She exhorts us to frequent communion with God by prayer and meditation, and so imperative is this obligation in our eyes that we would justly hold ourselves guilty of grave dereliction of duty if we neglected for a considerable time the practice of morning and evening prayer.
The most abundant source of graces is also found in the seven Sacraments of the Church. Our soul is bathed in the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ at the font of Baptism, from which we come forth "new creatures." We are then and there incorporated with Christ, becoming "bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh;" "for as many of you," says the Apostle, "as have been baptized in Christ have put on Christ."(40) And as the Holy Ghost is inseparable from Christ, our bodies are made the temples of the Spirit of God and our souls His Sanctuary. "Christ loved the Church and delivered Himself up for it, that He might sanctify it, cleansing it by the laver of water, in the word of life; that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish."(41)
In Confirmation we receive new graces and new strength to battle against the temptations of life.
In the Eucharist we are fed with the living Bread which cometh down from Heaven.
In Penance are washed away the stains we have contracted after Baptism.
Are we called to the Sacred Ministry, or to the married state, we find in the Sacraments of Orders and Matrimony ample graces corresponding with the condition of life which we have embraced.
And our last illness is consoled by Extreme Unction, wherein we receive the Divine succor necessary to fortify and purify us before departing from this world.
In a word, the Church, like a watchful mother, accompanies us from the cradle to the grave, supplying us at each step with the medicine of life and immortality.
As the Church offers to her children the strongest motives and the most powerful means for attaining to sanctity of life, so does she reap among them the most abundant fruits of holiness. In every age and country she is the fruitful mother of saints. Our Ecclesiastical calendar is not confined to the names of the twelve Apostles. It is emblazoned with the lists of heroic Martyrs who "were stoned, and cut asunder, and put to death by the sword;"(42) of innumerable Confessors and Hermits who left all things and followed Christ; of spotless virgins who preserved their chastity for the Kingdom of Heaven's sake. Every day in the year is consecrated in our Martyrology to a large number of Saints.
And in our own times, in every quarter of the globe and in every department of life, the Church continues to raise up Saints worthy of the primitive days of Christianity.
If we seek for Apostles, we find them conspicuously among the Bishops of Germany, who are now displaying in prison and in exile a serene heroism worthy of Peter and Paul.
Every year records the tortures of Catholic missioners who die Martyrs to the Faith in China, Corea, and other Pagan countries.
Among her confessors are numbered those devoted priests who, abandoning home and family ties, annually go forth to preach the Gospel in foreign lands. Their worldly possessions are often confined to a few books of devotion and their modest apparel.
And who is a stranger to her consecrated virgins, those sisters of various Orders who in every large city of Christendom are daily reclaiming degraded women from a life of shame, and bringing them back to the sweet influences of religion; who snatch the abandoned offspring of sin from temporal and spiritual death, and make them pious and useful members of society, becoming more than mothers to them; who rescue children from ignorance, and instill into their minds the knowledge and love of God.
We can point to numberless saints also among the laity. I dare assert that in almost every congregation in the Catholic world, men and women are to be found who exhibit a fervent piety and a zeal for religion which render them worthy of being named after the Annas, the Aquilas and the Priscillas of the New Testament. They attract not indeed the admiration of the public, because true piety is unostentatious and seeks a "life hidden with Christ in God."(43)
It must not be imagined that, in proclaiming the sanctity of the Church, I am attempting to prove that all Catholics are holy. I am sorry to confess that corruption of morals is too often found among professing Catholics. We cannot close our eyes to the painful fact that too many of them, far from living up to the teachings of their Church, are sources of melancholy scandal. "It must be that scandals come, but woe to him by whom the scandal cometh." I also admit that the sin of Catholics is more heinous in the sight of God than that of their separated brethren, because they abuse more grace.
But it should be borne in mind that neither God nor His Church forces any man's conscience. To all He says by the mouth of His Prophet: "Behold I set before you the way of life and the way of death." (Jer. xxi. 8.) The choice rests with yourselves.
It is easy to explain why so many disedifying members are always found clinging to the robes of the Church, their spiritual Mother, and why she never shakes them off nor disowns them as her children. The Church is animated by the spirit of her Founder, Jesus Christ. He "came into this world to save sinners."(44) He "came not to call the just but sinners to repentance." He was the Friend of Publicans and Sinners that He might make them the friends of God. And they clung to Him, knowing His compassion for them.
The Church, walking in the footsteps of her Divine Spouse, never repudiates sinners nor cuts them off from her fold, no matter how grievous or notorious may be their moral delinquencies; not because she connives at their sin, but because she wishes to reclaim them. She bids them never to despair, and tries, at least, to weaken their passions, if she cannot altogether reform their lives.
Mindful also of the words of our Lord: "The poor have the Gospel preached to them,"(45) the Church has a tender compassion for the victims of poverty, which has its train of peculiar temptations and infirmities. Hence, the poor and the sinners cling to the Church, as they clung to our Lord during His mortal life.
We know, on the other hand, that sinners who are guilty of gross crimes which shock public decency are virtually excommunicated from Protestant Communions. And as for the poor, the public press often complains that little or no provision is made for them in Protestant Churches. A gentleman informed me that he never saw a poor person enter an Episcopal Church which was contiguous to his residence.
These excluded sinners and victims of penury either abandon Christianity altogether, or find refuge in the bosom of their true Mother, the Catholic Church, who, like her Divine Spouse, claims the afflicted as her most cherished inheritance. The parables descriptive of this Church which our Lord employed also clearly teach us that the good and bad shall be joined together in the Church as long as her earthly mission lasts. The kingdom of God is like a field in which the cockle is allowed to grow up with the good seed until the harvest-time;(46) it is like a net which encloses good fish and bad until the hour of separation comes.(47) So, too, the Church is that great house(48) in which there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay.
The Fathers repeat the teaching of Scripture. St. Jerome says: "The ark of Noah was a type of the Church. As every kind of animal was in that, so in this there are men of every race and character. As in that were the leopard and the kids, the wolf and the lambs, so in this there are to be found the just and the sinful—that is, vessels of gold and silver along with those of wood and clay."(49)
St. Gregory the Great writes: "Because in it (the Church) the good are mingled with the bad, the reprobate with the elect, it is rightly declared to be similar to the wise and the foolish virgins."(50)
Listen to St. Augustine: "Let the mind recall the threshing-floor containing straw and wheat; the nets in which are inclosed good and bad fish; the ark of Noah in which were clean and unclean animals, and you will see that the Church from now until the judgment day contains not only sheep and oxen—that is, saintly laymen and holy ministers—but also the beasts of the field.... For the beasts of the field are men who take delight in carnal pleasures, the field being that broad way which leads to perdition."(51)
The occasional scandals existing among members of the Church do not invalidate or impair her claim to the title of sanctity. The spots on the sun do not mar his brightness. Neither do the moral stains of some members sully the brilliancy of her "who cometh forth as the morning star, fair as the moon, bright as the sun."(52) The cockle that grows amidst the wheat does not destroy the beauty of the ripened harvest. The sanctity of Jesus was not sullied by the presence of Judas in the Apostolic College. Neither can the moral corruption of a few disciples tarnish the holiness of the Church. St. Paul calls the Church of Corinth a congregation of Saints,(53) though he reproves some scandalous members among them.(54)
It cannot be denied that corruption of morals prevailed in the sixteenth century to such an extent as to call for a sweeping reformation, and that laxity of discipline invaded even the sanctuary.
But how was this reformation of morals to be effected? Was it to be accomplished by a force operating inside the Church, or outside? I answer that the proper way of carrying out this reformation was by battling against iniquity within the Church; for there was not a single weapon which men could use in waging war with vice outside the Church, which they could not wield with more effective power when fighting under the authority of the Church. The true weapons of an Apostle, at all times, have been personal virtue, prayer, preaching, and the Sacraments. Every genuine reformer had those weapons at his disposal within the Church.
She possesses, at all times, not only the principle of undying vitality, but, besides, all the elements of reformation, and all the means of sanctification. With the weapons I have named she purified morals in the first century, and with the same weapons she went to work with a right good will, and effected a moral reformation in the sixteenth century. She was the only effectual spiritual reformer of that age.
What was the Council of Trent but a great reforming tribunal? Most of its decrees are directed to the reformation of abuses among the clergy and the laity, and the salutary fruits of its legislation are reaped even to this day.
St. Charles Borromeo, the nephew of a reigning Pope, was the greatest reformer of his time. His whole Episcopal career was spent in elevating the morals of his clergy and people. Bartholomew, Archbishop of Braga, in Portugal, preached an incessant crusade against iniquity in high and low places. St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Alphonsus, with their companions, were conspicuous and successful reformers throughout Europe. St. Philip Neri was called the modern Apostle of Rome because of his happy efforts in dethroning vice in that city. All these Catholic Apostles preach by example as well as by word.
How do Luther and Calvin, and Zuinglius and Knox, and Henry VIII. compare with these genuine and saintly reformers, both as to their moral character and the fruit or their labors? The private lives of these pseudo-reformers were stained by cruelty, rapine, and licentiousness; and as the result of their propagandism, history records civil wars, and bloodshed, and bitter religious strife, and the dismemberment of Christianity into a thousand sects.
Instead of co-operating with the lawful authorities in extinguishing the flames which the passions of men had enkindled in the city of God, these faithless citizens fly from the citadel which they had vowed to defend; then joining the enemy, they hasten back to fan the conflagration, and to increase the commotion. And they overturn the very altars before which they previously sacrificed as consecrated priests.(55) They sanctioned rebellion by undermining the principle of authority.
What a noble opportunity they lost of earning for themselves immortal honors from God and man! If, instead of raising the standard of revolt, they had waged war upon their own passions, and fought with the Catholic reformers against impiety, they would be hailed as true soldiers of the cross. They would be welcomed by the Pope, the Bishops and clergy, and by all good men. They might be honored today on our altars, and might have a niche in our temples, side by side with those of Charles Borromeo and Ignatius Loyola; and instead of a divided army of Christians, we should behold today a united Christendom, spreading itself irresistibly from nation to nation, and bringing all kingdoms to the knowledge of Jesus Christ.
That Catholicity is a prominent note of the Church is evident from the Apostles' Creed, which says: "I believe in the Holy Catholic Church." The word Catholic, or Universal, signifies that the true Church is not circumscribed in its extent, like human empires, nor confined to one race of people, like the Jewish Church, but that she is diffused over every nation of the globe, and counts her children among all tribes and peoples and tongues of the earth.
This glorious Church is foreshadowed by the Psalmist, when he sings: "All the ends of the earth shall be converted to the Lord, and all the kindreds of the Gentiles shall adore in His sight; for the kingdom is the Lord's, and He shall have dominion over the nations."(56) The Prophet Malachy saw in the distant future this world-wide Church, when he wrote: "From the rising of the sun, to the going down, My name is great among the Gentiles; and in every place there is sacrifice, and there is offered to My name a clean oblation; for My name is great among the Gentiles, saith the Lord of Hosts."(57)
When our Savior gave commission to his Apostles He assigned to them the whole world as the theatre of their labors, and the entire human race, without regard to language, color, or nationality, as the audience to whom they were to preach. Unlike the religion of the Jewish people, which was national, or that of the Mohammedans, which is local, the Catholic religion was to be cosmopolitan, embracing all nations and all countries. This is evident from the following passages: "Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations."(58) "Go ye into the whole world, and preach the Gospel to every creature."(59) "Ye shall be witnesses unto Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and even to the uttermost part of the earth."(60)
These prophecies declaring that the Church was to be world-wide and to embrace even the Gentile nations may not strike us today as especially remarkable, accustomed as we are now to meet with Christian civilization everywhere, and to see the nations of the world bound so closely together by social and commercial relations. But we must remember that when they were uttered the true God was known and adored only in an obscure, almost isolated, corner of the earth, while triumphant idolatry was the otherwise universal religion of the world.
The prophecies were fulfilled. The Apostles scattered themselves over the surface of the earth, preaching the Gospel of Christ. "Their sound," says St. Paul, "went over all the earth and their words unto the ends of the whole world."(61) Within thirty years after our Savior's Crucifixion the Apostle of the Gentiles was able to say to the Romans: "I give thanks to my God through Jesus Christ because your faith is spoken of in the entire world"(62)—spoken of assuredly by those who were in sympathy and communion with the faith of the Romans.
St. Justin, Martyr, was able to say, about one hundred years after Christ, that there was no race of men, whether Barbarians or Greeks, or any other people of what name soever, among whom the name of Jesus Christ was not invoked.
St. Irenaeus, writing at the end of the second century, tells us that the religion so marvelously propagated throughout the whole world was not a vague, ever-changing form of Christianity, but that "this faith and doctrine and tradition preached throughout the globe is as uniform as if the Church consisted of one family, possessing one soul, one heart, and as if she had but one mouth. For, though the languages of the world are dissimilar, her doctrine is the same. The churches founded in Germany, in the Celtic nations, in the East in Egypt, in Lybia, and in the centres of civilization, do not differ from each other; but as the sun gives the same light throughout the world, so does the light of faith shine everywhere the same and enlighten all men who wish to come to the knowledge of the truth."(63)
"We are but of yesterday," says Tertullian, "and already have we filled your cities, towns, islands, your council halls and camps ... the palace, senate, forum; we have left you only the temples."(64)
Clement of Alexandria, at the end of the second century, writes: "The word of our Master did not remain in Judea, as philosophy remained in Greece, but has been poured out over the whole world, persuading Greeks and Barbarians alike, race by race, village by village, every city, whole houses and hearers one by one—nay, not a few of the philosophers themselves."
And Origen, in the early part of the next century, observes: "In all Greece, and in all barbarous races within our world, there are tens of thousands who have left their national law and customary gods for the law of Moses and the Word of Jesus Christ, though to adhere to that law is to incur the hatred of idolaters and the risk of death besides to have embraced that Word; and considering how, in so few years, in spite of the attack made on us, even to the loss of life or property, and with no great store of teachers, the preaching of that Word has found its way into every part of the world, so that Greek and Barbarian, wise and unwise, adhere to the religion of Jesus, doubtless it is a work greater than any work of man."
This Catholicity, or universality, is not to be found in any, or in all, of the combined communions separated from the Roman Catholic Church.
The Schismatic churches of the East have no claim to this title because they are confined within the Turkish and Russian dominions, and number not more than sixty million souls.
The Protestant churches, even taken collectively, (as separate communions they are a mere handful) are too insignificant in point of numbers, and too circumscribed in their territorial extent, to have any pretensions to the title of Catholic. All the Protestant denominations are estimated at sixty-five million, or less than one-fifth of those who bear the Christian name. They repudiate, moreover, and protest against the name of Catholic, though they continue to say in the Apostles' Creed "I believe in the Holy Catholic Church."
That the Roman Catholic Church alone deserves the name of Catholic is so evident that it is ridiculous to deny it. Ours is the only Church which adopts this name as her official title. We have possession, which is nine-tenths of the law. We have exclusively borne this glorious appellation in troubled times, when the assumption of this venerable title exposed us to insult, persecution and death; and to attempt to deprive us of it at this late hour, would be as fruitless as the efforts of the French Revolutionists who sought to uproot all traces of the old civilization by assigning new names to the days and seasons of the year.
Passion and prejudice and bad manners may affix to us the epithets of Romish and Papist and Ultramontane, but the calm, dispassionate mind, of whatever faith, all the world, over, knows us only by the name of Catholic. There is a power in this name and an enthusiasm aroused by it akin to the patriotism awakened by the flag of one's country.
So great is the charm attached to the name of Catholic that a portion of the Episcopal body sometimes usurp the title of Catholic, though in their official books they are named Protestant Episcopalians. If they think that they have any just claim to the name of Catholic, why not come out openly and write it on the title-pages of their Bibles and Prayer-Books? Afraid of going so far, they gratify their vanity by privately calling themselves Catholic. But the delusion is so transparent that the attempt must provoke a smile even among themselves.
Should a stranger ask them to direct him to the Catholic Church they would instinctively point out to him the Roman Catholic Church.
The sectarians of the fourth and fifth centuries, as St. Augustine tells us, used to attempt the same pious fraud, but signally failed:
"We must hold fast to the Christian religion and to the communion of that Church which is Catholic, and which is called Catholic not only by those who belong to her, but also by all her enemies. Whether they will it or not the very heretics themselves and followers of schism, when they converse, not with their own but with outsiders, call that only Catholic which is really Catholic. For they cannot be understood unless they distinguish her by that name, by which she is known throughout the whole earth."(65)
We possess not only the name, but also the reality. A single illustration will suffice to exhibit in a strong light the widespread dominion of the Catholic Church and her just claims to the title of Catholic. Take the Ecumenical Council of the Vatican, opened in 1869 and presided over by Pope Pius IX. Of the thousand Bishops and upwards now comprising the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, nearly eight hundred attended the opening session, the rest being unavoidably absent. All parts of the habitable globe were represented at the Council.
The Bishops assembled from Great Britain, Ireland, France, Germany, Switzerland and from almost every nation and principality in Europe. They met from Canada, the United States, Mexico and South America, and from the islands of the Atlantic and the Pacific. They were gathered together from different parts of Africa and Oceanica. They went from the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates, the cradle of the human race, and from the banks of the Jordan, the cradle of Christianity. They traveled to Rome from Mossul, built near ancient Nineveh, and from Bagdad, founded on the ruins of Babylon. They flocked from Damascus and Mount Libanus and from the Holy Land, sanctified by the footprints of our blessed Redeemer.
Those Bishops belonged to every form of government, from the republic to the most absolute monarchy.(66) Their faces were marked by almost every shade and color that distinguished the human family. They spoke every civilized language under the sun. Kneeling together in the same great Council-Hall, truly could those Prelates exclaim, in the language of the Apocalypse: "Thou hast redeemed us, O Lord, to God in Thy blood, out of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation."(67)
What the Catholic Church lost by the religious revolution of the sixteenth century in the old world she has more than regained by the immense accessions to her ranks in the East and West Indies, in North and South America.
Never, in her long history, was she numerically so strong as she is at the present moment, when her children amount to about three hundred millions, or double the number of those who bear the name of Christians outside of her communion.
In her alone is literally fulfilled the magnificent prophecy of Malachy; for in every clime, and in every nation under the sun, are erected thousands of Catholic altars upon which the "clean oblation"(68) is daily offered up to the Most High.
It is said, with truth, that the sun never sets on British dominions. It may also be affirmed, with equal assurance, that wherever the British drum-beat sounds, aye, and wherever the English language is spoken, there you will find the English-speaking Catholic Missionary planting the cross—the symbol of salvation—side by side with the banner of St. George.
Quite recently a number of European emigrants arrived in Richmond. They were strangers to our country, to our customs and to our language. Every object that met their eye sadly reminded them that they were far from their own sunny Italy. But when they saw the cross surmounting our Cathedral they hastened to it with a joyful step. I saw and heard a group of them giving earnest expression to their deep emotions. Entering this sacred temple, they felt that they had found an oasis in the desert. Once more they were at home. They found one familiar spot in a strange land. They stood in the church of their fathers, in the home of their childhood; and they seemed to say in their hearts, as a tear trickled down their sun-burnt cheeks, "How lovely are thy tabernacles, O Lord of Hosts! My soul longeth and fainteth for the courts of the Lord. My heart and my flesh have rejoiced in the living God."(69) They saw around them the paintings of familiar Saints whom they had been accustomed to reverence from their youth. They saw the baptismal font and the confessionals. They beheld the altar and the altar-rails where they received their Maker. They observed the Priest at the altar in his sacred vestments. They saw a multitude of worshipers kneeling around them, and they felt in their heart of hearts that they were once more among brothers and sisters, with whom they had "one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all."
Everywhere a Catholic is at home. Secret societies, of whatever name, form but a weak and counterfeit bond of union compared with the genuine fellowship created by Catholic faith, hope and charity.
The Roman Catholic Church, then, exclusively merits the title of Catholic, because her children abound in every part of the globe and comprise the vast majority of the Christian family.
God forbid that I should write these lines, or that my Catholic readers should peruse them in a boasting and vaunting spirit. God estimates men not by their numbers, but by their intrinsic worth. It is no credit to us to belong to the body of the Church Catholic if we are not united to the soul of the Church by a life of faith, hope and charity. It will avail us nothing to be citizens of that Kingdom of Christ which encircles the globe, unless the Kingdom of God is within us by the reign of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.
One righteous soul that reflects the beauty and perfections of the Lord, is more precious in His sight than the mass of humanity that has no spiritual life, and is dead to the inspirations of grace.
The Patriarch Abraham was dearer to Jehovah than all the inhabitants of the corrupt city of Sodom.
Elias was of greater worth before the Almighty than the four hundred prophets of Baal who ate at the table of Jezabel.
The Apostles with the little band of disciples that were assembled in Jerusalem after our Lord's ascension, were more esteemed by Him than the great Roman Empire, which was seated in darkness and the shadow of death.
While we rejoice, then, in the inestimable blessing of being incorporated in the visible body of the Catholic Church, whose spiritual treasures are inexhaustible, let us rejoice still more that we have not received that blessing in vain.
The true Church must be Apostolical. Hence in the Creed framed in the first Ecumenical Council of Nicaea, in the year 325, we find these words: "I believe in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church."
This attribute or note of the Church implies that the true Church must always teach the identical doctrines once delivered by the Apostles, and that her ministers must derive their powers from the Apostles by an uninterrupted succession.
Consequently, no church can claim to be the true one whose doctrines differ from those of the Apostles, or whose ministers are unable to trace, by an unbroken chain, their authority to an Apostolic source; just as our Minister to England can exercise no authority in that country unless he is duly commissioned by our Government and represents its views.
The Church, says St. Paul, is "built upon the foundation of the Apostles,"(70) so that the doctrine which it propagates must be based on Apostolic teachings. Hence St. Paul says to the Galatians: "Though an angel from heaven preach a Gospel to you beside that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema."(71) The same Apostle gives this admonition to Timothy: "The things which thou hast heard from me before many witnesses the same commend to faithful men who shall be fit to teach others also."(72) Timothy must transmit to his disciples only such doctrines as he heard from the lips of his Master.
Not only is it required that ministers of the Gospel should conform their teaching to the doctrine of the Apostles, but also that these ministers should be ordained and commissioned by the Apostles or their legitimate successors. "Neither doth any man," says the Apostle, "take the honor to himself, but he that is called by God, as Aaron was."(73) This text evidently condemns all self-constituted preachers and reformers; for, "how shall they preach, unless they be sent?"(74) Sent, of course, by legitimate authority, and not directed by their own caprice. Hence, we find that those who succeeded the Apostles were ordained and commissioned by them to preach, and that no others were permitted to exercise this function. Thus we are told that Paul and Barnabas "had ordained for them priests in every church."(75) And the Apostle says to Titus: "For this cause I left thee in Crete, ... that thou shouldst ordain Priests in every city, as I also appointed thee."(76) Even St. Paul himself, though miraculously called and instructed by God, had hands imposed on him,(77) lest others should be tempted by his example to preach without Apostolic warrant.
To discover, therefore, the Church of Christ among the various conflicting claimants we have to inquire, first, which church teaches whole and entire those doctrines that were taught by the Apostles; second, what ministers can trace back, in an unbroken line, their missionary powers to the Apostles.
The Catholic Church alone teaches doctrines which are in all respects identical with those of the first teachers of the Gospel. The following parallel lines exhibit some examples of the departure of the Protestant bodies from the primitive teachings of Christianity, and the faithful adhesion of the Catholic Church to them.
Apostolic Church. Catholic Church. Protestant Churches.
1. Our Savior gives The Catholic Church All other Christian pre-eminence to Peter gives the primacy of communions practically over the other honor and jurisdiction deny Peter's supremacy Apostles: "I will give to Peter and to his over the other to thee the keys of the successors. Apostles. kingdom of heaven."(78) "Confirm thy brethren."(79) "Feed My lambs; feed My sheep."(80)
2. The Apostolic Church The Catholic Church All the Protestant claimed to be alone, of all the churches repudiate the infallible in her Christian communions, claim of infallibility. teachings. Hence the claims to exercise the They deny that such a Apostles spoke with prerogative of gift is possessed by unerring authority, and infallibility in her any teachers of their words were teaching. Her ministers religion. The ministers received not as human always speak from the pronounce no opinions, but as Divine pulpit as having authoritative truths. "When you have authority, and the doctrines, but advance received from us the faithful receive with opinions as embodying word of God, you implicit confidence their private received it not as the what the Church interpretation of the word of men, but (as it teaches, without once Scripture. And their is indeed) the word of questioning her hearers are never God."(81) "It hath veracity. required to believe seemed good to the Holy them, but are expected Ghost and to us," say to draw their own the assembled Apostles, conclusions from the "to lay no further Bible. burden upon you than these necessary things."(82) "Though an angel from heaven preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema."(83)
3. Our Savior enjoins The Church prescribes Protestants have no law and prescribes rules fasting to the faithful prescribing fasts, for fasting: "When thou at stated seasons, though some may fast fastest, anoint thy particularly during from private devotion. head and wash thy face, Lent. A Catholic priest They even try to cast that thou appear not to is always fasting when ridicule on fasting as men to fast ... and thy he officiates at the a work of Father, who seeth in altar. He breaks his supererogation, secret, will repay fast only after he says detracting from the thee."(84) The Apostles Mass. When Bishops merits of Christ. fasted before engaging ordain Priests they are Neither candidates for in sacred functions: always fasting, as well ordination, nor the "They ministered to the as the candidates for ministers who ordain Lord, and fasted."(85) ordination. them, ever fast on such "And when they ordained occasions. Priests in every city, they prayed with fasting."(86)
4. "Let women," says The Catholic Church Women, especially in the Apostle, "keep never permits women to this country, publicly silence in the preach in the house of preach in Methodist and churches. For, it is God. other churches with the not permitted them to sanction of the church speak ... It is a shame elders. for a woman to speak in the church."(87)
5. St. Peter and St. Every Catholic Bishop, No denomination John confirmed the as a successor of the performs the ceremony newly baptized in Apostles, likewise of imposing hands in Samaria: "They laid imposes hands on this country except hands on them and they baptized persons in the Episcopalians, and even received the Holy Sacrament of they do not recognize Ghost."(88) Confirmation, by which Confirmation as a they receive the Holy Sacrament. Ghost.
6. Our Savior and His The Catholic Church The Protestant churches Apostles taught that teaches, with our Lord (except, perhaps, a few the Eucharist contains and His Apostles, that Ritualists) condemn the the Body and Blood of the Eucharist contains doctrine of the Real Christ: "Take ye, and really and indeed the Presence as idolatrous, eat; this is My Body and Blood of Jesus and say that, in Body.... Drink ye all Christ under the partaking of the of this, for this is my appearance of bread and communion, we receive a Blood."(89) "The wine. memorial of Christ. chalice of benediction which we bless, is it not the communion of the Blood of Christ; and the bread which we break, is it not the participation of the Body of the Lord?"(90)
7. The Apostles were The Bishops and Priests Protestants affirm, on empowered by our Savior of the Catholic Church, the contrary, that God to forgive sins:—"Whose as the inheritors of delegates to no man the sins ye shall forgive, Apostolic prerogatives, power of pardoning sin. they are forgiven."(91) profess to exercise the "God," says St. Paul, ministry of "hath given to us the reconciliation, and to ministry of forgive sins in the reconciliation."(92) name of Christ.
8. Regarding the sick, One of the most No such ceremony as St. James gives this ordinary duties of a that of anointing the instruction: "Is any Catholic Priest is to sick is practised by man sick among you, let anoint the sick in the any Protestant him bring in the Sacrament of Extreme denomination, priests of the Church, Unction. If a man is notwithstanding the and let them pray over sick among us he is Apostle's injunction. him, anointing him with careful to call in the oil in the name of the Priest of the Church, Lord."(93) that he may anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.
9. Of marriage our Literally following the The Protestant Savior says: "Whoever Apostle's injunction, churches, as is well shall put away his wife the Catholic Church known, have so far and marry another forbids the husband and relaxed this rigorous committeth adultery wife to separate from law of the Gospel as to against her. And if the one another; or, if allow divorced persons wife shall put away her they separate, neither to remarry. And divorce husband and be married of them can marry again a vinculo is granted to another she during the life of the on various and even committeth other. trifling pretenses. adultery."(94) And again St. Paul says: "To them that are married ... the Lord commandeth that the wife depart not from her husband, and if she depart that she remain unmarried.... And let not the husband put away his wife."(95)
10. Our Lord recommends Like the Apostle and All the ministers of not only by word, but his Master, the other denominations, by His example, to Catholic clergy bind with very rare souls aiming at themselves to a life of exceptions, marry. And perfection, the state perpetual chastity. The far from inculcating of perpetual virginity. inmates of our convents the Apostolic counsel St. Paul also exhorts of men and women of celibacy to any of the Corinthians by voluntarily consecrate their flock, they more counsel and his own their virginity to God. than insinuate that the example to the same virtue of perpetual angelic virtue: "He chastity, though that giveth his virgin recommended by St. in marriage," he says, Paul, is impracticable. "doeth well. And he that giveth her not doeth better."(96)
We now leave the reader to judge for himself which Church enforces the doctrines of the Apostles in all their pristine vigor.
To show that the Catholic Church is the only lineal descendant of the Apostles it is sufficient to demonstrate that she alone can trace her pedigree, generation after generation, to the Apostles, while the origin of all other Christian communities can be referred to a comparatively modern date.
The most influential Christian sects existing in this country at the present time are the Lutherans, Episcopalians, Methodists, Presbyterians and Baptists. The other Protestant denominations are comparatively insignificant in point of numbers, and are for the most part offshoots from the Christian communities just named.
Martin Luther, a Saxon monk, was the founder of the church which bears his name. He was born at Eisleben, in Saxony, in 1483, and died in 1546.
The Anglican or Episcopal Church owes its origin to Henry VIII. of England. The immediate cause of his renunciation of the Roman Church was the refusal of Pope Clement to grant him a divorce from his lawful wife, Catharine of Aragon, that he might be free to be joined in wedlock to Anne Boleyn. In order to legalize his divorce from his virtuous queen the licentious monarch divorced himself and his kingdom from the spiritual supremacy of the Pope.