The Catholic Dogma
Bishop Coxe's Dishonesty.
The story is told of a Western-bound train, flying along with lightning speed; the time was shortly after sunset. Suddenly a crash was heard: the train stopped. "What is the matter?" the passengers asked one another. A huge owl, dazzled by the glare, had struck against the reflector in front of the engine, shivered the glass, and tried to extinguish the light, and a great bull had set its head against the engine, to stop the train. The lamp was rekindled, the engine sped on, but the stupid owl and the obstinate bull were cast aside, dead, and left to rot and be devoured by wild beasts. An Irishman, on seeing them, exclaimed: "I admire your courage, but condemn your judgment."
This train may be likened to the holy Catholic Church, speeding on, on her heaven-sent mission, to lead men to heaven by the light of her holy doctrine. The foolish owl, the enemy of light and the friend of darkness, represents Lucifer, who, as the foe of God and of the light of God's holy religion, has always been endeavoring to extinguish the light of the true religion. The bull represents the kings and emperors, the heretics and members of secret societies, whom Lucifer uses to stop, if possible, the progress of the Catholic Church, the bearer of the light of faith. Although it is hard, in a certain sense, not to admire the courage of Lucifer's agents, yet we cannot but condemn their judgment, their folly, and wickedness, in opposing the work of God, and bringing down upon themselves the everlasting curse of the Almighty.
Our Divine Saviour, Jesus Christ, came to break the power of the devil over mankind; he came to banish idolatry, the worship of the devil, from among men, and lead them back to the worship and service of his heavenly Father by his holy example and divine doctrine. But no sooner had he begun to teach men his saving doctrine, than Satan opposed him. Satan is called, in Holy Scripture, the father of lies. From the beginning of the world he has tried to misrepresent every religious truth. He practised this black art in paradise; and so unhappily successful was he in it, that ever since he has practised it, in order to propagate error and vice among men. When our Saviour began to preach his holy religion, Satan practised his black art, even in the presence of Christ himself. By malicious men, the ministers of Satan, Christ was contradicted and misrepresented in his doctrine; for, instead of being believed, he was held up to the people as a blasphemer, for teaching that he was the Son of God, as the impious Caiphas declared him to be, saying, "He hath blasphemed, he is guilty of death." (Matt. xxvi. 65.) He was misrepresented in his reputation; for he was noble, of royal lineage, and yet was despised: "Is not this the carpenter's son?" (Matt. xiii. 55.) He is wisdom itself, and was represented as an ignorant man: "How doth this man know letters, having never learned?" (John vii. 17.) He was represented as a false prophet: "And they blindfolded him, and smote his face . . . saying: Prophesy who is this that struck thee ?" (Luke, xxii. 64.) He was represented as a madman: "He is mad, why hear you him?" (John, x. 20.) He was represented as a winebibber, a glutton, and a friend of sinners: "Behold a man that is a glutton and a drinker of wine, a friend of publicans and sinners." (Luke, vii. 34.) He was represented as a sorcerer: "By the prince of the devils he casteth out devils." (Matt. ix. 34.) He was represented as a heretic and possessed person: "Do we not say well of thee, that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?" (John, viii. 48.) In a word, Jesus was represented to the people as so bad and notorious a man, that no trial was deemed necessary to condemn him, as the Jews said to Pilate: "If be were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him up to thee." (John, xviii. 30.) If ever infamous calumny was carried to excess, it was undoubtedly in the case of our Saviour, "who knew not sin," who had never uttered a deceitful Word, who "did all things well," and who "passed his life in doing good, and healing all kinds of infirmities." Christ's holy doctrine and his holy Church, the teacher of his divine doctrines, are still misrepresented by Lucifer's agents, now that he is on his throne, gloriously reigning in heaven.
Our divine Saviour and his holy Apostles spoke of these agents and warned the Christians to be on their guard against them. That the Protestant Bishop Coxe is one of them is a well-known fact. In several passages of Holy Scripture he is spoken of. We give some of them for his benefit: -
1.Our blessed Saviour, foretelling the coming of false teachers, says, "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves; by their fruits ye shall know them;" and then he tells us, going on with the similitude of a tree, what shall be the portion of such false prophets. " Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit shall be cut down and cast into the fire." (Matt. vii. 15, 19.) Such is the fate of false teachers, according to Jesus Christ. St. Paul describes them in the same light, and exhorts the pastors of the Church to watch against them, that they may prevent the seduction of the flock. "I know that after my departure ravening wolves shall enter in among you, not sparing the flock: and of your own selves shall arise men speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them; therefore watch." (Acts, xx. 29.) Such is the idea the word of God gives of all who depart from the doctrine of the Church of Christ and teach falsehood; they are ravenous wolves, seducers of the people, who speak perverse things, and whose end is hel!fire.
2. St. Paul, concluding his Epistle to the Romans, warns them against such teachers in these words: "Now, I beseech you, brethren, to mark them who cause dissensions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned, and to avoid them: for they that are such serve not Christ our Lord, but their own. belly, and by pleasing speeches and good words seduce the hearts of the innocent." (Rom. xvi. 17.) Can such as these, who cause dissensions contrary to the ancient doctrine, and seduce the souls redeemed by the blood of Jesus, who are not servants of Christ, but his enemies, and are slaves to their own belly - can these, I say, be in the way of salvation? Alas! the same holy Apostle describes their fate in another text, "That they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame." (Philip. iii. 18.)
3. In St. Paul's absence some false teachers had come in, among the Galatians, and persuaded them that it was necessary for salvation to join circumcision with the gospel; on this account the apostle writes his epistle to correct this error; and though it was but an error on one point, and apparently not of great importance, yet, because it was false doctrine, the holy Apostle condemns it: "I wonder how you are so soon removed from him that called you to the grace of Christ, unto another gospel: which is not another; only there are some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we said before, I say now again, if any one preach to you a gospel besides that which ye have received, let him be accursed." (Gal. i. 6.) This shows, indeed, the crime and fate of false teachers, though their doctrine was false only on a single point.
4. St. Peter describes these unhappy men in the most dreadful colors. "There shall be among you lying teachers, who shall bring sects of perdition " (or, as the Protestant translation has it, damnable heresies) "and deny the Lord who bought them, bringing on themselves swift destruction." (II. Pet. ii. 1.) and going on to describe them, he says: "Their judgment of a long time lingereth not, and. Their destruction slumbereth not." (ver. 3.) "The Lord knoweth how: ..to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be tormented; and especially them who . . . despise governments, audacious, pleasing themselves, they fear not to bring in sects blaspheming," (ver. 9.) "leaving the right way, they have gone astray." (ver. 15. "These are wells without water, and clouds tossed with whirlwinds, to whom the mist of darkness is reserved." (ver. 17.) Good God! what a dreadful state to be in!
5. St. Paul, speaking of such as are led away by what St. Peter calls damnable heresies, says: "A man that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition, avoid; knowing that he that is such an one is subverted and sinneth, being condemned by his own judgment." (Tit. iii. 10.) Other offenders are judged and cast out of the Church by the sentence of the pastors; but heretics, more unhappy, leave the Church of their own accord, and by so doing give judgment and sentence against their own souls. (Sincere Christian by BISHOP HAY.)
Whilst writing this, we remember something remarkable that happened in France, in 1556. It may be well for Mr. Coxe to know it.
It is a well-known fact that the Catholic Church has received power from Jesus Christ to cast out devils and restrain them from injuring any of God's creatures. The Church often makes use of this power. She has instituted certain rites and prayers to be used by bishops and priests in casting out devils from possessed persons. In our little work, Triumph of the Blessed Sacrament, we have related how Almighty God permitted evil spirits to possess a certain person, called Nicola Aubry, of the town of Vervins, in France. The possession took place 1565, and lasted for several months. The Bishop of Laon, by Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, expelled the evil spirits forever, on February 8th, 1566.
When the strange circumstances of Nicola's possession became known everywhere, several Calvinist preachers came with their followers to "expose this popish cheat," as they said. On their entrance, the devil saluted them mockingly, called them by name, and told them that they had come in obedience to him. One of the preachers took his Protestant prayer-book, and began to read it with a very solemn face. The devil laughed at him, and, putting on a most comical face, he said: "Ho! ho! my good friend, do you intend to expel me with your prayers and hymns? Do you think that they will cause me pain? Don't you know that they are mine? I help to compose them?"
"I will expel thee in the name of God," said the preacher solemnly.
"You!" said the devil mockingly. "You will not expel me, either in the name of God, or in the name of the devil. Did you ever hear, then, of one devil driving out another?"
"I am not a devil," said the preacher angrily, "I am a servant of Christ."
"A servant of Christ, indeed!" said Satan with a sneer. "What! I tell you, you are worse than I am. I believe, and you do not want to believe. Do you suppose that you can expel me from the body of this miserable wretch! Ha! go first and expel all the devils that are in your own heart!"
The preacher took his leave, somewhat discomfited. On going away, he said, turning up the whites of his eyes: "Oh Lord, I pray thee, assist this poor creature !"
"And I pray Lucifer," cried the spirit, "that he may never leave you, but may always keep you firmly in his power, as he does now. Go about your business now. You are all mine; and I am your master." So they went away. They had seen and heard more than they wanted.
Bishop Coxe is well known as a famous exorcist. He does all in his power to prevent the devil (that is what he takes the Roman Catholic faith for ) from taking possession of Protestants. He knows that, if this possession should really take place, he would have no power to expel the devil of idolatry. An ounce of preventive is, in his opinion, better than a pound of cure. In this, he imitates his ancestors.
St. Augustine tells us that the Manichees and the Donatists did all in their power to raise prejudices in the minds of the people against the Roman Catholic Church. They told men that the teaching of the Church was unsound and profane doctrine, that it was full of wicked principles and human inventions, instead of divine faith; and all these calumnies were spread abroad among the people, in order that they might not think of going to the Church to learn the truth, or even suspect her to be the Church. of Christ. "The chief reason," says St. Augustine, "why I continued to live so long in the errors of the Manichees, and impugned the Catholic Church with so much violence, was, because I thought that all I heard against the Church was true. But when I found out that it was all false, I made known this falsehood to the world, in order to undeceive others who were caught in the same snare. I mingled joys and blushes, and was ashamed that I had now for so many years been barking and railing, not against the Catholic Faith, but only against the fictions of my carnal conceits. For so rash and impious was I, that those things which I might first have learned from Catholics by inquiry, I charged upon them by accusation. I was readier to impose falsehood than to be informed of the truth." This he did, deluded and deceived by the Manichees. Alas! this has not been the case of St. Augustine alone, but of almost as many as have given ear to the deserters of this Church; nay, it is at this very day the case of infinite numbers of Protestants and infidels, who, following St. Augustine in his errors, do not inquire how this thing is believed or understood by the Church, but insultingly oppose all,as if understood as they imagine. They make no difference between that which the Catholic Church teaches, and what they think she teaches. Thus they believe her guilty of as many absurdities, follies, and impieties, as the heathens did of old.
There is a Protestant. He considers the antiquity of the Roman Catholic Church; her unity in faith; the purity and holiness of her doctrine; her establishment by poor fishermen all over the world, in spite of all kinds of opposition; her invariable duration from the time of the apostles; the miracles which are wrought in her; the holiness of all those who live according to her laws; the deep science of her doctors; the almost infinite number of her martyrs; the peace of mind and happiness of soul experienced by those who have entered her bosom; the fact that all Protestants admit that a faithful Catholic will be saved in his religion; the frightful punishment inflicted by God upon all the persecutors of the Catholic Church; the melancholy death of the authors of heresies; the constant fulfillment of the words of our Lord, that his Church would always be persecuted. He seriously considers all this; he is enlightened by God's grace to see that the Roman Catholic Church alone is the true Church of Jesus Christ; he is convinced that her authority is from God, and that to hear and obey her authority is to hear and obey God himself: and so he accepts and believes all that she teaches; because it comes to him on the authority of God, and therefore must be true; not because he himself sees how or why it is true. This is true divine faith - this is the right way to become a Catholic. Such faith is absolutely necessary. It is necessary by necessity of precept. Our blessed Lord says: "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. He that believeth not shall be condemned." This precept is affirmative, in as far as it obliges us to believe all that God has revealed; it is negative, in as far as it forbids us to hold any opinions contrary to the revealed truth.
Such faith is necessary by necessity of medium, for, "without faith, it is impossible to please God." (Heb. xi. 6.) "If you believe not, you shall die in your sins." (John, v. 38; viii. 27.)
Now, this Protestant is about to join the Catholic Church. Coxe hears of it. So he goes and lectures on the idolatry and errors of the Roman Catholic Church, to prevent him from falling, as he calls it, into bad hands.
Lord Stafford was a good Catholic, but his wife a strict Protestant. He had been living several years in Abbeville, France. He begged the Bishop of Amiens, Monseigneur de la Motte, to convert his wife. "God only can convert the soul," answered the Bishop; "you can do her more good by praying for her than by talking to her."
Now Lady Stafford had a great esteem for St. Francis de Sales. "If I could meet a bishop like him," she said, "I might become a Catholic." She had an interview with the Bishop of Amiens. At first, he avoided the subject of religion, and sought to gain her confidence. One day he asked her if her conscience was entirely at rest, if she had no doubts about her religion, living thus separated from the Church. "With the Bible in my hand," she answered, "I fear no one. I am quite satisfied." The words of the bishop, however, made a deep impression on her. She began to doubt seriously of the truth of her sect. She consulted the bishop. She heard one of his sermons, and conceived a great desire to be able to profess the same religious belief as this saintly prelate. She had yet some doubts about holy Mass and purgatory. She consulted the bishop once more. Instead of settling her doubts immediately, the bishop said: "Madame, you are acquainted with the Protestant Bishop of London. You have evidently great confidence in him. Go, then, and lay before him what I now tell you: The Bishop of Amiens declares that he will become a Protestant, if you can disprove the fact that St. Angustine, whom you regard as one of the greatest lights of the Church, offered up the holy Mass, and offered it up for the dead, viz., for his own deceased mother." The proposition was accepted. Lady Stafford begged her husband to go to London, and there, incognito, place the written message in the hands of the Protestant bishop, and bring back his written answer. The Protestant bishop read the message, and, on being requested to write an answer, he said: "This lady has fallen into bad hands; she will be perverted. Whatever I might say will not hinder the evil. A letter from me would only give rise to misunderstandings and unpleasant recriminations." As we may imagine, Lady Stafford was greatly surprised at this answer. She was sincere. It was evident that the bishop did not wish to answer, because he could not.
These two thoughts especially moved her to take the final step: "1. No Catholic ever became a Protestant in order to do penance for his sins, and to return to God, while many Protestants have become Catholics for this very reason.
"2. The Protestants honor as saints many doctors and fathers of the Church who taught a doctrine just the reverse of Protestantism; and, consequently, Protestants must admit that one can become a saint by imitating these holy doctors, and by living and dying in their belief. Lady Stafford made the spiritual exercises for a few days in a convent, and finally became a good, fervent Catholic." (Herbert.)
Like the London Protestant bishop, Bishop Coxe, too, knows that many non-Catholics have fallen into bad hands and became very edifying Catholics. He knows that good Catholic books, that clearly explain the Catholic religion, are also bad hands by which many non-Catholics have been converted to the Catholic Church. He knows that Familiar Explanation of Christian Doctrine is also one of those bad hands. To prevent non-Catholics from reading this little book, which proves so clearly that only the Roman Catholic Church is the true Church of Christ, and that no salvation is possible out of her, he takes from it a few questions and answers, dishonestly detached from the context, and twists them, as he does Holy Scripture, to his own destruction and to that of his neighbor.
We have not learned what Bishop Coxe has said on these questions and answers; but, to judge from the anonymous article Queer Explanation, we understand that he used them as arguments to denounce the idolatry and error of the Catholic religion.
It is not from conviction that Mr. Coxe declares the Catholic religion idolatrous and full of errors, for he knows too well that idolatry was abolished by the Catholic Church, and that, if it were not for her, he himself would be an idolater. If Coxe slanders the Spouse of Christ in a most impious manner, it is from devilish hatred to her. And why is it that he and many other Protestants entertain a devilish hatred to the Catholic Church?
"The so-called Reformers," says Dr. O. A. Brownson, "supposed at first that they could maintain dogmatic religion by means of the Bible, without any divinely authorized interpreter or teacher, for they were not aware at first how much their interpretation of Scripture depended on the tradition of the Church in which they had all been educated. When shown this by Catholics, and shown still further that the Bible, interpreted by tradition, supported the claims of the papacy and the Catholic Church, from which they had separated, they were forced, in order to be consistent with themselves, either to return to the Catholic Church or to reject the traditional interpretation of the written word, and to rely henceforth solely, in their interpretation of the sacred text, on grammar and lexicon. But interpreted solely by grammar and lexicon, it was soon discovered that no uniform and consistent dogmatic system could with any tolerable degree of certainty be educed from the Holy Scriptures. There is no denying the fact. The variations of Protestantism, even during the lives of the reformers, the multiplication of Protestant sects, all appealing alike to the sacred text, and the experience of three hundred and more years, render it indubitable. Hard pressed by their Catholic opponents, Protestants were driven to the sad alternative of either condemning their separation from the Church and returning to her communion, or of giving up dogmatic religion as unessential and falling back on interior feeling or sentiment.
"The reformers imagined that they had opposed a truth to the authority of the Church when they asserted the authority of the Bible; but in doing this they only changed the form of their denial. Their assertion of the authority of the Bible was purely negative, simply the denial of the authority of the Church to interpret it or declare and apply its sense. It meant neither more nor less; for the Church asserted and always had asserted the authority of the Bible, interpreted and applied by the divinely instituted court in the case. The Bible, Protestant experience has proved, without the Church as that court, is as unauthoritative as are the statutes of a kingdom or republic, left to the private judgment of the citizen or subject, without the civil court to interpret and apply them to the case in hand. They, then, did not oppose to the Church as the principle of their denial any truth or authority. Nothing but pure denial, historically as well as logically, Protestantism, in spite of every refuge or subterfuge, has reached its inevitable termination - the negation of all authority, external or internal, spiritual or secular, and therefore of all faith, of all objective truth, and of all religion; for the very nature of religion is to bind the conscience, or the obligation of man to obey God."
Hence St. Alphonsus says: "To reject the divine teaching of the Catholic Church is to reject the very basis of reason and revelation, for neither the principles of the one nor those of the other have any longer any solid support to rest on; they can then be interpreted by every one as he pleases; every one can deny all truths whatsoever he chooses to deny. I therefore repeat: If the divine teaching authority of the Church, and the obedience to it, are rejected, every error will be endorsed and must be tolerated." (Appendix to his work Council of Trent.) . "Indeed, by denying the very foundation of religion, or, rejecting revealed truth," says Brownson, "we deprive reason itself of its strength; and obscure its light. It ceases to be able to hold with a firm grasp the truth that lies in its own order, as is evinced by the immense intellectual superiority of Catholics over Protestants. Compare an Irish or Spanish peasant with an English or Protestant-German peasant, the learned Benedictines of St. Maur or the Bollandists, with your most erudite Protestant scholars and critics, or the great mediaeval doctors with your most lauded Protestant theologians. The difference in mental lucidity, acuteness, and strength is so great as to render all comparison almost ridiculous."
"The age" says Dr. O. A. Brownson, "boasts of its liberality; but its boasted liberality is the result of its indifferentism to dogmatic theology, and its lack of firm belief in any positive or affirmative truth at all. The sects have ceased to cut each other's throats, for the differences between them are not worth quarrelling about, since they are all animated by one and the same spirit, and are moving in one and the same direction. Yet, wherever the age is in earnest, it is as intolerant as any preceding age. There may be individuals who honestly detest intolerance in every way or shape, but these are chiefly to be found among Catholics who take seriously the popular doctrine of religious liberty, and go out of their way to disclaim all solidarity with the past history of their Church, and to protest against the spirit, if not the very letter, of the Syllabus. The Church teaches the truth, and all truth is intolerant, and refuses to tolerate even the semblance of error. The popularity or the unpopularity of a principle or doctrine has nothing to do with its truth or with one’s obligation to stand by it. Where Catholics are in a minority, as with us, worldly prudence may seem to counsel the advocacy of what is called, but falsely so called, the freedom of conscience, that is, the right of every man to form or to choose for himself his own religion and abide by it; but a higher prudence, divine prudence, counsels adherence to Catholic principle, to that which is true always and everywhere. Neither the principles nor the doctrines of the Church change or undergo any modification with the changes or variations of time or place. No man has the right before God, however he may before the state, to hold any religion but the one only true Catholic religion, and no one can adhere to any other but at his own peril.
"Yet, with all their boasted liberality, Protestants assert only the liberty to deny the truth, and if their intolerance to Catholicity has changed its form, it has not diminished in its intensity. Their hatred of the Church has in no degree abated. Protestant nations do not now persecute Catholics, as they did in the beginning, from fear of the intervention of foreign Catholic governments, for, strictly speaking, there are no longer any Catholic governments on earth; yet their dread of the Church and hostility to everything Catholic are as great as ever, and precisely because the term Catholic is directly opposed to their denial of objective truth, and their resolution of religion into a subjective sentiment or emotion, varying with place and time, and from individual to individual. They feel this; they feel that Catholicity is the assertion of Catholic truth, and therefore that the Church differs from them, not simply in degree, as more or less, but in kind, and directly contradicts their whole order of thought. Hence the intolerance of Protestants to Catholicity is not inspired by love of truth or by zeal for the word of God, but by their want of faith, and wish to feel themselves free from all obligation to believe and hold fast the truth, to follow either reason or revelation, contented with their own opinions, whatever they may be, and satisfied to live and die in their religious indifferentism, or simple religious subjectivism. This they cannot do so long as confronted with the Catholic Church. They must destroy her or not be able to enjoy with a quiet conscience their own beliefs or no beliefs.
"The hostility to the Church does not arise from her special doctrines or dogmas, or from any intellectual conviction that they are false or unreasonable, but from the fact that she teaches that truth is objective, independent of the believer, and is obligatory, and no one has or can have the right before God to resist it. Protestants hate the Church for two reasons: 1. because she claims to teach infallibly by the divine assistance, and 2. because she maintains that truth is Catholic and binds both reason and conscience. The claim of the Church to teach by divine authority through the Pope and Councils was the principal object of hostility in the beginning. This was an absolute necessity of the position assumed by the reformers. But, we have seen, as time went on, it became necessary, in order to sustain their position against the pressure of the Catholic argument, to deny not only the authority of the Church; but also the authority of truth itself, and then to hold themselves under no obligation to regard it, and free to resist it whenever they chose. The presence and influence of the Church are opposed to this interior freedom from truth, which unbelievers call freedom of mind, and Protestants religious liberty, and both make war on her, and war to the knife, because she does not and cannot favor it: They, unbelievers, and Protestants, form an alliance against her, and seek, by all the arts and devices in their power, her total destruction from the face of the earth; for both instinctively feel that either she or they must perish.
"It is worthy of remark that in the war which Protestants and infidels have hitherto waged against the Church neither has nor pretends to have any truth or principle to oppose to her. They do not fight for the truth, nor for any affirmative or Catholic principle that she denies or neglects; but for what they call the rights of the mind, which, translated into plain English, means the emancipation of the human mind from the authority of truth, and therefore from God who is truth, or, in simpler terms still, the liberty to treat truth and falsehood as of equal value, as equally indifferent, or to deny all real distinction between them, and therefore between right and wrong. Neither reason nor revelation can tolerate this sort of liberty - intellectual and moral license rather; and the very existence and presence of the Church condemns it. Hence the irreconcilable antagonism between the Church and the sects. Yet is there a notable difference between the temper and motives of the two parties. The Church is always calm and collected, for she knows that she has the truth; she indulges in no passion, resorts to no violence, to no cruelty or harshness against her enemies, for she knows that they are only harming themselves, not her; and hence she is moved in her resistance to their blind rage only by that divine charity which seeks to save souls, not to destroy them. She is moved by love for her enemies, and seeks at all times, by all the means in her power, to do them good, - good for time and for eternity. Her temper towards them is that of infinite tenderness and compassion. But the temper of her enemies towards her is that of hatred, and hatred without cause; they are not moved by charity, by love of souls; for, if they believe in salvation at all, they believe that souls can be saved in the Church at least as well as out of it, and hence, the dupes of their own hateful passions, there is no extreme of violence or cruelty to which, where they have the power, they will not go, if they judge it necessary or useful to their cause. We see the proofs of it in the anti-Catholic legislation and measures of Prussia, of Switzerland, of protestantized Italy, revolutionary Spain, and the miserable republics south of us on this continent, where the influence of our own republic has been most hostile to religion and the peace and order of society.
"All these things prove, first, that the Protestant party do not, as they pretend, oppose the Church for purely political reasons, for she has no political power or connection; and, second, that they really, here and everywhere, oppose her because she is Catholic in her teaching, asserts truth as binding on the intellect and the conscience, in direct contradiction to their doctrine of the indifference of truth and falsehood, or that every man has the natural right to be of any religion, if not Catholic, or of no religion, as he pleases.
"There are, no doubt, Protestants in large numbers who hold the principal Christian mysteries as taught by the Church and handed down by tradition; but they, as we have said, hold them, not as Catholic truth, but as opinions, which do not bind the intellect or conscience, and which they are free to hold or reject as suits their pleasure, their convenience, or their caprice. In the popular language of the day, they are called simply religious opinions, not dogmas, and rarely articles of faith. Some may hold them to be essential doctrines of Christianity, but Christianity itself is held to be an opinion, or an interior sentiment, not a law which no one has the right to dispute, and which everyone is bound to obey. It is only one among many religions, none of which are wholly false or wholly true.
"There are, we like to believe, among Protestants, many individuals who are far superior to their Protestantism, who have not yet learned to distrust reason, who hold that truth is obligatory, that religion is the law of conscience, who are honest, upright, kind-hearted, and benevolent according to their light, and who mean to be true Christian believers. These can be reasoned with and be more or less affected by argument; but they are not genuine Protestants. They may not very well understand the doctrines retained from the Church by the early reformers, but they believe them to be revealed truths, which it would be sinful in them to deny, not mere opinions which one is free to hold or not, hold according to his pleasure. These serve to keep up a show of religion in the several Protestant sects, but they are not governed by the Protestant spirit, and if carried away, by the Protestant movement, they are not its leaders. They are the laggards in the onward march of Protestantism. You find some of them in Geneva, who in earnest condemn the measures adopted by the Council against Bishop Mermillod and the Catholic clergy; some, like Herr von Gerlach, in Prussia, who resist with all the means in their power the legislation demanded by the government against the Church and her faithful pastors; and a small number even in this country who openly oppose the iniquity of taxing Catholics for the support of schools to which their consciences forbid them to send their children. It is not these, as men, as individuals, that we denounce, for many of them we honor and esteem, but the Protestantism with which they are associated.
"That Protestants, that so-called orthodox Protestants at least, profess to hold, and claim as belonging to their Protestantism, many things that are also held by Catholics, nobody denies; but these things are no part of Protestantism, for the Church held and taught them ages before Protestantism was born. They are part and parcel of the one Catholic faith, and belong to Catholics only. Protestants can rightfully claim as Protestant only those things wherein they differ from the Church, which the Church denies, and which they assert; that is, what is peculiarly or distinctively Protestant. We cannot allow them to claim as theirs what is and always has been ours; we willingly accord them their own, but not one whit more. All which they profess to hold in common with us is ours, not theirs. Adopting this rule, which is just and unimpeachable, nothing in fact is theirs but their denials, and as all their denials are, as we have seen, made on no Catholic principle or truth, they are pure negations, and hence Protestantism is purely negative, and consequently is no religion, for all religion is affirmative.
"Nor is this all. We have seen that the Protestant denials, in both their logical and historical developments, lead to the denial of all dogmatic religion, of all objective truth, and reduce the truths of reason and of revelation to mere personal opinions, and therefore involve the denial of those very doctrines which Protestants profess to hold in common with us. The immense majority of Protestants will give up these doctrines, or consent to hold them simply as opinions with no objective authority, sooner than desert the Protestant movement or reject the denials which are the essence of Protestantism, if we may speak of the essence of a negation, which has no being in itself or elsewhere. A few of the laggards may be occasionally captured, but most of them will quicken their pace and close up with the main body. Individual conversions, indeed, are made, which the in aggregate are considerable, but which are little more than the dust in the balance compared with the whole number of Protestants, and are by far outnumbered by the Catholics who lapse, here and elsewhere, into Protestantism or infidelity.
"It is obvious, then, that to carry on a controversy Protestants, as if they were Christians simply erring as to some portions of the Christian faith, can effect nothing. They cannot be convinced by argument, for they hold firmly nothing which can serve as the basis of an argument. It seems to us much more important to strip them of all Christian pretensions, to deprive them of their prestige and the power of seduction which their Christian profession gives them, by showing them up in their utter nakedness as downright infidels, than to labor to make them accept the Catholic doctrines they avowedly reject. Infidels they are, and it is of no little importance to let it be seen that no man can be a Protestant and be at the same time a Christian or follower of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We owe this to uninstructed or imperfectly instructed, and especially to our worldly-minded Catholics, who are exposed to Protestant influences and seductions, and who would recoil with horror from open and undisguised infidelity or denial of the Lord who has bought us, and yet be tempted to fraternize with Protestants who pretend that they are Christians, and hold the essentials of the Christian faith, if they find that Catholics themselves concede that Protestants are Christians, though heterodox Christians. We owe it also to those who, in the ranks of Protestants, feel themselves bound to be Christians, and would fain be Christians. Both classes should be made to understand what is true, that Protestantism is not Christianity, is not religion, but is, when pushed to its last consequence, the denial of revelation, the denial of reason, the denial of God, the author of reason, and only a disguised atheism, or subtle form of universal negation or nihilism. Every honest Protestant should, as far as possible, be made to understand this, so that he may understand the risk he runs if he remains in the ranks of Protestants; and every Catholic should be made to understand it, so that he may see clearly that, if he yields to the seduction of Protestantism, he severs himself completely and entirely from Christ our Lord, and insures his eternal perdition.
"We know nothing more reprehensible than the mambypambyism babbled by sentimental Catholics about the good faith of ‘our separated brethren.’ There may be persons in good faith amongst Protestants, but, if so, they do not lack opportunities of showing it, and of coming out from the Babylon in which they have been reared. Men cannot be saved without Christ, for there is no other name given under heaven whereby they can be saved. Without faith it is impossible to please God, and he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and is the remunerator of them. that seek him; and how can those be saved by Christ who adhere to the party that rejects him and makes war on him. And how can they have faith or believe in God who commune with those who resolve all faith, all belief, all truth, indeed, into a mere opinion, or an inward sentiment, varying with each individual? If Catholicity in Christian, if reason is authoritative in its own province, nothing is more certain than that Protestantism is in no sense Christian, and that persons living and dying Protestants cannot be saved. It is a stultification of common sense to maintain the contrary, and besides, it practically neutralizes all our efforts to convert Protestants, and to bring them to a living and saving faith in Christ.
"We know what theologians say of invincible ignorance and we do not contradict them: Invincible ignorance excuses from sin in that whereof one is invincibly ignorant; but it gives no faith, no virtue; and without faith, without positive virtue, no man can be saved. The man who holds implicitly the Catholic faith, but errs through invincible ignorance with regard to some of its consectaria, and even dogmas, may be saved; but how can a man be said to hold implicitly the Catholic faith, who holds nothing, or rejects every principle that implies it? It is not safe to apply to Protestants, who really deny everything Catholic, a rule that is very just when applied to sincere but ignorant Catholics, or Catholics that err through inculpable ignorance. Protestantism does not stand on the footing of ordinary heterodoxy, it is no more Christian than was Greek and Roman paganism.
"No doubt, this will be complained of as illiberal, as quite too severe; but the only question we have to ask is: Is it true? Is it the law? If it is the law of God, it is true; if it is what the Church teaches, we have nothing to do with the question of its liberty or illiberality, of its severity or its leniency. All we have to guard against is against asserting it in a harsh or illiberal spirit, in a severe and cruel temper, or with any uncharitableness towards those who expose themselves to the terrible consequences of rejecting Christ and his law, or who refuse to suffer him to reign over them. We may love and pray for them, but to seek to alter the divine constitution of his kingdom is to incur ourselves the guilt of rebellion. There is but one right way; and while it is our duty to walk in it, it is also our duty to do our best to show it to those who are out of it, and induce them to come into it. It were a sin against charity to leave them to think that they can be saved out of it, or by any other way. It would alter nothing in the law, which is, independent alike of them and of us, were we to do so. A man may be as liberal as he pleases with what is his own, but to give away what is another’s is an injustice. God is just and merciful, and he loves all the works of his hands, for never would he have made anything, if he had hated it. Christ so loved even sinners that he gave his life for them, and it is a want of faith in him to doubt the wisdom or justice, the goodness or mercy of his law. The Church cannot save those who reject her, but she weeps as a loving mother over those who are out of the way, and go to sure destruction. Charity is higher and broader than blind sentimentality. It loves all men, but it loves them in God." (Review, Oct. 1873)
Every well instructed Catholic knows and understands this great truth of our religion, and would feel highly indignant at the suggestion of the least thing contrary to it.
About five years ago, if we remember well, a Protestant preacher of New Orleans acted like the Protestant Bishop Coxe. He selected, from Familiar Explanation of Christian Doctrine, the same detached sentences quoted by Coxe, to prove by them the idolatry and error of the Catholic religion. He had his long discourse inserted in a Protestant newspaper of New Orleans. His object was to prevent Protestant ladies from taking part in a fair the profits of which were to go towards paying off the debts of some Catholic churches. In reply to this malicious article Judge McGloin, a learned and devout Catholic of New Orleans, inserted in the same newspaper an elaborate article in which he clearly proved, from good Catholic authors, that the explanation which we had given of the Catholic Doctrine in question was perfectly correct.