The Catholic Dogma
CHAPTER V., Part II.
Of Those Heretics who are not guilty of the sin of Heresy.
Before we speak in detail of this class of heretics we must explain what is meant by LAW and CONSCIENCE.
§ 1. NATURAL LAW. (According to St. Thomas Aquinas)
God governs and directs the material world and all irrational creatures according to the laws of his omnipotence and wisdom, having provided every creature with means proportioned to the end which it has gradually to fulfil in time and place. "Thy Providence, O Father, governeth all." (Wisd. xiv. 3.) " God, with a certain law and compass, enclosed the depth; he compassed the sea with its bounds, and set a law to the waters, that they should not pass their limits." (Prov. viii. 27-30.) As to rational creatures - angels and men - God wishes to govern them by the law of goodness and justice.
The law of God's goodness for men is that they shall always glorify God by doing his holy will; that all their homage and adoration are due to him alone, and are never to be given to any creature; that they are to honor, reverence, and love those who gave them birth and brought them up; that they are not to kill one another, nor live like brutes, nor rob one another, but that every one is to treat his fellow-men as he wishes to be treated by them. To this law of divine goodness, God added for mankind the law of his justice; that is, if any one refuses to obey this law of divine goodness, he shall be subjected to the torments which God's justice has decreed for all rebellious creatures.
This law of his goodness and justice God impressed upon mankind from the very beginning. "See," says St Paul, " the goodness and severity of God: towards them, indeed, that are fallen, the severity: but towards thee, the goodness of God, if thou abide in goodness." (Rom, xi. 22.)
This law of God's goodness and justice is also called Natural Law - Law of Nature, because it is naturally impressed on the mind and heart of every rational being, and makes him know the difference between good and evil.
As man possesses the gift of reason, or, as it is some times called, " the light of nature, " no man is left in utter ignorance of God and of his will - of the Natural Law. "God has not left himself without testimony" (Acts, xiv. 16), even among the heathens, who, if they do not have full light and knowledge, may yet, as St. Paul told the Athenians, " feel after him, or find him" (Acts, xvii. 27.) "For when the Gentiles." he says, "who have not the law, do by nature those things that are of the law, these, not having the law, are a law unto themselves, who show the works of the law written in their hearts, their con science bearing witness to them." (Rom. ii. 14, 15.) This light of nature is a participation of the eternal law or wisdom of God. "The light of thy countenance, O Lord, is signed upon us," says the Royal Prophet (Ps. iv.).
Thus indicating that the light of reason, which makes us distinguish between good and evil, right and wrong, is nothing else than the impression of divine light on the soul of man.
As all men have this light of nature as a rule of right and wrong, no man can plead utter ignorance of right and wrong. Hence it is that we find, even in the heathen nations, the obligations of the natural law respected. This eternal, natural law of right and wrong is called moral law, because natural law, or sound reason, is the rule and standard of good morals; it is the rule to guide men in all their actions; it tells them what is good and bad, what they must do or avoid.
All men, without exception, know the light of nature, the first and general principles of right and wrong. But all do not know the necessary conclusions deduced from these principles. A geometrician in Paris comes to the same conclusion as another in London or in any other part of the world, that, for instance, three angles of a triangle are equal to two right angels, etc. Practical reason draws similar conclusions, if we do not lose sight of general principles; but by deviating from these principles, reason varies with circumstances. For instance, if a sum of money was intrusted to you, reason commands you to give it back to the owner. But if you knew he wanted it for the purpose of committing some bad action, as vengeance against his neighbor or country, then reason forbids you to give it to him for such a wicked deed. Still, some may think and act differently, and be, therefore, mistaken in losing sight of general principles, as others fall into error in overlooking the first principles. Natural law, therefore, is invariable for all, as long as they do not lose sight of the first principles of right and wrong.
As Natural Law comprises the first principles of right and wrong, these principles are unchangeable. It is self-evident that that which is natural cannot but be. For instance, the law of nature obliges us to worship God and love him. God, then, after having given us life and reason, never changes what is naturally necessary for his creature, namely, to adore and love his creator. Hence the natural law imperatively enjoins upon us the duties of gratitude and love towards God, from which nothing can exempt us.
§ 2. THE WRITTEN LAW
"The laws of nature," says St. Thomas Aquinas, "and all principles of justice and morality, were almost effaced in the time which elapsed between Adam and Moses. At the time of Abraham, all nations had fallen into idolatry. They were plunged into all sorts of vices. Almost all shut their eyes to the light of reason. They were like one who is falling into an abyss. The deeper he falls, the less day-light he sees. God permitted the wicked to fall into this state of universal ignorance and impiety, in order to humble their pride and arrogance. Always full of pride and perversity, they pretend that their private reason alone is sufficient for them to know their duties, and their natural powers to practise them. So, after that sad experience of their ignorance and impiety, God, in his mercy, came to their assistance by giving them the written law in the person of Moses, as a remedy for their blindness and obstinacy. The natural law is imperfect. Hence a divine law is absolutely necessary to direct us in the way of eternal beatitude. We cannot attain to a supernatural end by natural or human means. We need a divine law to direct our thoughts and actions towards that end. The judgment of men is inconsistent and changeable. They need an infallible law to direct and rectify their judgment, in order to know with certainty what they must do and avoid in order to obtain everlasting happiness. So, Almighty God added to the natural law a higher law, relating to a higher end, in the form of the Mosaic and evangelical law."
"The Law," says St. Paul, "was given through the agency of angels by the hand of a mediator." (Gal. iii. 19.) And St. Stephen said to the Jews: "Ye have received the law by the ministry of angels." (Acts, vii. 53.) St. Dionysius the Areopagite says that the angels are commissioned to bring all messages from heaven to earth, that is from God to man.
The principal object of divine law is to render man holy. "Be ye holy, as I am holy," says the Lord. This holiness consists in perfect love of God and man. This charity is the accomplishment of the Law. It is, then, by the practice that we become holy and resemble God. Hence it was necessary that the Old Law should contain different moral precepts regarding the virtues necessary for the perfect happiness of man. These moral precepts are all contained in the ten commandments. These commandments are a full explanation of the natural law. They are of a divine institution. They were communicated by the ministry of angels to Moses who proclaimed them all to the Hebrew people; but he added other precepts, ordinances, and ceremonies for the punctual observance of the commandments.
The three first prescribe our duties towards God; that is, to worship him by faith, hope, and charity; and the seven last prescribe our duties towards all our fellow-men.
§ 3. THE NEW LAW OR THE LAW OF GRACE.
The whole human race says St. Thomas Aquinas, was destined to live successively during three distinct periods. The first period was that of the Old Law, the second that of the New Law, and the third and last that of the kingdom of eternal glory. St. Paul says that the Old Law (the many ceremonial precepts) was abolished on account of its weakness and unprofitableness, for it brought nothing to perfection; but it brought into us a better hope, by which we draw nigh to God. (Heb. vii. 8.) He says again: "That the Old Law and commandment are indeed holy, just and good." Now we say that a doctrine is good when it is conformable to truth, and we say that a law is good when it is consistent with reason. Such was the Old Law; for it repressed concupiscence, which militates against reason, and it forbade all transgressions contrary to human reason and the divine Law. It acted as a physician does in restoring a patient to health by salutary prescriptions.
The chief end of man is eternal glory; but it is only by divine grace that we can merit it. The Old Law could not confer it. "The Law was given by Moses; grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." (John, i. 17.) But the Old Law was good, because it was a preparation for the Law of Grace, for the coming of the Messiah, either by giving testimony of him, or by preserving among the Jews the knowledge and worship of the true God. "Before that faith came, we were kept under the Law for that faith which was to be revealed." (Gal. iii. 23.)
However, notwithstanding the imperfection of the Old Law, the Jews had sufficient means of salvation by faith in the Redeemer to come. Jesus Christ, ardently expected, was the Saviour of the Patriarchs, of the Prophets, and of all the holy souls of the Old Law; as Jesus Christ, truly come, is the Saviour of the Apostles; martyrs, and all the holy souls of the New Law.
The Law of Jesus Christ then, or the Law of Grace, was substituted for the Old Law. This Law is called new for several reasons.
The Law of Grace is new in its author. The Old Law was given by the ministry of angels, but the New Law, by the only begotten Son of God. Hence, to prove the preeminence of the New Law above the Old Law, St. Paul says: "God had spoken in times past to our forefathers by the prophets, but he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things." (Heb. i. 1-2.)
The Law of Christ is new in its efficacy. The Old Law did not confer the grace of justification; it only prefigured and promised it in view of the New Law, which supplied the insufficiency by substituting reality for figures, and the gift of graces for promises. Thus the Law of Christ is the perfect accomplishment and realization of the Mosaic Law.
The law of Christ, is new in its rewards. Moses, as we read in the beginning of the Book of Exodus, conveyed the Hebrew people from Egypt, for the conquest of foreign nations and promised them a land flowing with milk and honey.
The Law of the Gospel proposes and promises, first of all, celestial and eternal happiness and glory. Jesus Christ began to preach the Gospel with these humble and holy words; "Do penance; the kingdom of heaven is approaching."p>
The Law of Christ is new in the perfection it requires. The law ought to direct all human acts for the observance of justice and the punishment of all crimes. But the Mosaic law punished only external acts, whilst the law of the Gospel restrains even internal acts. The one repressed the actions of the hands, whilst the other repressed oven the sinful thoughts and passions of the heart.
The Law of Christ is new in the motive of its operation. The Old Law operated only by fear and punishment, whilst the Law of Grace operates by perfect justice and charity. "For the Law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath delivered me from the law of sin and death," says St. Paul. (Rom. viii. 2.) In the Old Testament, says St. Augustine, the law was given in an external form to terrify the wicked, whilst, in the New Testament it is given by the infusion of divine charity for our justification. The Old Law of words was written on tables of stone, whilst the Law of Grace is engraved on the living tables of the hearts of the faithful. Hence the New Law is a law of grace, infused into the souls of the just, and proceeds from faith in Christ, who added counsels thereto for all who aspire to virtue and perfection.
By its divine authority, the New Law has the power to prescribe outward works and prohibit certain others. As it has made us children of light, we must perform works of justice and charity and avoid those of sin and darkness. "For you were heretofore darkness, but now light in the Lord; walk then as children of light." (Eph. v. 8.) The New Law is a law of grace and sanctity. But in order to know that we possess this divine gift of grace and sanctity, visible signs are necessary, and the sacraments are such signs of grace. He who has received the gift of grace must manifest it in words and actions; for the law of Christ orders us to profess our faiths and never to deny it on any occasion. (Matt. x. 32-33.)
The New Law, being a law of grace, charity, and liberty, adds counsels to precepts, which are not absolutely obligatory. The precepts of the New Law are of a moral, indispensable obligation, whilst the counsels are of a discretionary character, and left to our own choice. "Ointment and perfumes rejoice the heart, and the good counsels of a friend are sweet to the soul." (Prov. xxvii. 9.) Now, Christ being the essence of all wisdom and charity, his evangelical counsels are the most useful and salutary to all Christians.
Man is placed in this world between heavenly beatitudes and temporal enjoyments; so that, the more he is attached to the one, the more he renounces the other. However, it is not necessary to deprive himself of all the goods of this world to attain eternal happiness; but by depriving himself of the goods of this world, he places himself in a safer way to work out his salvation. The riches and enjoyments of this world seduce us by the attraction of three kinds of concupiscence. Hence, the new law, in order to bring us to evangelical perfection, proposes poverty as an infallible remedy to overcome the concupiscence of the eyes; chastity, to resist that of the flesh; and obedience, to conquer the pride and vanity of life. The counsels of the Gospel are thus a moral discipline which leads to sanctity and perfection. Hence St. Paul, after having counselled virginity, adds: "And this I speak for your profit, not to cast a snare upon you, but for that which may give you power to attend upon the Lord without impediment."
A certain traveller was obliged to pass through a vast forest in the darkness of the night. In order not to lose the way to his country, he carried a lamp in his hand, in the light of which he could always clearly see the way he had to travel to reach his home in safety.
In this world, we all travel towards our true country, which is heaven. We have to travel through the vast forest of this world, in the darkness of the night, that is we have to travel through the darkness of the temptations of the devil, of the flesh, and of the errors of false religions and the perverse principles of wicked men.
Now in order that we may not lose our way to heaven, God has given us a lamp in the light of which we can always see the way we must go to enter the kingdom of heaven. This lamp is especially the New Law, the true religion of Christ. "The commandments of God," says the Holy Scripture, "is a lamp, and his law is a light." (Prov. vi. 23.) The law of Jesus Christ is called a lamp, a light, because it shows to every one the way to heaven; it tells him what he must do and what he must avoid in order to please God and be saved. "Keep my commandments and my law, as the apple of thine eye, and thou shalt live" (Prov. viii. 2).
The law of Christ, therefore, is one of the greatest gifts for every man. "I will give you," says the Lords "a good gift," the gift of my commandments, "forsake not my law." (Prov. iv. 2.)
As the Law of Grace is perfect in every manner, it cannot be succeeded by any other law. It will therefore last to the end of the world.
§ 4. CONSCIENCE IN GENERAL.
God was not satisfied with showing to man the way to heaven - which is the keeping of the commandments of Jesus Christ, - he, moreover, has given to every one an invisible companion, who stays with him day and night, to the end of his life. Some give to this companion the name of conscience; others call him the oracle or voice of God in nature and heart of man, as distinct from the voice of revelation. A certain poet says: "Whatever creed be taught, or land be trod, Man's conscience is the oracle of God." Yes, the voice of conscience holds of God, and not of man; it is planted in us, before we have had any training, though such training is necessary for its strength, growth, and due formation; it is found even in the untutored savage.
When Columbus discovered America, the chieftain of an Indian tribe one day said to him; "I am told that thou hast lately come to these lands with a mighty force, and subdued many countries, spreading great fear among the people; but be not, therefore, vain-glorious. Know that, according to our belief, the souls of men have two journeys to perform after they have departed from the body: one, to a place dismal and foul, and covered with darkness, prepared for those souls who have been unjust and cruel to their fellow-men; the other, pleasant and full of light, for such as have promoted peace on earth. If, then, thou art mortal and dost expect to die, and dost believe that each one shall be rewarded according to his deeds, beware that thou wrongfully hurt no man, nor do harm to those who have done no harm to thee." (Irving's "Columbus," chap. v., p. 443.)
From this short oration of a heathen it is evident that there is a voice of conscience even in the savage, telling him what is right and wrong.
This faithful companion knows how far every one is acquainted with the law of God. He knows our desires, our words, our actions, and the omission of our duties. Now his office is to apply our knowledge of the law to every thing we desire, say, and do, in order to see whether our desires, words, and actions are in conformity with the law of God, or in opposition to it.
Hence St. Thomas says: "Conscience is not a power, but an act of the soul by which we apply to a particular action, the first principles of right and wrong. If we apply these principles to the commission or omission of an act, our conscience is witness of it. `For thy conscience knoweth that thou hast also often spoken evil of others.' (Eccles. vii., 23.) If we apply those principles to what ought or ought not to be done for the moment, our conscience excites us to do it or dissuades us from doing it. If we apply those principles to a past transaction, to know whether it was good or bad, our conscience accuses or excuses us."
Conscience, or the sense of right and wrong, which is the first element in religion, is so delicate, so fitful, so easily puzzled, obscured, perverted; so subtle in its argumentative methods, so impressible by education, so biased by pride and passion, so unsteady in its flight, that this sense of right and wrong is at once the highest of all teachers, yet the least clear and luminous in most men. Hence it is that we meet with different kinds of conscience.
§ 5. KINDS OF CONSCIENCE
1. The right or true conscience.
A right or true conscience is one which, according to sound principles, dictates what is right and wrong. For instance: Before we published our little work Familiar Explanation of Christian Doctrine, we requested the Rev. Francis J. Freel, D. D., then the beloved Pastor of the Church of St. Charles Borromeo, in Brooklyn, N.Y., and the Rev. A. Konings, C.S.S.R., one of the best theologians of this country, to examine the manuscript and see whether it was all correct in every point of doctrine. Knowing their theology well, these two theologians could judge well of the doctrine I had explained.
Here is what they wrote about the Explanation of Christian Doctrine:—
CHURCH OF ST. CHARLES BORROMEO,
BROOKLYN, August 28, 1874.
Rev. dear Father Muller:
I have carefully read and examined your excellent manuscript, entitled Familiar Explanation, etc. As far as I can judge, it is a clear, sound, orthodox, exposition of Catholic doctrine, in a form of question and answer, which cannot fail to be extremely useful for the right understanding of the truths, commandments, and sacraments of our holy religion. Particularly useful seem to be the parts which explain the True Faith, the True Church, the Infallibility of the Pope, and, well, I should have to mention every chapter, from the beginning to the end. It is another great Godsend for these days of unbelief and corruption.
I am your humble servant in the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary,
FRANCIS J. FREEL, D.D.
ILCHESTER, HOWARD Co., MD.,
September 10, 1874.
Rev. dear Father Muller:
I have most carefully read and examined your excellent manuscript, "Familiar Explanation of Christian Doctrine." I took the liberty to make a few alterations. I do not hesitate for a moment to pronounce this work of yours one of the most useful for our time and country. It is written in the true spirit of St. Alphonsus. Its theology is sound and solid, its spirit most devout, and its language simple and popular. I was particularly pleased with those chapters which treat on the Church, Papal Infallibility, Indifference to Religion, Prayer, and Grace. Your book cannot but prove most useful to those who are learning and to those who teach the Christian Doctrine. Its diligent and frequent perusal cannot fail to confirm converts in their faith, and supply Catholics with quite popular and solid arguments to refute the fallacious objections of non-Catholics. I feel confident that both the clergy and laity will hail with delight the publication of a book so well calculated to remedy the two great evils of our time and country - want of faith and true piety.
Congratulating you on having so successfully accomplished one of the most difficult works,
I am your devoted confrere,
A. KONINGS, C.S.S.R.
The Rev. Dr. Freel and the Rev. A. Konings, then, gave these testimonials according to their right or true conscience.
2. The certain conscience.
A certain conscience is one which is clear and absolute in its dictates, so that, in obeying it, we feel morally certain that we are right.
When, upon the above favorable criticisms of Explanation, the Most Rev. J. Roosevelt Bailey, Archbishop of Baltimore, gave us the Imprimatur for the little volume, his conscience was morally certain; and also our conscience was morally certain when we placed the manuscript into the hands of the printer.
By moral certainty, is meant such a one as prudent and enlightened men think it reasonable to act upon in matters of importance. It is the highest kind of certainty we can ordinarily gain in matters of daily conduct.
The Church requires no other certainty in giving permission for the publication of a work treating of faith and morals. (See Third Plenary Council of Baltimore, p. 100, No. 220). The Rev. B. Neithart, C.S.S.R., also had this moral certainty when he wrote to us, "Were it in my power, I would assuredly procure thousands of copies of this work, and distribute them broadcast over the entire land; nor would I rest till this little volume came into every household, and was thumbed by every hand—Catholic, Protestant or infidel."
The conscience of the Rt. Rev. Thomas L. Grace, Bishop of St. Paul, was morally certain of the truth he told, when he wrote to us on Dec. 10, 1881:—
"Rev. dear Father: — I received the book you were so kind to send me, `The Greatest and the First Commandment.' I am reading it. What I have already said of the other books of the series, I repeat now with greater emphasis of this one and of all, namely: These books are not merely elementary, nor are they dryly dogmatic; they give reasons and authorities, explain and illustrate, and, written in a plain and easy style, they well deserve to be entitled —Catholic Theology popularized. The science of theology, or the philosophy of religion, has been sealed except to the clergy and the highly educated among laymen. Few of the latter, however, care to go through the drudgery of study in a language foreign to them, and with forms and a terminology, requiring long practice to make familiar. Yet the greatest need of the Church in the present day is to have Catholics thoroughly instructed in the principles of their religion and the reasons for their faith. I conceive this to be your motive in writing these books — to supply the means by which this most needed knowledge may be placed within the reach of every earnest Catholic. It is this that constitutes the super-eminent excellence of these books. But not only do they instruct with utmost thoroughness and precision, they are deeply edifying; and what is of greater consideration, they are pleasing, and attractive by their style and manner. I mean no mere commendation, in writing this. These books, to be available for their real value, must be known to our Catholic people, which, I regret to say, is not the case." Many other learned prelates, and priests, and the Catholic Press of our country have spoken of my works in the same manner, as can be seen from the recommendations of my works, placed in front of the last volume of God the Teacher of Mankind.
Since the publication of this large work, we have, by Benziger Brothers, published the third improved edition of our Catechisms, and the second improved edition of Familiar Explanation of Catholic Doctrine. His Eminence, J. Cardinal Gibbons, writes of these catechisms and Familiar Examination: "They are strongly marked by soundness of doctrine, simplicity and plainness of language, a spirit of faith and devotion, and precision in expressing and defining Catholic truths." Rest assured that the Cardinal wrote this with moral certainty of the truth. It is also with the same moral certainty that many other learned prelates, priests, and the Catholic Press have testified to the orthodoxy of our Doctrine, as S. O. may read in front of our ninth volume of God the Teacher of Mankind.
3. There is also the timorous or tender conscience,
which fears not only sin, but also whatever can have the least shadow and smallest appearance of sin. Happy the conscience which is so disposed!
Splendid examples of tenderness of conscience, which have not been as yet recorded in any Catholic book, are S. O., and the Rev. Editor of the B. U. and T. See how careful they have been never to mention the name of the author of Familiar Explanation of Christian Doctrine, nor to drop from their pen one word of praise either in regard to the author, the Rev. M. Muller, C.SS.R., or in regard to any of his works, as he might be strongly tempted to vain glory, and to expose him to such a dangerous temptation would not be right for their tender conscience, which, by such an imprudent act, might lose considerable of its tenderness.
In the light of their tender conscience they also foresaw, that, if the name of the author, or of any of his works, was mentioned to the public, both many of the clergy and of the laity would be scandalized at what they said of his little volume, and that they would not believe it, knowing the author, as they do, to be a truly orthodox writer. In order, therefore, that their tender conscience might not be tormented day and night by such a scandal, and in order, also, that they might not lose their own reputation with the public, they acted in perfect conformity to the principles of their tender conscience. What an unspeakable happiness to be blessed with so tender a conscience!
4. The doubtful conscience.
A doubtful conscience is one which is, as it were, hanging in a balance, and being in suspense, uncertain whether a thing is lawful or not, whether an action is forbidden or, allowed. On both sides it sees plausible reasons, which make an impression, but amongst these reasons there is none that draws down the weight, and is sufficient to ground a determination. Thus wavering between these different and opposite reasons, it remains undetermined, and dares not make a decision for fear of being deceived, and of falling into sin. Now, it is never allowed to act with a doubtful conscience. When we do something, we must be morally sure that what we are doing is lawful. To do something, and have, at the same time, a reasonable doubt about the lawfulness of our action, is to commit sin, because we expose, ourselves to the danger of sin; If we act in such a doubt about the lawfulness of our action, we show ourselves indifferent as to whether we break a law or not, and consequently make ourselves guilty of the sin to the danger of which we expose ourselves. Hence St. Paul says: "Anything that is not according to conscience, is a sin." (Rom. xiv. 13.)
We must, then, seek for light and instruction, if we can; or, if it is necessary to act without delay, and we have neither means nor time to consult and procure information to clear the doubt and settle our conscience, after begging God to enlighten us, we must consider and examine what seems most expedient in his sight under the present circumstances, then take our determination and proceed; yet always reserving the intention of procuring information, and correcting the mistake afterwards, if anything was not according to law. This is no longer acting in doubt, as the prospect of doing what seems most expedient takes away the doubt: we may, it is true, be deceived, but we cannot sin.
Now, doubts may arise in our mind as to whether we have complied with a certain law that must be complied with. It is a law, for instance, to be validly baptized. Now, if there arises a reasonable doubt about the validity of a person's baptism, that person must be baptized again to make sure of the compliance with the law. It is a certain law that, in order to be saved, a man must profess the true faith, live up to it, and die in it. Now if a non-Catholic for good reasons doubts the truth of his religion, he is not allowed to continue to live and die in this doubt. He must, to the best of his ability, inquire about the true religion, and after having found it, he is obliged to embrace it, in order to comply with the law of professing the true divine faith and worship. It is a law that we, must confess all our mortal sins which we do remember after a careful examination of conscience. Now, if after confession we have a reasonable doubt as to whether we have confessed a certain mortal sin, we are bound to confess that sin, in order to make sure of having complied with the law of confessing all our mortal sins. If we have borrowed money from our neighbor and afterwards have a reasonable doubt as to whether we have returned it, we are still bound to pay it. In the time of war, an officer, or soldier, who doubts as to whether the war is just, is bound to obey his general, because it is a certain law that no one, much less a superior, is to be accused of unjust commands and actions, as long as there are not quite evident reasons to prove the contrary.
There is a law which says, "Thou shalt not kill." If a hunter, then, seeing something stir in a brush-wood, doubts whether it is a man or an animal, he is not allowed to fire before he is sure that it is not a man. Or should a physician, when prescribing medicine, reasonably doubt that the medicine might kill his patient, he is not allowed to prescribe such a medicine.
Whenever, then, a law exists for certain, and we doubt whether we have complied with it, we can remove the doubt only by doing what is commanded; and if the law forbids something, and we reasonably doubt that what we are about to do might violate the law, we are bound not to perform such an action; for every certain law requires a positively certain obedience.
But there may also arise in our minds doubts about the real existence of a law, that is, about its promulgation or its obligation in a certain case. There is one: he doubts whether a certain war is just. This doubt (called a speculative doubt) brings on another, whether it is lawful to take part in such a war. This last doubt is called a practical doubt, because there is question about doing something that may be against a certain law. To act under such a practical doubt is, as we have said above, to become guilty of sin.
In order not to expose ourselves to the danger of committing sin, we must be morally certain that what we are doing is lawful. This certainty, however need not be such as to exclude even every speculative doubt. For instance, one doubts whether the dish which is placed before him on a Friday is not flesh-meat. So far, this doubt is but a speculative doubt, suggesting the question as to whether or not this particular case comes under the law of abstinence. But should he before whom the dish is placed not wish to order another dish, the practical doubt arises whether it is lawful for him to eat a dish which may be forbidden by the law of abstinence. It is evident that this person, if he is conscientious, is not allowed to eat the dish before he is morally sure that the eating of it is not forbidden by the law of abstinence.
What, then, is he to do if he cannot find out whether the dish is real flesh-meat or not? whether the law of abstinence in this case is binding on him or not? Many such cases may occur, in which we entertain speculative doubts whether a law exists for such a case, or such a person, or under such a circumstance of time or place, and we may not be able to decide whether the law exists or not. But from the fact that such a speculative doubt continues, it does not follow that we can leave the matter alone and act as we please. Such conduct would, no doubt, expose us to the danger of violating a law that may really exist. To acquire moral certainty for the lawfulness of our action, we must see whether there are reasons which prove that a law really exists, or does not exist, in this or that case.
Now, in trying to find out such reasons, we may find some that may seem to prove the real existence of the law, whilst others may seem to prove that the law does not exist. It may happen that the reasons pro and con. are equally or almost equally strong, and it may also happen that the reasons pro are considerably stronger than the reasons con., or vice versa. Those reasons which are considerably stronger may increase in strength and weight (become so strong and weighty) so much as to make those opposed to them sink in weight and strength. Now the question arises, how weighty these reasons must be to induce us to judge with moral certainty that the law is uncertain and, consequently, is not binding. If the reasons proving that the law does not exist are as strong or nearly as strong as those which prove the existence of the law, then we have moral certainty, says St. Alphonsus, to believe that the law does not exist; but if the reasons proving the existence of the law are considerably stronger than those proving the contrary, then we ought to believe that the law exists.
This teaching is undoubtedly quite reasonable. In business matters, every sensible man adheres to that one of two opinions which is best grounded. In scientific matters, those opinions which are but little grounded are also but little cared for.
From what has been said, it is easy to understand what rigorism and laxism is. It is rigorism to pronounce in favor of the existence of the law in spite of very weighty reasons proving the contrary. This doctrine was condemned by Alexander VIII. Those who teach such a doctrine are called strict Tutiorists. It is still rigorism, though not quite so bad, to maintain that we must pronounce in favor of the existence of the law, even if the opinion that the law does not exist is better grounded. Those adhering to this opinion are called less strict Tutiorists. Finally, it is still rigorism to maintain that the reasons proving that the law does not exist must be considerably stronger than those proving the contrary, in order to pronounce in favor of liberty or the non-existence of the law. Those adhering to this opinion are called Probabiliorists. But each of these three opinions must be rejected. No sensible man adopts and goes by such opinions in his daily business transactions and social intercourse. No man of learning rejects, in scientific questions, the best grounded opinions and arguments. Why should we not act in the same way in discussing and deciding moral cases? What more unreasonable than the contrary?
Laxism is to maintain that the law does not exist, even if the reasons to prove the contrary should be considerably stronger and much weightier. It is self-evident that such an opinion is very lax, as it favors liberty beyond what is reasonable. It is true, those adhering to this opinion say, that in theory they only teach that the law does not exist, when there is a solid reason for its non-existence. They forget, however, that a real solid reason is no longer such, when considerably more solid reasons are opposed to it. They only care for having a solid reason for the non-existence of the law, and leave alone the more solid reasons which prove its existence. It is clear that, in discussing the question of the existence or non-existence of the law, the reasons pro and con. must be carefully weighed and compared, and if the reasons proving the existence of the law, are considerably weightier than the reasons proving its non-existence, the latter are no longer solid reasons.
Such is the doctrine of St. Alphonsus. "Those," he says, "who defend and adhere to the contrary opinion are called laxists. Their lax opinion is to be rejected in practice. Auctores elapsi saeculi quasi communiter tenuere opinionem: `Ut quis possit licite sequi opinionem etiam minus probabilem pro libertate (stantem), licet opinio pro lege sit certe probabilior.' Hane sententiam nos dicimus esse laxam et licite amplecti non posse." (In Apologia, 1769, et Homo Apost. de consc. n. 31.) In a letter, dated July 8, 1768, St. Alphonsus writes: "Librorum censor D. Delegatum adiit ipsique retulit, se opus Meum Morale legisse ejusque sententias sanas invenisse, et quod attinet systema circa probabilem, me non sequi systema Jesuitarum, sed ipsis adversari; Jesuitae enim admittunt minus probabilem, sed ego eam reprobo." And in another letter, dated May 25, 1767, St. Alphonsus writes: "Formidarem confessiones excipiendi licentiam concedere alicui ex nostris, qui sequi vellet opinionem certo cognitam ut minus probabilem."
The more ignorant or the more stupid people are, the less doubts they have. What a happiness, never to be tormented by a doubtful conscience!
5. The lax conscience.
A lax conscience is one which, for a light reason, judges to be lawful what is very unlawful, or considers a sin which is grievous only as a venial sin; in other words, a lax conscience is one which without sufficient reason favors liberty, either in order to escape the law, or to diminish the gravity of guilt. A lax conscience is generally the consequence of the neglect of prayer, of lukewarmness of the soul, of too much care and anxiety about temporal things, of familiar intercourse with the wicked, of the habit of sinning which destroys horror of sin, of a soft, tepid life, which enervates the heart and makes it quite worldly. Such a conscience is most dangerous, for it leads the soul to the broad road to hell.
The remedies for such a conscience are: frequent recourse to prayer, spiritual exercises, pious reading and meditation, frequent confession, conversation with the pious, and avoiding the company of the wicked.
But why speak here of a lax conscience and indicate the means to correct it? Is it not very imprudent to do so? Is it not to suggest indirectly the idea that we allude to S. O. and to the Rev. Editor of the B. U. and T.? But who could even dream of such nonsense.
6. The perplexed conscience.
A man's conscience is said to be perplexed, when he is placed between two actions which appear bad. There is a person: She is bound to wait upon a sick neighbor on Sunday: she thinks that it is a sin to leave that sick person, in order to go and hear Mass, and, at the same time, it appears to her that it is also a sin to stay away from Mass, in order to wait upon her sick friend. Now, if the conscience, of a person is thus perplexed, he must, as far as possible, take counsel of prudent men. If he cannot consult such, and is still under necessity of acting, he must choose what appears the lesser evil, and in so doing, he will not commit sin.
Self sufficient teachers of Catholic theology never suffer from a perplexed conscience. They say
"I am S. O., And when I open my lips, let no dog bark."
7. The scrupulous conscience.
"A scruple," says St. Alphonsus, "is a vain fear of sinning, which arises from false, groundless reasons." There is a person: for frivolous reasons he imagines that something is forbidden that is not forbidden, or that something is commanded which is not commanded. So he is disturbed, and runs into doubts without any just foundation and reasonable motives. He sinks into the state of a scrupulous conscience, which is a continual torment to the soul itself, and often also to her spiritual director. Any one who has read the Queer Explanation will be convinced that neither the most prominent priest of the U. S., nor the Rev. Editor of the B. U. and T. ever caused any annoyance and torment to his spiritual director. Would, they were the spiritual directors of all scrupulous persons! What a blessing would not this be for them; by a few words of such unscrupulous directors they would be entirely delivered from their unspeakable torment! What a blessing for all Catholic and Protestant readers of the B. U. and T. to know that the Rev. Editor has never any scruples to print articles like the Queer Explanation. They feel that they can read them without scruples, because they are written and printed without scruples, and are calculated to confirm Catholics as well as Protestants in their faith!
8. The erroneous or false conscience.
A conscience is erroneous or false when it represents to us an action as good which is really bad. For instance: every one knows that a wilful lie is a sin. Now, there is one who sees his neighbor in danger of death, and knows that by telling a lie he can save the life of his neighbor. He feels certain that such a lie cannot be a sin, and that he would sin against charity if he were not to tell it.
A conscience is also erroneous when it represents what is really good as something really bad. For example: what can be better and holier than the Catholic religion? And yet there may be found a non-Catholic who, from having been brought up in heresy, is fully persuaded from boyhood that we Catholics impugn and attack the word of God, that we are idolaters, pestilent deceivers, and, therefore are to be shunned as pestilences.
Another instance: The conscience of S. O. represented to him his own explanation of Father Muller's explanation, which is really bad for many reasons, as a good action, and it represented to him Father Muller's explanation, which is really good, as something that is really bad, and so, from his erroneous conscience, he declared publicly that Father Muller had misrepresented Catholic Theology, and dishonored the Holy Name of God!
Now, such errors of conscience are either culpable or inculpable. They are culpable, if they spring from voluntary ignorance, and they are inculpable, if they spring from involuntary ignorance.
Ignorance is voluntary or vincible, when one in doing something has certain doubts about the moral goodness or badness of his action, and about the obligation of examining whether his action is really good or bad, and, nevertheless, does not take the necessary means to find out whether what he is about to do is right or wrong. It is, for instance, a law to profess the true religion in order to be saved. Now, suppose there is a non-Catholic. A sermon on the true religion, which he heard, or a book which he read, or a conversation which he had with a friend on this subject, or the conversion of a wealthy or learned man from Protestantism to the Catholic faith, or any other good reason whatever, makes him doubt about the truth of his religion.
Such a one is obliged in conscience to seek for light and instruction, if he can. If he cannot do so immediately, he must firmly purpose to procure information, as soon as he can, from those who can give it in a satisfactory manner, and must be determined to renounce his error, if he finds out that he is living in a false religion. Meanwhile, he must beg of God to enlighten him and enable him to do what seems best to him in the present circumstances. If he, however, neglects to seek instruction when he can and ought to do so; if he continues not to heed his religious scruples about his salvation in Protestantism; if he is even afraid of learning the truth, or, if he knows it, contradicts it against his conscience and obscures it every day by unnatural crimes,— ah! then the signs are not hard to read! Such a Protestant sins against his conscience, against the Holy Ghost. He is a tree, black and dead in the middle of summer. He is fit only for the fire. If he is lost, he is lost through his own fault.
Ignorance is involuntary, or invincible, if one, in doing something, has not the least reasonable doubt about the goodness of the action. To illustrate: an heir enters upon an estate which formerly was acquired unjustly by his ancestors; but at the time when he took possession of it, he had not the least doubt about the just and lawful acquisition of the estate. In this he is in error, but the error is involuntary, and, therefore, not culpable. After some years, however, he discovers the flaw in his title, and still continues in the possession of the estate. From that time, his conscience becomes voluntarily and criminally erroneous, contrary to good faith and the dictates of a good conscience.
"If your error is voluntary," says St. Thomas Aquinas, "and you do not do all you can to find out the truth, you are answerable for your conduct in following a false conscience." Such was the conscience of the persecutors of the Church, of whom Jesus Christ says: "Yea, the hour cometh, that whosoever killeth you, will think that he doth a service to God." (John, xvi. 2. ) When, in arguing about something, one of the premises is false, the conclusion must necessarily be false. In like manner, all the acts of a conscience, whose error is voluntary or vincible, are bad and partake in the evil result of voluntary ignorance. If you are willfully ignorant of what you are bound in conscience to know, you are responsible for all your actions. Such is the conscience of many sinners, who wish to be ignorant of their duties in order to live without restraint. "They say to God," says Job, "depart from us, we do not desire the knowledge of thy ways." (Job, xxi. 14.) A conscience continuing thus is to act in a known voluntary error, becomes quite criminal in the sight of God. This is the most lamentable and most unhappy state into which a soul can fall; for this kind of conscience drives the sinner into all kinds of crimes, disorders, and excesses, and becomes to him the source of blindness of the understanding, of hardness of heart, and finally, of eternal reprobation, if he perseveres in this state to the end of his life.
Witness the writer of the infidel Press. With him it has become fashionable to get rid of religion and conscience. A man who wishes to gratify his evil desires, without shame, without remorse, says: "There is no God; there is no hell; there is no hereafter; there is only this present life, and all in it is good." He looks upon conscience as a creation of man. He calls its dictates an imagination. He says that the notion of guiltiness, which that dictate enforces, is simply irrational.
When he advocates the rights of conscience, he, of course, in no sense means the rights of the Creator, nor the duty to him, in thought and deed, of the creature; he means only the right of thinking, speaking, writing, and eating according to his judgment or his humor, without any thought of God at all. He does not even pretend to go by any moral rule, but he demands what he thinks is an American's prerogative, to be his own master in all things, and to profess what he pleases, asking no one's leave, and accounting any one unutterably impertinent who dares to say a word against his going to perdition, if he likes it, in his own way. With such a man the right of conscience means the very right and freedom of conscience to dispense with conscience, to ignore a Law-giver and Judge, to be independent of unseen obligations; to be free to take up any or no religion, to take up this or that, and let it go again, to boast of being above all religions, and to be an impartial critic of each of them; in a word, conscience is, with that man, nothing else than the right of self-will. Such is the idea which the men of the infidel Press have of conscience. Their rule and measure of right and wrong is utility, or expedience, or the happiness of the greatest number, or State convenience, or fitness, order, a long-sighted selfishness, a desire to be consistent with one's self.
But all these false conceptions of conscience will be no excuse before God for not having known better. The idea that there is no law or rule over our thoughts, desires, words and actions, and that, without sin or error, we may think, desire, say, and do what we please, especially in matters of religion is a downright absurdity.
"When God gave to man a free will," says St. Thomas, "he intended that man should freely choose what is good and reject what is evil, in order thus to gain merit — a privilege which is denied to beasts, for they blindly follow their instincts. Who can be foolish enough to think that God, in giving man a free will dispensed him from the observance of his laws? God is infinite goodness, justice, wisdom, mercy, and purity, and he impressed on man the notion of goodness, justice, mercy, purity, in order that, as he himself hates all wickedness, injustice, errors, and impurity, so man also should do the same. Hence it is impossible that God can concede to man a license to commit acts utterly repugnant to the divine nature, and also repugnant to the nature of man, who is made in the likeness and image of God.
"Our use of liberty, therefore, must be consistent with reason; it must be based upon a hatred of all that is evil, unjust, unkind, false, or impure; and upon a strong desire to attain to all that is good, true, and perfect.
"Who, then, are the worst enemies of the liberty of man? First, that ignorance and error which prevent him from distinguishing clearly that which is just and right from that which is evil and false. Secondly, his passions, which keep him from embracing the good which he knows and sees, and induce him to desire that which he knows to be bad. Thirdly, any powers or authorities external to man, which prevent him from doing that which he knows to be good and which he desires to do, or force him to do that which he sees to be unlawful, and which he shrinks from doing. Fourthly, all those who deny and pervert religious and moral truths. What wickedness, what impiety to sneer at what is good, in the present and in the future, for the intellect and will of man! How detestable are they who entangle men in the subtle webs of sophisms, and expel religion and morality from the hearts of men, who instil doubts and disputes about social truth, which is the only stable foundation on which nations and empires can tranquilly repose! Most execrable men, those who assume the right to insult the Lord and to destroy man."
After the devil has used these men for his own diabolical purposes, he will cast the vile wretches, like worn-out brooms, into the fire of hell.
The privilege that bad men have in evil,
Is that they go unpunished to the devil."
The hell of the wicked begins even in this world, and it continues throughout all eternity in the next. Hence St. Paul says: "Tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that worketh evil." (Rom. ii. 9.) "By what things," says Holy Scripture, "a man sinneth, by the same he is also tormented." (Wisd. xi. 17.) "He who speaks (against his conscience) whatever he pleases, wilt hear in his heart what he does not like to hear," says Comicus.
"He that hides a dark soul and foul thoughts,
Benighted walks under the midday-sun,
Himself is his own dungeon."
In order to avoid such great evils, we must rectify our conscience when it is vincibly erroneous — that is, when we are confused with doubts and suspicions about the lawfulness or unlawfulness of an action which we are about to perform; we must try, by examination, consultation, and employing the ordinary means, to find out whether we are right or wrong in what we are about to undertake.
But as long as a man's conscience is invincibly erroneous, he must follow it. "His will is then not in fault," says St. Thomas. No doubt, a person who, from an invincibly erroneous conscience, believes that charity obliges him to tell a lie, if thereby he can save the life of his neighbor, performs a meritorious act, and he would sin against charity if he did not tell the lie.
Conscience, then, is that faithful inward monitor, that warns every man when he is about to offend God and leave the right road to heaven. Whenever we are on the point of desiring, saying, or doing something that is against God's law, conscience says to us on the part of God: "It is not lawful for thee." (Matt. xiv. 4.) No, thou art not allowed to perform that action, to speak that word, to entertain that desire, to read that book, to frequent that company, to go to that place of sin, to make that unlawful bargain.
If, in spite of these remonstrances of conscience, we still proceed, it rises up against us and cries out: "What hast thou done?" (Kings, iii. 24.) Thou hast sinned; thou hast offended God, by transgressing his law and going against his voice, which warned thee not to do so; thou art guilty in his sight, and deserving to be punished according to the law of his justice. It was his conscience that made David say: "My sin is always before me." (Ps. lxxx. 5.) It was his conscience that made Judas cry out: "I have sinned in betraying innocent blood." (Matt. xxvii. 4.)
Thus every sinner is accountable for his conduct to his conscience, which, as Menander says, is his God. It is by means of conscience that God judges man. Conscience, as the organ and instrument of God, pronounces, in his name, the sentence of condemnation; it passes, under his sovereign authority, the decree of his divine justice. In this sense it is said that we ourselves are our first judges, and that the first tribunal to which we are cited is our own conscience, without being able to escape from its decree. Yes, this judgement is just, it is dreadful, it is without appeal. In pronouncing sentence, conscience is at the same time witness against us and its deposition is so much the more dreadful as it is interior, clear, and personal to us.
Ah! how unfortunate is it to be condemned by ourselves, and to have nothing to oppose to the condemnation! And what, indeed, can be opposed when our own conscience is the accuser, witness, and judge? Therefore, it only remains for conscience to assume the character of executioner, and to exercise its vengeance upon us. Dreadful charge, which is more terrible than all the rest! It punishes us. God intrusts the interest of his justice and revenge in the hands of conscience; and in how many ways does it not discharge this dreadful office against the sinner after his sin? — By those racking remorses which tear him, as it were, to pieces; by the gnawing worm which eats him up; by the constant remembrance of his guilt, which follows him everywhere; by the fears, terrors, and continual alarms in which he lives. If he is visited by illness, if the least infirmity attacks him, death incessantly presents itself to his eyes. If thunders roar, if the earth quakes, if any unexpected accident happens, he believes that the hand of God is lifted up against him, fearing every instant to be swallowed up. Alas! can there be any more dreadful torturer, any more cruel executioner, any more severe minister of vengeance for the sinner than his own conscience! What more torturing for Cain than the bloody spectre of his brother Abel which presented itself continually to him? What more frightful for the impious Balthasar than the sight of the hand which appeared on the wall and wrote the sentence of condemnation upon it? What more horrifying for Antiochus than the picture of the temple of Jerusalem which he had profaned? What more alarming and terrifying for Henry VIII., King of England, than to behold, on his death-bed, the legions of monks whom he had so cruelly treated?
And why were these men thus tortured? It was because conscience, whose rights they had trampled upon, sought atonement by setting the remembrance of their crimes continually before them.
"Thus conscience pleads her cause within the breast;
Though long rebelled against, not yet suppressed."
No wonder that men sometimes commit suicide. They cannot bear the remorse of conscience, and so they try to find rest in death.
Now, such a remorse of conscience, though a punishment, is at the same time a grace for the sinner. It warns him to enter into himself, by sincere repentance, to ask pardon of God, and promise amendment of life, and be saved. But if a sinner does not experience such a remorse he is, no doubt, in a most lamentable condition. The want of this grace forbodes a certain reprobation for all eternity. Now, this voice of conscience, which strikes terror into the souls of the wicked, fill the just with peace and happiness.
There is a great sinner: he is very sorry for all his sins. He firmly purposes amendment of life; he makes a good confession. See him after confession. His countenance is radiant with beauty. His step has become again light. His soul reflects upon his features the holy joy with which it is inebriated. He smiles upon those whom he meets, and every one sees that he is happy. He trembles now no longer when he lifts his eyes to heaven. He hopes, he loves. A supernatural strength animates him. He feels himself burning with zeal to do good. A new sun has risen upon his life, and every thing in him puts on the freshness of youth. And why? Because his conscience has thrown off a load that bent him to the earth. It tells him that now he is once more the companion of angels; that he has again entered that sweet alliance with God, whom he can now justly call his Father; that he is reinstated in his dignity of a child of God. He is no longer afraid of God's justice, of death, and of hell.
We must, then, always follow the voice or dictates of conscience, for "this is the keeping of the commandments," says the Holy Scripture; but "whatever is contrary to conscience, is sinful." (Rom. xiv. 23.)
"What rule," says St. Thomas Aquinas, "can a man follow, unless reason, which is the imperative voice of conscience? He who does not appeal to his conscience on all occasions can have no rule of conduct. He is always in doubt and perplexity, wavering between vice and virtue, not knowing to which side to turn. He is like a vessel whose helm is lost in a violent storm."
§ 6. HAVING EXPLAINED WHAT CONSCIENCE IS, AND THE DIFFERENT KINDS OF CONSCIENCE, WE CAN NOW EASILY SHOW WHO ARE NOT GUILTY OF THE SIN OF HERESY.
Not guilty of the sin of heresy are all those who, without any fault of theirs, were brought up in a sect of Protestantism, and who never had an opportunity of knowing better. This class of Protestants are called invincibly or inculpably ignorant of the true religion, or material heretics.
Now, let us see what the Rev. Alfred Young, a Paulist Father of New York, says of material heretics, in an article which he had published in the Buffalo Union and Times on March 22, 1888. He says: "He was baptized in his infancy, and was then a Catholic child as good as any other Catholic child." -- This is quite correct, and if he had died before he came to the use of reason, he would have gone straight to heaven.
But, after he had come to the years of understanding, he was brought up in heresy; but, according to his statement, he was only a material, not a formal heretic.
It can hardly be doubted that, amongst Protestants, many are only material heretics. Reiffenstuel gives this as his opinion regarding great numbers amongst the mass of heretics. The same is the opinion of Lacroix, and several other authors cited by him, with regard to the Protestants of Germany; and what is true of them is equally true of Protestants in other countries. "Some of them," he says, "are so simple, or so prejudiced by the teaching of their ministers, that they are persuaded of the truth of their own religion, and at the same time so sincere and conscientious, that, if they knew it to be false, they would at once embrace ours. Such as these are not formal, but only material heretics; and that there are many such is testified by numbers of confessors in Germany and authors of the greatest experience."
"What is most deplorable in their case," says Lacroix, "is that, should they fall into any other mortal sin, as may very easily happen to such persons, (because without special grace it is impossible to keep the commandments,) they are deprived of the grace of the principal sacraments, and are commonly lost, not on account of material heresy, but on account of other sins they have committed, and from which they are not freed by the sacrament of penance, which does not exist amongst them; nor by an act of contrition or perfect charity, which they commonly do not attend to, or think of eliciting (to say nothing of the very great difficulty such men would have in doing so, thinking they are justified by faith alone and trust in Christ; and by this accursed confidence they are miserably lost." (Lacroix, Lib. ii. n. 94.)
It is well to distinguish here between two classes of Protestants.
The first is that of those who either live among Catholics or have Catholics living in the same country with them; who know there are such persons, and often hear of them. The second regards those who have no such knowledge, and who seldom or never hear Catholics spoken of, except in a false and odious light.
We read in Holy Scripture that Almighty God, at different times, scattered the Jews among the heathen and performed great miracles in favor of his chosen people. He thus wished the Gentiles to come to the knowledge of the true God. In like manner, Almighty God has scattered the Roman Catholics, the children of his Church, among the heathens of our time and the Protestants. He has never failed to perform miracles in the Catholic Church. Who has not heard of the many great miracles performed in France, and elsewhere, by the use of the miraculous water of Lourdes? Who has not witnessed the wonderful protection of the Catholic Church? Who has not read the truths of the Catholic Church, even in Protestant newspapers? Who has not heard of the conversion of so many wealthy and learned Protestants to the Catholic Church? The Lord, who wishes that all should come to the knowledge of the true religion, makes use of these and other means to cause doubts to arise in the souls of those who are separated from his Church. Hence it is, as Bishop Hay says, next to the impossible for those Protestants who live among Catholics to be in a state of invincible ignorance.
Such doubts as to their salvation in Protestantism are, for our separated brethren, a great grace, as Almighty God, by these doubts, begins to lead them to the way of salvation, by obliging them to seek in all sincerity for light and instruction. But those who do not heed these doubts remain culpably erroneous in a matter of the greatest importance; and to die in this state is to die in the state of reprobation; it is to be lost forever through one's own fault, as we have seen above.
But let us remember here, that "it is a mistake," as Bishop Hay well says, "to suppose that a formal doubt is necessary to render one's ignorance of his duty voluntary and culpable; it is enough that there be sufficient reason for doubting, though from his unjust prejudices, obstinacy, pride, or other evil dispositions of the heart, he hinder these reasons from exciting a formal doubt in his mind. Saul had no doubt when he offered sacrifice before the prophet Samuel came; on the contrary, he was persuaded that he had the strongest reasons for doing so, yet he was condemned for that very action, and himself and his family rejected by Almighty God. The Jews believed that they were acting well when they put our Saviour to death; nay, their high priest declared in full council that it was expedient for the good and safety of the nation that they should do so. They were grossly mistaken, indeed, and sadly ignorant of their duty; but their ignorance was culpable, and they were severely condemned for what they did, though it was done in ignorance. And, indeed, all who act from a false and erroneous conscience are highly blamable for having such a conscience, though they have never entertained any formal doubt. Nay, their not having such a doubt when they have just and solid grounds for doubting, rather renders them the more guilty, because it shows greater corruption of the heart, greater depravity of disposition. A person brought up in a false faith, which the Scriptures calls sects of perdition, doctrines of devils, perverse things, lies, and hypocrisy—and who has heard of the true Church of Christ, which condemns all these sects, and sees their divisions and dissensions—has always before his eyes the strongest reason to doubt the safety of his own state. If he makes any examination with sincere dispositions of heart, he must be convinced that he is in the wrong; and the more he examines, the more clearly will he see it, —for this plain reason, that it is simply impossible that false doctrine, lies, and hypocrisy should ever be supported by solid arguments sufficient to satisfy a reasonable person, who sincerely seeks the truth and begs light from God to direct him in the search. Hence, if such a person never doubt, but go on, as is supposed, bona fide, in his own way, notwithstanding the strong grounds of doubt which he daily has before his eyes, this evidently shows either that he is supinely negligent in the concern of his soul, or that his heart is totally blinded by passion and prejudice. There were many such persons among the Jews and heathens in the time if the apostles, who, notwithstanding the splendid light of truth which these holy preachers everywhere displayed, and which was the most powerful reason for leading them to doubt of their superstitions, were so far from having such doubts, that they thought by killing the apostles they did God a service. Whence did this arise? St. Paul himself informs us. "We renounce,” says he, "the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor adulterating the Word of God, but, by manifestation of the truth, commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God." Here he describes the strange light of the truth which he preached; yet this light was hidden to great numbers, and he immediately gives the reason: "And if our Gospel be also hid, it is hid to them that are lost; in whom the God of this world hath blinded the minds of unbelievers, that the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not shine upon them." (II. Cor. iv. 2.) Behold the real cause of their incredulity: they are so enslaved to the things of this world by the depravity of their heart, and the devil so blinds them, that they cannot see the light; but ignorance arising from such depraved dispositions is a guilty, a voluntary ignorance, and therefore never can excuse them.
If this kind of material heretics, then, are lost, they are not lost on account of their heresy, which for them was no sin, but on account of the grievous sins that they committed against their conscience. "For whosoever have sinned without the law," says St. Paul, "shall perish without the law." (Rom. ii. 10.) The great Apostle wishes to say: Those of the heathens who do not know anything of the Christian Law, but sin against the natural Law, their conscience, will be lost, not on account of the sin of infidelity; which was no sin for those who were invincibly ignorant of the Christian Law, but on account of the great sin which they committed against the voice of' God speaking to them by their conscience. The same must be said of those Protestants who are inculpably ignorant of the Catholic religion, but sin grievously against their conscience.
"God," says St. Thomas, "enlightens every man who comes into the world, and produces in all mankind the light of nature and of grace, as the sun does the light which imparts color and animation to all objects. But if any obstacle prevented its rays from falling on a certain object, would you attribute that defect to the sun? Or if you closed up all your windows and made your room quite dark, could you say the sun is the cause of that darkness? It is the same with the man who, by grievous sins, closes the eyes of his understanding to the light of heaven; for he is then enveloped in profound obscurity and walks in moral darkness. A scholar, who wishes to learn a more sublime science or doctrine, must have a brighter and more comprehensive conception, in order to understand clearly his master. In like manner, man, in order to be more capable of receiving divine inspirations, must have a particular disposition for them. "The Lord God hath opened my ear, and I do not resist, neither do I withdraw from Him.' (Isai. i. 5.) Hence all vices are contrary to the gifts of the Holy Ghost, because they are in opposition to divine inspiration; and they are also contrary both to God and to reason, for reason receives its lights and inspirations from God. Therefore he who grievously offends God, and is, on this account, not enlightened to know and believe the truths of salvation, must blame himself for his spiritual misfortune and punishment. Of these St. Paul says: In whom the God of this world hath blinded the minds of unbelievers, that the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not shine unto them. (Cor. iv. 4.) `Blind the heart of this people, and shut their ears and eyes.' (Isai. vi. 10.)"
Be it also remembered that the light of faith is withheld from those Protestants who resemble the Pharisees. "They form to themselves," says Bishop Hay, "a great idea of their good works, not observing the vast difference there is between natural good moral actions, and supernatural Christian good works, which alone will bring a man to heaven. However corrupted our nature is by sin, yet there are few or none of the seed of Adam, who have not certain good natural dispositions, some being more inclined to one virtue, some to another. Thus some are of a humane, benevolent disposition; some tender-hearted and compassionate towards others in distress; some just and upright in their dealings; some temperate and sober; some mild and patient; some also have natural feelings of devotion, and of reverence for the Supreme Being. Now, all such good natural dispositions of themselves are far from being Christian virtues, and are altogether incapable of bringing a man to heaven. They indeed make him who has them agreeable to men, and procure him esteem and regard from those with whom he lives; but they are of no avail before God with regard to eternity. To be convinced of this, we need only observe that good natural dispositions of this kind are found in Mahometans, Jews, and heathens, as well as among Christians; yet no Christian can suppose that a Mahometan, Jew, or heathen, who dies in that state, will obtain the kingdom of heaven by means of these virtues.
The Pharisees, among the people of God, were remarkable for many such virtues; they had a great veneration for the law of God; they made open profession of piety and devotion; gave large alms to the poor; fasted and prayed much; were assiduous in all the public observances of religion; were remarkable for their strict observance of the Sabbath, and had an abhorrence of all profanation of the holy name of God; yet Jesus Christ himself expressly declares: "Except your righteousness exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. v. 20.) We are told that one of their number went up to the temple to pray, who was, in the eyes of the world, a very good man, led an innocent life, free from those grosser crimes which are so common among men, fasted twice a week, and gave tithes of all he possessed; yet Christ himself assures us that he was condemned in the sight of God. All this proves that none of the above good dispositions of nature are capable in themselves of bringing any man to heaven. And the reason is, because “there is no other name given to men under heaven by which we can be saved, but the name of Jesus only," (Acts iv. 10); therefore, no good works whatsoever, performed through the good dispositions of nature only, can ever be crowned by God with eternal happiness. To obtain this glorious reward, our good works must be sanctified by the blood of Jesus, and become Christian virtues. Now, if we search the Holy Scriptures, we find two conditions absolutely required to make our good works agreeable to God, and conducive to our salvation. First, that we be united to Jesus Christ by true faith, which is the root and foundation of all Christian virtues; for St. Paul expressly says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God." (Heb. xi. 6.). Observe the word impossible; he does not say it is difficult, but that it is impossible. Let, therefore, a man have ever so many good natural dispositions, and be as charitable, devout, and mortified as the Pharisees were, yet if he have not true faith in Jesus Christ, he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven. They refused to believe in him, and therefore all their works were good for nothing as to their salvation; and unless our righteousness exceed theirs in this point, as Christ himself assures us, we shall never enter into his heavenly kingdom. But even true faith itself, however necessary, is not sufficient alone to make our good works available to salvation; for it is necessary, in the second place, that we be in charity with God, in his friendship and grace, without which even true faith itself will never save us. To be convinced of this, let us only give ear to St. Paul, who says, “Though I should have all faith, so as to remove mountains, though I should distribute all my goods to feed the poor, though I should give my body to be burnt, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing." (I Cor. xiii. 2.) So that, let a man be ever so peaceable, regular, inoffensive, and religious in his way, charitable to the poor, and what else you please, yet if he have not the true faith of Jesus Christ, and be not in charity with God, all his apparent virtues go for nothing; it is impossible for him to please God by them; and if he live and die in that state, they will profit him nothing. Hence it is manifest that those who die in a false religion, however unexceptionable may be their moral conduct in the eyes of men, yet, as they have not the true faith in Christ, and are not in charity with him, they are not in the way of salvation; for nothing can avail us in Christ but “faith that works by charity." (Gal. v. 6.)
Let us see now what the Rev. A. Young says of the other class of inculpably ignorant Protestants.
In his article "Have Protestants divine faith," published March 22, 1888, in the Buffalo Catholic Union and Times, the Rev. A. Young says:—
“Protestants can have divine faith. That it is possible for some Protestants to have divine faith is a fact I am as certain of as I am that I have such faith myself. I was once a Protestant, and my faith was just as truly and theologically divine, as it is today. I never had human faith, and when I explain myself I honestly believe that a great number of Protestants, could they read my words, would say— ‘You have stated my case exactly.'
"That we may not be misled by any fanciful ideas or notions about what is divine faith, I will give at once the definition of it from the mouth of one of the greatest doctors of the Church—St. Thomas. He says: 'Ipsum credere est actus intellectus assentientis veritati divinae ex imperio voluntatis a Deo motae per gratiam.' (22., q. ii. art. 9.) `To believe is an act of the intellect assenting to divine truth by command of the will moved by the grace of God.' That is an. exact definition of what my belief (faith) was as a Protestant, and in becoming a Catholic IT UNDERWENT NO CHANGE, and plainly could not undergo any."
When St. Thomas says, "Ipsum, (i.e. Deum) credere, to believe God,” etc., he speaks of Catholics who have the true faith, as is evident from all that precedes, especially from q. i., art. 10., in which he says that it belongs especially to the Pope, whom Christ made the visible head of his Church, to see to the arrangement and publication of the symbol of faith. It is, therefore, to say the least, unwise for the Rev. A. Young to apply to himself and other material heretics what St. Thomas says only of the faith of Catholics; for he says expressly that those who have not the true faith cannot make an act of faith as it ought to be made, that is, in the manner determined by the true faith. And what St. Thomas means by "Ipsum credere, to believe God," he tells us in q. v., art. 3, in which he says: "The formal object of faith is the First Truth (that is, God himself) such as he is known from Holy Scripture and from the doctrine of the Church, which (doctrine) proceeds from the First Truth. Hence any one who does not adhere to the infallible and divine rule of faith—to the doctrine of the Church, which proceeds from the First Truth as made known in the Holy Scripture, cannot have the habit of faith; but if he holds certain truths of faith, he holds them not by faith, but by some other reasons. But it is clear that he who adheres to the doctrine of the Church as to the infallible rule of belief, assents to all that the Church teaches; he, however, who chooses to believe some of those truths which the Church teaches, and to reject others, instead of adhering to the doctrine of the Church as the infallible rule of faith, adheres only to his own private will or judgment.
“Those articles of faith in which a heretic does not err, he does not believe in the same manner as a Catholic believes them; for a Catholic believes them by unhesitatingly adhering to the First Truth (as made known in Holy Scripture and in the doctrine of the Church), to do which he needs the help of the habit of faith; but a heretic does not hold certain articles of faith by this infallible rule, but only by his own choice and private judgment. He whose faith is not based upon the infallible and divine rule of faith, has no true faith at all; for he who does not believe God in the way determined by the true faith, does not believe God.
“We cannot believe absolutely a divine truth proposed for our belief unless we know that such a truth is proposed for our belief by an infallible and divine authority; it is only then that both the intellect and the will are infallibly directed to believe, and to adhere to the object of faith—God and his revealed truths—as the principle end of man, on account of which he assents to divine truths. As this infallible and divine authority is found only in the Catholic Church, it is evident that true acts of faith can be made only by him who adheres to this authority. (Sum. 22 q. ii. art. ii., ad 3; 3, 22, q. iv., art. 5. As the Rev. A. Young, when a Protestant, did not, and could not, have this infallible and divine rule of faith, he did not, and could not, according to the doctrine of St. Thomas make acts of divine faith. If it is true, then, what he asserts, namely, “that his faith underwent no change when he became a Catholic," it must be true also that he is a peculiar kind of a Catholic.
That the Rev. A. Young, as long as he was a Protestant, could not make acts of divine faith in the manner determined by faith, is also evident from the doctrine of St. Alphonsus.
God begins the work of man's salvation, says St. Alphonsus, by working upon the soul inwardly and outwardly. God works upon the soul inwardly by inspiring it first with the thought of salvation. From the thought of salvation arises the desire of salvation. The desire of salvation prepares the soul to comply with the conditions of salvation. Now, the first condition of salvation is true, divine faith. The beginning of true faith, then, is the desire thereof, arising from the thought of salvation. The pious desire of faith, however, is not as yet formal faith; it is but the good thought of wishing to believe, which, as St. Augustine says, precedes belief.
The desire of salvation, inspired by Almighty God, must also be accomplished by him. So he also works upon the soul outwardly. The most usual means which he employs to work upon the soul outwardly and lead it to the possession of the true faith is to give it an opportunity to learn the truths of salvation from the Catholic Church. “Faith is from hearing," says St. Paul. He then enlightens the intellect of man to see the truths of salvation; he inclines the will to believe those truths as coming to him from God, through the divine authority of his Church, and to trust in God's faithfulness to his promises. He believes especially that God pardons the repentant sinner and receives him into his friendship on account of the merits of Jesus Christ. But in hearing the sacred Law promulgated he perceives that he is a sinner, and therefore fears the justice of God, which is provoked by his iniquities. Having been cast down by this salutary shock, a feeling of confidence in the infinite mercy of God presents itself and raises him up. He hopes that, in consideration of Christ's merits, God will pardon him. Animated by this hope, he begins to love. This love leads him to detest his sins, to repent of them, to repair them, as far as possible; it makes him resolve to keep the commandments, and to become reconciled with God by the means given by Him, that is, Baptism for unbaptized persons, and the sacrament of Penance for those Christians who have lost the grace of God.
Faith, therefore, to be truly divine and saving, must be based upon the divine Authority of God as invested in the Roman Catholic Church.
"Without a visible, infallible Head of the Church,” says St. Alphonsus, "it would be impossible to have an infallible rule of faith, whereby to know with certainty what to believe and what to do. Hence he who is separated from the Church and is not obedient to her has no infallible rule of faith; he has no longer any criterion whereby he can know what he has to believe and to do. Without this divine authority of the Church, neither the principles of divine revelation nor even those of human reason have any support, because the utterances of the one as well as those of the other will then be interpreted by every one as he pleases; and then every one can deny all the truths of faith—The Most Holy Trinity, the Incarnation of Christ, heaven and hell, and whatever else he chooses to deny. I, therefore, repeat: If the divine authority of the Church and the obedience due to her are renounced, every error will be endorsed and must be tolerated in others. This undeniable argument made a Calvinist preacher renounce his errors." (Appendix to his work, Council of Trent.)
Hence St. Thomas, speaking of faith, says: “The virtue of faith consists principally in submitting our intellect and will, with the help of God's grace, to the divine authority of the true Church charged by Jesus Christ to teach us what we must believe. He who does not follow this rule of faith, has no true faith at all." The reason of this is given above by St. Alphonsus; for how could we, without the Church, know that God has revealed anything at all? How could we know what he has revealed? How could we know the meaning of his revelations? How could we know the written Word of God? How could we know the meaning of Holy Scripture? For Holy Scripture does not consist in the words, but in the sense of the words. How could we know the extent of the divine revelations? For the extent of the divine revelations is greater than that of Holy Scripture. So, without the divine authority of the Roman Catholic Church, we can hold no revealed truth on divine authority; if we hold any Catholic truths, we believe them only on human authority; and such belief is no divine faith. Acts of divine faith, therefore, consist in believing firmly what God tells us through the divine authority of his Church. All heretics, formal as well as material, are separated from this divine authority, and therefore even the acts of faith made by material heretics are by no means acts of divine faith, in spite of their inculpable ignorance of the divine authority of the Church. Suppose such a Protestant has counterfeit money in his possession, which he innocently believes to be quite genuine, is his money, from being counterfeit, changed into genuine money by his inculpable ignorance in the matter. In like manner, the acts of faith made by a material heretic are counterfeit acts of faith, because they are not based upon the authority of God, speaking through the authority of his true Church. These acts are without a divine foundation.
In inculpable ignorance of this fundamental truth for true acts of faith there is no power whatever to change counterfeit acts of faith into divine acts of faith. All that can be said in favor of this kind of heretics is that they may have the disposition for believing what is right, and this disposition comes from God and prepares such Protestants for receiving the gift of the true faith when they come to know it.
Now let us suppose to be true what is impossible to be true, namely, that the act of faith made by a material heretic is a divine act of faith, as the Rev. A. Young asserts, it is very wrong for him to say that such an act of faith, as described by him, is, according to St. Thomas, meritorious, which means, deserving of an eternal reward in heaven. St. Thomas never said anything of the kind; he says that an act of faith is meritorious only when it proceeds from, and is united with, divine charity.—All good works, that are performed by a person without being in the state of true divine charity, are dead works.—If the Rev. Young gives the definition of faith given by St. Thomas, why has he not given us St. Thomas's explanation of his definition of faith?—A few lines after, St. Thomas says: “Charitate superveniente actus fidei fit meritorius per charitatem." When divine charity becomes joined to faith, the act of faith becomes meritorious. When St. Thomas gives the above definition of an act of faith, he speaks of a person who believes God, who speaks to him by his Church, as is evident from other passages in which he speaks of the faith of heretics. As long, then, as a material heretic, though through inculpable ignorance, adheres to an heretical sect, he is separated from Christ, because he is separated from his Body—the Catholic Church. In that state he cannot make any supernatural acts of divine faith, hope, and charity, which are necessary to obtain life everlasting, and therefore, if he dies in that state, he is pronounced infallibly lost by St. Augustine, St. Alphonsus and all the great Doctors of the Church.
But, says the Rev. A. Young: “I was baptized in infancy by a minister of the Protestant Episcopalian Church. I then received, as all baptized persons do, whether adults or infants, the infused virtues of divine faith, hope, and charity, with sanctify grace, and was made capable, by the grace of God thus given, to make distinct meritorious acts of divine faith, hope, and charity."
One of the effects of Baptism is that, when children are validly baptized, they receive, together with the indelible character of a Christian, the habit of faith,—or a capacity, a power or faculty which enables them, when they come to the use of reason, and are instructed by the Catholic Church in revealed truths, to make acts of divine faith, this habit of faith enabling them to see clearly and believe firmly the truths of the Catholic religion. A baptized child is a child of God, and God lives in the soul of that child and is its Father. So, when God speaks through his Church to that child, it easily recognizes the voice that speaks to him as the voice of God, and firmly believes whatever that voice teaches him to believe. But this habitual divine faith is lost by the profession of heresy, material heresy not excepted. To a child that is brought up in heresy, God does not speak when it hears the voice of a heretical teacher; if it believes that teacher, it believes not God, but man, and its faith is human, which cannot lead it to God. (See St. Thomas, De Fide, Q. V., art. iii.; Cursus Compl. Theologae, vol. 21, Q. III., art. iii., de Suscipientibus Baptismum. Instruction in Christ, Doct. chapt. ii.)
This may be more clear from the following: If a person who has come to the use of reason and professes heresy at the time of his baptism, he is indeed indelibly marked as a Christian, but he is not sanctified—the other supernatural effects of baptism being suspended for want of the proper dispositions or preparations which are required to receive not only the sacrament, but also its supernatural effects. One of the most essential requisites to receive these effects is to have the true faith, i.e., to believe God, speaking through the Catholic Church. Now heresy, material heresy not excepted, is a want of this faith, on account of which the supernatural effects of baptism are suspended. God cannot unite himself with a soul that lives in heresy, even though it be only material heresy. As the supernatural sanctifying effects in this case are suspended, so they are for the same reason, destroyed in him who was baptized in his infancy and became a heretic, though only a material heretic, when he came to the use of reason. This person, to be again reconciled with God, must renounce heresy, believe the Catholic Church, and receive worthily the sacrament of penance; or if this cannot be had, he must have perfect contrition or charity with the desire (at least implicit) to receive the sacrament of penance. The other person, however, will be reconciled with God and truly sanctified, as soon as he renounces heresy, believes the Catholic Church, and has at least attrition (imperfect supernatural sorrow) for his sins, because it is then that the supernatural sanctifying effects of baptism take place. It is therefore evident that, if these persons and others like them were to die in heresy, they would be lost forever. (See Theolog. Curs. Compl. De Confirmatione, Part II., Q. II., art. vi.)
"The Church,” says Dr. O. A. Brownson, "teaches that the infant validly baptized, by whomsoever the baptism be administered, receives in the sacrament the infused habit of faith and sanctity, and that this habit (habitus) suffices for salvation till the child comes to the use of reason. Hence all baptized infants dying in infancy are saved.
"But when arrived at the use of reason, the child needs something beyond this infused habit, and it is bound to elicit the act of faith. The habit is not actual faith, and is only a supernatural facility infused by grace, of eliciting the actual virtue of faith. The habit of sanctity is lost by mortal sin, but the habit of faith, we are told, is lost by a positive act of infidelity or heresy. This is not strictly true; for the habit may be lost by the omission to elicit the act of faith, which neither is nor can be elicited out of the Catholic Church; for out of her the credible object, which is Deus revelans et Ecclesia proponens, (God revealing and the Church proposing for our belief) is wanting. Consequently, outside of the Church there can be no salvation for any one, even though baptized, who has come to the use of reason. The habit given in Baptism then ceases to suffice, and the obligation to elicit the act begins.
“We may be told that it may not be through one's own fault that he omits to elicit the act, especially when born and brought up in a community hostile, or alien to the Church. Who denies it? But from that it does not follow either that the habit is not lost by the omission, or that the elicitation of the act is not necessary, in the case of every adult, to salvation. Invincible ignorance excuses from sin, we admit, in that whereof one is invincibly ignorant, but it confers no virtue, and is purely negative. It excuses from sin, if you will, the omission to elicit the act, but it cannot supply the defect caused by the omission. Something more than to be excused from the sin of infidelity or heresy is necessary to salvation."
But, continues the Rev. A. Young, “as I was a baptized Christian, I did not, neither could I, lose the capacity to make meritorious acts of divine faith, no matter whether I made them or not; no matter what I believed or disbelieved as I grew up; no matter whether I became a Protestant, Jew, Mahomedan, or infidel. I will be a baptized Christian for all eternity, because the indelible mark of baptism cannot be taken out of my soul. In this case I was capable of making meritorious acts of divine faith."
What stupid and most absurd assertion this! Is it possible that a priest can be so ignorant as to assert what no wellinstructed Catholic child would assert! Only he who lives in the true faith and in true charity with God has the capacity of making meritorious acts of divine faith. And yet the Rev. A. Young, in his unpardonable ignorance, solemnly asserts that a baptized Protestant, or a baptized Jew, or a baptized Mahomedan, or a baptized infidel is as such capable of making meritorious acts of divine faith, because he bears in his soul the indelible mark of baptism. Who ever taught and believed such nonsense! How can a priest be so ignorant as to confound the indelible character of baptism with the supernatural graces of this sacrament, which are lost by the profession of heresy and infidelity!
“Again," continues the Rev. A. Young, "God gives his grace to all persons; that is, he moves their will, as St. Thomas says in his definition, to compel the intellect to give assent to divine truth. Therefore God moved my will to that end."
To understand how necessary the grace of God is to believe the true religion, we quote the following from St. Thomas: The final beatitude of man, says St. Thomas, consists in the beatific vision of God. As this end of man is far above the strength of human nature, it was necessary that God should teach him how to obtain everlasting beatitude. So God has revealed certain supernatural truths, which are above the human understanding, to lead him to the beatitude of heaven. To acquire the knowledge of these truths, he must learn them from God, through those to whom God has communicated them and whom he has commissioned to teach them infallibly, in his name. Then it is necessary that he who learns these truths from God through his infallible teacher, should give his firm assent to them. The cause which induces man to give his assent to these supernatural truths may be twofold: it may be exterior, such as a miracle which a person sees, or some one who tries by his words to persuade a person to believe. Neither of these two causes is sufficient to create faith; for of those who see one and the same miracle, and of those who hear the same sermon on faith, there are some who believe and others do not believe. Hence it is necessary to assign another interior cause which induces a person to assent to the truths of faith. The Pelagians (heretics) taught that the free-will of man is this interior cause which induces him to believe, and that on this account the beginning of faith, is of man himself, in as much as he is ready to believe divine truths, but that the perfection of faith is from God, who proposes the truths which must be believed. But this is false, for by giving his assent to the truths of faith man is raised above his natural condition, and therefore the cause that raises man above his natural state must be supernatural, moving man interiorly to believe, and this interior supernatural cause is God. Hence the assent to the truths of faith, which is the principal act of faith, must be attributed to God who, by his grace, interiorly moves man to believe the truths of faith. Although the act of believing consists in the will, yet it is necessary that the will of man, should be prepared by the grace of God, in order to be raised to those things witch are above human nature.” (22. q. ii., art. and q. vi., art. 1.) It is, therefore, necessary that God should enlighten the intellect and move the will of man to believe the true religion when it is preached to him; but it would be blasphemous to say that God moves the will of man to believe heretical doctrine. And yet the Rev. A. Young asserts “that God moved his will to give his assent to divine truth” in Protestantism. And what he believed of the true divine teacher of God—the Roman Catholic Church, he candidly tells us when he says:—
“I was brought up to believe that the Roman Catholic Church was the Church of Antichrist; that she was the scarlet woman of Babylon, and the Pope the man of sin; that she taught false doctrines; that she was the great enemy of all the Christian truth, morality, and love of God. I read the wandering Jew, I also read many other horrible, lying, immoral books written to defame the Roman Catholic Church; and as there was no opportunity for me to learn better I believed them to be true."
Now, who will be foolish enough to believe that God moved the will of Rev. A. Young to believe such devilish doctrines? God enlightened his intellect and moved his will when he detested those doctrines and made his profession of faith in the only true Holy Catholic Church; God moves the will towards what is good, but not towards what is bad; he cannot be the author of evil.
"As a Protestant," continues the Rev. A. Young, “I was always taught that the Christian religion was divinely true, because it was the religion of Christ, who was God incarnate. I was taught and firmly assented to all the doctrines of the Christian religion as formulated in the Apostles' and the Nicene Creed, in precisely the same words, and, to all intents and purposes, in precisely the same sense that I now recite them as a Catholic. Whatever the Apostles meant and whatever the Council of Nice meant to convey, whether I perfectly understood it or not, I meant to believe, and did believe; and therefore, whensoever I recited those Creeds, I made distinct acts of divine faith, most unquestionably. And it is also beyond a doubt that I implicitly included in my acts of divine faith all divine truth that God has ever revealed to mankind."
From the time of the Apostles there have been men who called themselves Christians, because they were baptized; but as they did not believe in Christ as made known in Holy Scripture and in the doctrine of the Church, they were called anti-Christs. ("Qui enim non credit Christum esse sub his conditionibus, quas fides deteriminat" says St. Thomas, "non vere Christum credit et ideo Christum credere non convenit ipsis sub ea ratione qua ponitur actus fidei.")
"Insane people," said one day a certain gentleman to me, “are also called men, but they are not the right sort of men.” In like manner material heretics may call themselves Christians, and their sects Christian Churches; but they are not the right sort of Christians and their sects are not the true Church of Christ. They are not Catholic Christians, and therefore they are not the Church of Christ.
In his catalogue of heresies, St. Augustine mentions eighty-eight heresies, and then he adds: "If anyone does not believe these heresies, he must not therefore think or say that he is a Catholic Christian; for there maybe other heresies, or others may still arise, and he who should adhere to any one of them, can not be a Catholic Christian.
So the Rev. A. Young believed in a Christian religion, but not in the right sort of Christian religion, because it was not the Catholic Christian religion. He believed in the Christian Church, but not in the Catholic Christian Church, “which," as he candidly avows, "he, in his ignorance, hated, detested and feared, believing her to be the Church of Antichrist, etc." That he recited the Apostles' and Nicene Creed does not change the matter. For "it may happen,” says St. Augustine, “that a heretic holds all the words of the Creed, and yet does not believe rightly, because he does not believe the divine truths of the Creed, as explained by the Church; under these words heretics generally hide their venomous doctrines.” (De Fide et. Symb. c. 1.)
St. Cyprian says the same (Epist. 76 ad Magn.): “Should any one say that a Novatian holds the same law that the Catholic Church holds, that he baptizes in the symbol (Creed) as we do, etc., let him know first that the law of our symbol is not one and the same with that of the schismatics, nor are our questions the same with theirs: for if any one is asked, dost thou believe the remission of sins and life everlasting through the Holy Church? their answer to this question is a lie, since they have not the Church."
St. Jerome (Advers. Lucif. c. v.) says: “When we baptize, we solemnly ask, after the profession of faith in the Most Holy Trinity: ‘Dost thou believe the Holy Church? Dost thou believe the forgiveness of sins? Which Church dost thou say to believe in? In that of the Arians? But they have not ours; and therefore, as he was baptized out of her could not believe in that one which he knew not." Ask, in like manner, an Episcopalian: "Do you believe the Catholic Church?” he will answer, “Yes; but not the Roman Catholic Church," which he is taught to hate and detest, and to look upon the Pope as the man of sin.
“Being unfortunately brought up a Protestant," continues the Rev. A. Young, "I was like an ignorant Catholic in good faith who failed to learn all that the Catholic Church, the visible, authorized teacher of all divine truth, does teach."
Now it is wholly untrue that the Rev. A. Young as a Protestant, “was like an ignorant Catholic who failed to learn all that the Catholic Church, the visible authorized teacher of all divine truth, does teach."
An ignorant Catholic is not a material heretic; he is a member of the Body of Christ; if he is a dead member of it, being in the state of mortal sin, he as such is able still to make acts of divine faith, though not meritorious, because he believes all that God teaches him through his infallible teacher—the Catholic Church; if he is in the state of sanctifying grace, his acts of faith will be meritorious to eternal life. Nothing of the kind is true of a material heretic, because he is out of the Church and therefore no member of Christ's body.
“As only those members," says St. Augustine, "are vivified by the soul which are united with the body, so, in like manner, only those are vivified by the Spirit of Christ, who remain members of his Body—the Church.. He who is separated from Christ's Body is not a member of Christ; and if he is not a member of Christ, he cannot be vivified by Christ's Spirit. But any one who has not Christ's Spirit does not belong to Christ. Hence a Christian must fear nothing so much as separation from Christ's Body, which is the Church." (Tract. 27, in Joan.)
“So long,” continues the Rev. A. Young, as one’s faith is a willing oblation, or spiritual sacrifice of self authority, by referring his reason for believing to what he thinks (according to his lights and opportunities) to be a divinely authorized source of instruction by which he is directly taught, or through which he honestly believes God wills him to learn divine truth, that man is a Catholic in the sight of God, and he is a Catholic in the sight of the Church, no matter what he calls himself, and though such a one dies piously as an Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, or what not, St. Peter will let him into heaven as a Catholic. And many a one rejoices to find himself so recognized after death, in spite of his earthly name and ignorance. That such a baptized Protestant is a Catholic in the sight of the Church is proved by the fact that he is treated as one when he becomes a convert and applies to be received into the Church, for he is absolved as one who has been, or, as the ritual wisely adds, ‘if perchance he has been' an excommunicated Catholic, on account of professed heresy."
Was the Rev. A. Young quite honest in believing what he has just said? How then could he write: “They (material heretics) openly refuse to hear the divine authority of the Church, and so they are heretics “in foro externo” (of the Church).
As the Rev. A. Young was unfortunate in explaining the doctrine of St. Thomas on faith, so, in like manner, he is again unfortunate in the explanation of the formula of absolution from heresy, which the Church has prescribed for the priest to use in absolving heretics from heresy when they are about to be received into the Church.
Before giving the true, genuine explanation of that formula of absolution, we must remark that this formula of absolution is never used by the Church when an excommunicated Catholic is to be absolved from the censure of excommunication, nor does the Church look upon an excommunicated heretic as an excommunicated Catholic. By what right, therefore, does the Rev. A. Young call an excommunicated heretic an excommunicated Catholic?
Now what is the true explanation of the formula of absolution prescribed by the Church for absolving an excommunicated heretic?
“It may be assumed," says the Rev. J. O' Kane, "that amongst the Protestants there are many whose heresy is only material; and it may be added that this is most likely to be the case with those who are converted to the faith, the very fact of their conversion being, generally speaking, an evidence of the sincerity with which they previously adhered to their errors.
"Now it is formal heresy alone (that is, heresy to which one pertinaciously adheres, though the true doctrine and the motives of its credibility are clearly proposed to him) which is reserved to the Pope, and not material heresy, even when the person is guilty of grievous sin by his neglect to inquire when doubts occurred, or by his culpable ignorance; for this, though it may be a grievous sin against faith, is not, after all, the sin of formal heresy. Hence, it may easily happen that no special faculty is required for the absolution of these converts. (LACROIX, lib. vi., p., ii., n. 1613.)
“Again, since there is a doubt, as we suppose, whether they have been really baptized, there must be a doubt whether they could incur the censures of the Church. De Lugo discusses the question, and gives it as his opinion that, when, after diligent inquiry, there remains a doubt as to the validity of the baptism of one who is guilty of heresy, he is not to be regarded as having incurred the censures of the Church attached to heresy. (De Fide, Disp. xx., n. 143.
“We look on it, then, as very probable, that the converts of whom there is question have not incurred the excommunication annexed to heresy; and since the case is reserved to the Pope, dependently on the excommunication annexed to it. (St. Alphonsus, lib. vi., n. 580), and since an ordinary confessor can absolve from reserved cases when there is a doubt either as to law or fact, (Ibid., n. 600), it would seem to follow that no special faculty is required to absolve in the cases we are discussing, so far, at least as the papal reservation is concerned.
"The practice is, however, to deal with all converts from heretical sects, as if they had incurred the reserved excommunication. Kenrick observes (De Bapt., n. 243) that the Church does not acknowledge, in foro externo, the distinction between ‘material' and 'formal,' which would except from the reserved censure any one living in a heretical communion, and cites a decree of the Holy Office, reprehending one who, relying on that distinction, had absolved a Calvinist: 'Eo quod ignarus haeresum et errorum Calvini non posset dici haeeticus formalis, sed tantum materialis.' The doubt whether a convert has incurred a reserved censure, may be expressed in the form of absolution, as is directed in the ritual for the use of the American clergy, by inserting the word forsan: ‘….a vinculo excommunicationis quam forsan incurristi,' etc.
“Although bishops cannot, by their ordinary power, absolve from heresy, they can do so in virtue of special faculties, which they usually have from the Holy See, and they can delegate a priest to absolve from the excommunication." (Rev. J. O' Kane on Rubrics, n. 467, 468.)
The word "forsan" (perchance), then, instead of proving that material heretics belong to the Catholic Church and are considered by her as belonging to her, proves clearly the very reverse. The Church considers all Protestants (formal as well as material) as separated Christians, but material and doubtful heretics are not excommunicated with that kind of excommunication the absolution from which is reserved to the Pope. Hence St. Alphonsus says: "Heretics though baptizes, are separated from the Church." (First Command, n. 4.) The fact that the Church receives converts into her communion clearly proves that she considers them as persons who did not belong to it. And be it also remembered that the Catholic Church would never bury a deceased material heretic, nor allow a priest to announce to his congregation that the holy sacrifice of the Mass will be offered up for him, for the simple reason that she considers him as separated from her Communion or Christ's Body.
Alas! how could the Church look upon a material heretic as one of her members, so long as he adheres to doctrines quite opposite to hers; so long as he has not renounced the errors of his sect, has not made profession of her faith, and is not received into her communion. To become a citizen of the United States, you have to renounce allegiance to all foreign potentates, etc.; in like manner, to become a member of the Church, a citizen of the Kingdom of God on earth, you have to renounce all allegiance to every doctrine contrary to that of the Church.
“I, moreover," continues the Rev. A. Young, "naturally (providentially, I must say, since it was not my fault) mistook my own Episcopalian Church to be what the Roman Catholic Church is. Therefore it cannot be questioned that, when I recited the Creed, and said, ‘I believe in the Holy Catholic Church,' and believed at the same time that the Episcopal Church was that Catholic Church, I certainly made acts of divine faith."
In answer to this, we say with Dr. A. O. Brownson, who asks: “But may not those who are baptized in heretical societies through ignorance, believing them to be the Church of Christ, be regarded as in the way of salvation? Not they who are born and educated in Protestant Churches who have separated themselves from the unity of' the Catholic Church, but their ancestors, Calvin, Luther, Henry VIII., etc. Let St. Augustine reply: ‘But those who through ignorance are baptized there (with heretics), judging the sect to be the Church of Christ, sin less than these (who know it to be heretical); nevertheless they are wounded by the sacrilege of schism, and therefore sin not lightly, because others sin more gravely. For when it is said to certain persons, it shall be more tolerable for Sodom in the day of judgment than for you, it is not therefore said because the Sodomites will not be punished, but because the others will be more grievously punished.'
And again, St. Augustine says: “It is true, Donatists who baptize heathens heal them of the wound of idolatry or infidelity; but they inflict on them a more serious wound instead, the wound of schism. Those of the people of God in the Old Law, who fell into idolatry, were destroyed by the sword, but under the feet of the authors of schism the earth opened and swallowed them up, (Ps. cv. 17.) and the rest of their followers were consumed by a flame of fire from heaven. (Ecclus. xlv. 24.) Who, therefore, can doubt that those who were more severely punished had also sinned more grievously?” (De Bapt. contr. Donatist., lib. i, c. 8.) Those idolaters who were baptized by the Donatists, and believed in Christ, were healed of their wound of infidelity; they never lived in the unity of the Catholic Church.. They never wilfully left her in their ancestors, as Rev. A. Young and other heretics did; and yet St. Augustine tells us that the wound of schism which they received by adhering to the sect of the Donatists was more fatal for them than that which they had received before by the crime of idolatry. Now the wound inflicted by heresy, though material, is still more fatal than that of schism. Hence those who are separated from the Church cannot be innocent. (St. Augustine, lib. i. contr. Epist. Parm., c. 3.) “Where there is no unity in faith, there can be no divine charity. Therefore divine charity can be kept only in the unity of the Church." (St. Augustine, contr. lit. Petil. lib. ii. C. 77.)
As a person who has, in his ignorance, taken very poisonous food, becomes very sick from it and may even die, if the effects of it cannot be controlled in due time by medicine, so, in like manner, he who has taken, though ignorantly, the very poisonous food of heretical doctrines, becomes most fatally wounded by it in his soul, and unless this poison is expelled from the soul before death, by a sincere renunciation of heresy and by profession of the true faith in the Church, the soul will be lost for ever.
Our Blessed Saviour, in one short sentence, clearly shows the miserable fate of all those who follow false teachers, when he says, “They are blind teachers of the blind; and if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the pit." (Matt. xv. 14.) This evidently shows that the lot of both shall be the same, and that all the dreadful curses pronounced in Holy Scripture upon the teachers of false religions will also fall upon those who follow them blindly.
"If any one without the true faith," says St. Thomas, “receives baptism out of the Church, he does not receive it unto his salvation. Hence St. Augustine says (De Bapt. contr. Donatist., lib. iv., in princip.) ‘The Church likened to paradise signifies to us that people may, it is true, receive her baptism out of her, but no one can, out of her, receive or KEEP everlasting happiness,' that is, KEEP sanctifying grace in his soul. (Sum. Pars. iii. q. 68, art. 8.)
"There is no salvation out of the Church," says St. Augustine. Who denies this truth? And therefore whatever is held out of her communion, is of no avail out of the Church. Those who are out of her unity, do not gather with Christ, but scatter. (Matt. xii. 30.) (Contra Donatist.) “Out of the Church," says St. Fulgentius, “Baptism avails nothing unto salvation, nor can any one out of her receive the forgiveness of his sins, nor obtain eternal life in spite of all alms he may give." (Lib. 1, de Remiss. Peccat. cap. 22, and Lib. de Fide ad Petrum.)
How absurd, then, is it not for the Rev. A. Young to assert that if such a material heretic dies, he will be admitted as a Catholic into heaven.
“Another excuse,” says Brownson, “which is alleged for these (schismatics) is: They say that they have been baptized, that they believe in Christ, apply themselves to good works, and therefore may hope for salvation, although they adhere to the party divided from the Church.
"St. Augustine replies: ‘We are accustomed from these words of the Apostle "If I speak with the tongues of angels, etc.," (I. Cor. xiii. 1--8.) to show men that it avails them nothing to have either the sacraments or the faith, if they have not charity, in order that, when you come to Catholic unity, you may understand what is conferred on you, and how great is that in which you were before deficient. For Christian charity cannot be kept out of the unity of the Church; and thus you may see that without it you are nothing, even though you have baptism and faith, and by your faith were able even to remove mountains. If this is also your opinion, let us not detest and scorn either the sacraments which we acknowledge in you, or the faith itself, but let us maintain charity, without which we are nothing, even with the sacraments and the faith. But we maintain charity, if we embrace unity; and we embrace unity when our knowledge is in unity through the words of Christ, not when through our own words we form a partial sketch.'
“Another excuse," says Brownson, "for such people is: Some say that God is to be believed according to the measure of grace received from him; Catholics, indeed, believe many things which Protestants do not, but the former have received the five talents the latter the two or three. They do not condemn Catholics, but they hope to be saved in the small measure which they have themselves received.
“But here may avail what we have just adduced from St. Augustine; for if even baptism and faith profit nothing without indispensable charity, much less will profit a mere portion which is held in division and schism. (De controversiis Tract. General, IX. de unit. Eccl. et Schism, cap. 15; Vide etiam Lib. 1. de Bapt. contr. Donat. cap. v.; lib, 1 contr. litt. Petil. cap. 23, et lib. 2. cap. 8; et de Unit. Eccl. cap. 2. S. Optat. Melevit. 1 et 2.)"
This is high authority and express to the purpose. It cuts off every possible excuse which our countrymen can allege, or which can be alleged for them. They who are brought up in the Church, instructed in her faith, and admitted to her sacraments, if they break away from her, can be saved only by returning and doing penance; and all who knowingly resist her authority, or adhere to heretical and schismatical societies, knowing them to be such, are in the same category, and have no possible means of salvation without being reconciled to the Church and loosened by her from the bonds with which she has bound them. Thus far all is clear and undeniable. But even they who are in societies separated from the Church through ignorance, believing them to be the Church of Christ, according to the authorities adduced, are wounded by sacrilege, a most grievous sin, are destitute of charity, which cannot be kept out of the unity of the Church, and without which they are nothing, and therefore, whatever may be the comparative degree of their sinfulness, are in the road to perdition, as well as the others, and no more than the others can be saved without being reconciled to the Church. But these several classes include all of our countrymen not in the Church, and therefore, as every one of these is exposed to the wrath and condemnation of God, we have the right, and are in duty bound, to preach to them all, without exception, that, unless they come into the Church, and humbly submit to her laws, and persevere in their love and obedience, they will inevitably be lost. "Out of the Church there is positively no salvation for any one." (Fourth Lat. Council.)
"Unquestionably, all must enter into the Church," some will say; "but not necessarily into the visible Church. We must distinguish between the Body or exterior communion of the Church, and the soul, or interior communion. The dogma of faith simply says: out of the Church there is no salvation, and you have no right to add the word visible or exterior."
"We add the word exterior or visible," says Dr. O. A. Brownson, “to distinguish the Church out of which there is no salvation from the invisible Church contended for by Protestants, and which no Catholic does or can admit. Without it, the dogma of faith contains no meaning. Unquestionably, as our Lord in his humanity had two parts, his body and his soul, so we may regard the Church, his Spouse, as having two parts, the one exterior and visible, the other interior and invisible, or visible only by the exterior, as the soul of man is visible by his face; but to contend that the two parts are separable, or that the interior exists disconnected from the exterior and is sufficient independently of it, is to assert, in so many words, the prevailing doctrine of Protestants, and so far as relates to the indispensable conditions of salvation, to yield them, at least in their understanding, the whole question. In the present state of controversy with Protestants, we cannot save the integrity of the faith, unless we add the epithet, visible or external. But it is not true that by so doing we add to the dogma of faith. The sense of the epithet is necessarily contained in the simple word Church itself, and the only necessity there is of adding it at all is in the fact that heretics have mutilated the meaning of the word Church, so that to them it no longer has its full and proper meaning. Whenever the word Church. is used generally, without any specific qualification, expressed or necessarily implied, it means, by its own force, the visible as well as the invisible Church, the Body no less than the Soul; for the Body, the visible or external communion, is not a mere accident, but is essential to the Church.. The Church, by her very definition, is the congregation of men called by God through the evangelical doctrine, and professing the true Christian faith under their infallible Pastor and Head - the Pope. This definition takes in nothing not essential to the very idea of the Church. The Church, then, is always essentially visible as well as invisible, exterior as well as interior; and to exclude from our conception of it the conception of visibility would be as objectionable as to exclude the conception of body from the conception of man. Man is essentially body and soul; and whosoever speaks of him - as living man - must, by all the laws of language, logic and morals, be understood to speak of him in that sense in which he includes both. So, in speaking of the Church, if the analogy is admissible at all. Consequently, when faith teaches us that out of the Church there is no salvation, and adds herself no qualification, we are bound to understand the Church in her integrity, as Body no less than as Soul, visible no less than invisible, external no less than internal. Indeed, if either were to be included rather than the other, it would be the Body; for the Body, the congregation or society, is what the word primarily and properly designates; and it designates the soul only for the reason that the living Body necessarily connotes the soul by which it is a living Body, not a corpse. We have then, the right, nay, are bound by the force of the word itself, to understand by the Church, out of which there is no salvation, the visible or external as well as the invisible or internal communion.
"What Bellarmine, Billuart, Perrone, and others say of persons pertaining to the soul and yet not to the Body of the Church makes nothing against this conclusion. They, indeed, teach that there is a class of persons that may be saved, who cannot be said to be actually and properly in the Church. Bellarmine and Billuart instance catechumens and excommunicated persons, in case they have faith, hope, and charity; Perrone, so far as we have seen, instances catechumens only; and it is evident from the whole scope of their reasoning that all they say on this point must be restricted to catechumens, and such as are substantially in the same category with them; for they instance no others, and we are bound to construe every exception to the rule strictly, so as to make it as little of an exception as possible. If, then, our conclusion holds true, notwithstanding the apparent exception in the case of catechumens and those substantially in the same category, nothing these authors say can prevent it from holding true universally.
“Catechumens are persons who have not yet received the visible sacrament of baptism in re (in reality), and therefore are not actually and properly in the Church, since it is only by baptism that we are made members of Christ and incorporated into his Body. 'With regard to these there is no difficulty,' says Bellarmine, ‘because they are of the Faithful, and if they die in that state may be saved; and yet no one can be saved out of the Church, as no one was saved out of the ark, according to the decision of the fourth Council of Lateran, C. 1: “Una est fidelium Universalis Ecclesia, extra quam nullus omnino salvatur." Still, it is no less certain that catechumens are in the Church, not actually and properly, but only potentially, as a man conceived, but not yet formed and born, is called man only potentially. For we read (Acts, ii. 41.) "they therefore that received his word were baptized; and there were added to them that day about three thousand souls." Thus the Council of Florence, in its instructions for the Armenians, teaches that men are made members of Christ and of the Body of the Church when they are baptized; and so all the Fathers teach . . . Catechumens are not actually and properly in the Church. How can you say they are saved, if they are out of the Church?"
"It is clear that this difficulty, which Bellarmine states, arises from understanding that to be in the Church means to be in the visible Church, and that, when faith declares, out of the Church no one can be saved, it means out of the visible communion. Otherwise it might be answered, since they are assumed to have faith, hope, and charity, they belong to the soul of the Church, and that is all that faith requires. But, Bellarmine does not so answer, and since he does not, but proceeds to show that they do in a certain sense belong to the body, it is certain that he understands the article of faith as we do, and holds that men are not in the Church unless they, in some sense, belong to the body. “But," Bellarmine continues, “The author of the book 'De Ecclesiasticis Dogmatibus,' replies, that they are not saved. But this appears too severe; certain it is that St. Ambrose, in his oration on the death of Valentinian, expressly affirms that catechumens can be saved, of which number was Valentinian when he departed this life. Another solution is therefore to be sought. Melchior Cano says that catechumens may be saved, because, if not in the Church properly called Christian, they are yet in the Church which comprehends all the faithful, from Abel to the consummation of the world. But this is not satisfactory; for, since the coming of Christ there is no true Church but that which is properly called Christian, and therefore, if catechumens are not members of this, they are members of none. I reply therefore, that the assertion, 'out of the Church no one can be saved,' is to be understood of those who are of the Church neither actually nor in desire, as theologians generally say when treating of baptism." (De. Eccl. Milit. lib. 3, cap. 3)
"I have said," says Billuart, "that catechumens are not actually and properly in the Church, because, when they request admission into the Church, and when they already have faith and charity, they may be said to be in the Church proximately and in desire, as one may be said to be in the house because he is in the vestibule for the purpose of immediately entering. And in this sense must be taken what I have elsewhere said of their pertaining to the Church, that is, that they pertain to her inchoately, as aspirants who voluntarily subject themselves to her laws; and they may be saved, notwithstanding there is no salvation out of the Church; for this is to be understood of one who is in the Church neither actually nor virtually—nec re nec in voto. In the same sense St. Augustine, (Tract. 4 in Joan. n. 13.) is to be understood when he says, ‘Futuri erant aliqui in Ecclesia excelsioris gratiae catechumeni,' that is, in will and proximate disposition, ‘in voto et proxima dispositione.' (Theolog. de Reg. Fid. Dissert. 3, art. 3.)
“It is evident, both from Bellarmine and Billuart, that no one can be saved unless he belongs to the visible Communion of the Church, either actually or virtually, and also that the salvation of catechumens can be asserted only because they do so belong; that is, because they are in the vestibule, for the purpose of entering, have already entered in their will and proximate disposition. St. Thomas teaches with regard to these, in case they have faith working by charity, that all they lack is the, reception of the visible sacrament in reality; but, if they are prevented by death from receiving it in reality before the Church is ready to administer it, that God supplies the defect, accepts the will for the deed, and reputes them to be baptized. If the defect is supplied, and God reputes them to be baptized, they are so in effect, have in effect received the visible sacrament, are truly members of the external communion of the Church, and therefore are saved in it, not out of it. (Summa, 3, q. 68, a. 2, corp. ad 2. et ad 3.
"The case of the catechumens disposes of all who are substantially in the same category. The only persons, not catechumens, who can be in the same category, are persons who have been validly baptized, and stand in the same relation to the sacrament of Reconciliation that catechumens do to the sacrament of Faith. Infants, validly baptized, by whomsoever baptized, are made members of the Body of our Lord, and, if dying before coming to the age of reason go immediately to heaven. But persons having come to the age of reason, baptized in an heretical society, or persons baptized in such society in infancy, and adhering to it after having come to the years of understanding - for there can be no difference between the two classes - whether through ignorance or not, are, as we have seen, out of unity, and therefore out of charity, without which they are nothing. Their faith, if they have any, does not avail them; their sacraments are sacrilegious. The wound of sacrilege is mortal, and the only possible way of being healed is through the sacrament of Reconciliation or Penance. But for these to stand in the same relation to this sacrament that catechumens do to the sacrament of Faith, they must cease to adhere to their heretical societies, must come out from among them, seek and find the Church, recognize her as the Church, believe what she teaches, voluntarily subject themselves to her laws, knock at the door, will to enter, standing waiting to enter as soon as she opens and says, Come in. If they do all this, they are substantially in the same category with catechumens; and if, prevented by death from receiving the visible sacrament in reality, they may be saved, yet not as simply joined to the soul of the Church, but as in effect joined or restored to her external Communion. By their voluntary renunciation of their heretical or schismatic society, by their explicit recognition of the Church, by their actual return to her door, by their dispositions and will to enter, they are effectually, if not in form, members of the Body as well as the soul. Persons excommunicated stand on the same footing as these. They are excluded from the Church, unless they repent. If they repent and receive the visible sacrament of Reconciliation, either in reality or in desire, they may saved because the Church, in excommunicating them, has willed their amendment, not their exclusion from the people of God; but we have no authority to affirm their salvation on any other condition.
“The apparent exception alleged turns out, therefore, to be no real exception at all; for the persons excepted are still members of the Body of the Church in effect, as the authorities referred to labor to prove. They are persons who renounced their infidel and heretical societies, and have found and explicitly recognized the Church. Their approach to the Church is explicit, not constructive, to be inferred only from a certain vague and indefinite longing for the truth and unity in general, predicable in fact, we should suppose, of nearly all men; for no man ever clings to falsehood and division, believing them to be such. Their desire for truth and unity is explicit. Their faith is the Catholic faith; the unity they will is Catholic unity; the Church at whose door they knock is the Catholic Church; the sacrament they solicit, they solicit from the hands of her legitimate priest. They are in effect Catholics, and though not actually and properly in the Church, nobody ever dreams of so understanding the article, ‘out of the Church no one can be saved,' as to exclude them from salvation.*
*(Wherever we have spoken in any of our works of the soul and body of the Church, we wish to be understood in no other manner than has just been explained.)
"The Church is always and everywhere, at once and indissolubly, as the living Church, interior and exterior, consisting, like man himself, of soul and body. She is not a disembodied spirit, nor a corpse. The separation of the soul and body of the Church is as much her death as the separation of the soul and body of man is his. She is the Church, the living Church, only by the mutual commerce of soul and body. There may be grave sinners in her body who have no communion with her soul; these are indeed members, but not living members and are in the Body rather than of it, as vicious humors may be in the blood without being of it for they must have communion with the soul in order to be living members.
“The life of the Church, as all theologians teach, is in the mutual commerce of the exterior and interior, the body and soul; and therefore no individual not joined to her body can live her life. Indeed, to suppose that communion with the Body alone will suffice, is to fall into mere formalism, to mistake the corpse for the living man; and, on the other hand, to suppose that communion with the soul out of the body and independent of it is practicable, is to fall into pure spiritualism, simple Quakerism, which tapers off into Transcendentalism or sentimentalism. Either extreme is the death of the Church, which is, as we have said, to be regarded as always, at once and indissolubly, soul and body. (See Perrone, de Loc. Theolog. p. 1, cap. 2, art. 3, et cap. 4, art. 1. ad 1.)
"To assume that real or virtual communion with the body is not necessary, or that we may be joined to the spirit without being joined to the body is to make the body only occasionally or accidently necessary to salvation; and, in fact, some modern speculations imply, perhaps expressly teach, that it is necessary only in the case of those who recognize it to be necessary, as if its necessity depended on the state of the human intellect, and not on the appointment of God, or as if a man’s belief could excuse or make up for his want of faith, —a doctrine not to be extracted from the Holy Scripture, taught by no Father or Mediaeval Doctor, and from which, we should suppose, every Catholic would instinctively turn with loathing and disgust.
“The Church is the living Temple of God, into which believers must be builded as so many living stones. It is his Body, and his Body is no more to be dispensed with than his Soul; otherwise we could not call her always visible, for to some she would be visible, to others on1y invisible, and then there would be no visible Catholic Church."
Hence we were surprised to find the following erroneous opinion in a little work, Catholic Belief, page 230, § 7:—
"Catholics do not believe that Protestants who are baptized, who lead a good life, love God and their neighbor, and are blamelessly ignorant of the just claims of the Catholic religion to be the only one true Religion (which is called being in good faith), are excluded from Heaven, provided they believe that there is one God in three Divine Persons; that God will duly reward the good and punish the wicked; that Jesus Christ is the son of God made man, who redeemed us, and in whom we must trust for our salvation; and provided they thoroughly repent of having ever, by their sins, offended God.
"Catholics hold that Protestants who have these dispositions, and who have no suspicion of their religion being false, and no means to discover, or fail in their honest endeavors to discover, the true religion, and who are so disposed in their heart that they would at any cost embrace the Roman Catholic Religion if they knew it to be the true one, are Catholics in spirit and in some sense within the Catholic Church, without themselves knowing it. She holds that these Christians belong to, and are united to the "soul," as it is called, of the Catholic Church, although they are not united to the visible body of the Church by external communion with her, and by the outward profession of her faith."
How deceptively is not this opinion put? It is a well—known fact that many Protestants are baptized only when they are grown up. If validly baptized, they were, it is true, indelibly marked with the character of the sacrament of Baptism, but they did not receive the supernatural effects of Baptism—they were not justified—for want of the proper dispositions. The Council of Trent teaches that the very first condition to receive the grace of justification in Baptism is true Catholic faith. When this faith is wanting in a person, the supernatural effects of Baptism remain, suspended until such a baptized person becomes a true member of the Catholic Church. If such baptized Protestants die in that state they will be lost forever.
Those Protestants who were baptized in their infancy, and were brought up in heresy after they had come to the use of reason, became separated from the Church, and could not preserve, as St. Augustine says, divine charity out of the unity of the Church, and without such charity it is impossible to be saved.
Besides, those four great truths of salvation must be believed, as Cornelius a Lapide remarks, with divine faith, to be of any avail towards salvation. But how could those persons have this divine faith and true repentance for sins without the special mercy of God, who grants these gifts only to true converts to the Church. "Remission of sin" says St. Fulgentius, “cannot be obtained anywhere except in the Church."
And how could such persons even think of joining the Church, unless they are made to understand that they can find their salvation only in the Church. And then they would need a special grace to come up to their duty. And how could they be Catholics in spirit without having the true faith and divine charity? And how could they belong to the Soul of the Church, since that soul is not in them—that is, true faith and divine charity, which, we repeat, can be had only in the unity of the Church?
"The Catholic,” says Dr. O. A. Brownson, "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.
"It is worthy of special notice," says Brownson, "that those recent theologians who seem unwilling to assent to this doctrine cite no authority from a single Father or Mediaeval doctor of the Church, not strictly compatible with it.
"Unquestionably, authorities in any number may be cited to prove - what nobody disputes - that pertinacity in rejecting the authority of the Church is essential to formal or culpable heresy, that persons may be in heretical societies without being culpable heretics, and therefore, that we cannot say of all who live and die in such societies that they are damned precisely for the sin of heresy. Father Perrone cites passages in abundance to this effect, which as Suares says, is the uniform doctrine of all the theologians of the Church; but he and others cite not a single authority of an earlier date than the seventeenth century, which ever hints anything more than this. But this by no means militates against St. Augustine, St. Fulgentius and others; because it by no means follows from the fact that one who is not a formal heretic is, so long as he is in a society alien to the Church, in the way of salvation.
"A man may, indeed, not be damned for his erroneous faith, and yet be damned for sins not remissible without the true faith, and for the want of virtues impracticable out of the communion of the Church. Father Perrone very properly distinguishes material heretics from formal; but when treating the question ex-professo, he by no means pronounces the former in the way of salvation; he simply remits them to the judgment of God, who, he assures us,—what nobody questions—will consign no man to endless tortures, unless for a sin of which he is voluntarily guilty. (Tract. do Vera Relig. adv. Heterodox., prop. ix.)
“Moreover, Father Perrone, when refuting those who contend that salvation would be attainable if the visible Church should fail, that is, by internal means, by being joined in spirit to the true Church, maintains that in such case there would be no ordinary means of salvation; that, when Christ founded his Church, he intended to offer men an ordinary means, or rather a collection of means, which all indiscriminately, and at all times, should use for procuring salvation; that, if God had been willing to operate our salvation by the assistance of internal means, there would have been no reason for instituting the Church; that, what is said of being joined to the Church through the spirit, and of invincible ignorance, or of material heretics, could be admitted only on the hypothesis that God should provide no other means; that, since it is certain that God has willed to save men by other means, namely, by the institution of the Church visible and external, and which is at all times easily distinguished from every sect, it is evident that the subterfuge imagined by non-Catholics is altogether unavailable." (De Loc. Theologic., p. 1, cap. 4, art. 1.)
The Rev. A. Young seems not to become tired of repeating, though in other words, the same erroneous opinion of the faith of Protestants. So he says again: “If we Catholics could be, shall I say, fearless enough to acknowledge that the common actual faith of Protestants, who are in good faith, is identical with ours in its essential quality, and saving their great pitiable ignorance, I am convinced that it would open the way for the conversion of many of them." Let us therefore repeat again a most essential quality of our faith as given by St. Thomas. He says:—
“The formal object of faith is the First Truth (that is, God himself) such as he is made known in Holy Scripture and in the doctrine of the Church, which (doctrine) comes from the First Truth. Hence, whosoever does not adhere to the infallible and divine rule (of faith)—to the doctrine of the Church, which proceeds from the First Truth (God) as made known in Holy Scripture, such a one has not the habit of faith; but those truths of faith which he holds, he holds them not by faith, but in some other way. But it is evident that he who adheres to the doctrine of the Church as the infallible rule (of faith), gives his assent to all that the Church teaches; but he who holds of the truths of faith which the Church teaches such as he chooses, and rejects such as he chooses, does not adhere to the doctrine of the Church as infallible rule of faith; he adheres to his own private judgment as rule of his faith.
Faith adheres to all the articles of faith on account of one medium, namely, on account of the First Truth (God) as proposed for our faith in Holy Scripture according to the doctrine of the Church; (that is, as Sylvius explains, the Church, proposing or declaring what is of faith, is the ordinary medium established by God, in order that we may know for certain what he has revealed and what he obliges the faithful to believe). "And therefore," continues St. Thomas, "he who has not this medium, (that is, he who has not the Church for his teacher in all matters of faith) has no faith whatever." *
"Formale objectum fidei," says St. Thomas, "est veritas prima (i. e. Deus ipse) secundum quod manifestatur in Scripturis sacris et in doctrina Ecclesiae, quae procedit ex veritate prima. Unde quicunque non inhaerit sicut infallibili et divinae regulae, doctrinae Ecclesiae, quae procedit ex veritate prima in Scripturis sacris manifestata, ille non habet habitum fidei; sed ea, quae sunt dei, alio modo tenet quam. per fidem. Manifestum est autem, quod ille, qui inhaeret doctrinae Ecclesiae tan-quam infallibili regulae, omnibus assentit quae Ecclesia docet: alioquin, si de his quae Ecclesia docet, quae non vult non tenet, jam non inhaeret Ecclesiae doctrinae, sicut infallibili regulae, sed propriae voluntati.
Omnibus articulis fidei inhaeret fides propter unum. Medium, scilicet propter veritatem primam propositam nobis in Scripturis secundum doctrinam Ecclesiae intelligentis sane; (i. e., ut explicat Sylvius: Ecclesiae propositio vel declaratio, medium est ordinarium a Deo institutum, ut certo sciamus, quaenam ipse revelaverit et a fidelibus credenda voluerit). "Et ideo, qui ab hoc medio decidit, TOTALITER fide caret."
Such is the doctrine of St. Thomas, of St. Alphonsus, and of all the Fathers and Doctors of the Church concerning those who have divine faith, and those who have none whatever. Our faith is divine and infallible, because it comes to us from God through the divine and infallible medium of the Church. But "material Protestants," as the Rev. A. Young candidly says, "i>openly refuse to hear the divine authority of the Church, and so they are heretics in foro externo" of the Church. They, therefore, have no infallible and divine rule of faith, and consequently cannot have divine faith. Their faith is human, ours is divine.
Another, essential quality of our faith is that it is always one and unchangeable; Protestant faith is as changeable as the wind; hence we see so many different sects of Protestants.
Again, a very essential quality of our faith is that it is holy, because it comes from Jesus Christ. We believe absolutely in Jesus Christ and all that he teaches us through his Church. Protestants, material Protestants not excepted, have no absolute faith in Christ, first, because they do not believe him to be such as he is made known in Holy Scripture and in the infallible doctrine of his Church; secondly, because they do not believe all that Christ commanded his Church to teach all nations, obliging all to believe her doctrine under pain of eternal damnation.
Moreover, the Church is holy, because she has the sacraments instituted by Jesus Christ as a means by which his grace is conferred upon those who are members of his body—the Catholic Church. Protestants have rejected most of these means of holiness, and therefore even material heretics are deprived of them. If they receive baptism, it is not unto their salvation, as St. Thomas, St. Augustine, and other Fathers of the Church say (Only those Protestant children are saved who, if baptized, die before they come to the years of understanding); but those who grow up in heresy forfeit the supernatural graces of baptism, and are most fatally wounded by heresy. But in our faith the forgiveness of sins is obtained, and we become holy by living up to it. All this is impossible in Protestant faith. Their faith is derived from the enemies of Christ.
Our faith teaches us a holy worship, established by Jesus Christ—the holy sacrifice of the Mass, in which Jesus Christ offers himself, through the hands of his priest, to his heavenly Father in an unbloody manner, as he did in a bloody manner on the cross; it is by this holy, unbloody sacrifice that he applies to our souls the merits of his bloody sacrifice, and that we, by offering it up to the heavenly Father, honor him with that infinite honor by which Jesus Christ has honored him on earth, especially by his death on the cross, and continues to honor him for us, to thank him for us, to pacify him for us, and to obtain immense blessings for the members of his Church Militant and Suffering; so that he stands with his heavenly Father for every faithful Catholic who is united to his Body—the Church, and that every faithful Catholic presents himself to the heavenly Father, in Christ and with Christ, with whom he is united through his Body—the Church, from which Christ will never be separated.
Alas! Protestant belief rejected Christ when it rejected the holy sacrifice of the Mass. With the rejection of this unbloody sacrifice it rejected the most holy worship of God. If the sin of the sons of Heli was very great in the sight of the Lord, because they prevented the people from offering the imperfect sacrifices of the Jewish Law, which were only figures of the unbloody perfect sacrifice of the New Law—and which were abolished by Christ, and replaced by his unbloody sacrifice,—how great must not be the sin of those who prevent Protestants from becoming Catholics, from serving and honoring God in the manner which Jesus Christ has prescribed under pain of eternal damnation! Protestant belief cuts off all its followers from this inexhaustible source of temporal and spiritual blessings; it makes them worship God with a false worship, which is so severely condemned by God in the first commandment. From the beginning of the world God himself prescribed the sacrifices and the manner in his people should worship him; in the New Law also Christ instituted a new and perfect worship of God—for the divine worship which God wishes to receive from his own people is a most essential part of the true religion. Hence good Catholics are so anxious on Sundays and holy-days of obligation to be in due time present at the holy sacrifice of the Mass, to give to God, by this sacrifice of infinite value, that divine honor which he has prescribed, and to obtain by it all possible blessings for soul and body.
By the Catholic faith the world has been Christianized and civilized; but by the principles of Protestant belief the world has been filled with millions of infidels, because the essential quality of Protestant belief is that it rests upon negation; if Protestants, even material ones, hold some Catholic truths, they hold them from Catholics, and these truths are so many proofs to convince them that they should also believe the other truths of the Catholic Church, and be Catholics; that they are separated from the Church, which is Christ's Body, and consequently separated from Christ himself; and whatever Catholic truths they seem to hold, they cannot hold them by faith, but by some other way, as St. Thomas says; and these truths are not theirs, but ours, says Brownson; what is all theirs, is their denial of the other truths of the Catholic Church.
Another essential quality of our faith is that it is Apostolic, that is, it has come to us from the Apostles through their lawful successors who have, through Holy Orders, all the powers which Christ conferred upon his Apostles; but Protestant belief comes from apostate Catholics, who left the Church from the passion of lust, or pride, or avarice, and therefore their preachers and bishops have no more power from Christ, than a man in the moon has from the United States Government to declare war against the English Government.
Another essential quality of our faith is that it is Catholic, binding in conscience all men who come to know it to embrace it under pain of eternal damnation; but Protestant belief, as it does not come from Christ, has no power to bind persons in conscience.
Our faith will last to the end of the world all the same and unchanged; that of Protestants, like so many other heresies, will gradually disappear in the vapor of infidelity.
Our faith has been confirmed by thousands of miracles; but all the authors of heresies have died a most melancholy death, and frightful punishments have been inflicted by God upon all the persecutors of the Catholic faith, as is well known from history.
Now all this shows that the difference between the essential qualities of our faith and those of Protestant belief is greater than the distance between heaven and earth.
What a shame, therefore. for the Rev. A. Young to proclaim, through the Catholic Union and Times of Buffalo, “If we Catholics could be fearless enough to acknowledge that the common actual faith of material Protestants is identical with ours in its essential quality." What an outrage and insult to Catholic faith! Such a fearless heretical acknowledgment has never been made and will never be made by any true, well-instructed Catholic.
By telling us, "If we Catholics could be fearless enough to acknowledge that the common, actual faith of material Protestants is identical with ours in its essential quality," the Rev. A. Young gives Catholics sufficient reason to believe that what he says of himself is really true, namely, that in becoming a Catholic, his faith underwent no change!"p>
What a great difference is there not between his manner of speaking of Catholic and Protestant belief and that of Cardinals Manning and Newman, of Bishop Hay, of Dr. O. A. Brownson, Marshall, and many other celebrated converts. They speak like men of great faith; but the Rev. A.Young speaks like one whose faith is not much enlightened.
Let Father Young never forget what St. Augustine says of schismatics: "We are accustomed from the words of the Apostle (`If I speak with the tongues of angels, etc., I. Cor. xiii. 1-8) to show men that it avails them nothing to have either the sacraments or the faith, if they have not charity, in order that, when you come to Catholic unity, you may understand what is conferred on you, and how great is that in which you were before deficient. For Christian charity cannot be kept out of the unity of the Church, and thus you may see that without it you are nothing, even though you have Baptism and faith, and by your faith were able even to remove mountains."
§ 7. INVINCIBLE OR INCULPABLE IGNORANCE NEITHER SAVES NOR DAMNS A PERSON.
"But, suppose," some one will say, "a person, in his inculpable ignorance, believes that he is on the right road to heaven, though he is not a Catholic; he tries his best to live up to the dictates of his conscience. Now, should he die in that state of belief, he would, it seems, be condemned without his fault. We can understand that God is not bound to give heaven to anybody, but, as he is just, he certainly cannot condemn anybody without his fault."
Whatever question may be made still in regard to the great truth in question is sufficiently answered in the explanation already given of this great truth. For the sake of greater clearness, however, we will answer a few more questions. In the answers to these questions we shall be obliged to repeat what has already been said.
Now, as to the question just proposed, we answer with St. Thomas and St. Augustine: "There are many things which a man is obliged to do, but which he cannot do without the help of divine grace: as, for instance, to love God and his neighbor, and to believe the articles of faith; but he can do all this with the help of grace; and `to whomsoever God gives his grace he gives it out of divine mercy; and to whomsoever he does not give it, he refuses it out of divine justice, in punishment of sin committed, or at least in punishment of original sin, as St. Augustine says. (Lib. de correptione et gratia, c. 5 et 6; Sum. 22. q. ii. art. v.) "And the ignorance of those things of salvation, the knowledge of which men did not care to have is without doubt, a sin for them; but for those who were not able to acquire such knowledge, the want of it is a punishment for their sins," says St. Augustine; hence both are justly condemned, and neither the one nor the other has a just excuse for being lost." (Epist. ad Sixtum, Edit. Maur. 194, cap. vi., n. 27.)
Moreover, a person who wants to go East, but, by an innocent mistake, gets on a train going West, will, as soon as he finds out his mistake, get off at the next station, and take a train that goes East. In like manner, a person who walked on a road that he, in his inculpable ignorance, believed was the true road to heaven, must leave that road, as soon as he finds out his mistake, and inquire for the true road to heaven. God, in his infinite mercy, will not fail to make him find out, in due time, the true road to heaven, if he corresponds to his grace. Hence we asked the following question in our Familiar Explanation:
"What are we to think of the salvation of those who are out of the pale of the Church without any fault of theirs, and who never had any opportunity to know better?
To this question we give the following answer: "Their inculpable (invincible) ignorance will not save them; but if they fear God and live up to their conscience, God, in his infinite mercy, will furnish them with the necessary means of salvation, even so as to send, if needed, an angel to instruct them in the Catholic faith, rather than let them perish through inculpable ignorance." (St. Thomas Aquinas.)
S. O. remarks about this answer, "that the author is not theologically correct, for no one will ever be punished through, by, or because of inculpable ignorance." In these words, S. O. impudently imputes to us what we never have asserted, namely, that a man will be damned on account of his inculpable ignorance." From the fact that a person tries to live up to the dictates of his conscience, and cannot sin against the true religion on account of being invincibly ignorant of it, many have drawn the false conclusion that such a person is saved, or, in other words, is in the state of sanctifying grace, making thus invincible ignorance a means of salvation. This conclusion is contra "latius hos quam praemissae." To give an example. The Rev. Nicholas Russo, S. J., professor of philosophy in Boston College, says in his book, The true Religion and its dogmas:—
"This good faith being supposed, we say that such a Christian (he means a baptized Protestant) is in a way a member of the Catholic Church. Ignorance alone is the cause of his not acknowledging the authority of his true mother. The Catholic Church does not look upon him as wholly a stranger; she calls him her child; she presses him to her maternal heart; through other hands she prepares him to shine in the kingdom of heaven. Yes, the profession of a creed different from the true one will not, of itself, bar the gates of heaven before this Christian; invincible ignorance will, before the tribunal of the just God, ensure the pardon of his errors against faith; and, if nothing else be wanting, heaven will be, his home for eternity." We have already sufficiently refuted these false assertions, and we have quoted them, not for the purpose of refuting them, but for the purpose of denying emphatically what follows after these false assertions, namely: "i>This is the doctrine held by almost all theologians, and has received the sanction of our late Pope Pius IX.. In his Allocution of December 9, 1854, we read the following words: "It is indeed of faith that no one can be saved outside the Apostolic Roman Church; that this Church is the one ark of salvation; that he who has not entered it will perish in the deluge. But, on the other hand, it is equally certain that, were a man to be invincibly ignorant of the true religion, he would not be held guilty in the sight of God for not professing it."
Now, in which of these words of Pope Pius IX. is any of the above false assertions of the Rev. N. Russo, S. J., sanctioned? In which words does Pius IX. say that a Protestant in good faith is in a way a member of the Catholic Church? Does not Pius IX. teach quite the contrary in the following words, which the Rev. N. Russo, S. J., quotes pp. 163-166?
"Now, whoever will carefully examine and reflect upon the condition of the various religious societies, divided among themselves, and separated from the Catholic Church—which, from the days of Our Lord Jesus Christ and his Apostles, has ever exercised, by its lawful pastors, and still does exercise, the divine power committed to it by this same Lord—will easily satisfy himself that none of these societies, singly nor all together, are in any way or form that one Catholic Church which our Lord founded and built, and which he chose should be; and that he cannot by any means say that these societies are members or parts of that Church, since they are visibly separated from Catholic unity...
"Let all those, then, who do not profess the unity and truth of the Catholic Church, avail themselves of the opportunity of this (Vatican) Council, in which the Catholic Church, to which their forefathers belonged, affords a new proof of her close unity and her invincible vitality, and let them satisfy the longings of their hearts, and liberate themselves from that state in which they cannot have any assurance of their own salvation. Let them unceasingly offer fervent prayers to the God of Mercy, that he will throw down the wall of separation, that he will scatter the darkness of error, and that he will lead them back to the Holy Mother Church, in whose bosom their fathers found the salutary pastures of life, in whom alone the whole doctrine of Jesus Christ is preserved and handed down, and the mysteries of heavenly grace dispensed."
Now does not Pius IX. say in these words, very plainly and distinctly, that the members of all other religious societies are visibly separated from Catholic unity; that in this state of separation they cannot have salvation; that by fervent prayer, they should beseech God to throw down the wall of separation, to scatter the darkness of error, and lead them to the Mother Church, in which alone salvation is found." And in his Allocution to the Cardinals held Dec. 17, 1847, Pius IX. says: "i>Let those, therefore, who wish to be saved, come to the pillar and the ground of faith, which is the Church; let them come to the true Church of Christ, which, in her Bishops, and in the Roman Pontiff, the Chief Head of all, has the succession of apostolical Authority, which has never been interrupted, which has never counted anything of greater importance than to preach, and by all means to keep, and defend the doctrine proclaimed by the Apostles at Christ's command . . . . . . We shall never at any time abstain from any cares or labors that, by the grace of Christ himself, we may bring those who are ignorant, and who are going astray, to THIS ONLY ROAD OF TRUTH AND SALVATION." Now does not Pius IX. teach most clearly in these words that the ignorant cannot be saved by their ignorance, but that, in order to be saved, they must come to the only road of truth and salvation, which is the Roman Catholic Church?
Again, does not Pius IX. most emphatically declare, in the words quoted above by the Rev. N. Russo, S. J., that "It is indeed of faith, that NO ONE can be saved out of the Apostolic Roman Church?" How, then, we ask, can the Rev. N. Russo, S. J. say in truth, that a Protestant in good faith, such as he described, is in a way a member of the Catholic Church? that the Catholic Church does not look upon him as wholly a stranger? that she calls him her child, presses him to her maternal heart, prepares him, through other hands, to shine in the kingdom of God? that the profession of a creed different from the true one will not, of itself, bar the gates of heaven before this Christian, etc.? How can this professor of philosophy at the Boston College assert all this, whilst Pius IX teaches the very contrary? And mark especially the scandalous assertion of the Rev. N. Russo, S. J., namely: "This our opinion is the doctrine which has received the sanction of our late Pope Pius IX." To prove his scandalous assertion, he quotes the following words of Pius IX: "It is equally certain that, were a man to be invincibly ignorant of the true religion, he would not be held guilty in the sight of God for not professing it." If, in these words, Pius IX. says what no one calls in question, that invincible ignorance of the true religion excuses a Protestant from the sin of heresy, does Pius IX. thereby teach that such invincibly ignorance saves such a Protestant? Does he teach that invincible ignorance supplies all that is necessary for salvation—all that you can have only in the true faith? How could the Professor of philosophy at the Jesuit College in Boston draw such a false and scandalous conclusion from premises in which it is not contained? Pius IX. has, on many occasions, condemned such liberal opinions. Read his Allocution to the Cardinals, held Dec. 17, 1847, in which he expresses his indignation against all those who had said that he had sanctioned such perverse opinions. "In our times," says he, "many of the enemies of the Catholic Faith direct their efforts towards placing every monstrous opinion on the same level with the doctrine of Christ, or confounding it therewith; and so they try more and more to propagate that impious system of the indifference of religions. But quite recently—we shudder to say it, certain men have not hesitated to slander us by saying that we share in their folly, favor that most wicked system, and think so benevolently of every class of mankind as to suppose that not only the sons of the Church, but that the rest also, however alienated from Catholic unity they may remain, are alike in the way of salvation, and may arrive at everlasting life. We are at a loss from horror, to find words to express our detestation of this new and atrocious injustice that is done to us."
Mark well, Pius IX. uttered these solemn words against "certain men," whom he calls the enemies of the Catholic Faith,—he means liberal minded Catholics and priests, as is evident from other Allocutions, in which he says that he has condemned not less than forty times their perverse opinions about religion. Is it not, for instance, a perverse and monstrous opinion, when the Rev. N. Russo, S. J., says: "The spiritual element (of the Church) comprises all the graces and virtues that are the foundation of the spiritual life; it includes the gifts of the Holy Ghost; in other words, it is what theologians call the soul of the Church. (Now follows the monstrous opinion) This mysterious soul is not limited by the bounds of the exterior organization (of the Church); it can go far beyond; exist even in the midst of schism and heresy unconsciously professed, and bind to our Lord hearts that are connected by no exterior ties with the visible Body of the Church. This union with the soul of the Church is essential to salvation; so essential that without it none can be saved. But the necessity of belonging likewise to the Body of the Church, though a real one, may in certain cases offer no obstacle to salvation. This happens whenever invincible ignorance so shrouds a man's intellectual vision, that he ceases to be responsible before God for the light which he does not see"? The refutation of this monstrous opinion is sufficiently given in all we have said before. The very Allocution of Pius IX., from which the Rev. N. Russo quotes, is a direct condemnation of such monstrous opinions. (See Preface)
Now these modern would-be theologians are not ashamed to assure us most solemnly that their opinions are the doctrine held by almost all theologians, and yet they cannot quote one proof from Holy Scripture, or from the writings of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, to give the least support to their opinions.
The Rev. N. Russo and S. O. seem not to see the difference between saying: Inculpable ignorance will not save a man, and inculpable ignorance will not damn a man. Each assertion is correct, and yet there is a great difference between the two. It will be an act of charity to enlighten them on the point in question.
Inculpable or invincible ignorance has never been and will never be a means of salvation. To be saved, it is necessary to be justified, or to be in the state of sanctifying grace. In order to obtain sanctifying grace, it is necessary to have the proper dispositions for justification; that is, true divine faith in at least the necessary truths of salvation, confident hope in the divine Saviour, sincere sorrow for sin, together with the firm purpose of doing all that God has commanded, etc. Now, these supernatural acts of faith, hope, charity, contrition, etc., which prepare the soul for receiving sanctifying grace, can never be supplied by invincible ignorance; and if invincible ignorance cannot supply the preparation for receiving sanctifying grace, much less can it bestow sanctifying grace itself. "Invincible ignorance," says St. Thomas Aquinas, "is a punishment for sin." (De Infid. q. x., art. 1.) It is, then, a curse, but not a blessing or a means of salvation.
But if we say that inculpable ignorance cannot save a man, we thereby do not say that invincible ignorance damns a man. Far from it. To say, invincible ignorance is no means of salvation, is one thing; and to say, invincible ignorance is the cause of damnation is another. To maintain the latter, would be wrong, for inculpable ignorance of the fundamental principles of faith excuses a heathen from the sin of infidelity, and a Protestant from the sin of heresy; because such invincible ignorance, being only a simple involuntary privation, is no sin.
Hence Pius IX. said "that, were a man to be invincibly ignorant of the true religion, such invincible ignorance would not be sinful before God; that, if such a person should observe the precepts of the Natural Law and do the will of God to the best of his knowledge, God, in his infinite mercy, may enlighten him so as to obtain eternal life; for, the Lord, who knows the heart and thoughts of man will, in his infinite goodness, not suffer any one to be lost forever without his own fault."
§ 8. HOW ALMIGHTY GOD LEADS TO SALVATION THOSE WHO ARE INCULPABLY IGNORANT OF THE TRUTHS OF SALVATION.
Almighty God, who is just and condemns no one without his fault, puts, therefore, such souls as are in invincible ignorance of the truths of salvation, in the way of salvation, either by natural or supernatural means.
There is a Protestant. He lived in a part of Germany where he always remained invincibly ignorant of the true religion, but lived up to the dictates of his conscience. At last he resolved to emigrate to this country, with a view of benefiting himself temporally. But Almighty God had other designs in regard to him. He wished to put him in the way of salvation. This Protestant goes into a Protestant church in this country. He sees at once a vast difference between the Protestants in America and those in Europe. He is perplexed at this difference, and begins to doubt about the truth of Protestantism. To make sure whether he is right or wrong in his religion, he communicates his doubts to a well-instructed Catholic friend, who explains to him what true religion is, and where it is found. Accordingly, as he is upright before God, and wishes to save his soul, he makes up his mind to become a Catholic. Thus the emigration of this Protestant to this country was, in the hands of God, the natural means of putting him in the way of salvation.
Not long ago, a friend of mine told me that a lady who was on board a steamer dropped a Catholic book into the water. The captain of the boat saved the book, and read it before returning it, and at last became a Catholic. Humanly speaking, the falling of the book into the water was quite accidental; but Almighty God made use of this circumstance to put in the way of salvation one who had been invincibly ignorant, and who had not acted against his conscience.
There is a young lady. Her parents profess no religion. They never go to church. They never speak of religion at home, but take care that their daughter may not become acquainted with wicked companions. So she remains naturally good and innocent. To give her a good education, they place her in a Catholic institution. There she becomes acquainted with Catholic companions, with Catholic devotions, ceremonies, with the service of the Church, etc. She is inquisitive, and wishes to know the meaning of everything that she sees and hears about Catholicity. She is pleased with the Catholic Church, and exclaims: "I never heard anything of the kind before." At last she becomes a Catholic. Here, education is the means which God uses to place on the road to heaven one who had been invincibly ignorant of the means of salvation, and had remained naturally good and innocent.
Many similar instances could be quoted to show that Almighty God, in his goodness, uses natural ways and means to place invincibly ignorant souls, that live up to their conscience, in the way of salvation. This is the ordinary way of his divine Providence, viz., to lead men, by natural ways and means, to what is supernatural.
But there may be exceptional cases, in which Almighty God uses supernatural means to save a man inculpably ignorant and living up to his conscience. Suppose such a one is living in a country in which, naturally speaking, during his lifetime he can hear nothing of the Catholic religion. In this case, or, as has been expressed above, "if needed," Almighty God will, in his infinite mercy, make use of a supernatural means to lead that person to salvation, rather than let him perish through inculpable ignorance. He can supernaturally enlighten him, so that he may know what he must believe in order to be saved. "Many of the Gentiles," says St. Thomas, "received divine revelation concerning Christ, as is evident from what they have foretold. Job says: `I know that my Redeemer liveth; and in the last day I shall rise out of the earth.' " (Job, xix. 25.) The Sibyls also have foretold certain things of Christ, as St. Augustine says (Cont. Faust. lib. xiii., c. 15.). At the time of Constantine Augustus and his mother Irene a certain grave was found in which a body was lying that had a plate on its chest, on which were found the words: “Christ will be born of a Virgin, and I believe in him. O Sun, at the time of Irene and Constantine you shall see me again." (Baron. ad ann. Christi, 780.) This is in harmony with what Job says: "Who teacheth us more than the beasts of the earth." (Job, xxxv. 11.) (De Fide, q. ii., art vii.) Indeed, Almighty God, in his infinite mercy, can dispose a soul, in a moment, for receiving sanctifying grace, and infuse, at the same time, this grace into the soul. The light of true faith, the voluntary inclination of free-will to conform to the will and grace of God, the determination of free-will to abstain from sin, the remission of sins, and the infusion of grace, take place by a simultaneous movement; for justification is instantaneous, and has no successive gradation. It is acquired by grace and by the operation of the Holy Ghost, who takes possession of the soul at once: "And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a mighty wind, and it filled the whole house." (Acts, ii. 2.) Resistance and mental deliberation may be long and slow on the part of the sinner, but victory and triumph are quick and sudden on the part of God, by the infusion of his grace into a repentant soul.
There are, indeed, remarkable instances of sudden conversions of souls in times past and present, which prove that such powerful effects can be and are operated by the grace of God. Such a marvelous prodigy, such a sudden spiritual renovation of the soul of a man, is a most extraordinary grace, which Almighty God can grant, even to a great sinner in his last hour. "As God is good," says St. Augustine," he may save a person without any merits on his part."
Almighty God can also, by a miracle, carry a priest to a person invincibly ignorant and living up to the dictates of his conscience; or he can carry such a person to a priest—or make use of an angel or a saint to lead him to the way of salvation.
Among the holy souls of past centuries who have been loaded with signal favors and privileges by Almighty God, we must place, in the first rank, Mary of Jesus, often styled of Agreda, from the name of the place in Spain where she passed her life. The celebrated J. Goerres, in his grand work, "Mysticism," does not hesitate to cite as an example the life of Mary of Agreda, in a chapter entitled, "The Culminating Point of Christian Mysticism." Indeed, there could not be found a more perfect model of the highest mystic ways.
This holy virgin burned with a most ardent love for God and for the salvation of souls. One day, she beheld in a vision all the nations of the world. She saw the greater part of men were deprived of God's grace, and running headlong to everlasting perdition. She saw how the Indians of Mexico put fewer obstacles to the grace of conversion than any other nation who were out of the Catholic Church, and how God, on this account, was ready to show mercy to them. Hence she redoubled her prayers and penances to obtain for them the grace of conversion. God heard her prayers. He commanded her to teach the Catholic religion to those Mexican Indians. From that time, she appeared, by way of bilocation, to the savages, not less than five hundred times, instructing them in all the truths of our holy religion, and performing miracles in confirmation of these truths. When all were converted to the faith, she told them that religious priests would be sent by God to receive them into the Church by baptism. As she had told, so it happened. God, in his mercy, sent to these good Indians several Franciscan fathers, who were greatly astonished when they found those savages fully instructed in the Catholic doctrine. When they asked the Indians who had instructed them, they were told that a holy virgin appeared among them many times, and taught them the Catholic religion and confirmed it by miracles. (Life of the Venerable Mary of Jesus of Agreda, § xii.) Thus those good Indians were brought miraculously to the knowledge of the true religion in the Catholic Church, because they followed their conscience in observing the natural law.
Something similar is related in the life of Father J. Anchieta, S. J. (chap. vi.). One day, this great man of God entered the woods of Itannia, in Brazil, without any assignable motive and, in fact, as if he were guided by another. At a little distance he perceived an old man seated on the ground and leaning against a tree. "Hasten your steps," cried the old man when he saw the father, for I have been expecting you for some time." The saintly missionary asked him who he was, and from what country he had come. "My country," said the old man, "is beyond the sea." He added other things, which led the father to infer that he had come from a distant province, near Rio de la Plata, and that he had either been conveyed by supernatural means from his own country to the place where he then was, or that, by the direction and guidance of heaven, he had been led thither with great labor and fatigue, and had placed himself where the father found him, in full expectation of the accomplishment of the divine promise. Father Anchieta then asked him why he had come to that place. "I have come hither," he answered, "in order that I might be taught the right path." This is the expression which the Brazilians use when they speak of the laws of God and of the way to heaven. Father Anchieta felt convinced, from the answers of the old man, that he had never had more than one wife, had never taken up arms except in his own just defence, and that he had never grievously transgressed the law of nature. He perceived, moreover, from the arguments of the old man, that he knew many truths relative to the Author of nature, to the soul, and to virtue and vice. When Father Anchieta had explained to him several of the mysteries of our holy religion, he said: "It is thus that I have hitherto understood them, but I knew not how to define them." After having sufficiently instructed the old man, Father Anchieta collected some rain-water, from the leaves of the wild thistles, baptized him, and named him Adam. The new disciple of Christ immediately experienced in his soul the holy effects of baptism. He raised his eyes and hands to heaven, and thanked Almighty God for the mercy which he had bestowed upon him. Soon after, he expired in the arms of Father Anchieta, who buried him according to the ceremonies of the Church.
About these miraculous conversions Dr. O. A. Brownson well remarks:—
"That there may be persons in heretical and schismatical societies, invincibly ignorant of the Church, who so perfectly correspond to the graces they receive, that Almighty God will, by extraordinary means, bring them to the Church, is believable and perfectly compatible with the known order of his grace, as is evinced by two beautiful examples recorded in Holy Scripture. The one is that of the eunuch of Candice, Queen of Ethiopia: he, following the lights that God gave him, though living at a great distance from Jerusalem, became acquainted with the worship of the true God, and was accustomed to go from time to time to Jerusalem to adore him. When, however, the Gospel began to be published, the Jewish religion could no longer save him; but being well disposed, by fidelity to the graces he had hitherto received, he was not forsaken by Almighty God; for when he was returning to his own country from Jerusalem, the Lord sent a message by an angel to St. Philip to meet and instruct him in the faith of Christ, and baptize him (Acts, viii. 26). The other example is that of Cornelius, who was an officer of the Roman army of the Italic band, and brought up in idolatry. In the course of events, his regiment coming to Judea, he saw there a religion different from his own,—the worship of one only God. Grace moving his heart, he believed in this God, and following the further notion's of divine grace, he gave much alms to the poor, and prayed earnestly to this God to direct him what to do. Did God abandon him? By no means; he sent an angel from heaven to tell him to whom to apply in order to be fully instructed in the knowledge and faith of Jesus Christ, and to be received into his Church by baptism. Now, what God did in these two cases he is no less able to do in all others, and has a thousand ways in his wisdom to conduct souls who are truly in earnest to the knowledge of the truth, and to salvation. And though such a soul were in the remotest wilds of the world, God could send a Philip, or an angel from heaven, to instruct him, or, by the superabundance of his internal grace, or by numberless other ways unknown to us, could infuse into his soul the knowledge of the truth. The great affair is, that we carefully do our part in complying with what he gives us; for of this we are certain, that, if we be not wanting to him, he will never be wanting to us, but, as he begins the good work in us, will also perfect it, if we be careful to correspond and to put no hindrance to his designs.
"However, in all the instances of extraordinary or miraculous intervention of Almighty God, whether in the order of nature, or in the order of grace known to us, he has intervened ad Ecclesiam, and there is not a shadow of authority for supposing that he ever has miraculously intervened or ever will intervene otherwise. To assume that he will, under any circumstances, intervene to save men without the medium ordinarium, (the Church) is perfectly gratuitous, to say the least. To bring men in an extraordinary manner to the Church is easily admissible, because it does not dispense with the revealed economy of salvation, nor imply its inadequacy, but to intervene to save them without it appears to us to dispense with it, and to imply that it is not adequate to the salvation of all whom God's goodness leads him to save. That those in societies alien to the Church, invincibly ignorant of the Church, if they correspond to the graces they receive, and persevere, will be saved, we do not doubt, but not where they are, or without being brought to the Church. They are sheep in the prescience of God, Catholics, but sheep not yet gathered into the fold. "Other sheep I have," says our Blessed Lord, "that are not of this fold; them also I must bring; they shall hear my voice; and there shall be made one fold and one shepherd." This is conclusive, and that these must be brought, and enter the fold, which is the Church, in this life, as St. Augustine expressly teaches."
But is no one brought to the Faith and Church of Christ but those who correspond as they ought with the graces received before?
"God forbid," says Bishop Hay: "for, though it be certain that God will never fail to bring all those to the Faith and Church of Christ who faithfully correspond with the graces he bestows upon them, yet he has nowhere bound himself to bestow that singular mercy on no other. Were this the case, how few, indeed, would receive it! But God, to show the infinite riches of his goodness and mercy, bestows it on many of the most undeserving; he bestowed it even upon many of the hardened Jews who crucified Jesus Christ, and of the priests who persecuted him to death, even though they had obstinately opposed all the means he had previously used by his doctrine and miracles to convert them. In this he acts as Lord and Master, and as a free disposer of his own gifts; he gives to all the helps necessary and sufficient for their present state; to those who cooperate with these helps he never fails to give more abundantly; and in order to show the riches of his mercy on numbers of the most undeserving, he bestows his most singular favors for their conversion. Hence none have cause to complain; all ought to be solicitous to cooperate with what they have; none ought to despair on account of their past ingratitude, but be assured that God, who is rich in mercy, will yet have mercy on them, if they return to him. Those only ought to fear and tremble who remain obstinate in their evil ways, who continue to resist the calls of his mercy, and put off their conversion from day to day. For though his infinite mercy knows no bounds in pardoning sins, however numerous and grievous, if we repent, yet the offers of his mercy are limited, and if we exceed these limits by our obstinacy, there will be no more mercy for us. The time of mercy is fixed for every one, and if we fail to embrace its offers within that time, the gates of mercy will be closed against us. When the bridegroom has once entered into the marriage-chamber the doors are shut, and the foolish virgins who were unprepared are for ever excluded, with this dreadful reproach from Jesus Christ, —I know ye not, depart from me, ye workers of iniquity. Seeing, therefore, that no man knows how long the time of mercy will last for him, he ought not to delay a moment; if he neglect the present offer, it may be the last. That hour will come like a thief in the night when we least expect it, as Christ himself assures us, and therefore he commands us to be always ready."
Let us mark well: To assert that acts of divine faith, hope, and charity are possible out of the Catholic Church is a direct denial of the article of faith: There is positively no salvation out of the Catholic Church; for, on account of these acts, God unites himself with the soul in time and eternity. If these acts, then, were possible out of the Catholic Church, there would be salvation out of the Catholic Church, to say which is a direct denial of the above article of faith, and therefore the assertion is heretical.
"A theologian," says St. Augustine, “who is humble, will never teach anything as true Catholic doctrine, unless he is perfectly sure of the truth which he asserts. If he is corrected in anything in which he erred, he thanks for the correction, because his only desire is to know the truth." (Epist. ad S. Hier. 73 n. 1.)
He hates novelties—Animus ab omni novitate alienus et antiquitatis amans. What he tries to assert and to defend is the pure doctrine of faith contained in Holy Scripture and Tradition. True Catholic doctrine, says Tertullian, is easily distinguished from false doctrine by the following rule: "Manifestetur id esse dominicum et verum, quod sit prius traditum; id autem extraneum et falsum, quod sit posterius immissum." (Lib. de Praescrip. cap. 31. Ed. Rig. 1675, p. 213.) A doctrine which has been taught and believed from the beginning is true Catholic doctrine; but any other doctrine is false.
Hence St. Paul admonishes St. Timothy, "O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoid the profane novelties of words and oppositions of knowledge falsely so called." (Chapt. vi. 20.)
"Vocum, id est, dogmatum, rerum, sententiarum novitates, quae sunt vetustati et antiquitati contrariae, quae si recipiantur, necesse est ut fides beatorum Patrum, aut tota, aut certe magna ex parte violetur. (Vincentius Lirinensis, Commonit., cap. 24.)
What has been believed by all the faithful at all times and everywhere, is truly Catholic doctrine. Any doctrines that are either wholly or at least very much opposed to the faith of the holy Fathers of the Church, are novel teachings, which are to be avoided. The article of faith reads not, "Out of the soul of the Church there is no salvation;" it reads, "Out of the Church (consisting of Body and Soul) there is positively no salvation for any one."
Hence rest assured that, as no one will let you have a precious article for counterfeit money, neither will Almighty God let you have heaven for serving him in a counterfeit religion by which he is greatly insulted and which he has most strictly forbidden, and which St. Paul and the Church have most solemnly accursed.
Such is, and such has always been the faith of the Church. It would be endless to collect all the testimonies of the Fathers of the Church on this subject. Let a few suffice, as a sample of the whole. St. Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, and disciple of the Apostles, in his Epistle to the Philadelphians, says: "Those who make a separation shall not inherit the kingdom of God." St. Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons, and martyr in the second age, says: "The Church is the gate of life, but all the others are thieves and robbers, and therefore to be avoided." (De Haer., lib. i. c. 3.) St. Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, and martyr about the middle of the third age, says, "The house of God is but one, and no one can have salvation but in the Church." (Epist. 62, alias 4.) And in his book on the unity of the Church, he says: "He cannot have God for his father who has not the Church for his mother. If any one could escape who was out of the ark of Noe, then he who is out of the Church may also escape." So much for these most primitive fathers.
In the fourth century, St. Chrysostom speaks thus: "We know that salvation belongs to the Church ALONE, and that no one can partake of Christ, nor be saved, out of the Catholic Church and the Catholic faith." (Hom. i. in Pasch.)
St. Augustine, in the same age, says: "The Catholic Church alone is the body of Christ; the Holy Ghost gives life to no one who is out of this body." (Epist. 185, § 50, Edit. Bened.) And in another place, "Salvation no one can have but in the Catholic Church. Out of the Catholic Church he may have anything but salvation. He may have honor, he may have baptism, he may have the Gospel, he may both believe and preach in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; but he can find salvation nowhere but in the Catholic Church." (Serm. ad. Caesariens. de Emerit.) Again, "In the Catholic Church," says he, "there are both good and bad. But those that are separated from her, as long as their opinions are opposite to hers, cannot be good. For though the conversation of some of them appears commendable, yet their very separation from the Church makes them bad, according to that of our Saviour (Luke, xi. 23), `He that is not with me is against is against me; and he that gathers not with me scattereth.'" —(Epist. 209, ad Feliciam.)
"Let a heretic," says St. Augustine, "confess Christ before men and shed his blood for his confession, it avails nothing to his salvation; for, thought he confessed Christ, he was put to death out of the Church." This is very true; any one who is put to death out of the Church could not have divine charity, for St. Paul says: "If I should deliver my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing." (I Cor. xiii. 3.)
"Out of the Church there is no salvation;" Who can deny it? And therefore, whatever truths of the Church are held, out of the Church they avail nothing unto salvation. Those who are separated from the unity of the Church are not with Christ, but are against him, and he that gathereth not with him, scattereth. (Matt. xii. 30.) (Contra Donatistas.)
Lactantius, another great light of the fourth age, says: "It is the Catholic Church only which retains the true worship. This Church is the fountain of truth, it is the house of faith, it is the temple of God. If any one either comes not into this Church, or departs from it, his eternal salvation is desperate. No one must flatter himself obstinately, for his soul and salvation are at stake. "—(Divin. Instit., lib. iv., c. 30.)
St. Fulgentius, in the sixth century, speaks thus: "Hold most firmly, and without the least doubt, that neither any heretic or schismatic whosoever, who is baptized out of the Catholic Church, can partake at all of eternal life if, before the end of this life, he be not restored to the Catholic Church and incorporated therein." (Lib. de Fid., c. 37.) According to the first Canon of the Fourth Council of Carthage, the last of the articles which a Bishop-Elect is to be asked before his ordination is: "i>Credatne quod extra Ecclesiam nullus salvetur." Whether he believes that no one can be saved out of the Church.
We repeat the words of St. Alphonsus:—
"How grateful, then," he says "ought we to be to God for the gift of the true faith. How great is not the number of infidels, heretics, and schismatics. The world is full of them, and, if they die out of the Church, they will all be condemned, except infants who die after baptism." (Catech. first command., No. 10 and 19.) Because, as St. Augustine says, where there is no divine faith, there can be no divine charity, and where there is no divine charity, there can be no justifying or sanctifying grace, and to die without being in sanctifying grace is to be lost forever. (Lib. I. Serm. Dom. in monte, cap. v.)
All the Fathers of the Church have never hesitated to pronounce all those forever lost who die out of the Roman Catholic Church. “He who has not the Church for his mother," says St. Cyprian, “cannot have God for his Father;" and with him the Fathers in general say that, “as all who were not in the ark of Noe perished in the waters of the Deluge, so shall all perish who are out of the true Church." St. Augustine and the other bishops of Africa, at the Council of Zirta, A. D. 410, say: “Who-soever is separated from the Catholic Church, however commendable in his own opinion his life may be, he shall, for the very reason that he is separated from the union of Christ, not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.” Therefore, says St. Augustine, “a Christian ought to fear nothing so much as to be separated from the body of Christ (the Church). For, if he be separated from the body of Christ, he is not a member of Christ; if not a member of Christ, he is not quickened by his Spirit." (Tract. xxvii. in Joan., n. 6, Col. 1992, tom. iii.)
“To an enlightened Catholic," says Brownson, "there is something very shocking in the supposition that the article of faith, ‘out of the Church positively no one can be saved,’ should be only generally true, and therefore not an article of faith. All Catholic dogmas, if Catholic, are not only generally, but universally true, and admit no exception or restriction whatever. If men could come to Christ and be saved without the Church, or union with Christ in the Church, she would not be Catholic, and it would be false to call her the ‘One, Holy, Catholic Church,' as in the Creed."
“The Church is called Catholic," says the Catechism of the Council of Trent, “because all who desire eternal salvation must embrace and cling to her, like those who entered the ark, to escape perishing in the flood.”
Hence any one who explains away the dogma of exclusive salvation, denies, in principle, the Catholicity of the Church and the faith she holds and teaches.
Of every dogma of the Church is true what Pope Pius IX. has declared of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, namely: "wherefore, if any persons—which God forbid—shall presume to think in their hearts otherwise than we have defined, let them know that they are condemned by their own judgment, that they have suffered shipwreck in faith, and have fallen away from the unity of the Church." And in the definition of the dogma of the Infallibility of the Roman Pontiff it is said: “But if any one—which God may avert!—presume to contradict this our definition, let him be anathema."
We must believe the truths of faith, not on account of human reasons, which are given in support and corroboration of any article of faith, but on account of the divine authority, which has revealed the articles of faith and proposes them for our belief by the Church. Any one who believes these articles only on account of human reasons, says St. Gregory, has no merit of his faith. (Homil. 26 in Evang.) The truths of the Gospel have been revealed by God, not to be understood, but to be believed. So, when we know that our Lord Jesus Christ has taught something and proposes it for our belief by his Church, we have to believe it most firmly and without the least doubt.
There are, says St. Thomas, three kinds of infidelity: there is the infidelity of the heathen or the gentiles, the infidelity of the Jews, and the infidelity of heretics. The errors of the Gentiles concerning God are, it is true, more numerous than those of the Jews, and the errors of the Jews regarding the true faith are more numerous thon those of heretics, yet the sin of infidelity of the Jews is greater than that of the infidelity of the heathen, and the sin of infidelity of heretics is greater than the sin of infidelity of the Jews and Gentiles. The reason is: The Gentiles never received the faith of the Gospel, but the Jews received it in its figure in the Old Testament which they perversely interpret and corrupt, and therefore their sin of infidelity is greater than that of the Gentiles. The sin of infidelity of the heretics is greater than that of the Jews because they profess the faith of the Gospel, but oppose this faith by corrupting it, and therefore they sin more grievously than the Jews. Hence St. Peter says: “For it had been better for them not to have known the way of justice, than, after they have known it, to turn back from that holy commandment which was delivered to them. (II Pet. ii. 21.) The Gentiles never knew the way of justice, but heretics and the Jews knew it to a certain degree and yet have left it, and therefore their sin is greater.
"Here some one might say: "If the errors of the Gentiles concerning faith are more numerous than those of the Jews, does it not follow that the Gentiles are more guilty than the Jews? And if the Jews are in more points more more remote from the true faith than heretics, does it not follow that the Jews are more guilty before God than heretics?
“By no means; for the greatness of the guilt of the sin of infidelity does not arise from the number of errors about the things that belong to the faith, but from the knowledge of the faith which one has received. Hence he who sins against the faith which he has received, by perversely interpreting and corrupting it, sins more grievously than he who has never received the faith, just as one sins more grievously who does not keep what he has promised, than another who does not do what he never promised. As the Gentiles never received the faith, they sin against it less grievously than the Jews, who received it at least in figure, believing, as they do, the Old Testament, in which the New Testament, the Law of Grace, was prefigured; and the Jews sin less grievously against the true faith of the Gospel, which they never received, than heretics do, who make profession of faith in the Gospel, which they receive but perversely interpret and corrupt." (Pars 2a 2ae quaest. x., art. v. et vi.)
"Hence,” says Cornelius a Lapide, "it is never lawful to be glad to see heresy preached and, propagated, even among the heathens; for, though they announce Christ, yet, at the same time, they also announce many heresies concerning Christ or his Church and sacraments, and these heresies are more pernicious than paganism itself; so that it is far better for the heathens not to receive any truth or doctrine from heretics, than to receive it mixed with so many perverse errors and heresies." (Comment. in Epist. ad Philip., c. i., v. 18.) St. Augustine, as we have seen, says the same.
Alas! how shocking, therefore, for Catholics were those articles in the Buffalo Catholic Union and Times, in which so many things were falsely asserted in favor of Protestant belief, and altogether contrary to Catholic faith.
“If it then be true," says O. A. Brownson, “—and as sure as God exists and can neither be deceived nor deceive, it is true,—that there is no salvation out of the Church, what a fearful responsibility should we not incur, were we to forbear to proclaim it, or by our mistimed or misplaced qualifications to encourage the unbelieving, the heretical, or the indifferent to hope the contrary! And how much more fearful still, if we should go farther, and attempt in our publications to prove that he who firmly insists on it is harsh, unjust, uncharitable, running in his rash zeal to an unauthorized extreme!"
"Those who have learned theology well," says St. Basil, “will not allow even one iota of Catholic dogmas to be betrayed. They will, if necessary, willingly undergo any kind of death in their defence." (Apud. Theod., lib. 4, Hist. Eccl., c. xvii.)
“Not to oppose erroneous doctrine," says Pope Innocent III. (Dist. 85.), "is to approve of it; and not to defend true doctrine is to suppress it."
Let us always remember the words of Leo XIII., quoted at the end of chapter I., namely: "That method of teaching which rests on the authority and judgment of individual professors has a changeable basis, and hence arise different and conflicting opinions, which foster dissensions and controversies which have agitated Catholic schools for a long time and not without great detriment to Christian science. To gather and to scatter opinions according to our own will and pleasure is to be reputed the vilest license, lying, and false science, a disgrace and slavery of the mind." A true, genuine Catholic, "says Vincent of Lerins, "is he who loves the truths of God, the Church, the Body of Christ; who values nothing more highly than our divine religion, our holy Catholic faith; who does not suffer himself to be led into any kind of religious error by the authority, learning, eloquence, philosophy of any person. He despises this human greatness; he remains firm and unshaken in his faith, and is determined to believe only what the Catholic Church has everywhere and always taught and believed from the beginning; he rejects, as novel doctrine, whatever is taught against the doctrine of the Fathers of the Church, and looks upon modern opinions in religion as snares of the devil in which the ignorant and unwise are caught, “for there must also be heresies,” says St. Paul (I. Cor. xi. 19.) by which the faith of good and firm Catholics becomes better known and more remarkable. Let, therefore, all those who have not learned sound Catholic theology, unlearn well what they have not learned well; let them try to understand each dogma of the Church as far as possible, but let them firmly believe whatever they cannot understand." (Commonit.)
In the history of the foundation of the Society of Jesus, in the Kingdom of Naples, is related the following story of a noble youth of Scotland, named William Ephinstone. He was a relative of the Scottish King. Born a heretic, he followed the false sect to which he belonged; but enlightened by divine grace, which showed him his errors, he went to France, where, with the assistance of a good Jesuit Father, who was also a Scotchman, he at length saw the truth, abjured heresy, and became a Catholic. He went afterward to Rome and joined the Society of Jesus, in which he died a happy death. When at Rome, a friend of his found him one day very much afflicted, and weeping. He asked him the cause, and the young man answered that in the night his mother had appeared to him, and said: “My son, it is well for thee that thou hast entered the true Church; I am already lost, because I died in heresy." (St. Liguori, Glories of Mary.)
We read, in the Life of St. Rose of Viterbo, that she was inflamed with great zeal for the salvation of souls. She felt a most tender compassion for those who were living in heresy. In order to convince a certain lady, who was a heretic, that she could not be saved in her sect, and that it was necessary for salvation to die a true member of the Catholic Church, she made a large fire, threw herself into it, and remained in it for three hours, without being hurt. This lady, together with many others, on witnessing the miracle, abjured their heresy, and became Catholics.
When the Emperor Valens ordered that St. Basil the Great should go into banishment, God, in the high court of heaven, passed, at the same time, sentence against the emperor's only son, named Valentinian Galatus, a child then about six years old. That very night the royal infant was seized with a violent fever, from which the physicians were unable to give him the least relief; and the Empress Dominica told the emperor that this calamity was a just punishment of heaven for his banishing the bishop, on which account she had been disquieted by terrible dreams. Thereupon Valens sent for the saint, who was about to go into exile. No sooner had the holy bishop entered the palace, than the fever of the child began to abate. St. Basil assured the parents of the absolute recovery of their son, on condition that they would order him to be instructed in the Catholic faith. The emperor accepted the condition, St. Basil prayed, and the young prince was cured. But Valens, unfaithful to his promise, afterwards allowed an Arian bishop to baptize the child. The young prince immediately relapsed and died. (Butler’s Lives of the Saints, June 14th.) By this miraculous cure of the child, God made manifest the truths of our religion; and by the sudden death of the child, which followed upon the heretical baptism, God showed in what abomination he holds heresy.
§ 9. THOSE WHO SINCERELY SEEK THE TRUE RELIGION.
If no one, then, can be saved except in the Roman Catholic Church, all those who are out of it are bound to become members of the Church. This is what commonsense tells every non-Catholic. In worldly affairs, Protestants never presume to act without good advice. They never compromise their pecuniary interests or their lives, by becoming their own private interpreters and practitioners of law or medicine. Both the legal and the medical books are before them, written by modern authors, in clear and explicit language, but they have too much practical common sense to attempt their interpretation. They prefer always to employ expert lawyers and physicians, and accept their interpretations, and act according to their advice. Now, every non-Catholic believes that every practical member of the Catholic Church will be saved. Hence, when there is question about eternal salvation and eternal damnation, a sensible man will take the surest way to heaven. It was this that decided Henry IV. of France to abjure his errors. A historian relates that this king, having called before him a conference of the doctors of either Church, and seeing that the Protestant ministers agreed with one accord, that salvation was attainable in the Catholic religion, immediately addressed a Protestant minister in the following manner: “Now, sir, is it true that people can be saved in the Catholic religion?” “Most assuredly it is, sire, provided they live up to it." “If that be so," said the monarch, "prudence demands that I should be of the Catholic religion, not of yours, seeing that in the Catholic Church I may be saved, as even you admit; whereas, if I remain in yours, Catholics maintain that I cannot be saved. Both prudence and good sense tell me that I should follow the surest way, and so I propose doing." Some days after, the king made his abjuration at St. Denis. (Guillois, ii. 67.)
Christ assures us that the way to everlasting life is narrow, and trodden by few. The Catholic religion is that narrow road to heaven. Protestantism, on the contrary, is that broad way to perdition trodden by so many. He who is content to follow the crowd, condemns himself by taking the broad way. A man says, "I would like to believe, but I cannot." You say you "cannot believe." But what have you done, what means have you employed, in order to acquire the gift of faith? If you have neglected the means, you show clearly that you do not desire the end.
God bestowed great praise upon his servant Job. He said of him that, “he was a simple and upright man, fearing God and avoiding evil (Job, i. 8.) There is nothing that renders a soul more acceptable to God than simplicity and sincerity of heart in seeking him. There is, on the other hand, nothing more detestable to him than a double-minded man, who does not walk sincerely with his God: "Woe to them that are of a double heart, …and to the sinner that goeth on the earth two ways." (Ecclus. ii. 14.) Such a man should not expect that the Lord will enlighten and direct him. Our Saviour assures us that his heavenly Father makes himself known to the little ones, that is, to those who have recourse to him with a simple and sincere heart.
This sincerity and uprightness of heart with God are especially necessary for him who is in search of the true religion. We see around us numberless jarring sects, contradicting one another; we see the one condemning what the other approves, and approving what others condemn; we see some embracing certain divine truths, and others rejecting those truths with horror, as the doctrine of devils. Now common-sense tells every one that both parties cannot be right; that the true religion cannot be on either side. Among such confusion of opinions, the mind is naturally at a loss how to discover that one true Church in whose bosom the truth is to be found.
In the search after truth, one must find immense difficulties. There is prejudice. It is the effect of early training, of life-long teaching, of reading, and of living in the world. It is the result of almost imperceptible impressions, and yet its force, as an obstacle, is such as in many cases to defy human efforts to remove it. It is like the snow which begins to fall, as the darkness sets in, on roof and road, in little flakes that come down silently all the night, and in the morning the branches bend, and the doors are blocked, and the traffic on road and rail is brought to a standstill.
There, again, is the favor of friends, the fear of what the world will say, worldly interest, and the like. All these will be set to work by the enemy of the souls to blind the understanding, that it may not see the truth, and to avert the will from embracing it. Nothing but a particular grace from heaven can enlighten the mind to perceive the light of truth through such clouds of darkness, and to strengthen the will with courage to embrace it, in spite of all these difficulties. It is, without doubt, the will of God, that "all men should be saved” and come to the knowledge of the truth" (I Tim. ii. 4.); but it is also the will of God, that, in order to come to this knowledge, men must seek it with a sincere and upright heart, and this sincerity of heart must show itself in their earnest desire to know the truth: “Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice, for they shall be filled." Hence they must labor diligently to find out the truth, using every means in their power for that purpose. Negligence of inquiry, and the evidences of our faith, are great, and therefore the ignorance of many must needs be highly sinful. Man's understanding was given to him to enable him to embrace holy and salutary truths. Negligence in this is worthy of damnation; and as everything tends easily to its natural end, so our natural, intellectual virtue is nearer finding God than it is finding his contrary, for God is always ready to aid those who seek him with a good and honest heart; and thus we find that to Cornelius, a Pagan, yet living religiously, and fearing God, St. Peter was sent to convert him and all his family. God, says St. Thomas Aquinas, will send an angel to a man ignorant of the Christian law but living up to his conscience, to instruct him in the Christian religion, rather than let him perish through inculpable ignorance.
In reference to this matter, Mr. Pelisson, a celebrated convert to our holy religion, says: “Will you expostulate with Almighty God, like Job? He will confound you; you will imagine that many things are in your favor with God. You say, you have done what was in your power. The Lord will make you see that you have not done the hundreth part of what you should and could have done. Is there nothing that you liked better than the desire to please God? Is there nothing that you loved more ardently than God? Is there nothing that you like better to know than the truths he has revealed? Has your want of the spirit of penance, or your spirit of vanity, or your hardness of heart, not put an obstacle to the heavenly lights which God wished to shed upon your mind. Say what you please, as to myself, who have been led by his infinite mercy to his Church, I know that I have not done one thousandth part of what I could have done to obtain this great grace of his infinite mercy." (See Cursus Completus Theologiae, vol. iv., p. 293.)
There are laws to regulate man's will and affections, and so there are also laws to fix limits to his understanding—to determine what he should believe and what be should not believe; and therefore ignorance is damnable, for man ought carefully to inquire what he must believe; and what laws he must observe; whereas the multitude run, with all their strength, to sin and death as their end, and it is not strange that they should find it.
The first and great cause of all these errors is negligence of inquiry; and the second is aversion to believe what ought to be believed of God, and a hatred for the things that would enlighten and convert the soul. If men will not heed either holy words or miracles, it is not strange that they remain in error. They must study religion, with a sincere desire to find out the truth. If they wish to find out the truth they must not appeal to the enemies of truth. They must consult those who are well instructed in their religion, and who practise it. The must consult the priest. He will explain to them the true doctrine of the Catholic Church.
In the Memoir of Bishop Hay it is stated that he became a convert to our Church in 1749. As a Protestant he never showed any Catholic tendencies, as is sufficiently evident from the fact that in the fervor of his youth he had bound himself by a double vow to read a portion of the Bible daily, and to do his utmost to extirpate Popery from his native country. One day he went from Edinburgh, where he had made his studies for the medical profession, to London, where he heard the doctrines of the Catholic Church explained by an English gentleman, in a manner which excited his surprise. From London he went to Ayrshire, where he found a well-known little work, "A Papist represented and misrepresented, or a twofold character of Popery.” Doubts were excited in his mind; but Mr. Hay was not of a character to set aside doubts upon an important subject without due investigation.
As the surest means to obtain correct information regarding the Catholic faith, he resolved to apply to a Catholic priest, and accordingly obtained an introduction to Sir Alexander Seaton, the Jesuit missionary, then resident in Edinburgh. From him he received the information desired, and after a lengthened course of instruction he was received into the Church, 21st Dec., 1749.
Moreover, sincerity of heart must show itself in a firm resolution to embrace the truth whenever it shall be found, and whatever it may cost the seeker. He must prefer it before every worldly consideration, and be ready to forfeit everything in this life: the affections of his friends, a comfortable home, temporal goods, and prospect in business, rather than deprive his soul of so great a treasure.
The New York Freeman's Journal, Sept. 2d, 1854, contains the following notice on the late General Thomas F. Carpenter. The words of this notice are written by ex-Governor Laurence. The general, when about to become a Catholic, made known his intention to a friend. The friend, of course, was surprised. He instanced the fearful results consequent upon a proceeding so unpopular, the loss of professional practice, the alienation of friends, the scoffs of the crowd, etc. “All such blessings,” replied General Carpenter, "I can dispense with, all such insults I can despise, but I cannot afford to lose my immortal soul." The general spoke thus, because he knew and firmly believed what Jesus Christ has solemnly declared, to wit: “He who loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me "(Matt. x. 37.); and as to the loss of temporal gain, he has answered: “What will it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his soul?" (Mark, viii. 36.)
But would it not be enough for such a one to be a Catholic in heart only, without professing his religion publicly? No; for Jesus Christ has solemnly declared that “he who shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him the Son of man shall be ashamed when he shall come in his majesty, and that of his Father, and of the holy angels." (Luke, ix. 26.)
But might not such a one safely put off being received into the Church till the hour of death?
This would be to abuse the mercy of God, and, in punishment for this sin, to lose the light and grace of faith, and die a reprobate. In order to obtain heaven, we must be ready to sacrifice all, even our lives. "Fear ye not them" says Christ, "that kill the body, and are not able to kill the soul, but rather fear ye him that can destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matt. x. 28.)
How often do we meet with men who tell us that they would gladly become Catholics, but it is too hard to live up to the laws and maxims of the Church! They know very well that if they become Catholics, they must lead honest and sober lives, they must be pure, they must respect the holy sacrament of marriage, they must check their sinful passions; and this they are unwilling to do. “Men love darkness rather than light," says Jesus Christ, “because their deeds are evil." Remember the well-known proverb: “There are none so deaf as those that will not hear."
They are kept back from embracing the faith, because they know that the truths of our religion are at war with their sinful inclinations. It is not surprising that these inclinations should revolt against immolation. The prudence of the flesh understands and feels that it loses all, if the truths of faith are listened to and taken for the rule of conduct; that it must renounce the unlawful enjoyments of life, must die to the world and to itself, and bear the mortification of Jesus Christ in its body.
At the mere thought of this crucifixion of the flesh and its concupiscence, imposed on every one who would belong to the Saviour, the whole animal man is troubled. Self-love, suggests a thousand reasons to delay at least the sacrifices that affright them. The prudence of the flesh, having the ascendancy, obscures the most simple truths, attracts and flatters the powers of the soul; and when, afterward, faith endeavors to interpose its authority, it finds the understanding prejudiced, the will overcome or weakened, the heart all earthly-minded; and hard, indeed, is it for faith to reduce the soul to its dominion. Those who listen to the prudence of the flesh will never become Catholics.
Finally, those who seek the truth must show their sincerity of heart in fervently and frequently praying to God that they may find the truth, and the right way that leads to it. Faith is not a mere natural gift; it is not an acquired virtue or habit; it is something altogether supernatural. The right use of the natural faculties can, indeed, prepare one to receive faith; but true faith,—that is, to believe, with an unwavering conviction, in the existence of all those things which God has made know,—is a supernatural gift,—a gift which no one can have of himself; it is the free gift of God: “For by grace you are saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, for it is the gift of God." (Eph. ii. 8.) God is so great a good, that we cannot merit and possess this good by anything we may do. Now, it is by the gift of faith that we have in some measure a glimpse of all that God is, and that consequently we attach ourselves to this supreme good; and behold! we are saved. We can say with David, in the truest sense, that in enlightening us the Lord saves us: “The Lord is my light, and my salvation." (Ps. xxvi. 1.) Hence it is evident that this gift is a free gift of God, without the least merit on our part. When this light or grace shines upon the understanding, it enlightens the understanding, so as to render it most certain of the truths which are proposed to it. But this mere knowledge of the truth is not as yet the full gift of faith. St. Paul says (Rom. i. 2) that the heathens knew God, but they would not obey him, and consequently their knowledge did not save them. You may convince a man that the Catholic Church is the true Church, but he will not, on that account, become a Catholic. Our Saviour himself was known by many, and yet he was followed only by few. Faith, then, is something more than knowledge. Knowledge is the submission of the understanding to truth; but faith implies also the submission of the will to the truth. It is for this reason that the light or grace of faith must also move the will, because a good will always belongs to faith, since no one can believe unless he is willing to believe. It is for this reason that faith is also rewarded by God, and infidelity punished: "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be condemned." (Mark, xvi. 16.) No man has the natural ability to come into the Church, any more than he has the natural ability to save himself after he has come in. All before and all after is the work of God. We can do nothing of ourselves alone—make not even the first motion without his grace inciting and assisting us. Of no use would have been his Church—it would have been a mere mockery, or a splendid failure—if he had not provided for our entrance as well as for our salvation afterwards.
But he has provided for our entrance. He gives sufficient grace to all men. The grace of prayer is given freely, gratuitously, unto every one. All receive the ability to ask; all, then, can ask; and if they do ask, as sure as God cannot lie, they shall receive the grace to seek; and if they seek, the same divine veracity is pledged that they shall find; and if they find, they may knock; and if they knock, it shall be opened to them. God has said it: Christ is in the Church; he is out of it. In it and out of it he is one and the same, and operates ever ad unitatem (towards unity). He is out of the Church to draw all men into the Church; all have, then, if they will, the assistance of the Infinite God to come in, and if they do not come in, it is their own fault. God withholds nothing necessary. He gives to all, by his grace, everything requisite, and in superabundance. Indeed, God will never refuse to bestow this gift of faith upon those who seek the truth with a sincere heart, use their best endeavors to find it, and sincerely pray for it with confidence and perseverance. Witness Clovis, the heathen king of the Franks. When he, together with his whole army, was in the greatest danger of being defeated by the Alemanni, he prayed as follows:—
"Jesus Christ, thou of whom Clotilde (the king's Christian wife) has often told me that thou art the Son of the living God, and that thou givest aid to the hard-pressed, and victory to those who trust in thee! I humbly crave thy powerful assistance. If thou grantest me the victory over my enemies I will believe in thee, and be baptized in thy name; for I have called upon my gods in vain. They must be impotent, as they cannot help those who serve them. Now I invoke thee, desiring to believe in thee; do, then, deliver me from the hands of my adversaries!”
No sooner had he uttered this prayer than the Alemanni were panic-stricken, took to flight, and soon after, seeing their king slain, sued for peace. Thereupon Clovis blended both nations, the Franks and the Alemanni, together returned home, and became a Christian.
Witness F. Thayer, an Anglican minister. When as yet in great doubt and uncertainty about the truth of his religion, he began to pray as follows:—
"God of all goodness, almighty and eternal Father of mercies, and Saviour of mankind. I implore thee, by thy sovereign goodness, to enlighten my mind and to touch my heart, that, by means of true faith, hope, and charity, I may live and die in the true religion of Jesus Christ. I confidently believe that, as there is but one God, there can be but one faith, one religion, one only path to salvation; and that every other path opposed thereto can lead but to perdition. This path, O my God! I anxiously seek after, that I may follow it, and be saved. Therefore I protest, before thy divine majesty, and I swear by all thy divine attributes, that I will follow the religion which thou shalt reveal to me as the true one, and will abandon, at whatever cost, that wherein I shall have discovered errors and falsehood. I confess that I do not deserve this favor for the greatness of my sins, for which I am truly penitent, seeing they offend a God who is so good, so holy, and so worthy of love; but, what I deserve not, I hope to obtain from thine infinite mercy; and I beseech thee to grant it unto me through the merits of that precious blood which was shed for us sinners by thine only Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth, etc. Amen."
God was not slow to hear so sincere and fervent a prayer, and Thayer became a Catholic. Let any one who is as yet groping in the darkness of infidelity and error pray in the same manner, and the God of all light and truth will bestow upon him the gift of faith in a high degree. It is human to fall into error, devilish to remain in it, and angelical to rise from it, by embracing the truth which leads to God, by whom it has been revealed and is preserved in his Church.
All may have the Church for their mother, if they choose. Christ is in the Church, but he is also out of the Church. In the Church he is operating by his grace to save those who enter; out of her he operates also by his grace, or is ready to operate, in the hearts of all men, to supply the will and the ability to come in. If we come not at his call, on our own heads lies the blame. We have no excuse, not the least shadow of an excuse. The reason why we come not can be only that we do not choose to come, that we resist his grace, and scorn his invitations, and will not yield to his inspirations. No nice theological distinctions, no scholastic subtlety, no latitudinarian ingenuity, can, relieve us of the blame, or make it not true that we could have come, had we been so disposed. If, then we stay away, and are lost, it is we who have destroyed ourselves.
Sectarian systems are the dark and shifting vapors that obscure the surface of the heavens; and their ever-varying masses are drifted into numberless fantastic forms by every passing gale, "by every wind of doctrine," as St. Paul expresses it. Cloud of heresy after cloud of heresy has fallen in rain, or disappeared in the boundless fields of ether,—they were and are not,—whilst other vapors occupy their place, as fleeting and as unsubstantial. But, like the vast and universal arch of heaven, the Church over-canopies alike all Christian climes and ages; and, like that arch, she is one, unbroken, wheresoever she appears. The arch stills stands, for the sacred Word of Christ, her Founder, is pledged for its perpetual stability.
Yes, the Church still stands. She speeds on, on her heaven-sent mission, conquering and to conquer.
Only in the Catholic Church there are certainty and security against errors in religion. Around this Rock we behold nothing but raging tempests, nothing but disastrous shipwrecks, indifference to religion, negation of all true worship, the abomination of atheisim and immorality, derision of sacred things, a fanatic pietism, a delirious religiousness, rationalism, or the denial of all revelation and of everything supernatural. Every non-Catholic who earnestly seeks to learn what he is to believe, every one who yearns to obtain certainty in religious matters, must sooner or later turn to the Church as the only source of certainty, the only guardian of the true religion, the only fountain of true peace and happiness in this life and in the next.
Here are the great mass of our countrymen aliens from the Church of God. Why do they not come and ask to be received as children and heirs? Is it lack of opportunity? It is false. There is no lack of opportunity. God does not deny them, not one of them, the needed grace. The Church is here; through her noble and faithful pastors, her voice sounds out from Main to Florida, from the Atlantic to the Pacific. How can they hear without a preacher? But they have heard; verily the voice of the preacher is gone out into all the earth. They have no need to say, who shall ascend into heaven to bring Christ down? The Word is nigh them. It sounds in every ear; it speaks in every heart. We all know they might come, if they would. From all sections, and from all ranks and conditions, some have come, and by coming proved that it is possible for all to come. Witness the late Most Rev. James Roosevelt Bailey, D. D., Archbishop of Baltimore; Most Rev. James Frederick Wood, D. D., Archbishop of Philadelphia; Right Rev. William Tyler, late Bishop of Hartford, Conn.; Right Rev. John Young, D. D., late Bishop of Erie, Pa.; Right Rev. Sylvester Horton Rosecrans, D. D., late Bishop of Columbus, O.; Right Rev. Monsignor George H. Doane, V. G., of Newark, N. J., son of the Protestant Bishop of that name and a brother of Bishop Doane (Protestant Episcopal,) of Albany, N. Y.; Very Rev. Thomas S. Preston, V. G., of the Archdiocese of New York; Rev. J. Clark, S. J., formerly a professor of mathematics at West Point, late commissioned a brigadier-general in the United States Army and president of Gonzaga College, Washington; Rev. Francis M. Craft, S. J., of Loyola College, Baltimore, Md.; Rev. James Kent Stone, C. P., Father Fidelis of the Cross, formerly president of Hobert and Kenyon College, Ohio; Rev. E. D. Hudson C. S. C. editor of the Ave Maria; Rev. Isaac T. Hecker, C. S. P., Rev. Xavier Donald Macleod, D. D., author of “Devotion to the B.V.M. in North America,” etc., etc.; the late Rev. George Foxcroft Haskins, founder of the House of the Angel Guardian; Rev. Levi Silliman Ives, LL. D., formerly a Protestant Bishop of North Carolina; Rev. George Goodwin, the second pastor of St. Mary's Church, Charleston, Mass.; Hon. Thomas Ewing, Senator from Ohio and for sometime Secretary of the United States Treasury; Dr. Joshua Huntinton, the well-known author of “Rosemary," "Gropings after Truth," etc.; James McMaster, Esq., editor of the New York Freeman's Journal; Rev. Orestes A. Brownson, LL. D., the distinguished reviewer, whom Lord Brougham is said to have styled "the mastermind of America"; Dr. Albert Myers, sub-editor of the Boston Pilot; Howard Haine Caldwell, of Newbery, S. C., and son of Chancellor Caldwell; Gen. Jones of Columbia, S. C., Rev. Clarence A. Walworth, author of "The Gentle Skeptic," etc.; Miss Mary Agnes Tincker, author of “Grapes and Thorns," "House of Yorke," and "Signor Monaldini's Niece”; Mother Seton, founder of the Sisters of Charity in America; Mrs. Judge Tenny, born Sarah M. Brownson; Miss Francis C. Fisher; Christian Reid, author of "A Question of Honor," “Hearts and Hands," etc. etc.; Miss Mary Longfellow, cousin of the deceased poet Longfellow; the widow of ex-president Tyler, and so many others who have sacrificed everything rather than die out of the Catholic Church and be lost forever.
Mrs. Moore, a very intelligent lady of Edinton, North Carolina, and a convert to our holy faith, said to her Protestant children, when on her death-bed: "O my children! there is such hope, such comfort in our holy religion! When I was so near death and believed I should never see you again, my soul was filled with anguish. When I thought I was so soon to meet my God, I feared; but after I had made my confession to his own commissioned minister, and received absolution; in the name of the Most Holy Trinity, death was divested of every sting. Each day I thank God more and more that he has given me grace to break the ties that kept me from the Church. I have never looked back, and, in fact, I wonder why I could ever have been anything but a Catholic."
In joining the Catholic Church, these and many other converts have rendered invalid the plea of ignorance or inability. Those who have not come can as well come as those who have come; and their guilt in not coming is aggravated by their knowledge of the fact that some, of their own number have come; for they are no longer in ignorance. (St. Aug., lib. 1. de Bapt. contr. Donat. cap. v; St. John Chrys. in Epist. ad Rom. xxvi.) The fault is their own. They stay away because they do not will to come. "Ye will not come to me that you may have life, because your deeds are evil." They disregard divine grace, they disdain the Church, they despise her pastors, they scorn her sacraments. For what Catholic can doubt, if they were to seek, with anxious care, as St. Augustine says they must, even to excuse them from formal heresy or infidelity, that they would find, and finding and knocking, that they would be admitted?
No; let us love our countrymen too much to be ingenious in inventing excuses for them, to strain the faith in their behalf till it is nearly ready to snap. Let us, from a deep and tender charity, which, when need is, has the nerve to be terribly severe, thunder, or, if we are no Boanerges, breathe in soft but thrilling accents, in their ears, in their souls, in their consciences, those awful truths which they will know too late at the day of judgment. We must labor to convict them of sin, to show them their folly and madness, to convince them that they are dead in trespasses and sins, and condemned already, and that they can be restored to life, and freed from condemnation only by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is dispensed through the Church, and the Church only.
§ 10. S. O. on Confession
He continues to quote from our Explanation of Christian Doctrine, dishonestly suppressing five questions and answers that are in immediate connection with those he quotes, namely:
"Q. Are Protestants willing to confess their sins to a bishop or priest, who alone has from Christ power to forgive sins? ‘Whose sins you shall forgive they are forgiven them.’ Ans. No, for they generally have an utter aversion to confession, and therefore their sins will not be forgiven them throughout all eternity. Q. What follows from this? Ans. That they die in their sins and are damned."
"To which I, S. O., say that, as long as Protestants honestly believe, (and we have no right to question their honesty in the matter,) that God has not appointed priestly absolution as the outward and visible sacramental sign and instrument of His forgiveness to the truly penitent sinner, it is not at all strange that they are unwilling to confess their sins to a priest or seek his absolution. When they are instructed to know, and by God's grace led to believe, that the Catholic religion is the true religion of Christ, they will, be just as willing to go to confession as we Catholics are, and will have no more aversion to it than we have."
You see, S. O. never states clearly and precisely any point in question. He speaks here of those Protestants who honestly believe that they have not to go to confession to obtain forgiveness. We suppose he means those who live in inculpable ignorance of the divine law of confession. But such inculpable ignorance, as we have clearly proved, is no means to obtain the forgiveness of their sins. "And we have no right," he says, “to question their honesty." Alas! Tell Protestants that they can be good Catholics without confessing their sins, and there will be thousands and thousands of them whose honesty we need not question.
But have we no right, no duty, to instruct those honest Protestants and heathens and show them the true road to heaven? Why, then, did St. Francis de Sales and so many other holy priests expose their lives so often to reclaim honest Protestants from their heresy and bring them back to the true Church?
As to those Protestants who have been instructed in our religion and are willing to confess their sins, they no longer belong to the number of those who are in question.
He continues his answer. "But who told this explainer of Christian doctrine (the Rev. M. Muller) that no sinner will be forgiven throughout all eternity, or that he will die in his sins and be damned, if he has not confessed those sins to a priest and received his absolution? That is not Catholic Christian doctrine, and he had no right to say it is, or to write in such a manner as to be so understood."
Here, you see, S. O. wants to know where we learned the divine law of confession. Well, we learned it from the infallible teaching of the Catholic Church, from Holy Scripture, from the Fathers and Doctors of the Church. Strange, that S. O. does not know what every Catholic school-boy knows. He must have learned a bad catechism. But, in the name of common sense, where did S. O. learn that every sinner, especially every Protestant sinner, will be forgiven throughout all eternity, or that he will not die in his sins, though he is not willing to confess his sins to a Catholic priest? He says that "to assert that no baptized sinner will be forgiven unless he is willing to go to confession is no Catholic Christian doctrine; that we had no right to say it is, or to write in such a manner as to be so understood." Now this assertion of Sir Oracle is quite heretical, because it is an article of faith, declared by the Council of Trent, that the sacrament of penance is as necessary for the salvation of those who have fallen into mortal sin after baptism, as baptism is for those who have not received spiritual regeneration. Sir Oracle's assertion, therefore, is directly opposed to the divine law of confession, which must be complied with in reality, if possible, or at least in true implicit desire, if confession is impossible.
S. O. is rather incorrect in stating all the conditions of forgiveness which God has made for those who after baptism, have committed grievous sins. “These conditions," he says, “are the three following: A sincere sorrow for sins, a firm purpose of sinning no more, and, under ordinary circumstances, an honest, humble confession to God's appointed ministers."
This is not a full statement of the conditions of forgiveness. We will give them, as every school-boy knows them who has learned a good catechism:—
I. Contrition, or sorrow, which is good only:
1. When it is interior, or sorrow from the heart or will;
2. When it is sovereign, or sorrow above all other sorrows;
3. When it is universal, or sorrow at least for all our mortal sins;
4. When it is supernatural, or sorrow for having offended God, joined with the hope of pardon.
There are three kinds of contrition:—
1. Perfect contrition, or sorrow for sin on account of the injury offered to God's goodness;
2. Imperfect contrition, or sorrow for sin on account of the injury done to our souls, which, by offending God, lose heaven, and deserve hell;
3. Natural contrition, or sorrow for sin on account of the injury done to our temporal welfare.
The effects of sorrow are:—
1. Perfect contrition, as an act of perfect love of God, joined with the desire of confessing our sins, cancels them before confession;
2. Imperfect contrition disposes us to receive the grace of God in the sacrament of Penance;
3. Natural contrition cannot dispose us to receive the grace of God by absolution, because it is a sorrow, not for offending God, but only for temporal injury.
II. Purpose of amendment is a firm resolution, by the grace of God:—
1. To avoid all mortal sins, and the proximate occasions of sin;
2. To make use of the necessary means of amendment;
3. To make due satisfaction for our sins;
4. To repair, whatever injury we way have done to our neighbor.
III. Confession, which is good only:—
1. When it is entire, or a confession of at least all our mortal sins, with the necessary circumstances;
2. When it is sincere, or a confession of sins without concealing or excusing them.
He who is in danger of death and cannot make his confession, must earnestly wish to confess his sins to the priest, and try to be very sorry for having offended so good a God.
This last point S. O. has omitted, and yet the sincere (at least implicit) desire to confess his sins is as necessary for him who is not able to confess them, as real confession is for him who is able to make it, in order to obtain forgiveness.
"But to say or imply," continues S. O., “that every Catholic who dies without having been able to confess his sins to a priest is therefore damned for all eternity, is nonsense." Did S. O. dream that we or any Catholic ever said such nonsense? Why then does he mention such nonsense?
§ 11. S. O. POINTS OUT THE ROAD TO HEAVEN FOR HEATHENS AND PROTESTANTS OF EVERY DENOMINATION.
“What he (the Catholic) does, and what surely obtains God's forgiveness," says S. O., “is just what in point of fact every sincere, God-fearing Protestant,—and I go further and say, every God-fearing heathen who never heard of Church, Bible or Christ—may do, and what, in the charity of Christ, who died for all sinners, I hope and pray they do: he lifts up his heart to God his Creator, he acknowledges his sins and offences against God with true contrition of heart and asks forgiveness, and the Protestant, like the Catholic, always adds ‘trusting in the merits of Jesus Christ, my Saviour,' or, for the love of my Redeemer, who died on the cross for me.'"
Here you have an oracle of the greatest wisdom that ever was uttered by S. O. You see, he declares that a dying sinful heathen, or a dying Protestant sinner, is in the same condition as a dying Catholic sinner, and if he, like the Catholic sinner, makes an act of contrition, asks forgiveness, and trusts in the merits of Christ, he (the dying Protestant sinner) surely obtains forgiveness.
As S. O. sees no difference between divine and human faith, so, in like manner, he does not see any difference between the condition of a dying Catholic sinner and that of a dying Protestant sinner, though the difference is greater than the distance between heaven and earth.
The sinful Catholic has divine faith. In the light of this faith he knows well how far he is wrong in the sight of God. His hope in the merits of Christ is based on his divine faith, and therefore it is divine hope—two absolutely necessary requisites to obtain sanctifying grace. Hence it is that the Church, in her prayer for a dying Catholic, says: O Lord, though he has sinned, yet he has not denied the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; he has preserved the faith, and has faithfully worshipped God." All that God has to grant to the dying sinful Catholic, if he cannot receive the absolution of the priest, is the grace of perfect sorrow, which is often granted on account of the prayers and sacrifice of the Church, from which he is not excluded by grievous sins. Besides, to obtain this grace of true sorrow, the Catholic sinner prays, at least in his heart, to God and to the Blessed Mother of God. He knows her great power of intercession with Jesus Christ; he knows how merciful she is towards even the most abandoned sinners, if they invoke her prayers for a happy death. If he is happy enough to have with him a priest to assist him, though confession may be impossible for him for certain reasons, yet, having the true desire to confess, and at least imperfect sorrow (attrition) for his sins, the priest can give him absolution, by which the defect of his sorrow is supplied, and the eternal punishment forgiven. The priest gives him Extreme Unction, which wonderfully helps him to die a happy death.
But how different is the case of a dying Protestant! Suppose some Protestants and some Catholics have met with an accident. They are in a dying condition. A priest is called. He can give absolution to the dying Catholics, but he is not allowed to give absolution to Protestants, not even conditionally, for, as St. Alphonsus says, they generally have a great aversion to the Sacrament of Penance.
Moreover, the faith of the Protestant is not divine: it is all human. But where there is no divine faith, there can be no such hope as God requires before he can bestow upon the soul the grace of sanctifying grace. To save, therefore, such a Protestant, God would have to grant him the most extraordinary gratuitous gift of divine faith and all the other dispositions necessary to obtain forgiveness and the grace of justification. The condition of a dying Protestant is, then, very different from that of a dying Catholic.
Let S. O. here remember well that forgiveness of sins can be obtained only in the Catholic Church. "He who has not the true faith," says St. Fulgentius, "cannot receive the forgiveness of his sins. We therefore must believe that nowhere else than in the bosom of the Church, our Mother, converts can obtain the forgiveness of sins. Out of this Church there may be Baptism, but it is not availing to salvation. Hence all those who are out of the Church receive forgiveness only after they have entered this same Church with true faith and humility. Let them join her in due time, if they wish to be saved.” (Lib. I. de Remissione Peccat., cap. 5 et 6.) “We must know" says St. Gregory the Great, “that the forgiveness of sins can be granted only in the Catholic Church, as long as we live in this world and are truly sorry for them." (Lib. xviii., Moral., cap. 14.)
To console dying Protestants, Sir Oracle goes on to say:
"And many a bitter cry for forgiveness goes up to God from many a Protestant, as the angel of death hovers over him because, knowing so much of the truth of the Catholic religion as he does, he failed to have the courage of his convictions and embrace it. It is a grievous sin to reject the known truth, but grievous as it is, even that and any other sin will be forgiven to him, no matter what his religion may be, who makes an act of perfect contrition and has the will to comply with every other condition which a merciful God imposes as a condition of forgiveness, though he may not know explicitly what those conditions are. And to such, this Explanation of Christian Doctrine notwithstanding, there is no condemnation.”
Unfortunately S. O. has forgotten to tell dying Protestants where to get his soothing, sin-cancelling plaster for their souls. “To rise from the state of mortal sin," says St. Thomas, "is to repair the threefold spiritual losses which it has brought on the soul: first, the loss of the splendor of divine grace by the enormity of sin. The splendor and ornament of the soul were the brilliant rays of divine light shining on it and can never be replenished but by the light and grace of God. Secondly, to rise from the state of mortal sin, is to repair also the contamination of human nature by a corrupt, depraved will. The will, by its depravity being, alienated from God, can never be united to Him again unless by the power and efficacy of grace. Thirdly, to rise from the state of mortal sin is to repair the debt of punishment which is eternal damnation. Pardon and remission cannot be obtained but from Him who was outrageously offended by mortal sin. It is therefore as impossible for man to rise by his own natural means from the state of sin, as it is for a dead body to rise of itself from the grave. Hence St. Augustine says that, when God converts, by his grace, a sinner, he performs a greater work than he performed by creating heaven and earth. But does God perform this most extraordinary miracle for every sinner in his last hour, no matter what his religion may be, if be says S. O.’s act of contrition? To say this act of contrition is indeed in the power of man; but to have true, perfect contrition is a miracle of the power and mercy of God alone; it is one of the greatest gifts of God, and God cannot give this gift without bestowing before the knowledge of the necessary truths of salvation and divine faith, confident hope based upon divine faith, and all the other supernatural dispositions of the soul for receiving the grace of justification. If a heathen or a Protestant receives such an extraordinary grace of conversion, and dies in it, he is saved, not as a heathen or as a Protestant, but as a Catholic. This we say distinctly in our Explanation; but our would-be theologian dishonestly asserts that we say the contrary; for he says: “And to such, this Explanation of Christian Doctrine notwithstanding, there is no condemnation.” Strange, a little after he is constrained to avow his dishonesty.
The right of seeing God, the infinite Being in himself, belongs to God alone; and no creature or finite being, as such, can have any claim to that infinite bliss, nor, consequently, to any of the means which lead thereto. As eternal happiness, the possession of God, or anything leading to it, does not belong to the nature of man, God is under no greater obligation to raise him to a state in which he is rendered capable of seeing and enjoying his Creator, than he is to raise a stone to the nature of an animal.
By his own natural strength man, as we have seen, can acquire much knowledge about God; he can recognize God as the author and preserver of his being, and love him as such. But he can never know and love him so as to deserve to see him face to face. For this, there is needed a life superior to that of man, - a life flowing from God to man, by which a relationship is established between God and man, - a relationship by which God adopts man as his child. "To see the divine Essence," says St. Thomas Aquinas, “is something far above the faculties of the human soul; nay, it is something even far above the natural faculties of an angel. The soul, therefore, must be prepared for the contemplation of the Divinity."
"If we wish that a thing should produce an effect which is above its nature, we must carefully prepare it for the production of such an effect. If, for instance, we wish to set the air on fire, we must gradually raise its temperature. In like manner, God must prepare the soul to make his Essence accessible to its intelligence. This he does by bestowing upon it here below the inestimable gift of true divine faith, hope, and charity. Faith unites us to God, because he is the Author of all our happiness; and charity unites us to God, because it puts us in direct communication with the Author of all gifts and graces. `The charity of God is infused into our hearts by the Holy Ghost, who has been given to us.' (Rom. v. 5.) The grace of God is life eternal. Charity is a reciprocal communication and love between God and man; they exist in this life by grace, and in the other by glory. God is charity; and he that abideth in charity, abideth in God, and God in him! (I. John, iv. 16.)
"Natural gifts, however precious, cannot put us into this supernatural state of grace; for an effect can never surpass its cause. It is produced in us by the Holy Ghost, who is the Love of the Father and of the Son, and makes us participate even of the Divine Substance.
"Those, therefore, who leave the world and are endowed with these divine virtues are prepared to see God in a created light, called the light of glory. But to die without these supernatural virtues is to remain banished forever from the face of the Lord." (De Virtutibus.)
True charity forbids us to despise those who are in error; on the contrary, it teaches us to pity and to love them. But there is a great difference between loving those in error, and loving the error itself; there is a vast difference between loving the sinner and loving his sins.
It is not our business to say whether this or that one who was not received into the Church before his death is damned. What we condemn is the Protestant and the heathen system of religion, because they are utterly false; but we do not condemn any person—God alone is the judge of all. It is quite certain, however, that, if any of those who are not received into the Church before their death, enter heaven,—a lot which we earnestly desire and beg God to grant them,--they can only do so after undergoing a radical and fundamental change before death launches them into eternity. This is quite certain, for the reason, among others, that they are not one; and nothing is more indisputably certain than this, that there can be no division in heaven: "God is not the God of dissension," says St. Paul, "but of peace." He has never suffered the least interruption of union, even in the Church Militant on earth; most assuredly he will not tolerate it in the Church Triumphant. God most certainly will remain what he is. Non-Catholics, therefore, in order to enter heaven, must cease to be what they are, and become something which now they are not.
With regard to Catholics the case is quite different. No change need come upon them, except that which is implied in passing from the state of grace to the state of glory.
They will be one there, as they have been one here. For them the miracle of supernatural unity is already worked. That mark of God's hand is already upon them. That sign of God's election is already upon them. That sign of God's election is already graven upon their foreheads. Faith, indeed, will be replaced by sight, but this will be no real change, because what they see in the next world will be what they have believed in this. The same sacramental King (to borrow an expression of Father Faber), whom here they have worshipped upon the altar, will there be their everlasting portion. The same gracious Madonna who has so often consoled them in the trials of this life, will introduce her own children to the glories of the next. They will not, in that hour, have to "buy oil" for their lamps, for they are already kindled at the lamp of the sanctuary. No wedding-robe will have to be provided for them, for they received it long ago at the baptismal font, and have washed away its stains in the tribunal of penance. The faces of the saints and angels will not be strange to them, for have they not been familiar with them, from infancy as friends, companions, and benefactors? And being thus, even in this world, of the household of faith, and the family of God, not only no shadow of change need pass upon them, but to vary in one iota from what they now believe and practise, would simply cut them off from the the Communion of Saints, and be the most overwhelming disaster which could befall them.
No doubt, God, in his infinite power and mercy, may enlighten even at the hour of death one who is not yet a Catholic, so that he may know and believe the necessary truths of salvation, be truly sorry for his sins, and die in such disposition of soul as is necessary to be saved. Such a one, by an extraordinary grace of God, ceases to be what he was; he dies united to the Church, and is saved, not as a Protestant, but as a Catholic. But is it wise for a Protestant to expect to be saved by a most extraordinary miracle of the infinite power and mercy of God?
The fact that it is in the power of the infinite mercy of God to convert a heathen or a Protestant to the true faith, even in his last hour, must never serve as an encouragement for some rash heathen or Protestant to continue to live in infidelity or in heresy, in the hope that God will not send him to hell, even if he continues to the end of his life to live in heathenism or Protestantism; for, as it would be a great folly to throw one's self into a deep well, in the hope that God would save him from death, because he is too good to let him perish, so, in like manner, it would be a greater folly for a Protestant to run the risk of dying in Protestantisim, on the presumption that the infinite mercy of God would save him from hell by making of him a Catholic even in his last hour.
Let us, then, always bear in mind, what the Angelic Doctor St. Thomas Aquinas says: "There is a certain principle and doctrine which we must never lose sight of when there is question of salvation. This principle is that no salvation is possible for any one who is not united to Jesus Christ crucified by means of divine faith and charity, `which,' as St. Augustine says `cannot be kept out of the unity of the Church.' Since the death of Jesus Christ, sanctifying grace is given to the souls of unbaptized persons by means of baptism, and to the souls of Christians who have grievously sinned, by the sacrament of Penance. If a person cannot receive Baptism or Penance in reality, and is aware of the obligation of receiving it, he must have the explicit desire to receive it; but, if he is not aware of this obligation, he must have at least the implicit desire to receive it, and this desire must be joined to divine faith in the Redeemer and to an act of perfect charity or contrition, which includes the sincere desire of the soul to comply with all that God requires of it in order to be saved. This act of perfect charity is a gratuitous gift and an extraordinary grace of God, which we cannot have of ourselves; it is a great miracle of grace, that God alone can perform a miracle that changes a person from being a heathen or a heretic into a Catholic. Any one, therefore, who dies without this miraculous change of his soul will be lost forever.
Bishop Hay asks the question, "Is there any reason to believe that God Almighty often bestows the light of faith, or the grace of repentance, at the hour of death, upon those who have lived all their lives in heresy, or in sin?"
"That God," he answers, "can in an instant convert the most obdurate heart, either to the true faith, or to repentance, is manifest from the examples of St. Paul, Zacheus the publican, St. Matthew the apostle, and many others; and, in particular, of St. Peter, to whom in an instant he revealed the divinity of Jesus Christ, who said to him on that account, `Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona, for flesh and blood hath not revealed this to thee, but my Father who is in heaven.' (Matt. xvi. 17.) That he can do this at the hour of death as easily as at any time in life, cannot be doubted, as we see in the good thief upon the cross; he is the same all powerful God at all times. But it must be owned that there is very little reason to think that this is frequently the case. There certainly are not the smallest grounds from revelation to think so. Nay, the Scripture threatens the contrary. All that can be said is, that as God is able, he can do it; and as he is merciful, he may do it; and the possibility of this is sufficient to hinder us from passing judgment upon the state of any soul who has left this world; but it would certainly be the height of madness, and a manifest tempting of God, for a person to go on in an evil way in hopes of finding such mercy at his last.
§ 12. S. O GIVES US CREDIT FOR OUR CORRECT DOCTRINE BY QUOTING FROM OUR FAMILIAR EXPLAINATION THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS:—
"Q. Is it right, then, for us to say that one who was not received in the Catholic Church before his death, is damned? Ans. No.
"Q. Why not? Ans. Because we cannot know for certain what takes place between God and the soul at the awful moment of death.
"Q. What do you mean by this? Ans. I mean that God, in his infinite mercy, may enlighten, at the hour of death, one who is not yet a Catholic, so that he may see the truth of the Catholic faith, be truly sorry for his sins, and sincerely desire to die a good death.
"Q. What do we say of those who receive such an extraordinary grace and die in this manner? Ans. We say of them that they are united to the soul of the Catholic Church and are saved."
S. O. gave us this credit very reluctantly, as is evident from what he adds immediately after, namely:
"All this," he says, "has the true sound of Catholic doctrine, but it contradicts, both in spirit and letter, the quotations made in the beginning of this article. But it is better to contradict oneself than to persist in error."
S. O. seems to take a delight in uttering false oracles. First, he has falsified our answer, the end of which does not read, "sincerely desire to die a good death; it reads "sincerely desire to die a good Catholic. The biggest scoundrel may naturally desire to die a good death; but no Protestant will, in his last moments, desire to die a good Catholic, unless he has received, in the hour of death, that most extraordinary grace of which we speak in our answer.
One day a Protestant gentleman came to see us. He was a perfect stranger to us. He began at once to speak about religion. We put to him about six questions, which he answered well. After his last answer he said: "I understand that I must become a Catholic, in order to be saved. But I like better to go as a Protestant to hell than as a Catholic to heaven."
Is it not, then, very dishonest for S. O. to falsify our answer?
Secondly, in the first part of our treatise we have clearly proved that the Church plainly teaches, that there is no salvation for those who die without being united to her. Now S. O. emphatically asserts that, in the above words of ours, we contradict what we have clearly shown to be a revealed truth taught by the Church, and he says that it was better for us to do so than to persist in error. He therefore evidently asserts that there is salvation out of the Church, and thus proves himself to be a heretic.
Thirdly, in order to make it appear that, by the above answers, we contradicted what we have said in the first part of our treatise, S. O. most dishonesty suppressed the continuation of, or conclusion to, the above answers.—The conclusion reads as follows:—
"Q. What, then, awaits all those who are out of the Catholic Church and die without having received such an extraordinary grace at the hour of death? Ans. `Eternal damnation, as sure as there is a God.' "—Is it not most clear from this answer that we have, neither in letter nor in spirit, contradicted anything we have said, but have, on the contrary, in letter and in spirit, confirmed all the reasons we have given for the great truth that no salvation is possible out of the Roman Catholic Church?
Alas! is it possible that S. O. should have made himself guilty of such a vile dishonesty on the Feast of the Holy Name!
§ 13. S. O. AS CATECHIST.
"Our holy and true religion, "he says, "will never suffer from telling the truth with simplicity, charity, and above all with theological accuracy. Neither will there be the least danger to our children from telling them the honest truth about Protestant doctrines, when it is necessary to mention them at all. Nor is it in keeping with the spirit of Catholic charity to inspire our youth with hatred and contempt of their Protestant neighbors."
A short time ago an archbishop of the U. S. said, in presence of several priests: "Is it not strange that so many of our Catholic young men, who were educated at certain Catholic colleges, are or become down right infidels soon after leaving them?" A certain lady told me one day, she could mention at least twenty-four young men of the best families of her city, who were downright infidels when they left the Catholic college where they received their education. This is a very sad fact. How is it to be accounted for? It could be easily accounted for, if S. O. were the teacher of the catechism in those colleges. He would teach the Protestant catechism admirably well, at least much better than the Catholic catechism. You may be sure, he would not teach that "there is no salvation out of the Catholic Church." He might get out a small catechism of his own, in which you would look in vain for a true explanation of the ninth article of the Creed, for the Sacrament of Penance, for the doctrine on the necessity of grace to be saved, etc., etc. However, he would tell the truth 1. with simplicity, that is, for instance, that Protestants believe about Christ precisely what the Catholic believes; 2. with charity, by suppressing such truths as might wound the feelings of honest Protestant pupils; 3. with theological accuracy, by making all his pupils believe that Protestants believe all the facts of Christ's life just as well as Catholics. He would not mention the difference that exists between divine and human faith, between truth and error, between true and false Christianity, etc., for the reason that the explanation of this difference would not be in keeping with the spirit of Catholic charity, which forbids him to inspire youth with hatred and contempt of their Protestant neighbors, by which, of course, he means to say that it is wrong to inspire youth with hatred and contempt of the principles of Protestantism. What he would insist upon especially is that every pupil of his should know well by heart his wonderful act of contrition, by which every one, no matter what his religion may be, and no matter what his sins may be, will obtain forgiveness and be saved. Let us now hear a better authority on the subject of Christian doctrine. Dr. O. A. Brownson, the celebrated convert and famous American Reviewer, one day said to us:—
“I feel surprised at the fact that so many of the young men educated at certain Catholic colleges have become infidels. I cannot account for this otherwise than by presuming that the religious training there is not solid enough; that the heathen world is too much read and studied; that principles somewhat too lax are in vogue; that the truths of our religion are taught too superficially; that the principles which underlie the dogmas are not sufficiently explained, inculcated, and impressed upon the minds of the young men, and that their educators fail in giving them a correct idea of the spirit and essence of our religion, which is based on divine revelation, and invested in a body divinely commissioned to teach all men, authoritatively and infallibly, in all its sacred and immutable truths—truths which, we are consequently bound in conscience to receive without hesitation.
"Now what I have said of certain colleges applies also, unhappily, to many of our female academies; they are by no means what they should be, according to the spirit of the Church; they conform too much to the spirit of the world; they have too many human considerations; they make too many allowances for Protestant pupils, at the expense of the Catholic spirit and training of our young Catholic women; they yield too much to the spirit of the age; in a word, they attend more to the intellectual than to the spiritual culture of their pupils.
"But what is even more surprising than all this is, that some of our Catholic clergy, and among them some even of those who should be first and foremost in fighting for sound religious principles, and see that our youth are carefully brought up in them, are too much inclined to yield to the godless spirit of the age,—to the so-called liberal views on Catholic education, which have been clearly and solemnly condemned by the Holy See. They tell us poor people in the world, that, if we are careless in bringing up our children as good Catholics, we are worse than heathens, and have denied our faith! that, if our children are lost through our neglect, we also shall be lost! I would like to know whether God will show himself more merciful to those of our clergy who take so little interest in the religious instruction of our youth; who make little or no exertions to establish Catholic schools where we could have our children properly educated; who, when they condescend to instruct them, do so in bombastic language, in scholastic terms, which the poor children cannot understand, taking no pains to give their instructions in plain words and in a manner attractive for children?
"As the pastor is, so is the flock. We enjoy full religious liberty in our country. All we need is good courageous pastors,—standard-bearers in the cause of God and the people. We would be only too happy to follow them, and to support and encourage them by every means in our power. What an immense amount of good could thus be achieved in a short time! Our religion never loses anything of its efficacy upon the minds and hearts of men; it can lose only so far as it is not brought to bear upon them. What is most wanted is not argument, but instruction and explanation.
"I can hardly account for this want of zeal for true Catholic education in so many of our clergy, who are otherwise models of every virtue, than by supposing the fact that their ecclesiastical training must have been deficient in many respects, or that they must have spent their youth in our godless public schools, where they were never thoroughly imbued with the true spirit of the Catholic Church—the spirit of God."
Ah! This great Catholic philosopher has given, in very plain words, the reason why so many young Catholic men have become infidels at the very Catholic colleges at which they received their education. Their education was not Catholic enough. To make education more Catholic, it is necessary to have catechisms and catechists that are more Catholic and more practical, that explain in a lucid manner the constitution and authority of the Church and the great mysteries of our holy religion, and clearly show that salvation is impossible out of the Roman Catholic Church.*
* See what we have said on this subject in our second edition of “Familiar Explanation of Christian Doctrine,” published by Benziger Brothers.
In this country, where reading, speaking, writing has no rule or limit, Catholics will be in daily temptation. They cannot close their eyes; and if they could, they cannot close their ears. What they refuse to read they cannot fail to hear. It is the trial permitted for the purity and confirmation of their faith. The trial is severe for many. In order that they may stand well so severe a trial, they must be prepared for it by thorough instruction in the Christian doctrine, especially in the fundamental truths of our holy religion.
§ 14. LIBERALISM.
From the manner in which the article Queer Explanation is written, it is evident that S. O. is in favor of Liberalism, and the Rev. Father Cronin, Editor of the Buffalo Union and Times strongly advocates Liberalism and preaches against the small meanness of intolerance in his article Narrow-Mindedness. (B. U. and T, March 1, 1888.) Now what is Liberalism?
From the time of the Apostles the true followers of Christ have been called Catholics. The meaning of this appellation has always been that they belonged to the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic, and Roman Church. The term Catholic has always distinguished them from every heretical sect. They were known by this term in every part of the world.
Within the few last years, however, certain persons have arisen who are not satisfied with the name of Catholic. Hence they call themselves Liberal Catholics.
Liberal Catholics falsely assert, "that it is a mistake to protect and foster religion, because religion," they say, "will flourish much better if left alone; that the world has entered a new phase, and has begun to run a new course, and consequently the Church should accommodate herself to the spirit of the age; that religion has nothing to do with politics; that it has to do only with the private lives of men; that religion must keep inside the Church—that it is meant for Sundays alone; that we must be generous in our religious feelings toward non-Catholics; that is, we must not tell them that there is no salvation out of the Catholic Church; we must not explain to them the reason why salvation is impossible out of the fold of Christ; we must not show to them the difference between divine and human faith; for, if we do all this, we are narrow-minded and an intolerant people; we are bigots, who visit condign reprobation on the liberal Catholic." A liberal man is never intolerant, says the Rev. Editor of the B. U. and T. In a word, a liberal Catholic is a compound of true and false principles. He has two consciences: one for his public, and another for his private life. He is Catholic with the Pope, if possible, but liberal in religious views with all those who differ from him in faith. "He is a believer," says the Rev. Father Cronin, "in broad-minded views, and has a wide charity for the feelings of others who differ from him in faith." "Liberal Catholics," says O. A. Brownson, "would let more people into heaven by the exception than by the rule."
"We have Catholics, or men," says Brownson, "that call themselves Catholics, who, without knowing it, defend, in politics pure secularism, only another name for political atheism, and—not always the same individuals indeed—who defend in theology what, to our understanding, is a most destructive latitudinarianism. It is seldom we meet a Catholic, man or woman, priest or layman, who will permit us to say that out of the Church no one can be saved, without requiring us to qualify the assertion, or so to explain it as to make it meaningless to plain people who are ignorant of the subtleties, nice distinctions, and refinements of theologians. How many of our Catholics, though holding Protestantism to be an error against faith and antagonistic to the Church, hold that the mass of Protestants are out of the way of salvation, and can never see God in the beatific vision, unless before they die they become Catholics, united to Christ in the Church which is his Body? If we assert the contrary, are we not met with theological distinctions, logical refinements, subtle explanations and qualifications, which place us all in the wrong?" "It is only of late," says Bishop Hay, "that this loose way of thinking and speaking about the necessity of true faith and of being in communion with Christ in his Church has appeared among the members of the Church. Such language was never heard among Catholics in all former ages. And this is one of the greatest grounds of its condemnation. It is a novelty, it is a new doctrine; it was unheard of from the beginning; nay, it is directly opposite to the uniform doctrine of all the great lights of the Church in all former ages. These great and holy men, the most unexceptionable witnesses of the Christian faith in their days, knew no other language on this subject but what they saw spoken before them by Christ and his apostles; they knew their divine Master had declared, `He that believeth not shall be condemned;' they heard his Apostle proclaiming a dreadful anathema against any one, though an angel from heaven, who should dare to alter the Gospel he had preached; (Gal. i. 8.) they heard him affirming in express terms, that 'without faith it is impossible to please God;' and they constantly held the same language. And as they saw not the smallest ground in Scripture for thinking that those who were out of the Church could be saved by invincible ignorance, that deceptive evasion is not so much as once to be met with in all their writings or in the writings of any solid Catholic theologian, as we have shown. How, then, does it happen that some, nowadays, who profess themselves members of the Church of Christ, seem to call this truth in question by continually pleading in favor of those who are not of their communion, proposing excuses for them, and using all their endeavors to prove a possibility of salvation for those. who live and die in a false religion?
"This is one of those devices which the enemy of souls makes use of in these unhappy times to promote his own cause, and which there are grounds to fear has, from various reasons, found its way even among those who belong to the fold of Christ; for, (1.) As they live among those who are of false religions, and often have the most intimate connections with them, they naturally and most laudably contract a love and affection for them. This makes them at first unwilling to think their friends should be out of the way of salvation. Then they proceed to wish and hope they may not be so. Hence they come to call in question their being so; and from this the step is easy to grasp at every pretext to persuade themselves they are not so. (2.) Latitudinarian principles are to be found everywhere in these our days; an uncovenanted mercy, forsooth, is found to be in God for Mahometans, Jews, and infidels, which had never been heard of among Christians. This is gilded over with the specious character of a liberal way of thinking and generous sentiments; and it is become the fashion to think and speak in this manner. Now fashion is a most powerful persuasive, against which even good people are not always proof; and when one hears those sentiments every day resounding in his ears, and anything that seems contrary to them ridiculed and condemned, he naturally yields to the delusion, and turns away his mind from so much as wishing to examine the strength of these sentiments, from fear of finding out their falsehood. When, from fear of being despised, we wish anything to be true, the translation is very easy to believe it to be true, and without further examination every sophistical show of reason in its favor is adopted as conclusive. (3.) Worldy interest also very often concurs with its overbearing influence to produce the same end. A member of the Church of Christ sees his separated friend in power and credit in the world, and capable of being of great service to him, and knows, should he embrace the true faith, he would lose all his influence, and become unable to serve him. This makes him cool in wishing his conversion; but the thought that his friend is not in the way of salvation pains him; he therefore begins to wish he could be saved as he is in his own religion. Hence he comes to hope but that he may, and gladly adopts any show of proof to make him think that he will. It is true, indeed, all these reasons would have little influence with a sincere member of the Church of Christ, who understands his religion, and has a just sense of what it teaches him on this head. But the great misfortune of many who adopt these loose ways of thinking and speaking is, (4.) that they are ignorant of the grounds of their religion; they do not examine the matter thoroughly, and if once they be infected by the spirit of the day, they are unwilling to examine; they even take it amiss if any zealous friend should attempt to undeceive them, and grasping at those miserable sophisms which are alleged in favor of their loose way of thinking, refuse to open their eyes to the truth, or even to look at the reasons which support it."
"They do not sufficiently," says Brownson, “understand the relation of the Church to the Incarnation, the order of grace, the office of the Church in the economy of salvation, the end of religion, the disposition of the world to mistake liberality for charity. They do not see that the Church grows, so to speak, out of the Incarnation, of which she is, in some sort, the visible continuation on earth, and from which she is inseparable.”
The regeneration of the world was prefigured in its first creation. After five days of waiting, of preparation, of preliminary creations, God made the first man “from the slime of the earth, earthly." In him he joined, in one human person, two different substances, the one properly belonging to angels, the other to animals: mind and body. He then appointed him master and lord of all the creatures that people the air, the earth, and the waters. After he had finished this creation of the head of human nature, he completed it by the formation of Eve, drawn from the side of Adam; and by this addition the human race was created so as to live and perpetuate itself. In the same manner, after a series of five thousand years (according to the Septuagint), after these five long days devoted to the announcement, the figures, the preparations, and the preliminaries of his arrival, the new Adam appeared, "come down from heaven and heavenly." In him also two natures, the divine and the human, are joined together, in the one person of God the Son. He is appointed King of angels and of men. Afterwards his Incarnation, in a certain sense, is finished, carried out in its fulness, by the formation of the Church, his spouse, who is drawn from his side, opened for us on the cross; and by the incorporation of the faithful into Jesus Christ in the bosom of the Church, Christianity is complete—it lives, it grows, it gives life to the earth, and peoples heaven.
"God,” says St. Paul, "hath subjected all things to him (Christ), and made him Head over all the Church, which is his Body, and the fulness of him, who is filled all in all." (Eph. i. 22, 23.) Of all the parts of the body, the head is the principal organ. Hence the beginning of a thing is called the head. As the human nature of Jesus Christ is hypostatically united to the Divinity, He possesses the fulness of grace and communicates it to all the members of his mystic Body. Hence the Apostle says, "He that raised up Jesus Christ from the dead, shall also vivify your mortal bodies on account of the Spirit that dwelleth in you." (Rom. viii. 1.) The Church is Christ's mystical Body, and his complement or perfection, the head being incomplete without the body; but when the head has all the members of the body, so that none is wanting, then it is entirely complete, says St. Chrysostom.
Although Christ is most perfect himself, yet he considers himself incomplete, and, so to speak, a mutilated head to members, without having the Church as body joined to him.
Hence St. Paul says: “For as the body is one and hath many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, yet are one body: so also is Christ.” (I. Cor. xii. 10.) On these words St. Augustine comments thus: “St Paul says not: so also is the body or the members of Christ; but, so also is Christ. He says head and body is one Christ. And this should not appear incredible to us; for, if Christ's divine nature, which infinitely differs from and is incomparably more sublime than his human nature, was so united with it as to be only one person, how much more credible is it that the faithful and holy Christians are one Christ with the Man Christ! The whole Christ is head and body. The head and members are one Christ. The head was in heaven and said: ‘Paul, why dost thou persecute me?' We are with him in heaven by hope, and he is with us on earth by charity." (Lib. I. de Peccat. Merit., c. 31.)
Hence Christ is sometimes called the whole Church. (I. Cor. xii. 10.) Hence also it is often said, that we are in Christ, that we grow, work, and suffer in him; hence also the Apostle says that Christ lives in him and he in Christ. Hence all our hope, all our consolation.
The community on earth of those Christians who are united under one common Head, the Pope, as the successor of St. Peter, and who profess the same faith and partake of the same sacraments, are called Christ's Body. “This Body," says Cornelius a Lapide, "derives its spiritual life from Christ, its Head. This life is called the soul of the Church. This life (soul of) the Church is either general and imperfect, or it is special and perfect. The general and imperfect life is the true faith, and the special and perfect life of the Body of the Church is divine charity. Those of the faithful who are animated with true divine faith and charity, which is poured out into their hearts by the Holy Ghost, are, thereby, united to Christ, their Head, and form his perfect Body. Those of the faithfull who are animated only the general and imperfect life, by faith alone, are, it is true, members of the body of the Church, but they are imperfect members; and were they to die in that state, they would be lost forever. But as they are members of Christ's Body, though dead members thereof, they may become perfect members by divine charity, if they profit by the graces that flow from Christ upon all the members of his body. Hence, as the member of a body which is not united to the other members and the whole body, cannot receive any nourishment and life through its body, so, also, a Christian cannot live by the perfect life of the Church, if he is not united by divine charity with all the rest of the faithful and the whole Body of the Church." (Comment. In Epist. ad Ephes., c. iv., v. 16, and in Epist. ad Tim., c. ii., v. 20.)
“If any one," says Christ, "remaineth not in me, he shall be cast forth as a branch, and shall wither, and they shall gather him up, and cast him into the fire; and he burneth." (St. John, xv. 6.)
After being united in baptism to the Body of Christ, his Church, we can remain united to Christ, her Head, only by true divine faith and charity. But true charity cannot be kept out of the unity of the Church, says St. Augustine. As all heretics without exception are separated from Christ's Body, the Church, they are branches cut off from the vine, Christ, and therefore the sap of divine faith and charity cannot flow upon them, as long as they are not united to Christ's Body, the Church. He who thinks he can do good of himself, is not united to the vine; and he who is not united to the vine, is not united to Christ; and he who is not united to Christ is no Christian. (St. Aug. Tract. 21.)
"The Church, therefore," says O. A. Brownson, "lives in Christ, and he lives in her; his life is her life, and individuals are joined to him and live his life by being joined to her and living his life in her. To be separated from her is to be separated from him, is to be separated from the Incarnate Word himself, the one Mediator of God and men, and from our end, as well as the medium of its attainment.
All that Divine Providence has produced in the course of ages existed, as St. Augustine says, at the beginning of creation, in the so-called seminal, radical, fundamental causes, such as vegetation of every kind, animals, and material bodies. So that all things in creation attain their perfection in virtue of this imperishable seed, which exists in their nature since the beginning of the world.
Now, as man is destined for supernatural happiness, it is necessary that the imperishable seed of divine grace should be in him. St. John alludes to this divine seed when he says, "Whoever is born of God, committeth not sin, for his (God's) seed (divine grace) abideth in him, and he cannot sin because he is born of God. (chapt. iii., 9.) A rational being can obtain an object only by some act which it makes, and that act cannot have the power of putting him in possession of an object which is of a supernatural order. Now eternal beatitude is a good of a supernatural order. God alone has always enjoyed that perfect glory and happiness. No matter how great the natural perfection of a man may be, he cannot, by an act of his own natural perfection, put himself in possession of an object of supernatural perfection. It is only by divine grace that he can merit and obtain it; and this grace is granted only in the Church.
"There is" says Brownson, "no name under heaven among men but the name of Jesus Christ by which we can be saved. There is salvation in none other; and what Catholic needs to be told that Christ, as the Saviour, is in the Church, which is his Body, and that it is in the Church, and nowhere else, that he does or will save? True, though in the Church he is also out of her, operating on the hearts of those not yet within; but he operates ad Ecclesiam, to bring them within, that he may save them there, not that he may save them without. He loves his Church; she is his Chosen, his Beloved, his Spouse, and he gave his life for her. In her, so to speak, centre all his affections, his graces, and his providences, and all creatures and events are ordered in reference to her. Without her all history is inexplicable, a fable, and the universe itself meaningless and without a purpose. The salvation of souls itself is in order to her, and God will have no children who are not also hers. As there is but one Father, so can there be but one Mother, and none are of the Father who are not of the Mother. Clear and explicit are all the Fathers and Saints as to this, and they plainly teach that it would dishonor her, and make God an adulterer, to suppose the salvation of a single soul of which she is not the spiritual Mother.
“God, in establishing his Church from the foundation of the world, in giving his life on the Cross for her, and abiding always with her in her tabernacles unto the consummation of the world, in adorning her as a Bride with all the graces of the Holy Ghost, in denominating her his Beloved, his Spouse, has taught us how he regards her, how deep and tender, how infinite and inexhaustible his love for her, and with what love and honor we should regard her. He loves us with an infinite love, and has died to redeem us; but he loves us and wills our salvation only in and through his Church. He would bring us to himself, and he never ceases as a lover to woo our love; but he wills us to love, and reverence, and adore him only as children of his Beloved. Our reverence and love must redound to his glory as her Spouse, and gladden her maternal heart, and swell her maternal joy, or he wills them not, knows them not.
"Oh, it is frightful to forget the place the Church holds in the love and Providence of God, and to regard the relation in which we stand to her as a matter of no moment! She is the one grand object on which are fixed all heaven, all earth, ay, and all hell. Behold her impersonation in the Blessed Virgin, the Holy Mother of God, the glorious Queen of heaven. Humble and obscure she lived, poor and silent, yet all heaven turned their eyes toward her; all hell trembled before her; all earth needed her. Dear was she to all the hosts of heaven; for in her they beheld their Queen, the Mother of grace, the Mother of mercies, the channel through which all love, and mercies, and graces, and good things were to flow to men, and return to the glory and honor of their Father. Humblest of mortal maidens, lowliest on earth, under God she was highest in heaven. So is the Church, our sweet Mother. O, she is no creation of the imagination! O, she is no mere accident in human history, in divine Providence, divine grace, in the conversion of souls! She is a glorious, a living reality, living the divine, the eternal life of God. Her maker is her Husband, and he places her, after him, over all in heaven, on the earth, and under the earth. All that he can do to adorn and exalt her he has done. All he can give he gives; for he gives himself, and unites her in indissoluble union with himself.
"Did we always reflect earnestly on what the Church is, did we consider her rank in the universe, her relation to God, the place she holds, so to speak, in his affections: the bare thought of the salvation of a single soul not spiritually begotten of her would make us thrill with horror.
"Here are the great mass out of the Church, unbelieving and heretical, careless and indifferent, and it is idle to expect to make any general impression upon them, unless we present the question of the Church as a question of life and death, unless we can succeed in convincing them that, if they live and die where they are, they can never see God. This is the doctrine, and the precise doctrine, needed. Is it true! Yes, or no? Is it denied? By those out of the Church, certainly, and hence the great reason why they are content to live and die out of the Church? Is it denied by those in the Church? What Catholic dare deny it? To what individual or class of individuals are we authorized by our holy faith to promise even the bare possibility of salvation, without being joined to the visible communion of the Church of God? No doubt, the truth is always to be adhered to, let the consequences be what they may.
“Those poor souls, for whom our Lord shed his precious blood, for whom bleed afresh the dear wounds in his hands, his feet, his side, bound in the chains of error and sin, suspended over the precipice, ready to drop into the abyss below, admonish all who have hearts of flesh, or any bowels of compassion, to speak out, to cry aloud in awful and piercing tones to warn them of their danger, rather than by ingenious distinctions or qualifications to flatter them, or to have the appearance of flattering them, with the hope that, after all, their condition is not perilous."
Alas! a man must be really indifferent to God and religion, he must be without heart and without reason to tolerate quietly such religious errors. It is in the very nature of every honest man when he has the truth, to guard it with jealous watchfulness, and to repel with indignation every admixture of falsehood.
Look at the teacher of mathematics, when he discovers an error in the calculation of his pupils, does he not condemn it—is he not intolerant?
Look at the musician, the leader of a choir—is he not indignant when some one sings flat or out of time?
Look at the lawyer who has carefully studied the laws and is eloquently pleading his case. He quotes a certain law. He has read it even that very morning. Suppose you tell him that no such law ever existed. Is he not indignant at your denial? Is he not jealous of what he knows to be the truth?
Look at that experienced physician. Try if you can to make him believe that unnatural sins will not hurt the nervous system. You may as well try to convince him that poison will not kill.
Every honest man guards the truth with the most jealous care, and will you blame the good Catholic for jealously guarding the highest truth—that truth which God himself has revealed—that truth upon which depends our whole happiness, here and hereafter?
"Our intellect,” says St. Thomas, “is formed for truth and cannot help thinking according to truth. The intellect is not a faculty or power which is, in itself, free, as the will is. Wheresoever it sees the truth it cannot help embracing it. It is not free to accept or reject it, except when ignorance puts the mind in such a state as to render it unable to see the truth. Whenever the mind sees the truth, it is forced to accept it. When the mind does not see the truth it is inactive—it does nothing. If, in this case, it asserts one proposition rather than another, such assertion is merely an act of the will, and not an act of the intellect. For instance, if I am asked whether the moon is inhabited, I can assert that it is, merely because I choose to do so. But I am not compelled to make this assertion by any evidence, for I do not know. But if I am asked, to how two and two amount, I cannot choose my answer; I am forced to say “four.” The intellect, then, is bound to acknowledge the truth when it sees the truth. But the will may deny it. The intellect of any man cannot help acknowledging the existence of God, and of the first principles of right and wrong. But a perverse will may deny these truths."
Of all things that are good for men, truth is, without doubt, the greatest good.
Truth is the good thing for the intellect. As the eye was made to receive light, and the ear to receive sounds, and the hand to do all kinds of work, so the intellect was made to see and embrace the truth, to unite itself with the truth, and to find its repose in truth alone.
Truth is the good thing for the heart. The heart is bound to love something. Now, when the intellect does not show it a true, honest object of love, the heart is sure to soil itself in a sordid love.
Truth is the good thing for society. If truth does not guide its steps, society must fall into misery, and setting itself against the divine laws of the universe, will speedily be brought to utter ruin.
Truth is the good thing for men. They cannot attain their ultimate end--they cannot reach eternal goodness, except by means of the truth. So necessary is truth for men that the Son of God came down from heaven to teach them the truth.
Truth, then, is above all good things; it is a greater good than wealth and honors; it is above life and death, above men and angels. God is the only fountain of truth; truth alone leads to him, as it comes from him who is Truth itself. If this be so, what right can there be for any one to obscure the truth? What right can there be for a liberal-minded priest to profess Liberalism, a mixture of true and false principles? “A thing,” says St. Thomas Aquinas, “becomes impure by mixing it with a worse substance, as, for instance, gold mixed with brass, or silver with lead; in like manner, truth becomes worse and loses the splendor of its purity by mixing it with error." Has not Protestantism risen in this way? What right then has a liberal-minded priest to assert or to endorse cheerfully so many falsehoods in the article “Queer Explanation?" what right has the liberal-minded Father Cronin to say "what is needed in this country—if the country is to be ever converted to the Catholic faith—is more of such letters as the one in question (written by a liberal-minded priest and published by the liberal-minded Father Cronin) and less of such books that, through their inexact phrasing, furnish arguments to the enemies of the Church to represent her as teaching what she does not teach;" in other words, we must have more liberal-minded priests that preach Liberalism all over the country, and less orthodox priests, that defend the doctrines of the Church, and then, of course, all Catholics will soon be liberal Catholics, and Protestants will easily become liberal Catholics, because they do no longer see much difference between Liberalism and Protestantism! Aye, what right has he to proclaim his erroneous teaching, which cramps the soul, sours the temper, dwarfs the conscience, and inflicts untold misery on the country and on the unhappy people who are brought within the reach of his fallacious assertions ? No, there is no such right. Reason, and conscience, and the Catholic Church condemn such license, that is such free discussion, as he calls it.
In an Allocution held by Pius IX. on Dec. 9, 1854, His Holiness says: “It is not without sorrow that we have learned another, not less pernicious error, which has been spread in several parts of Catholic countries, and has been imbibed by many Catholics, who are of opinion that those who are not at all members of the true Church of Christ can be saved. Hence they often discuss the question concerning the future fate and condition of those who die without having professed the Catholic faith, and give the most frivolous reasons in support of their wicked opinion . . . . .
"It is indeed of faith that no one can be saved outside the Apostolic Roman Church; that this Church is the one ark of salvation; that he who has not entered it, will perish in the deluge."
In his Encyclical Letter, dated Aug. 10, 1863, Pope Pius IX. says: "I must mention and condemn again that most pernicious error in which certain Catholics are living, who are of opinion that those people who live in error and have not the true faith, and are separated from Catholic unity, may obtain life everlasting. Now this opinion is most contrary to Catholic faith, as is evident from the plain words of Christ: "If he will not hear the Church, let him be to thee as the heathen and the publican." Matt. xiii. 17; "He that believeth not, shall be condemned." Mark, xvi. 16; "He that despiseth you, despiseth me; and he that despiseth me, despiseth him that sent me." Luke, x. 16; “He that doth not believe, is already judged." John, iii. 18; “It is of faith that, as there is but one God, so also there is but one faith, and one baptism. To go beyond this in our inquiries is to be impious." (Allocution, Dec. 9, 1854.)
On the 18th of June, 1871, Pope Pius IX., in replying to a French deputation headed by the Bishop of Nevers, spoke as follows: “My children, my words must express to you what I have in my heart. That which afflicts your country, and prevents it from meriting the blessings of God, is the mixture of principles I will speak out, and not hold my peace. That which I fear is not the Commune of Paris, those miserable men, those real demons of hell, roaming upon the face of the earth—no, not the Commune of Paris; that which I fear is liberal Catholicism . . . . I have said so more than forty times, and I repeat it to you now, through the love that I bear you. The real scourge of France is Liberal Catholicism, which endeavors to unite two principles, as repugnant to each other as fire and water. My children, I conjure you to abstain from those doctrines which are destroying you . . . . if this error be not stopped, it will lead to the ruin of religion and of France." In a brief, dated July the 9th, 1871, to Mgr. Segur, the Holy Father says: “It is not only the infidel sects who are conspiring against the Church and Society that the Holy See has often reproved, but also those men who, granting that they act in good faith and with upright intentions, yet err in caressing liberal doctrines." On July 28, 1873, his Holiness thus expressed himself: "The members of the Catholic Society of Quimper certainly run no risk of being turned away from their obedience to the Apostolic See by the writings and efforts of the declared enemies of the Church; but they may glide down the incline of those so-called liberal opinions which have been adopted by many Catholics, otherwise honest and pious, who, by the influence of their religious character, may easily exercise a powerful ascendancy over men, and lead them to very pernicious opinions. Tell, therefore, the members of the Catholic, Society that, on the numerous occasions on which we have censured those who hold liberal opinions, we did not mean those who hate the Church, whom it would have been useless to reprove, but those whom we have just described. Those men preserve and foster the hidden poison of liberal principles, which they sucked as the milk of their education, pretending that those principles are not infected with malice, and cannot interfere with religion; so they instil this poison into men's minds, and propagate the germs of those perturbations by which the world has for a long time been vexed."
Our faith, to be pleasing to God, must be sound; and according to the declaration of the Vatican Council, our faith is sound when we avoid not only open heresy, but also diligently shun, and in our hearts dissent from, those errors which approach it more or less closely, and religiously observe those constitutions and decrees whereby such evil opinions, either directly or indirectly, have been proscribed and prohibited by the Holy See. (Vatican Council, Canon iv.), as, for instance, "Opinions leaning to naturalism, or rationalism, whose sum and purpose is to uproot Christian institutions, and establish in society the rule of man, placing God out of consideration. An entire profession of Catholicity is by no means consistent with these opinions. Likewise, it is not lawful to follow one rule in private life, another in public life, namely, so that the authority of the Church may be observed in private life, and disregarded in public life. That would be to unite virtue and vice, and make man conflict with himself, when, on the contrary, he ought to be consistent with himself, and in nothing, no sort of life, depart from Christianity." (Leo XIII, Encycl. 1, Nov. 1885.) In other words, it is not lawful to be a liberal Catholic, and it is far worse to be a liberal minded priest. It is the duty of all philosophers (far more
so of all priests) who desire to remain, sons of the Church, and of all philosophy, to assert nothing contrary to the teachings of the Church, and to retract all such things when the Church shall so admonish. The opinion which teaches the contrary, we pronounce and declare altogether erroneous and in the highest degree injurious to the faith of the Church, and her authority." (Litterae Pii IX. "Gravissimas inter,” ad Archiep. Monac. et Freising. Dec. 1862.)
A priest, therefore, who defends Liberalism, is in opposition to the teachings of the Church, and cannot remain a son of the Church.
A Liberal Catholic, then, is no true Catholic. The word Catholic is no vain and empty word. To be a true Catholic means to hold most firmly all those truths which Christ and his Apostles have taught, which the Catholic Church has always proclaimed, which the Saints have professed, which the Popes and Councils have defined, and which the Fathers and Doctors of the Church have defended. He who denies but one of those truths, or hesitates to receive one of them, is not a Catholic. He claims to exercise the right of private judgement in regard to the doctrine of Christ, and therefore he is a heretic. The true Catholic knows and believes that there can be no compromise between God and the devil, between truth and error, between orthodox faith and heresy, between divine and human faith, between true and false Christianity, between Catholics and Protestants. St. Paul, the Apostle, spoke freely and told the truth plainly from out of his prison walls; it was because he was no compromiser. St. Peter spoke freely, plainly, and forcibly before the ancients, saying that it is better to obey God than men; it was because he was no compromiser. The Apostle St. Andrew proclaimed the plain truth from the wood of the cross; it was because he was no compromiser. St. Stephen, the first martyr, was no compromiser. When accused of being a follower of Jesus of Nazareth, he, in his turn, accused his enemies of being the murderers of Christ. All the holy martyrs of the Church were no compromisers. Being charged by the heathens with the folly of worshipping and following a crucified God, they, in their turn, charged the heathens with the impiety of worshipping creatures and following the devil. Why was our Holy Father, Pope Pius IX., and why is still our Holy father, Leo XIII., a prisoner? It is because neither the one nor the other could be a compromiser. Why were in Germany so many bishops and priests exiled or in prison? It is because they were no compromisers. Why was the Catholic Church persecuted in Germany and other parts of the world? It is because God, by means of persecution, purifies his Church, from liberal or compromising Catholics. And as there are so many liberal Catholics in this country, persecution must come to separate them from the Church. Those compromising Catholics, said a well-known convert in Detroit, Mich., have kept me out of the Church for twenty years, until at last I met a good, conscientious, and learned priest, who taught me plainly that, if I wished to save my soul, I must become a member of Christ's Body—the Catholic Church—in order to become united to her head—Jesus Christ—from whom sanctifying grace will then flow upon your soul and prepare it for life everlasting.
“Undoubtedly," says Bishop Hay, "it is praiseworthy to show all indulgence and condescension to those who are without, and to behave towards them with all lenity and mildness.
"But to betray the truth with any such view must be a grievous crime, and highly prejudicial to both parties. Experience, in fact, shows that the loose way of thinking and speaking, which some members of the true Church have of late adopted, is productive of the worst consequences, both to themselves and to those whom they desire to favor.
"(1.) Those who are separated from the Church of Christ well know that she constantly professes, as an article of her creed, that, without the true faith, and out of her communion, there is no salvation. When, therefore, they see the members of that Church talking doubtfully on this point, seeming to question the truth of the doctrine, and even alleging pretexts and excuses to explain it away, what can they think? What effect must this have upon their minds? Must it not tend to extinguish any desire of enquiring after the truth which God may have given them, and to shut their hearts against any such good thought? Self-love never fails eagerly to lay hold of everything that favors its wishes; and if once they find this truth called in question, even by those who profess to believe it, they will consider it as a mere school dispute, and think no more about the matter.
"(2.) This way of thinking and speaking naturally tends to extinguish all zeal for the salvation of souls in the hearts of those who adopt it; for whilst they persuade themselves that there is a possibility of salvation for those who die in a false faith, and out of the Church of Christ, self love will easily incline them not to give themselves any trouble about their conversion; nay, it has sometimes even gone so far as to make some think it more advisable not to endeavor to undeceive them, lest it should change their present excusable ignorance, as they call it, into a culpable obstinacy; not reflecting that, by their pious and zealous endeavors, they may be brought to the knowledge of the truth and save their souls, whereas, through their uncharitable neglect, they may be deprived of so great a happiness. Woe to the world, indeed, if the first preachers of Christianity had been of such unchristian sentiments!
“(3.) It is no less prejudicial to the members of the Church themselves to embrace such ways of thinking: for it cannot fail to cool their zeal and esteem for religion, to make them more careless of preserving their faith, ready for worldly motives to expose it to danger, and in time of temptation to forsake it entirely. In fact, if a man be thoroughly persuaded of the truth of his holy religion, and of the necessity of being a member of the Church of Christ, how is it possible he should ever expose himself to any occasion of losing so great a treasure, or for any worldly fear or favor to abandon it? Since experience shows, then, that many, for some trifling worldly advantage, do expose themselves to such danger, by going to places where they cannot practise their religion, but find every inducement to leave it, or, by engaging in employments inconsistent with their duty, expose their children to the same dangerous occasions, this can arise only from a. want of a just idea of the importance of their religion; and, upon a strict examination, it is always found that some degree or other of the above latitudinarian sentiments is the radical cause.
"(4.) Besides, if a person once begin to hesitate about the importance of his religion, what esteem or regard can he have for the laws, rules, or practices of it! Self-love, always attentive to its own satisfaction, will soon tell him that, if it be not absolutely necessary to be of that religion, much less necessary must it be to submit to all its regulations; hence liberties are taken in practice, the commands of the Church are despised, the exercises of devotion are neglected, and a shadow of religion introduced under the show of liberal sentiments, to the destruction of all solid virtue and piety."
If you travel at night through a wild, desolate moorland, you will notice in some lonely spot a flame of fire that
flickers and shoots, and recedes farther and farther as you follow it. It is called the will-o’-the-wisp, or the wandering light. This light is not from heaven, but from the deep, miry marsh. Woe to the foolish traveller who blindly follows it! It leads him on into a deep morass, into some black pool, where he perishes alone in the darkness! His last agonizing shriek, his trembling groan, is echoed by the hooting nightbird.
There are wandering lights, too, in the human mind, that lead many astray. Men may think that these lights come from above, from the Holy Spirit, but they proceed only from self-conceit, from passion, from pride, and often from the demon from hell.
No doubt, it was not a little poppy of a devil that was sitting on the shoulder of S. O. to dictate to him his "Queer Explanation;" only a fallen angel of the higher ranks could conceive and suggest that malicious article.
Coxe, and Fulton, and other narrow-minded bigots have now something better than Familiar Explanation to take hold of. They will henceforth take hold of the “Queer Explanation," written by S. O.; they will not twist it into another sense than it really has; they will prove from it that their faith in Christ and in all the facts of his divine life is precisely the same as that of Catholics; and, as all Protestants believe that all Catholics who live up to their faith are saved, so, in like manner, all Protestants who live up to their faith in Christ will now believe that they will be saved, precisely because their faith in Christ is the same as that of Catholics.
Coxe and Fulton will now assure all their Protestant brethren not to be afraid of the final sentence of the Eternal Judge; for his words, "I know you not whence you are, depart from me all ye workers of iniquity," (Luke xiii. 26-27.) will be addressed, not to Protestants, but only to bad Catholics. What a consoling hope for Protestants at the Particular and General Judgement!
Coxe, and Fulton, and their Protestant brethren do not know Christ and his doctrine as taught by the Catholic Church; and therefore as “No man will be condemned on account of his ignorance, neither Protestant nor heathen,” all of them will be saved who die in their ignorance. This is quite certain according to the logic of S. O. And not to entertain even the least doubt of his salvation, "Every sincere, God-fearing Protestant and even every God-fearing heathen, has but to lift up, in the hour of death, his heart to God his Creator, and to acknowledge his sins and offenses against God with true contrition, and to ask forgiveness and to add always, trusting in the merits of Jesus Christ my Saviour,’ or, ‘for the love of my Redeemer, who died on the cross for me,' and this surely obtains God's forgiveness."
What a wonderful power is not attached to these words by S. O.! and why should not Coxe and Fulton let their people know it? You see, according to the infallible oracle of S. O., those words are sacramental words, producing their effects ex opere operato, as soon as they are pronounced; that is, they produce at once divine faith, true Christian hope, perfect sorrow, which proceeds from perfect charity; they force God the Father, and God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, to enter the soul and unite themselves with it in the most intimate manner, and remain thus united with it for all eternity in heaven! And if at the same time many a bitter cry for forgiveness goes up to God, such a wonderful effect will also be brought about by the above words, even in the soul of the Protestant, "who, knowing so much of the truth of the Catholic religion as he does, failed to have the courage of his convictions and to embrace it! It is a grievous sin to reject the known truth, but grievous as it is, even that and any other sin will be forgiven to him, no matter what his religion may be, who makes an act of perfect contrition and has the will to comply with every other condition which a merciful God imposes as a condition of forgiveness, though he may not know explicitly what those conditions are. And to such, this Explanation of Christian Doctrine notwithstanding, there is no condemnation!"
What an easy and wide road to heaven! S. O. tells every man, no matter what his religion may be, to raise himself into heaven like the man who tried to lift himself up into the air by taking hold of his own boot straps!
Alas! Which of the two, Coxe or S. O., is most obliqueminded, and suffers most from mental strabismus? Which of the two -
Fulton or the most prominent priest of the U. S., is the most infatuated, lunatic-like man. Which of the three, S. O., or Coxe, or Fulton—suffers most from softening of the brain? Which of the three permitted himself to be drawn most into the cyclone of so many heretical errors? Which of the three has been lifted most off his feet, and "is the cap of all fools alive." (Shak.)
Alas! the article "Queer Explanation," written by S. O. in favor of Protestants, will do more harm, not only to liberal Catholics, but even to sincere Protestants who honestly seek the truth, than all the rantings of such men as Coxe and Fulton, because it is calculated to confirm them in their errors and make them believe that they can be saved out of the Catholic Church; and yet the Rev. Father Cronin solemnly declares that it was sorely needed! and the Rev. A. Young is of the same opinion!
We read in Holy Scripture that the Bishop of Pergamus, though quite orthodox himself, did not use energetically enough the sword of the Word of God, with which he was armed to oppose certain false, pernicious principles of his time and country, and warn the Christians against following them Hence it happened that those erroneous principles spread more rapidly and infected even many of the Christians. For this neglect, and the evil consequences thereof, the Bishop is severely reprimanded by our Lord, who threatens him and his flock with everlasting punishment, if they do not repent. (Apoc. ii. 10, 16.)
Dark clouds of error and weakness in faith have settled thickly around us since the time of the so-called Reformation. It is the special duty of priests to scatter these clouds by speaking freely and plainly on the great truths of our religion, especially on the great fundamental truth, that our religion is revea1ed by God, and that his revelation is invested in an infallible divine teaching authority, and that no one will be saved without being willing to accept this teaching authority - the Catholic Church - for his guide on the road to heaven. On these great truths, priests must speak with a lively faith, in language glowing with love for those truths, in words that work. miracles, that is, in words that create in the mind of the hearers so profound a conviction of the truths of our religion, and which, at the same time, enkindle in their hearts so great a love for them, as are apt to make them believe and live up to these truths with a holy joy and spiritual delight.
This is, indeed, What Jesus Christ expects every priest to do, especially in our time, when faith in the great truths of our holy religion grows weaker every day, not only among the higher classes of society, but even among the lower classes, especially among young men and young women. But, alas! the divine Master is sadly disappointed in all those priests who speak so coldly of him and his doctrine as to make believe that their own faith is rather weak.
Such coldness is generally found in those who, considering themselves learned and wise rely too much on their own opinion and judgment in religious matters. They guide themselves only by their lights, and for want of humility care not to rise higher than human reason. Thus they are groveling all their life-time in the littleness of their own ideas and sentiments - a littleness increditable in all that regards the great truths of our religion.
Such men are in the habit of always thinking first how a tenet, or a practice, or a fact is most presentable to the Public. This habit soon and almost imperceptibly leads them to profaneness, and easily produces the spirit of liberalisim and rationalisim in matters of faith.
Their too delicate and fastidious taste has too much regard for the feelings of a certain class of people. We are aware that Christian charity demands of us to have due regard for the feelings of our neighbor, and we are thoroughly convinced that no one was ever yet benefited by harsh means. Charity, however, is not only not incompatible with truth, but it ever demands that the whole truth should be told well, especially when its concealment is a cause of error, or of perseverance in error and sin, in matters, too, of the greatest importance.
Hence, to judge from the works of our greatest Catholic theologians, it appears that the deeper theologian a man is, the less does he give way to the studious desire of making difficulties easy at any cost short of denying what is positively de fide.
They handle the truth religiously and conscientiously just in the way that God is pleased to give it to us, rather than to see what they can make of it themselves by shaping it for controversy, and so, by dint of skilful manipulation, squeeze it through a difficulty. No doubt, all such priests are out of harmony with the spirit of the Church and Saints. They do much harm, not only to themselves, but also to those who come into contact with them. By their example and principles they lead into error those persons who easily suffer themselves to be guided by them, forgetting the advice of St. John the Apostle: " Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits, if they be of God." (I. John, iv. 1.)
I have now only to add that I submit this, and whatever else I have written, to the better judgment of our Bishops, but especially to the Holy See, anxiously desirous to think nothing, to say nothing, to teach nothing but what is approved of by those to whom the sacred deposit of Faith has been committed—those who watch over us and are to render an account to God for our souls—those who are the Pastors of that glorious Church, out of which there never was, since her establishment, nor is, nor ever will, be any, salvation!
All hail to thee, dear and ever-blessed Mother, thou chosen one, thou well-beloved, thou Bride adorned, thou chaste, Immaculate Spouse, thou Universal Queen! all hail to thee! We honor thee, for God honors thee; we love thee, for God loves thee; we obey thee, for thou ever commandest the will of thy Lord. The passers-by may jeer thee; the servants of the prince of this world may call thee black; the daughters of the uncircumcised may beat thee; earth and hell may rise up in wrath against thee, and seek to despoil thee of thy rich ornaments and to sully thy fair name; but all the more dear art thou to our hearts; all the more deep and sincere the homage we pay thee; and all the more earnestly do we pray thee to receive our humble offerings, and to own us for thy children and watch over us, that we may never forfeit the right to call thee our Mother.