The Faith of Our Fathers
by James Cardinal Gibbons
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There are others who pretend, in spite of our Lord's declaration to the contrary, that loyalty to Peter is disloyalty to Christ, and that, by acknowledging Peter as the rock on which the Church is built, we set our Savior aside. So far from this being the case, we acknowledge Jesus Christ as the "chief cornerstone," as well as the Divine Architect of the building.

The true test of loyalty to Jesus is not only to worship Him, but to venerate even the representatives whom He has chosen. Will anyone pretend to say that my obedience to the Governor's appointee is a mark of disrespect to the Governor himself? I think our State Executive would have little faith in the allegiance of any citizen who would say to him: "Governor, I honor you personally, but your official's order I shall disregard."

St. Peter is called the first Bishop of Rome because he transferred his see from Antioch to Rome, where he suffered martyrdom with St. Paul.

We are not surprised that modern skepticism, which rejects the Divinity of Christ and denies even the existence of God, should call in question the fact that St. Peter lived and died in Rome.

The reason commonly alleged for disputing this well-attested event is that the Acts of the Apostles make no mention of Peter's labors and martyrdom in Rome. For the same reason we might deny that St. Paul was beheaded in Rome; that St. John died in Ephesus, and that St. Andrew was crucified. The Scripture is silent regarding these historical records, and yet they are denied by no one.

The intrinsic evidence of St. Peter's first Epistle, the testimony of his immediate successors in the ministry, as well as the avowal of eminent Protestant commentators, all concur in fixing the See of Peter in Rome.

"Babylon," from which Peter addresses his first Epistle, is understood by learned annotators, Protestant and Catholic, to refer to Rome—the word Babylon being symbolical of the corruption then prevailing in the city of the Caesars.

Clement, the fourth Bishop of Rome, who is mentioned in terms of praise by St. Paul; St. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, who died in 105; Irenaeus, Origen, St. Jerome, Eusebius, the great historian, and other eminent writers testify to St. Peter's residence in Rome, while no ancient ecclesiastical writer has ever contradicted the statement.

John Calvin, a witness above suspicion; Cave, an able Anglican critic; Grotius and other distinguished Protestant writers, do not hesitate to re-echo the unanimous voice of Catholic tradition.

Indeed, no historical fact will escape the shafts of incredulity, if St. Peter's residence and glorious martyrdom in Rome are called in question.

Chapter X.


The Church did not die with Peter. It was destined to continue till the end of time; consequently, whatever official prerogatives were conferred on Peter were not to cease at his death, but were to be handed down to his successors from generation to generation. The Church is in all ages as much in need of a Supreme Ruler as it was in the days of the Apostles. Nay, more; as the Church is now more widely diffused than it was then, and is ruled by frailer men, it is more than ever in need of a central power to preserve its unity of faith and uniformity of discipline.

Whatever privileges, therefore, were conferred on Peter which may be considered essential to the government of the Church are inherited by the Bishops of Rome, as successors of the Prince of the Apostles; just as the constitutional powers given to George Washington have devolved on the present incumbent of the Presidential chair.

Peter, it is true, besides the prerogatives inherent in his office, possessed also the gift of inspiration and the power of working miracles. These two latter gifts are not claimed by the Pope, as they were personal to Peter and by no means essential to the government of the Church. God acts toward His Church as we deal with a tender sapling. When we first plant it we water it and soften the clay about its roots. But when it takes deep root we leave it to the care of Nature's laws. In like manner, when Christ first planted His Church He nourished its infancy by miraculous agency; but when it grew to be a tree of fair proportions He left it to be governed by the general laws of His Providence.

From what I have said you can easily infer that the arguments in favor of Peter's Primacy have equal weight in demonstrating the supremacy of the Popes.

As the present question, however, is a subject of vast importance, I shall endeavor to show, from incontestable historical evidence, that the Popes have always, from the days of the Apostles, continued to exercise supreme jurisdiction not only in the Western Church till the Reformation, but also throughout the Eastern Church till the great schism of the ninth century.

First—Take the question of appeals. An appeal is never made from a superior to an inferior court, nor even from one court to another of co-ordinate jurisdiction. We do not appeal from Washington to Richmond, but from Richmond to Washington. Now, if we find the See of Rome from the foundation of Christianity entertaining and deciding cases of appeal from the Oriental churches; if we find that her decision was final and irrevocable, we must conclude that the supremacy of Rome over all the churches is an undeniable fact.

Let me give you a few illustrations:

To begin with Pope St. Clement, who was the third successor of St. Peter, and who is laudably mentioned by St. Paul in one of his Epistles. Some dissension and scandal having occurred in the church of Corinth, the matter is brought to the notice of Pope Clement. He at once exercises his supreme authority by writing letters of remonstrance and admonition to the Corinthians. And so great was the reverence entertained for these Epistles by the faithful of Corinth that, for a century later, it was customary to have them publicly read in their churches. Why did the Corinthians appeal to Rome, far away in the West, and not to Ephesus, so near home in the East, where the Apostle St. John still lived? Evidently because the jurisdiction of Ephesus was local, while that of Rome was universal.

About the year 190 the question regarding the proper day for celebrating Easter was agitated in the East, and referred to Pope St. Victor I. The Eastern Church generally celebrated Easter on the day on which the Jews kept the Passover, while in the West it was observed then, as it is now, on the first Sunday after the full moon of the vernal equinox. St. Victor directs the Eastern churches, for the sake of uniformity, to conform to the practice of the West, and his instructions are universally followed.

St. Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, was martyred in 258.

From his appeals to Pope St. Cornelius and to Pope St. Stephen, especially on the subject of baptism, from his writings and correspondence, as well as from the whole tenor of his administration, it is quite evident that Cyprian, as well as the African Episcopate, upheld the supremacy of the Bishop of Rome.

Dionysius, Bishop of Rome, about the middle of the third century, having heard that the Patriarch of Alexandria erred on some points of faith, demands an explanation of the suspected Prelate, who, in obedience to his superior, promptly vindicates his own orthodoxy.

St. Athanasius, the great patriarch of Alexandria, appeals in the fourth century to Pope Julius I. from an unjust decision rendered against him by the Oriental Bishops, and the Pope(168) reverses the sentence of the Eastern Council.

St. Basil, Archbishop of Caesarea, in the same century has recourse in his afflictions to the protection of Pope Damasus.

St. John Chrysostom, Patriarch of Constantinople, appeals in the beginning of the fifth century to Pope Innocent I. for a redress of grievances inflicted on him by several Eastern Prelates, and by the Empress Eudoxia of Constantinople.

St. Cyril appeals to Pope Celestine against Nestorius; Nestorius, also, appeals to the same Pontiff, who takes the side of Cyril.

In a Synod held in 444, St. Hilary, Archbishop of Arles, in Gaul, deposed Celidonius, Bishop of Besancon, on the ground of an alleged canonical impediment to his consecration. The Bishop appealed to the Holy See, and both he and the Metropolitan personally repaired to Rome, to submit their cause to the judgment of Pope Leo the Great. After a careful investigation, the Pontiff declared the sentence of the Synod invalid, revoked the censure, and restored the deposed Prelate to his See.

The same Pontiff also rebuked Hilary for having irregularly deposed Projectus from his See.

The judicial authority of the Pope is emphasized from the circumstance that Hilary was not an arrogant or a rebellious churchman, but an edifying and a zealous Prelate. He is revered by the whole Church as a canonized Saint, and after his death, Leo refers to him as Hilary of happy memory.

Theodoret, the illustrious historian and Bishop of Cyrrhus, is condemned by the pseudo-council of Ephesus in 449, and appeals to Pope Leo in the following touching language: "I await the decision of your Apostolic See, and I supplicate your Holiness to succor me, who invoke your righteous and just tribunal; and to order me to hasten to you, and to explain to you my teaching, which follows the steps of the Apostles.... I beseech you not to scorn my application. Do not slight my gray hairs.... Above all, I entreat you to teach me whether to put up with this unjust deposition or not; for I await your sentence. If you bid me rest in what has been determined against me, I will rest, and will trouble no man more. I will look for the righteous judgment of our God and Savior. To me, as Almighty God is my Judge, honor and glory are no object, but only the scandal that has been caused; for many of the simpler sort, especially those whom I have rescued from diverse heresies, considering the See which has condemned me, suspect that perhaps I really am a heretic, being incapable themselves of distinguishing accuracy of doctrine."(169) Leo declared the deposition invalid and Theodoret was restored to his See.

John, Abbot of Constantinople, appeals from the decision of the Patriarch of that city to Pope St. Gregory I., who reverses the sentence of the Patriarch.

In 859 Photius addressed a letter to Pope Nicholas I., asking the Pontiff to confirm his election to the Patriarchate of Constantinople. In consequence of the Pope's conscientious refusal Photius broke off from the communion of the Catholic Church and became the author of the Greek schism.

Here are a few examples taken at random from Church History. We see Prelates most eminent for their sanctity and learning occupying the highest position in the Eastern Church, and consequently far removed from the local influences of Rome, appealing in every period of the early Church from the decisions of their own Bishops and their Councils to the supreme arbitration of the Holy See. If this does not constitute superior jurisdiction, I have yet to learn what superior authority means.

Second—Christians of every denomination admit the orthodoxy of the Fathers of the first five centuries of the Church. No one has ever called in question the faith of such men as Basil, Chrysostom, Cyprian, Augustine, Jerome, Ambrose and Leo. They were the acknowledged guardians of pure doctrine, and the living representatives "of the faith once delivered to the Saints." They were to the Church in their generation what Peter and Paul and James were to the Church in its infancy. We instinctively consult them about the faith of those times; for, to whom shall we go for the Words of eternal life, if not to them?

Now, the Fathers of the Church, with one voice, pay homage to the Bishops of Rome as their superiors. The limited space I have allowed myself in this little volume will not permit me to give any extracts from their writings. The reader who may be unacquainted with the original language of the Fathers, or who has not their writings at hand, is referred to a work entitled, "Faith of Catholics," where he will find, in an English translation, copious extracts from their writings vindicating the Primacy of the Popes.

Third—Ecumenical Councils afford another eloquent vindication of Papal supremacy. An Ecumenical or General Council is an assemblage of Prelates representing the whole Catholic Church. A General Council is to the Church what the Executive and Legislative bodies in Washington are to the United States.

Up to the present time nineteen Ecumenical Councils have been convened, including the Council of the Vatican. The last eleven were held in the West, and the first eight in the East. I shall pass over the Western Councils, as no one denies that they were subject to the authority of the Pope.

I shall speak briefly of the important influence which the Holy See exercised in the eight Oriental Councils.

The first General Council was held in Nicaea, in 325; the second, in Constantinople, 381; the third, in Ephesus, in 431; the fourth, in Chalcedon, in 451; the fifth, in Constantinople, in 553; the sixth in the same city, in 680; the seventh, in Nicaea, in 787, and the eighth, in Constantinople, in 869.

The Bishops of Rome convoked these assemblages, or at least consented to their convocation; they presided by their legates over all of them, except the first and second Councils of Constantinople, and they confirmed all these eight by their authority. Before becoming a law the Acts of the Councils required the Pope's signature, just as our Congressional proceedings require the President's signature before they acquire the force of law.

Is not this a striking illustration of the Primacy? The Pope convenes, rules and sanctions the Synods, not by courtesy, but by right. A dignitary who calls an assembly together, who presides over its deliberations, whose signature is essential for confirming its Acts has surely a higher authority than the other members.

Fourth—I shall refer to one more historical point in support of the Pope's jurisdiction over the whole Church. It is a most remarkable fact that every nation hitherto converted from Paganism to Christianity since the days of the Apostles, has received the light of faith from missionaries who were either especially commissioned by the See of Rome, or sent by Bishops in open communion with that See. This historical fact admits of no exception. Let me particularize.

Ireland's Apostle is St. Patrick. Who commissioned him? Pope St. Celestine, in the fifth century.

St. Palladius is the Apostle of Scotland. Who sent him? The same Pontiff, Celestine.

The Anglo-Saxons received the faith from St. Augustine, a Benedictine monk, as all historians, Catholic and non-Catholic, testify. Who empowered Augustine to preach? Pope Gregory I., at the end of the sixth century.

St. Remigius established the faith in France, at the close of the fifth century. He was in active communion with the See of Peter.

Flanders received the Gospel in the seventh century from St. Eligius, who acknowledged the supremacy of the reigning Pope.

Germany and Bavaria venerate as their Apostle St. Boniface, who is popularly known in his native England by his baptismal name of Winfrid. He was commissioned by Pope Gregory II., in the beginning of the eighth century, and was consecrated Bishop by the same Pontiff.

In the ninth century two saintly brothers, Cyril and Methodius, evangelized Russia, Sclavonia, Moravia and other parts of Northern Europe. They recognized the supreme authority of Pope Nicholas I. and of his successors, Adrian II. and John VIII.

In the eleventh century Norway was converted by missionaries introduced from England by the Norwegian King, St. Olave.

The conversion of Sweden was consummated in the same century by the British Apostles Saints Ulfrid and Eskill. Both of these nations immediately after their conversion commenced to pay Romescot, or a small annual tribute to the Holy See—a clear evidence that they were in communion with the Chair of Peter.(170)

All the other nations of Europe, having been converted before the Reformation, received likewise the light of faith from Roman Catholic Missionaries, because Europe then recognized only one Christian Chief.

Passing from Europe to Asia and America, it is undeniable that St. Francis Xavier and the other Evangelists who, in the sixteenth century, extended the Kingdom of Jesus Christ through India and Japan, were in communion with the Holy See; and that those Apostles who, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, converted the aboriginal tribes of South America and Mexico received their commission from the Chair of Peter.

But you will say: The people of the United States profess to be a Christian nation. Do you also claim them? Most certainly; for, even those American Christians who are unhappily severed from the Catholic Church are primarily indebted for their knowledge of the Gospel to missionaries in communion with the Holy See.

The white races of North America are descended from England, Ireland, Scotland and the nations of Continental Europe. Those European nations having been converted by missionaries in subjection to the Holy See, it follows that, from whatever part of Europe you are descended, whatever may be your particular creed, you are indebted to the Church of Rome for your knowledge of Christianity.

Do not these facts demonstrate the Primacy of the Pope? The Apostles of Europe and of other countries received their authority from Rome. Is not the power that sends an ambassador greater than he who is sent?

Thus we see that the name of the Pope is indelibly marked on every page of ecclesiastical history. The Sovereign Pontiff ever stands before us as commander-in-chief in the grand army of the Church. Do the bishops of the East feel themselves aggrieved at home by their Patriarchs or civil Rulers? They look for redress to Rome, as to the star of their hope. Are the Fathers and Doctors of the early Church consulted? With one voice they all pay homage to the Bishop of Rome as to their spiritual Prince. Is an Ecumenical Council to be convened in the East or West? The Pope is its leading spirit. Are new nations to be converted to the faith? There is the Holy Father clothing the missionaries with authority, and giving his blessing to the work. Are new errors to be condemned in any part of the globe? All eyes turn toward the oracle of Rome to await his anathema, and his solemn judgment reverberates throughout the length and breath of the Christian world.

You might as well shut out the light of day and the air of heaven from your daily walks as exclude the Pope from his legitimate sphere in the hierarchy of the Church. The history of the United States with the Presidents left out would be more intelligible than the history of the Church to the exclusion of the Vicar of Christ. How, I ask, could such authority endure so long if it were a usurpation?

But you will tell me: "The supremacy of the Pope has been disputed in many ages." So has the authority of God been called in question—nay, His very existence has been denied; for, "the fool hath said in his heart there is no God."(171) Does this denial destroy the existence and dominion of God? Has not parental authority been impugned from the beginning? But by whom? By unruly children. Was David no longer king because Absalom said so?

It is thus also with the Popes. Their parental sway has been opposed only by their undutiful sons who grew impatient of the Gospel yoke. Photius, the leader of the Greek schism, was an obedient son of the Pope until Nicholas refused to recognize his usurped authority. Henry VIII. was a stout defender of the Pope's supremacy until Clement VII. refused to legalize his adultery. Luther professed a most abject submission to the Pope till Leo X. condemned him.

You cannot, my dear reader, be a loyal citizen of the United States while you deny the constitutional authority of the President. You have seen that the Bishop of Rome is appointed not by man, but by Jesus Christ, President of the Christian commonwealth. You cannot, therefore, be a true citizen of the Republic of the Church so long as you spurn the legitimate supremacy of its Divinely constituted Chief. "He that is not with Me is against Me," says our Lord, "and he that gathereth not with Me scattereth." How can you be with Christ if you are against His Vicar?

The great evil of our times is the unhappy division existing among the professors of Christianity, and from thousands of hearts a yearning cry goes forth for unity of faith and union of churches.

It was, no doubt, with this laudable view that the Evangelical Alliance assembled in New York in the fall of 1873. The representatives of the different religious communions hoped to effect a reunion. But they signally and lamentably failed. Indeed, the only result which followed from the alliance was the creation of a new sect under the auspices of Dr. Cummins. That reverend gentleman, with the characteristic modesty of all religious reformers, was determined to have a hand in improving the work of Jesus Christ; and, like the other reformers, he said, with those who built the tower of Babel: "Let us make our name famous before"(172) our dust is scattered to the wind.

The Alliance failed, because its members had no common platform to stand on. There was no voice in that assembly that could say with authority: "Thus saith the Lord."

I heartily join in this prayer for Christian unity, and gladly would surrender my life for such a consummation. But I tell you that Jesus Christ has pointed out the only means by which this unity can be maintained, viz: the recognition of Peter and his successors as the Head of the Church. Build upon this foundation and you will not erect a tower of Babel, nor build upon sand. If all Christian sects were united with the centre of unity, then the scattered hosts of Christendom would form an army which atheism and infidelity could not long withstand. Then, indeed, all could exclaim with Balaam: "How beautiful are thy tabernacles, O Jacob, and thy tents, O Israel!"(173)

Let us pray that the day may be hastened when religious dissensions will cease; when all Christians will advance with united front, under one common leader, to plant the cross in every region and win new kingdoms to Jesus Christ.

Chapter XI.


As the doctrine of Papal Infallibility is strangely misapprehended by our separated brethren, because it is grievously misrepresented by those who profess to be enlightened ministers of the Gospel, I shall begin by stating what Infallibility does not mean, and shall then explain what it really is.

First—The infallibility of the Popes does not signify that they are inspired. The Apostles were endowed with the gift of inspiration, and we accept their writings as the revealed Word of God.

No Catholic, on the contrary, claims that the Pope is inspired or endowed with Divine revelation properly so called.

"For the Holy Spirit was not promised to the successors of Peter in order that they might spread abroad new doctrine which He reveals, but that, under His assistance, they might guard inviolably, and with fidelity explain, the revelation or deposit of faith handed down by the Apostles."(174)

Second—Infallibility does not mean that the Pope is impeccable or specially exempt from liability to sin. The Popes have been, indeed, with few exceptions, men of virtuous lives. Many of them are honored as martyrs. Seventy-nine out of the two hundred and fifty-nine that sat on the chair of Peter are invoked upon our altars as saints eminent for their holiness.

The avowed enemies of the Church charge only five or six Popes with immorality. Thus, even admitting the truth of the accusations brought against them, we have forty-three virtuous to one bad Pope, while there was a Judas Iscariot among the twelve Apostles.

But although a vast majority of the Sovereign Pontiffs should have been so unfortunate as to lead vicious lives, this circumstance would not of itself impair the validity of their prerogatives, which are given not for the preservation of their morals, but for the guidance of their judgment; for, there was a Balaam among the Prophets, and a Caiphas among the High Priests of the Old Law.

The present illustrious Pontiff is a man of no ordinary sanctity. He has already filled the highest position in the Church for upwards of thirty years, "a spectacle to the world, to angels and to men," and no man can point out a stain upon his moral character.

And yet Pius IX., like his predecessors, confesses his sins every week. Each morning, at the beginning of Mass, he says at the foot of the altar, "I confess to Almighty God, and to His Saints, that I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word and deed." And at the Offertory of the Mass he says: "Receive, O Holy Father, almighty, everlasting God, this oblation which I, Thy unworthy servant, offer for my innumerable sins, offences and negligences."

With these facts before their eyes, I cannot comprehend how ministers of the Gospel betray so much ignorance, or are guilty of so much malice, as to proclaim from their pulpits, which ought to be consecrated to truth, that Infallibility means exemption from sin. I do not see how they can benefit their cause by so flagrant perversions of truth.

Third—Bear in mind, also, that this Divine assistance is guaranteed to the Pope not in his capacity as private teacher, but only in his official capacity, when he judges of faith and morals as Head of the Church. If a Pope, for instance, like Benedict XIV. were to write a treatise on Canon Law his book would be as much open to criticism as that of any Doctor of the Church.

Fourth—Finally, the inerrability of the Popes, being restricted to questions of faith and morals, does not extend to the natural sciences, such as astronomy or geology, unless where error is presented under the false name of science, and arrays itself against revealed truth.(175) It does not, therefore, concern itself about the nature and motions of the planets. Nor does it regard purely political questions, such as the form of government a nation ought to adopt, or for what candidates we ought to vote.

The Pope's Infallibility, therefore, does not in any way trespass on civil authority; for the Pope's jurisdiction belongs to spiritual matters, while the duty of the State is to provide for the temporal welfare of its subjects.

What, then, is the real doctrine of Infallibility? It simply means that the Pope, as successor of St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles, by virtue of the promises of Jesus Christ, is preserved from error of judgment when he promulgates to the Church a decision on faith or morals.

The Pope, therefore, be it known, is not the maker of the Divine law; he is only its expounder. He is not the author of revelation, but only its interpreter. All revelation came from God alone through His inspired ministers, and it was complete in the beginning of the Church. The Holy Father has no more authority than you or I to break one iota of the Scripture, and he is equally with us the servant of the Divine law.

In a word, the Sovereign Pontiff is to the Church, though in a more eminent degree, what the Supreme Court is to the United States. We have an instrument called the Constitution of the United States, which is the charter of our civil rights and liberties. If a controversy arise regarding a constitutional clause, the question is referred in the last resort, to the Supreme Court at Washington. The Chief Justice, with his associate judges, examines into the case and then pronounces judgment upon it; and this decision is final, irrevocable and practically infallible.

If there were no such court to settle constitutional questions, the Constitution itself would soon become a dead letter. Every litigant would conscientiously decide the dispute in his own favor and anarchy, separation and civil war would soon follow. But by means of this Supreme Court disputes are ended, and the political union of the States is perpetuated. There would have been no civil war in 1861 had our domestic quarrel been submitted to the legitimate action of our highest court of judicature, instead of being left to the arbitrament of the sword.

The revealed Word of God is the constitution of the Church. This is the Magna Charta of our Christian liberties. The Pope is the official guardian of our religious constitution, as the Chief Justice is the guardian of our civil constitution.

When a dispute arises in the Church regarding the sense of Scripture the subject is referred to the Pope for final adjudication. The Sovereign Pontiff, before deciding the case, gathers around him his venerable colleagues, the Cardinals of the Church; or he calls a council of his associate judges of faith, the Bishops of Christendom; or he has recourse to other lights which the Holy Ghost may suggest to him. Then, after mature and prayerful deliberation, he pronounces judgment and his sentence is final, irrevocable and infallible.

If the Catholic Church were not fortified by this Divinely-established supreme tribunal, she would be broken up, like the sects around her, into a thousand fragments and religious anarchy would soon follow. But by means of this infallible court her marvellous unity is preserved throughout the world. This doctrine is the keystone in the arch of Catholic faith, and, far from arousing opposition, it ought to command the unqualified admiration of every reflecting mind.

These explanations being premised, let us now briefly consider the grounds of the doctrine itself.

The following passages of the Gospel, spoken at different times, were addressed exclusively to Peter: "Thou art Peter; and on this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."(176) "I, the Supreme Architect of the universe," says our Savior, "will establish a Church which is to last till the end of time. I will lay the foundation of this Church so deep and strong on the rock of truth that the winds and storms of error shall not prevail against it. Thou, O Peter, shalt be the foundation of this Church. It shall never fall, because thou shalt never be shaken; and thou shalt never be shaken, because thou shalt rest on Me, the rock of truth." The Church, of which Peter is the foundation, is declared to be impregnable—that is, proof against error. How can you suppose an immovable edifice built on a tottering foundation? For it is not the building that sustains the foundation, but it is the foundation that supports the building.

"And I will give to thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven."(177) Thou shalt hold the keys of truth with which to open to the faithful the treasures of heavenly science. "Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound also in Heaven."(178) The judgment which thou shalt pronounce on earth I will ratify in heaven. Surely the God of Truth is incapable of sanctioning an untruthful judgment.

"Behold, Satan hath desired to have you (My Apostles), that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for thee (Peter) that thy faith fail not; and thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren."(179) It is worthy of note that Jesus prays only for Peter. And why for Peter in particular? Because on his shoulders was to rest the burden of the Church. Our Lord prays for two things: First—That the faith of Peter and of his successors might not fail. Second—That Peter would confirm his brethren in the faith, "in order," as St. Leo says, "that the strength given by Christ to Peter should descend on the Apostles."

We know that the prayer of Jesus is always heard. Therefore the faith of Peter will always be firm. He was destined to be the oracle which all were to consult. Hence we always find him the prominent figure among the Apostles, the first to speak, the first to act on every occasion. He was to be the guiding star that was to lead the rest of the faithful in the path of truth. He was to be in the hierarchy of the Church what the sun is in the planetary system—the centre around which all would revolve. And is it not a beautiful spectacle, in harmony with our ideas of God's providence, to behold in His Church a counterpart of the starry system above us? There every planet moves in obedience to a uniform law, all are regulated by one great luminary. So, in the spiritual order, we see every member of the Church governed by one law, controlled by one voice, and that voice subject to God.

"Feed My lambs; feed My sheep."(180) Peter is appointed by our Lord the universal shepherd of His flock—of the sheep and of the lambs—that is, shepherd of the Bishops and Priests as well as of the people. The Bishops are shepherds, in reference to their flocks; they are sheep, in reference to the Pope, who is the shepherd of shepherds. The Pope, as shepherd, must feed the flock not with the poison of error, but with the healthy food of sound doctrine; for he is not a shepherd, but a hireling, who administers pernicious food to his flock.

Among the General Councils of the Church already held I shall mention only three, as the acts of these Councils are amply sufficient to vindicate the unerring character of the See of Rome and the Roman Pontiffs. I wish also to call your attention to three facts: First—That none of these Councils were held in Rome; Second—That one of them assembled in the East, viz: in Constantinople; and, Third—That in every one of them the Oriental and the Western Bishops met for the purpose of reunion.

The Eighth General Council, held in Constantinople in 869, contains the following solemn profession of faith: "Salvation primarily depends upon guarding the rule of right faith. And since we cannot pass over the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, who says, 'Thou art Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church,' what was said is confirmed by facts, because in the Apostolic See the Catholic religion has always been preserved immaculate, and holy doctrine has been proclaimed. Not wishing, then, to be separated from this faith and doctrine, we hope to merit to be in the one communion which the Apostolic See preaches, in which See is the full and true solidity of the Christian religion."

This Council clearly declares that immaculate doctrine has always been preserved and preached in the Roman See. But how could this be said of her, if the Roman See ever fell into error, and how could that See be preserved from error, if the Roman Pontiffs presiding over it ever erred in faith?

In the Second General Council of Lyons (1274), the Greek Bishops made the following profession of faith: "The holy Roman Church possesses full primacy and principality over the universal Catholic Church, which primacy, with the plenitude of power, she truly and humbly acknowledges to have received from our Lord Himself, in the person of Blessed Peter, Prince or Head of the Apostles, whose successor the Roman Pontiff is; and as the Roman See, above all others, is bound to defend the truth of faith, so, also, if any questions on faith arise, they ought to be defined by her judgment."

Here the Council of Lyons avows that the Roman Pontiffs have the power to determine definitely, and without appeal, any questions of faith which may arise in the Church; in other words, the Council acknowledges them to be the supreme and infallible arbiters of faith.

"We define," says the Council of Florence (1439), at which also were present the Bishops of the Greek and the Latin Church, "we define that the Roman Pontiff is the successor of the Blessed Peter, Prince of the Apostles, and the true Vicar of Christ, the Head of the whole Church, the Father and Doctor of all Christians, and we declare that to him, in the person of Blessed Peter, was given, by Jesus Christ our Savior, full power to feed, rule and govern the universal Church."

The Pope is here called the true Vicar or representative of Christ in this lower kingdom of His Church militant—that is, the Pope is the organ of our Savior, and speaks His sentiments in faith and morals. But if the Pope erred in faith and morals he would no longer be Christ's Vicar and true representative. Our minister in England, for instance, would not truly represent our Government if he was not the organ of its sentiments. The Roman Pontiff is called the Head of the whole Church—that is, the visible Head. Now the Church, which is the Body of Christ, is infallible. It is, as St. Paul says, "without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing." But how can you suppose an infallible body with a fallible head? How can an erring head conduct a body in the unerring ways of truth and justice?

He is declared by the same Council to be the Father and Doctor of all Christians. How can you expect an unerring family under an erring Father? The Pope is called the universal teacher or doctor. Teacher of what? Of truth, not of error. Error is to the mind what poison is to the body. You do not call poison food; neither can you call error doctrine. The Pope, as universal teacher, must always give to the faithful not the poisonous food of error, but the sound aliment of pure doctrine.

In fine, the Pope is also styled the Chief Pilot of the Church. It was not without a mysterious significance that our Lord entered Peter's bark instead of that of any of the other Apostles. This bark, our Lord has pledged Himself, shall never sink nor depart from her true course. How can you imagine a stormproof, never-varying bark under the charge of a fallible Pilot?

But did not the Vatican Council in promulgating the definition of Papal Infallibility in 1870, create a new doctrine of revelation? And did not the Church thereby forfeit her glorious distinction of being always unchangeable in her teaching?

The Council did not create a new creed, but rather confirmed the old one. It formulated into an article of faith a truth which in every age had been accepted by the Catholic world because it had been implicitly contained in the deposit of revelation.

I may illustrate this point by referring again to our Supreme Court. When the Chief Justice, with his colleagues, decides a constitutional question, his decision, though presented in a new shape, cannot be called a new doctrine, because it is based on the letter and spirit of the Constitution.

In like manner, when the Church issues a new dogma of faith, that decree is nothing more than a new form of expressing an old doctrine, because the decision must be drawn from the revealed Word of God.

The course pursued by the Church, regarding the infallibility of the Pope was practiced by her in reference to the Divinity of Jesus Christ. Our Savior was acknowledged to be God from the beginning of the Church. Yet His Divinity was not formally defined till the Council of Nicaea in the fourth century, and it would not have been defined even then had it not been denied by Arius. And who will have the presumption to say that the belief in the Divinity of our Lord had its origin in the fourth century?

The following has always been the practice prevailing in the Church of God from the beginning of her history. Whenever Bishops or National Councils promulgated doctrines or condemned errors they always transmitted their decrees to Rome for confirmation or rejection. What Rome approved, the universal Church approved; what Rome condemned, the Church condemned.

Thus, in the third century, Pope St. Stephen reverses the decision of St. Cyprian, of Carthage, and of a council of African bishops regarding a question of baptism.

Pope St. Innocent I., in the fifth century, condemns the Pelagian heresy, in reference to which St. Augustine wrote this memorable sentence: "The acts of two councils were sent to the Apostolic See, whence an answer was returned. The question is ended. Would to God that the error also had ceased."

In the fourteenth century Gregory XI. condemns the heresy of Wycliffe.

Pope Leo X., in the sixteenth, anathematizes Luther.

Innocent X., in the seventeenth, at the solicitation of the French Episcopate, condemns the subtle errors of the Jansenists, and in the nineteenth century Pius IX. promulgates the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Here we find the Popes in various ages condemning heresies and proclaiming doctrines of faith; and they could not in a stronger manner assert their infallibility than by so defining doctrines of faith and condemning errors. We also behold the Church of Christendom ever saying Amen to the decisions of the Bishops of Rome. Hence it is evident that, in every age, the Church recognized the Popes as infallible teachers.

Every independent government must have a supreme tribunal regularly sitting to interpret its laws, and to decide cases of controversy likely to arise. Thus we have in Washington the Supreme Court of the United States.

Now the Catholic Church is a complete and independent organization, as complete in its spiritual sphere as the United States Government is in the temporal order. The Church has its own laws, its own autonomy and government.

The Church, therefore, like civil powers, must have a permanent and stationary supreme tribunal to interpret its laws and to determine cases of religious controversy.

What constitutes this permanent supreme court of the Church? Does it consist of the Bishops assembled in General Council? No; because this is not an ordinary but an extraordinary tribunal which meets, on an average, only once in a hundred years.

Is it composed of the Bishops scattered throughout the world? By no means, because it would be impracticable to consult all the Bishops of Christendom upon every issue that might arise in the Church. The poison of error would easily spread through the body of the Church before a decision could be rendered by the Prelates dispersed throughout the globe. The Pope, then, as Head of the Catholic Church, constitutes, with just reason, this supreme tribunal.

And as the office of the Church is to guide men into all truth, and to preserve them from all error, it follows that he who is appointed to watch over the constitution of the Church must be infallible, or exempt from error in his official capacity as judge of faith and morals. The prerogatives of the Pope must be commensurate with the nature of the constitution which he has to uphold. The constitution is Divine and must have a Divinely protected interpreter.

But you will tell me that infallibility is too great a prerogative to be conferred on man. I answer: Has not God, in former times, clothed His Apostles with powers far more exalted? They were endowed with the gifts of working miracles, of prophecy and inspiration; they were the mouth-piece communicating God's revelation, of which the Popes are merely the custodians. If God could make man the organ of His revealed Word, is it impossible for Him to make man its infallible guardian and interpreter? For, surely, greater is the Apostle who gives us the inspired Word than the Pope who preserves it from error.

If, indeed, our Saviour had visibly remained among us, no interpreter would be needed, since He would explain His Gospel to us; but as He withdrew His visible presence from us, it was eminently reasonable that He should designate someone to expound for us the meaning of His Word.

A Protestant Bishop, in the course of a sermon against Papal Infallibility, recently used the following language: "For my part, I have an infallible Bible, and this is the only infallibility that I require." This assertion, though plausible at first sight, cannot for a moment stand the test of sound criticism.

Let us see, sir, whether an infallible Bible is sufficient for you. Either you are infallibly certain that your interpretation of the Bible is correct or you are not.

If you are infallibly certain, then you assert for yourself, and of course for every reader of the Scripture, a personal infallibility which you deny to the Pope, and which we claim only for him. You make every man his own Pope.

If you are not infallibly certain that you understand the true meaning of the whole Bible—and this is a privilege you do not claim—then, I ask, of what use to you is the objective infallibility of the Bible without an infallible interpreter?

If God, as you assert, has left no infallible interpreter of His Word, do you not virtually accuse Him of acting unreasonably? for would it not be most unreasonable in Him to have revealed His truth to man without leaving him a means of ascertaining its precise import?

Do you not reduce God's word to a bundle of contradictions, like the leaves of the Sybil, which gave forth answers suited to the wishes of every inquirer?

Of the hundred and more Christian sects now existing in this country, does not each take the Bible as its standard of authority, and does not each member draw from it a meaning different from that of his neighbor? Now, in the mind of God the Scriptures can have but one meaning. Is not this variety of interpretations the bitter fruit of your principle: "An infallible Bible is enough for me," and does it not proclaim the absolute necessity of some authorized and unerring interpreter? You tell me to drink of the water of life; but of what use is this water to my parched lips, since you acknowledge that it may be poisoned in passing through the medium of your interpretation?

How satisfactory, on the contrary, and how reasonable is the Catholic teaching on this subject!

According to that system, Christ says to every Christian: Here, my child, is the Word of God, and with it I leave you an infallible interpreter, who will expound for you its hidden meaning and make clear all its difficulties.

Here are the waters of eternal life, but I have created a channel that will communicate these waters to you in all their sweetness without sediment of error.

Here is the written Constitution of My Church. But I have appointed over it a Supreme Tribunal, in the person of one "to whom I have given the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven," who will preserve that Constitution inviolate, and will not permit it to be torn into shreds by the conflicting opinions of men. And thus my children will be one, as I and the Father are one.

Chapter XII.


I. How The Popes Acquired Temporal Power.

For the clearer understanding of the origin and the gradual growth of the Temporal Power of the Popes, we may divide the history of the Church into three great epochs.

The first embraces the period which elapsed from the establishment of the Church to the days of Constantine the Great, in the fourth century; the second, from Constantine to Charlemagne, who was crowned Emperor in the year 800; the third, from Charlemagne to the present time.

When St. Peter, the first Pope in the long, unbroken line of Sovereign Pontiffs, entered Italy and Rome he did not possess a foot of ground which he could call his own. He could say with his Divine Master: "The foxes have holes and the birds of the air nests, but the Son of Man hath not whereon to lay his head."(181) The Apostle died as he had lived, a poor man, having nothing at his death save the affections of a grateful people.

But, although the Prince of the Apostles owned nothing that he could call his personal property, he received from the faithful large donations to be distributed among the needy. For in the Acts of the Apostles we are told that "neither was anyone among them (the faithful) needy; for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things which they sold and laid them before the feet of the Apostles, and distribution was made to everyone according as he had need."(182) Such was the filial attachment of the early Christians towards the Pontiffs of the Church; such was the confidence reposed in their personal integrity, and in their discretion in dispensing the charity of the faithful.

During the first three hundred years the Pastors of the Church were generally incapable of holding real estate in Rome; for Christianity was yet a proscribed religion, and the faithful were exposed to the most violent and unrelenting persecutions that have ever darkened the annals of history.

The Christians of Rome worshiped for the most part in the catacombs. These catacombs are subterranean chambers and passages under the city of Rome. They extend for miles in different directions, and are visited to this day by thousands of strangers. Here the primitive Christians prayed together, here they encouraged one another to martyrdom, here they died and were buried; so that these caverns served at the same time as temples of worship for the living and as tombs for the dead.

At last Constantine the Great brought peace to the Church. The long night of Pagan persecution was succeeded by the bright dawn of religious liberty, and as our Blessed Savior rose triumphant from the grave, after having lain there for three days, so did our early brethren in the faith emerge from the tombs of the catacombs, after having been buried, as it were, in the bowels of the earth for three centuries.

Constantine gave to the Roman Church munificent donations of money and real estate, which were augmented by additional grants contributed by subsequent emperors. Hence the patrimony of the Roman Pontiffs soon became very considerable. Voltaire himself tells us that the wealth which the Popes acquired was spent not in satisfying their own avarice and ambition, but in the most laudable works of charity and religion. They expended their patrimony, he says, in sending missionaries to evangelize Pagan Europe, in giving hospitality to exiled Bishops at Rome and in feeding the poor. And I may here add that succeeding Popes have generously imitated the munificence of the early Pontiffs.

An event occurred in the reign of Constantine which paved the way for the partial jurisdiction which the Roman Pontiffs commenced to enjoy over Rome, and which they continued to exercise till they obtained full sovereignty in the days of King Pepin of France.

In the year 327 the Emperor Constantine transferred the seat of empire from Rome to Constantinople, the present capital of Turkey. The city was named after Constantine, who founded it. A subsequent emperor appointed a governor, or exarch, to rule Italy, who resided in the city of Ravenna. This new system, as is manifest, did not work well. The Emperor of Constantinople referred all matters to his deputy in Ravenna, and the deputy was more anxious to conciliate the Emperor than to satisfy the people of Rome. Italy and Rome were then in a political condition analogous to that in which the Irish were placed for several centuries.

Abandoned to itself, Rome became a tempting prey to those numerous hordes of Barbarians from the North that then devastated Italy. The city was successively attacked by the Goths under Alaric, and by the Vandals under Genseric, and was threatened by the Huns under Attila. Unable to obtain assistance from the Emperor in the East, or the Governor at Ravenna, the citizens of Rome looked up to the Popes as their only Governors and protectors, and their only salvation in the dangers which threatened them. The confidence which they reposed in the Pontiffs was not misplaced. The Popes were not only devoted spiritual Fathers, but firm and valiant civil Governors. When Attila, who was surnamed "the Scourge of God," approached the city with an army of 500,000 men, Pope Leo the Great went out to meet him unattended by troops. His mild eloquence disarmed the indomitable chieftain and induced him to retrace his steps. Thus he saved the city from pillage and the people from destruction. The same Pope Leo also confronted Genseric, the leader of the Vandals; and although he could not this time protect Rome from the plunder of the soldiers he saved the lives of the citizens from slaughter. Such acts as these were naturally calculated to bind the Roman people more strongly to the Popes and to alienate them from their nominal rulers.

In the early part of the eighth century Leo Isauricus, one of the successors of Constantine on the imperial throne, not content with his civil authority, endeavored, like Henry VIII., to usurp spiritual jurisdiction, and, like the same English monarch, sought to rob the people of their time-honored sacred traditions. A civil ruler dabbling in religion is as reprehensible as a clergyman dabbling in politics. Both render themselves odious as well as ridiculous. The Emperor commanded all paintings of our Savior and His saints to be removed from the churches on the assumption that such an exhibition was an act of idolatry. Pope Gregory II. wrote to the Emperor an energetic remonstrance, reminding him that "dogmas of faith are to be interpreted by the Pontiffs of the Church and not by emperors," and begging him to spare the sacred paintings. But the Pope's remonstrance and entreaties were in vain. This conduct of the Emperor tended to widen still more the breach between himself and the Roman people.

Soon after an event occurred which abolished forever the authority of the Byzantine Emperors in Italy, and established on a sure and lasting basis the temporal sovereignty of the Popes.

In 754 Astolphus, King of the Lombards, invaded Italy, captured some Italian cities and threatened to advance on Rome.

Pope Stephen III.,(183) who then ruled the Church, sent an urgent appeal to the Emperor Constantine Copronymus, successor of Leo the Isaurian, imploring him to come to the relief of Rome and his Italian provinces. The Emperor manifested his usual apathy and indifference and received the message with coldness and neglect.

In this emergency Stephen, who sees that no time is to be lost, crosses the Alps in person, approaches Pepin, King of France, and begs that powerful monarch to protect the Italian people, who were utterly abandoned by those that ought to be their defenders. The pious King, after paying his homage to the Pope, sets out for Italy with his army, defeats the invading Lombards and places the Pope at the head of the conquered provinces.

Charlemagne, the successor of Pepin, not only confirms the grant of his father, but increases the temporal domain of the Pope by donating him some additional provinces.

This small piece of territory the Roman Pontiffs continued to govern from that time till 1870, with the exception of brief intervals of foreign usurpation. And certainly, if ever any Prince merited the appellation of legitimate sovereign, that title is eminently deserved by the Bishops of Rome.

II. The Validity And Justice Of Their Title.

There are three titles which render the tenure of a Prince honest and incontestable, viz., long possession, legitimate acquisition and a just use of the original grant confided to him. The Bishop of Rome possessed his temporality by all these titles.

First—The temporal dominion of the Pope is most ancient in point of time. He commenced, as we have seen, to enjoy full sovereignty about the middle of the eighth century. The Pope was, consequently, a temporal ruler for upwards of 1,100 years. The Papal dynasty is, therefore, the oldest in Europe, and probably in the world. The Pope was the temporal ruler of Rome four hundred years before England subjugated Ireland, and seven hundred before the first European pressed his foot on the American continent.

Second—His civil authority was established not by the sword of conquest, nor the violence of usurpation. He did not mount the throne upon the ruins of outraged liberties or violated treaties; but he was called to rule by the unanimous voice of a grateful people. Always the devoted spiritual Father of Rome, he providentially became its civil defender; and the temporal power he had possessed already by popular suffrage was ratified and sanctioned by the sovereign act of the Frankish monarch. In a word, the ship of state was in danger of being engulfed beneath the fierce waves of foreign invasion. The captain, meantime, folded his arms and abandoned the ship to her fate. The Pope was called to the helm in the emergency, and he saved the vessel from shipwreck and the people from destruction. Hence, even Gibbon, the English historian, who cannot be suspected of partiality, has the candor to use the following language in discussing this subject: "Their (the Pope's) temporal dominion is now confirmed by the reverence of a thousand years, and their noblest title is the free choice of a people whom they had redeemed from slavery."

Third—What is the use or advantage of the temporal power? This is well worth considering, as many have erroneous notions on the subject.

The object is not to aggrandize or enrich the Pope. He ascends the Papal chair generally an old man, when human passion and human ambition, if any did exist, are on the wane. His personal expenses do not exceed a few dollars a day. He eats alone and very abstemiously. He has no wife, no children to enrich with the spoils of office, as he is an unmarried man. The Popedom is not hereditary, like the sovereignty of England, but elective, like the office of our President, and the Holy Father is succeeded by a Pontiff to whom he was bound by no family ties. What personal motive, therefore, can he have in desiring temporal sovereignty? I am sure, indeed, that if the Holy Father were to consult his own taste and feelings, he would much rather be free from the trammels of civil government. But he has higher interests to subserve. He must vindicate the eternal laws of justice which have been violated in his own person.

As the Popes were not actuated by a love of gain in possessing temporal dominion, neither had they any desire to enlarge their territory, small as it was. The temporalities of the Pope were not much larger than the State of Maryland before he was deprived of them by Victor Emmanuel a few years ago.

And this is the little slice of land which Victor Emmanuel wrested from the Holy Father. This is the vineyard which the modern King Achab wrung from the unoffending Naboth. But the Pontiff answers, like Naboth of old: "The Lord be merciful to me, and not let me give thee the inheritance of my fathers."(184)

This is the little ewe-lamb which the modern David has snatched from Uriah, its legitimate owner. The royal shepherd of Piedmont had already seized all the other lambs and sheep of his neighbors; but he was not satisfied till he added to his fold the solitary, tender lamb of the Pope. Let him take care, however, that the prophecy denounced by Nathan against David fall not upon himself and his posterity: "Why, therefore, hast thou despised the word of the Lord, to do evil in My sight? Therefore the sword shall never depart from thy house, because thou hast despised Me. Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thy own house."(185)

While the patrimony of the Pope was large enough to secure his independence, it was too small to provoke the fear and jealousy of foreign powers. The authority of the Roman Pontiffs in the Middle Ages was almost unbounded. Had they wished then, they could easily have increased their territory; yet they were content with what Providence placed originally in their hands.(186)

The sole end of the temporal power has been to secure for the Pope independence and freedom in the government of the Church. The Holy Father must be either a sovereign or a subject. There is no medium. If a subject, he might become either the pliant creature, if God would so permit, of his royal master, like the schismatic Patriarch of Constantinople, who, as Gibbon observed, was "a domestic slave under the eye of his master, at whose nod he passed from the convent to the throne, and from the throne to the convent." And, indeed, the Oriental schismatic Bishops are as subservient now as they were then to their temporal rulers. Or, what is far more probable, the Pope might become a virtual prisoner in his own house, as the present illustrious Pontiff is at this moment.

The Pope is the representative of Christ on earth. His office requires him to be in constant communication with prelates in every country in the world. Should the kingdom of Italy be embroiled in a war with any European Power—with Germany, for instance—it would be difficult, if not impossible, for the Holy Father and the German Bishops to confer with each other, and religion would suffer from the interruption of intercourse between the Head and the members.

The interests of Christianity demand that the Vicar of the Prince of Peace should possess one spot of territory which would be held inviolable, so that all nations and peoples could at all times, in war, as well as in peace, freely correspond with him. Nothing can be more revolting to our feelings than that the spiritual government of the Church should be constantly hampered by the hostile aggressions of ambitious rulers, an eventuality always likely to occur so long as the Pope remains the subject of any earthly potentate.(187)

But we are told that the Roman people, by a plebiscitum, or popular vote, expressed their desire to be annexed to the Piedmontese Government. To this I answer, in the first place, that we ought to know what importance to attach to elections held under the shadow of the bayonet. It is well known that the Roman plebiscitum was undertaken by the authority and guided by the inspiration of the Italian troops. It is equally notorious that the numerous stragglers who accompanied the Italian army to Rome legalized the gigantic fraud of their master, as well as their own petty thefts, by voting in favor of annexation.

In the second place, the Roman people, even had they so desired, had no right to transfer, by their suffrage, the Patrimony of St. Peter to Victor Emmanuel. They could not give what did not belong to them. The Papal territory was granted to the Popes in trust, for the use and benefit of the Church—that is, for the use and benefit of the Catholics of Christendom. The Catholic world, therefore, and not merely a handful of Roman subjects, must give its consent before such a transfer can be declared legitimate. Rome is to Catholic Christendom what Washington is to the United States. As the citizens of Washington have no power, without the concurrence of the United States, to annex their city to Maryland or Virginia, neither can the citizens of Rome hand over their city to the Kingdom of Piedmont without the acquiescence of the faithful dispersed throughout the world.

We protest, therefore, against the occupation of Rome by foreign troops as a high-handed act of injustice, and a gross violation of the Commandment, "Thou shalt not steal."

We protest against it as a royal outrage, calculated to shock the public sense of honesty, and to weaken the sacred right of public and private property.

We protest against it as an unjustifiable violation of solemn treaties.

We protest, in fine, against the spoliation as an impious sacrilege, because it is an unholy seizure of ecclesiastical property, and an attempt, as far as human agencies can accomplish it, to trammel and embarrass the free action of the Head of the Church.

III. What The Popes Have Done For Rome.

Although the temporal power of the Pope is a subject which concerns the universal Church, no nation has more reason to lament the loss of the Holy Father's temporalities than the Italians themselves, and particularly the inhabitants of Rome.

It is the residence of the Popes in Rome that has contributed to her material and religious grandeur. The Pontiffs have made her the Centre of Christendom, the Queen of religion, the Mistress of arts and sciences, the Depository of sacred learning.

By their creative and conservative spirit they have saved the illustrious monuments of the past, and, side by side with these, they have raised up Christian temples which surpass those of Pagan antiquity. In looking today at these old Roman monuments we know not which to admire more—the genius of those who designed and erected them, or the fostering care of the Popes who have preserved from destruction the venerable ruins. The residence of the Popes in Rome has made her what she is truly called, "The Eternal City."

Let the Popes leave Rome forever, and in five years grass will be growing on its streets.

Such was the case at the return of the Pope, in 1418, from Avignon, which had been the seat of the Sovereign Pontiffs during the preceding century. On the Pope's return the city of Rome had a population of only 17,000(188) and Avignon, which, during the residence of the Popes in the fourteenth century contained a population of 100,000, has now a population of only 36,407 inhabitants. Such, also, was the case in the beginning of the present century, when Pius VII. was an exile for four years from Rome, and a prisoner of the first Napoleon, in Grenoble, Savona and Fontainebleau. Grass then grew on the streets of Rome, and the city lost one-half of its population.

Rome has naturally no commercial attractions. It is only the presence of the Pope that keeps up her trade. Let the Popes abandon Rome, and her churches will soon be without worshipers; her artists without employment. Her glorious monuments will perish. Science and art and sacred literature will take their flight and perch upon some more favored spot. The hundred thousand and more strangers who annually flock to Rome from different parts of the world will shake off the dust from their feet and seek more congenial cities.

Let the Popes withdraw from Rome, and it may become almost as desolate as Jerusalem and Antioch are today.

Peter preached his first sermons in Jerusalem, but he did not select it as his See; and Jerusalem is today a Mahometan city, with its sacred places profaned by the foot of the Mussulman.

Peter occupied for a time the city of Antioch as his first See. But, in the mysterious providence of God, he abandoned Antioch and repaired to Rome; and now, little remains of the ancient Antioch of Peter's day except colossal ruins.

Had the Popes remained in Antioch, Syria would now very probably be, instead of Europe, the centre of Christianity and civilization. The immortal Dome of St. Peter's would, doubtless, overshadow the banks of the Orontes instead of the Tiber; and Antioch, not Rome, would be the focus of art, science, and sacred literature, and would be called today "The Eternal City."

Our present(189) beloved Pontiff, Pius IX., I need not inform you, is now treated with indignity in his own city. In his declining years, as well as in the early days of his Pontificate, he is made to drink deep of the chalice of affliction. His name is dear to us all. To many of us it is a name familiar from our youth; for thirty-one years have now elapsed since he first assumed the reins of government; and it is a noteworthy fact that, since the days of Peter, no Pope has ever reigned so long as Pius IX.

The Pope in every age, like his Divine Master, has his period of persecution and his period of peace. Like Him, he has his days of sorrow and his days of joy, his days of humiliation and death, his days of exaltation and glory. Like Jesus Christ, he is one day greeted with acclamations as king, and another day crucified by his enemies.

But never does the Holy Father exhibit his title as Vicar of Christ more strikingly than in the midst of tribulations. If he did not suffer, he would bear no resemblance to his Divine Model and Master; and never does he more worthily deserve the filial homage of his children than when he is heavily laden with the cross.

I envy neither the heart nor the head of those men who are now gloating with fiendish joy over the calamities of the Pope; who are heaping insults and calumnies on his venerable head, while he is in the hands of his enemies,(190) and who are confidently predicting the downfall of the Papacy, from the present situation of the Head of the Church, as if the temporary privation of his dominions involved their irrevocable loss; or, as if even the perpetual destruction of the temporal power involved the destruction of the spiritual supremacy itself. "The Papacy," they say, "is gone. Its glory is vanished. Its sun is set. It is sunk below the horizon, never to rise again." Ill-boding prophets, will you never profit by the lessons of history? Have not numbers of Popes before Pius IX. been forcibly ejected from their See, and have they not been reinstated in their temporal authority? What has happened so often before may and will happen again.

For our part we have every confidence that ere long the clouds which now overshadow the civil throne of the Pope will be removed by the breath of a righteous God, and that his temporal power will be re-established on a more permanent basis than ever.

But whatever be the fate of the Pope's temporalities, we have no fears for the spiritual throne of the Papacy. The Pontiffs have received their earthly dominion from man, and what man gives man may take away. But the spiritual supremacy the Bishops of Rome have from God, and no man can destroy it. That Divine charter of their prerogatives, "Thou art Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it,"(191) will ever shine forth as brightly as the sun, and it is as far as the sun above the reach of human aggression.

The Holy Father may live and die in the catacombs, as the early Pontiffs did for the first three centuries. He may be dragged from his See and perish in exile, like the Martins, the Gregories and the Piuses. He may wander a penniless pilgrim, like Peter himself. Rome itself may sink beneath the Mediterranean; but the chair of Peter will stand, and Peter will live in his successors.

Chapter XIII.


Christians of most denominations are accustomed to recite the following article contained in the Apostles' Creed: "I believe in the communion of Saints." There are many, I fear, who have these words frequently on their lips, without an adequate knowledge of the precious meaning which they convey.

The true and obvious sense of the words quoted from the Creed is, that between the children of God, whether reigning in heaven or sojourning on earth, there exists an intercommunion, or spiritual communication by prayer; and, consequently, that our friends who have entered into their rest are mindful of us in their petitions to God.

In the exposition of her Creed the Catholic Church weighs her words in the scales of the sanctuary with as much precision as a banker weighs his gold. With regard to the Invocation of Saints the Church simply declares that it is "useful and salutary" to ask their prayers. There are expressions addressed to the Saints in some popular books of devotion which, to critical readers, may seem extravagant. But they are only the warm language of affection and poetry, to be regulated by our standard of faith; and notice that all the prayers of the Church end with the formula: "Through our Lord Jesus Christ," sufficiently indicating her belief that Christ is the Mediator of salvation. A heart tenderly attached to the Saints will give vent to its feelings in the language of hyperbole, just as an enthusiastic lover will call his future bride his adorable queen, without any intention of worshiping her as a goddess. This reflection should be borne in mind while reading such passages.

I might easily show, by voluminous quotations from ecclesiastical writers of the first ages of the Church, how conformable to the teaching of antiquity is the Catholic practice of invoking the intercession of the Saints. But as you, dear reader, may not be disposed to attach adequate importance to the writings of the Fathers, I shall confine myself to the testimony of Holy Scripture.

You will readily admit that it is a salutary custom to ask the prayers of the blessed in heaven, provided you have no doubt that they can hear your prayers, and that they have the power and the will to assist you. Now the Scriptures amply demonstrate the knowledge, the influence and the love of the Saints in our regard.

First—It would be a great mistake to suppose that the Angels and Saints reigning with God see and hear in the same manner that we see and hear on earth, or that knowledge is communicated to them as it is communicated to us. While we are confined in the prison of the body, we see only with our eyes and hear with our ears; hence our faculties of vision and hearing are very limited. Compared with the heavenly inhabitants, we are like a man in a darksome cell through which a dim ray of light penetrates. He observes but few objects, and these very obscurely. But as soon as our soul is freed from the body, soaring heavenward like a bird released from its cage, its vision is at once marvelously enlarged. It requires neither eyes to see nor ears to hear, but beholds all things in God as in a mirror. "We now," says the Apostle, "see through a glass darkly; but then face to face. Now, I know in part; but then I shall know even as I am known."(192) In our day we know what wonderful facility we have in communicating with our friends at a distance. A message to Berlin or Rome with the answer, which a century ago would require sixty days in transmission, can now be accomplished in sixty minutes.

I can hold a conversation with an acquaintance in San Francisco, three thousand miles away, and can talk to him as easily and expeditiously as if he were closeted with me here in Baltimore.

Nay more, we can distinctly recognize one another by the sound of our voice.

If a scientist had predicted such events, a hundred years past, he would be regarded as demented. And yet he would not be a visionary, but a prophet.

Let us not be unwise in measuring Divine power by our finite reason.

If such revelations are made in the natural order, what may we not expect in the supernatural world? If science gives us such rapid and easy means of corresponding with our fellow beings on foreign shores, what methods may not the God of Sciences employ to enable us to communicate with our brethren on the shores of eternity?

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

That the spirits of the just in heaven are clearly conversant with our affairs on earth is manifest from the following passages of Holy Writ. The venerable Patriarch Jacob, when on his deathbed, prayed thus for his two grandchildren: "May the angel that delivereth me from all evils bless these boys!"(193) Here we see a holy Patriarch—one singularly favored by Almighty God, and enlightened by many supernatural visions, the father of Jehovah's chosen people—asking the angel in heaven to obtain a blessing for his grandchildren. And surely we cannot suppose that he would be so ignorant as to pray to one that could not hear him.

The angel Raphael, after having disclosed himself to Tobias, said to him: "When thou didst pray with tears, and didst bury the dead, and didst leave thy dinner, I offered thy prayer to the Lord."(194) How could the angel, if he were ignorant of these petitions, have presented to God the prayers of Tobias?

To pass from the Old to the New Testament, our Savior declares that "there shall be joy before the angels of God upon one sinner doing penance."(195) Then the angels are glad whenever you repent of your sins. Now, what is repentance? It is a change of heart. It is an interior operation of the will. The saints, therefore, are acquainted—we know not how—not only with your actions and words, but even with your very thoughts.

And when St. Paul says that "we are made a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men,"(196) what does he mean, unless that as our actions are seen by men even so they are visible to the angels in heaven?

The examples I have quoted refer, it is true, to the angels. But our Lord declares that the saints in heaven shall be like the angelic spirits, by possessing the same knowledge, enjoying the same happiness.(197)

We read in the Gospel that Dives, while suffering in the place of the reprobates, earnestly besought Abraham to cool his burning thirst. And Abraham, in his abode of rest after death, was able to listen and reply to him. Now, if communication could exist between the souls of the just and of the reprobate, how much easier is it to suppose that interchange of thought can exist between the saints in heaven and their brethren on earth?

These few instances are sufficient to convince you that the spirits in heaven hear our prayers.

Second—We have, also, abundant testimony from Scripture to show that the saints assist us by their prayers. Almighty God threatened the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrha with utter destruction on account of their crimes and abominations. Abraham interposes in their behalf and, in response to his prayer, God consents to spare those cities if only ten just men are found therein. Here the avenging hand of God is suspended and the fire of His wrath withheld, through the efficacy of the prayers of a single man.(198)

We read in the Book of Exodus that when the Amalekites were about to wage war on the children of Israel Moses, the great servant and Prophet of the Lord, went upon a mountain to pray for the success of his people; and the Scriptures inform us that whenever Moses raised his hands in prayer the Israelites were victorious, but when he ceased to pray Amalek conquered. Could the power of intercessory prayer be manifested in a more striking manner? The silent prayer of Moses on the mountain was more formidable to the Amalekites than the sword of Josue and his armed hosts fighting in the valley.(199)

When the same Hebrew people were banished from their native country and carried into exile in Babylon, so great was their confidence in the prayers of their brethren in Jerusalem that they sent them the following message, together with a sum of money, that sacrifice might be offered up for them in the holy city: "Pray ye for us to the Lord our God, for we have sinned against the Lord our God."(200)

When the friends of Job had excited the indignation of the Almighty in consequence of their vain speech, God, instead of directly granting them the pardon which they sought, commanded them to invoke the intercession of Job: "Go," He says, "to My servant Job and offer for yourselves a holocaust, and My servant Job will pray for you and his face will I accept."(201) Nor did they appeal to Job in vain; for, "the Lord was turned at the penance of Job when he prayed for his friends."(202) In this instance we not only see the value of intercessory prayer, but we find God sanctioning it by His own authority.

But of all the sacred writers there is none that reposes greater confidence in the prayers of his brethren than St. Paul, although no one had a better knowledge than he of the infinite merits of our Savior's Passion, and no one could have more endeared himself to God by his personal labors. In his Epistles St. Paul repeatedly asks for himself the prayers of his disciples. If he wishes to be delivered from the hands of the unbelievers of Judea, and his ministry to be successful in Jerusalem, he asks the Romans to obtain these favors for him. If he desires the grace of preaching with profit the Gospel to the Gentiles, he invokes the intercession of the Ephesians.

Nay, is it not a common practice among ourselves, and even among our dissenting brethren, to ask the prayers of one another? When a father is about to leave his house on a long journey the instinct of piety prompts him to say to his wife and children: "Remember me in your prayers."

Now I ask you, if our friends, though sinners, can aid us by their prayers, why cannot our friends, the saints of God, be able to assist us also? If Abraham and Moses and Job exercised so much influence with the Almighty while they lived in the flesh, is their power with God diminished now that they reign with Him in heaven?

We are moved by the children of Israel sending their pious petitions to their brethren in Jerusalem. They recalled to mind, no doubt, what the Lord said to Solomon after he had completed the temple: "My eyes shall be open and My ears attentive to the prayer of him that shall pray in this place."(203) If the supplications of those that prayed in the earthly Jerusalem were so efficacious, what will God refuse to those who pray to Him face to face in the heavenly Jerusalem?

Third—But you will ask, are the saints in heaven so interested in our welfare as to be mindful of us in their prayers? Or, are they so much absorbed in the contemplation of God, and in the enjoyment of celestial bliss, as to be altogether regardless of their friends on earth? Far from us the suspicion that the saints reigning with God ever forget us. In heaven, charity is triumphant. And how can the saints have love, and yet be unmindful of their brethren on earth? If they have one desire greater than another, it is to see us one day wearing the crowns that await us in heaven. If they were capable of experiencing sorrow, their grief would spring from the consideration that we do not always walk in their footsteps here, so as to make sure our election to eternal glory hereafter.

The Hebrew people believed, like us, that the saints after death were occupied in praying for us. We read in the Book of Maccabees that Judas Maccabeus, the night before he engaged in battle with the army of the impious Nicanor, had a supernatural dream, or vision, in which he beheld Onias, the High-Priest, and the prophet Jeremiah, both of whom had been long dead. Onias appeared to him with outstretched arms, praying for the people of God. Pointing to Jeremiah, he said to Judas Maccabeus: "This is a lover of his brethren and the people of Israel. This is he that prayeth much for the people and for all the holy city, Jeremiah, the Prophet of God."(204) Then Jeremiah, as is related in the sequel of the vision, handed a sword to Judas, with which the prophet predicted that Judas would conquer his enemies. The soldiers, animated by the relation of Judas, fought with invincible courage and overcame the enemy. The Book of Maccabees, though not admitted by our dissenting brethren to be inspired, must, at least, be acknowledged by them to be a faithful historical record. It is manifest, therefore, from this narrative that the Hebrew people believed that the saints in heaven pray for their brethren on earth.

St. John in his Revelation describes the Saints before the throne of God praying for their earthly brethren: "The four and twenty ancients fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps and golden vials full of odors, which are the prayers of the saints."(205)

The prophet Zachariah records a prayer that was offered by the angel for the people of God, and the favorable answer which came from heaven: "How long, O Lord, wilt Thou not have mercy on Jerusalem, and on the cities of Juda, with which Thou hast been angry?... And the Lord answered the angel ... good words, comfortable words."(206)

Nor can we be surprised to learn that the angels labor for our salvation, since we are told by St. Peter that "the devil goeth about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour;" for, if hate impels the demons to ruin us, surely love must inspire the angels to help us in securing the crown of glory. And if the angels, though of a different nature from ours, are so mindful of us, how much more interest do the saints manifest in our welfare, who are bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh?

To ask the prayers of our brethren in heaven is not only conformable to Holy Scripture, but is prompted by the instincts of our nature. The Catholic doctrine of the Communion of Saints robs death of its terrors, while the Reformers of the sixteenth century, in denying the Communion of Saints, not only inflicted a deadly wound on the Creed, but also severed the tenderest chords of the human heart. They broke asunder the holy ties that unite earth with heaven—the soul in the flesh with the soul released from the flesh. If my brother leaves me to cross the seas I believe that he continues to pray for me. And when he crosses the narrow sea of death and lands on the shores of eternity, why should he not pray for me still? What does death destroy? The body. The soul still lives and moves and has its being. It thinks and wills and remembers and loves. The dross of sin and selfishness and hatred are burned by the salutary fires of contrition, and nothing remains but the pure gold of charity.

O far be from us the dreary thought that death cuts off our friends entirely from us! Far be from us the heartless creed which declares a perpetual divorce between us and the just in heaven! Do not imagine when you lose a father or mother, a tender sister or brother, who die in the peace of Christ, that they are forgetful of you. The love they bore you on earth is purified and intensified in heaven. Or if your innocent child, regenerated in the waters of baptism, is snatched from you by death, be assured that, though separated from you in body, that child is with you in spirit and is repaying you a thousand-fold for the natural life it received from you. Be convinced that the golden link of prayer binds you to that angelic infant, and that it is continually offering its fervent petitions at the throne of God for you, that you may both be reunited in heaven. But I hear men cry out with Pharisaical assurance, "You dishonor God, sir, in praying to the saints. You make void the mediatorship of Jesus Christ. You put the creature above the Creator." How utterly groundless is this objection! We do not dishonor God in praying to the saints. We should, indeed, dishonor Him if we consulted the saints independently of God. But such is not our practice. The Catholic Church teaches, on the contrary, that God alone is the Giver of all good gifts; that He is the Source of all blessings, the Fountain of all goodness. She teaches that whatever happiness or glory or influence the saints possess, all comes from God. As the moon borrows her light from the sun, so do the blessed borrow their light from Jesus, "the Sun of Justice, the one Mediator (of redemption) of God and men."(207) Hence, when we address the saints, we beg them to pray for us through the merits of Jesus Christ, while we ask Jesus to help up through His own merits.

But what is the use of praying to the saints, since God can hear us. If it is vain and useless to pray to the saints because God can hear us, then Jacob was wrong in praying to the angel; the friends of Job were wrong in asking him to pray for them, though God commanded them to invoke Job's intercession; the Jews exiled in Babylon were wrong in asking their brethren in Jerusalem to pray for them; St. Paul was wrong in beseeching his friends to pray for him; then we are all wrong in praying for each other. You deem it useful and pious to ask your pastor to pray for you. Is it not, at least, equally useful for me to invoke the prayers of St. Paul, since I am convinced that he can hear me?

God forbid that our supplications to our Father in heaven should diminish in proportion as our prayers to the Saints increase; for, after all, we must remember that, while the Church declares it necessary for salvation to pray to God, she merely asserts that it is "good and useful to invoke the saints."(208) To ask the prayers of the saints, far from being useless, is most profitable. By invoking their intercession, instead of one we have many praying for us. To our own tepid petitions we unite the fervent supplications of the blessed and "the Lord will hear the prayers of the just."(209) To the petitions of us, poor pilgrims in this vale of tears, are united those of the citizens of heaven. We ask them to pray to their God and to our God, to their Father and to our Father, that we may one day share their delights in that blessed country in company with our common Redeemer, Jesus Christ, with whom to live is to reign.

Chapter XIV.


I. Is It Lawful To Honor Her?

The sincere adorers and lovers of our Lord Jesus Christ look with reverence on every object with which He was associated, and they conceive an affection for every person that was near and dear to Him on earth. The closer the intimacy of those persons with our Savior, the holier do they appear in our estimation, just as those planets which revolve the nearest around the sun partake most of its light and heat.

There is something hallowed to the eye of the Christian in the very soil of Judea, because it was pressed by the footprints of our Blessed Redeemer. With what reverent steps we would enter the cave of Bethlehem because there was born the Savior of the world. With what religious demeanor we would tread the streets of Nazareth when we remembered that there were spent the days of His boyhood. What profound religious awe would fill our hearts on ascending Mount Calvary, where He paid by his blood the ransom of our souls.

But if the lifeless soil claims so much reverence, how much more veneration would be enkindled in our hearts for the living persons who were the friends and associates of our Savior on earth! We know that He exercised a certain salutary and magnetic influence on those whom He approached. "All the multitude sought to touch Him, for virtue went out from Him and healed all,"(210) as happened to the woman who had been troubled with an issue of blood.(211)

We would seem, indeed, to draw near to Jesus, if we had the happiness of only conversing with the Samaritan woman, or of eating at the table of Zaccheus, or of being entertained by Nicodemus. But if we were admitted into the inner circle of His friends—of Lazarus, Mary and Martha, for instance—the Baptist or the Apostles, we would be conscious that in their company we were drawing still nearer to Jesus and imbibing somewhat of that spirit which they must have largely received from their familiar relations with Him.

Now, if the land of Judea is looked upon as hallowed ground because Jesus dwelt there; if the Apostles were considered as models of holiness because they were the chosen companions and pupils of our Lord in His latter years, how peerless must have been the sanctity of Mary, who gave Him birth, whose breast was His pillow, who nursed and clothed Him in infancy, who guided His early steps, who accompanied Him in His exile to Egypt and back, who abode with Him from infancy to boyhood, from boyhood to manhood, who during all that time listened to the words of wisdom which fell from His lips, who was the first to embrace Him at His birth, and the last to receive His dying breath on Calvary. This sentiment is so natural to us that we find it bursting forth spontaneously from the lips of the woman of the Gospel, who, hearing the words of Jesus full of wisdom and sanctity, lifted up her voice and said to Him: "Blessed is the womb that bore Thee and the paps that gave Thee suck."

It is in accordance with the economy of Divine Providence that, whenever God designs any person for some important work, He bestows on that person the graces and dispositions necessary for faithfully discharging it.

When Moses was called by heaven to be the leader of the Hebrew people he hesitated to assume the formidable office on the plea of "impediment and slowness of tongue." But Jehovah reassured him by promising to qualify him for the sublime functions assigned to him: "I will be in thy mouth, and I will teach thee what thou shalt speak."(212)

The Prophet Jeremiah was sanctified from his very birth because he was destined to be the herald of God's law to the children of Israel: "Before I formed thee in the bowels of thy mother I knew thee, and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee."(213)

"Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost,"(214) that she might be worthy to be the hostess of our Lord during the three months that Mary dwelt under her roof.

John the Baptist was "filled with the Holy Ghost even from his mother's womb."(215) "He was a burning and a shining light"(216) because he was chosen to prepare the way of the Lord.

The Apostles received the plenitude of grace; they were endowed with the gift of tongue and other privileges(217) before they commenced the work of the ministry. Hence St. Paul says: "Our sufficiency is from God, who hath made us fit ministers of the New Testament."(218)

Now of all who have participated in the ministry of the Redemption there is none who filled any position so exalted, so sacred, as is the incommunicable office of Mother of Jesus; and there is no one, consequently, that needed so high a degree of holiness as she did.

For, if God thus sanctified His Prophets and Apostles as being destined to be the bearers of the Word of life, how much more sanctified must Mary have been, who was to bear the Lord and "Author of life."(219) If John was so holy because he was chosen as the pioneer to prepare the way of the Lord, how much more holy was she who ushered Him into the world. If holiness became John's mother, surely a greater holiness became the mother of John's Master. If God said to His Priests of old: "Be ye clean, you that carry the vessels of the Lord;"(220) nay, if the vessels themselves used in the divine service and churches are set apart by special consecration, we cannot conceive Mary to have been ever profaned by sin, who was the chosen vessel of election, even the Mother of God.

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