Her doctrine is, that as man by his own free will fell from grace, so of his own free will must he return to grace. Conversion and coercion are two terms that can never be reconciled. It has ever been a cardinal maxim, inculcated by sovereign Pontiffs and other Prelates, that no violence or undue influence should be exercised by Christian princes or missionaries in their efforts to convert souls to the faith of Jesus Christ.
Pope Gregory I. in the latter part of the Sixth Century, compelled the Bishop of Terracina to restore to the Jews, the synagogue which he had seized, declaring that they should not be coerced into the Church, but should be treated with meekness and charity. The great Pontiff issued the same orders to the Prelates of Sardinia and Sicily in behalf of the persecuted Jews.
St. Augustine and his companions, who were sent by Pope Gregory I. to England for the conversion of that nation, had the happiness of baptizing in the true faith King Ethelbert and many of his subjects. That monarch, in the fervor of his zeal, was most anxious that all his subjects should immediately follow his example; but the missionaries admonished him that he should scrupulously abstain from violence in the conversion of his people, for the Christian religion should be voluntarily embraced.
Pope Nicholas I. also warned Michael, king of the Bulgarians, against employing force or constraint in the conversion of idolaters.
The fourth Council of Toledo, held in 633, a synod of great authority in the Church, ordained that no one should be compelled against his will to make a profession of the Christian faith. Be it remembered that this Council was composed of all the Bishops of Spain, that it was assembled in a country and at a time in which the Church held almost unlimited sway, and among a people who have been represented as the most fanatical and intolerant of all Europe.
Perhaps no man can be considered a fairer representative of the age in which he lived than St. Bernard, the illustrious Abbot of Clairvaux. He was the embodiment of the spirit of the Middle Ages. His life is the key that discloses to us what degree of toleration prevailed in those days. Having heard that a fanatical preacher was stimulating the people to deeds of violence against the Jews as the enemies of Christianity, St. Bernard raised his eloquent voice against him, and rescued those persecuted people from the danger to which they were exposed.
Pope Innocent III. in the Thirteenth Century promulgated the following Decree in behalf of the Hebrews: "Let no Jew be constrained to receive baptism, and he that will not consent to be baptized, let him not be molested. Let no one unjustly seize their property, disturb their feasts, or lay waste their cemeteries."
Other succeeding Pontiffs, notably Gregory IX. and Innocent IV., issued similar instructions.
Not to cite too many examples, let me quote for you only the beautiful letter addressed by Fenelon, Archbishop of Cambray, to the son of King James II. of England. This letter not only reflects the sentiments of his own heart, but formularizes in this particular the decrees of the Church, of which he was a distinguished ornament. "Above all," he writes, "never force your subjects to change their religion. No human power can reach the impenetrable recess of the free will of the heart. Violence can never persuade men; it serves only to make hypocrites. Grant civil liberty to all, not in approving everything as indifferent, but in tolerating with patience whatever Almighty God tolerates, and endeavoring to convert men by mild persuasion."(300)
It is true, indeed, that the Catholic Church spares no pains and stops at no sacrifice in order to induce mankind to embrace her faith. Otherwise she would be recreant to her sacred mission. But she scorns to exercise any undue influence in her efforts to convert souls.
The only argument she would use, is the argument of reason and persuasion; the only tribunal to which she would summon you, is the tribunal of conscience; the only weapon she would wield, is "the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God." It is well known that the superior advantages of our female academies throughout the country lead many of our dissenting brethren to send their daughters to these institutions. It is also well known that so warm is the affection which these young ladies entertain for their religious teachers, so hallowed is the atmosphere they breathe within these seats of learning, that they often beg to embrace a religion which fosters so much piety and which produces lilies so fragrant and so pure. Do the sisters take advantage of this influence in the cause of proselytism? By no means. So delicate is their regard for the religious conscience of their pupils, that they rarely consent to have these young ladies baptized till, after being thoroughly instructed in all the doctrines of the Church, they have obtained the free permission of their parents or guardians.
The Church is, indeed, intolerant in this sense, that she can never confound truth with error; nor can she admit that any man is conscientiously free to reject the truth when its claims are convincingly brought home to the mind. Many Protestants seem to be very much disturbed by some such argument as this: Catholics are very ready now to proclaim freedom of conscience, because they are in the minority. When they once succeed in getting the upper hand in numbers and power they will destroy this freedom, because their faith teaches them to tolerate no doctrine other than the Catholic. It is, then, a matter of absolute necessity for us that they should never be allowed to get this advantage.
Now, in all this, there is a great mistake, which comes from not knowing the Catholic doctrine in its fulness. I shall not lay it down myself, lest it seem to have been gotten up for the occasion. I shall quote the great theologian Becanus, who taught the doctrine of the schools of Catholic Theology at the time when the struggle was hottest between Catholicity and Protestantism. He says that religious liberty may be tolerated by a ruler when it would do more harm to the state or to the community to repress it. The ruler may even enter into a compact in order to secure to his subjects this freedom in religious matters; and when once a compact is made it must be observed absolutely in every point, just as every other lawful and honest contract.(301) This is the true Catholic teaching on this point, according to Becanus and all Catholic theologians. So that if Catholics should gain the majority in a community where freedom of conscience is already secured to all by law, their very religion obliges them to respect the rights thus acquired by their fellow-citizens. What danger can there be, then, for Protestants, if Catholics should be in the majority here? Their apprehensions are the result of vain fears, which no honest mind ought any longer to harbor.
The Church has not only respected the conscience of the people in embracing the religion of their choice, but she has also defended their civil rights and liberties against the encroachments of temporal sovereigns. One of the popular errors that have taken possession of some minds in our times is that in former days the Church was leagued with princes for the oppression of the people. This is a base calumny, which a slight acquaintance with ecclesiastical history would soon dispel.
The truth is, the most unrelenting enemies of the Church have been the princes of this world, and so-called Christians princes, too.
The conflict between Church and State has never died out, because the Church has felt it to be her duty, in every age, to raise her voice against the despotic and arbitrary measures of princes. Many of them chafed under the salutary discipline of the Church. They wished to be rid of her yoke. They desired to be governed by no law except the law of their licentious passions and boundless ambitions. And as a Protestant American reviewer(302) well said about forty years ago, it was a blessing of Providence that there was a spiritual Power on earth that could stand like a wall of brass against the tyranny of earthly sovereigns and say to them: "Thus far you shall go, and no farther, and here you shall break your swelling waves" of passion; a Power that could say to them what John said to Herod: "This thing is not lawful for thee;" a Power that pointed the finger of reproof to them, even when the sword was pointed to her own neck, and that said to them what Nathan said to David: "Thou art the man." She told princes that if the people have their obligations they have their rights, too; that if the subject must render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, Caesar must render to God the things that art God's.
Yes; the Church, while pursuing her Divine mission of leading souls to God, has ever been the defender of the people's rights.
St. Ambrose, Archbishop of Milan, affords us a striking instance of the strenuous efforts made by the Catholic Church in vindicating the interests of the citizen against the oppression of rulers.
A portion of the people of Thessalonica had committed an outrage against the just authority of the Emperor Theodosius. The offence of those citizens was indeed most reprehensible; but the Emperor requited the insult offered to him by a shocking and disproportioned act of retribution, which has left an indelible stain upon his otherwise excellent character. The inhabitants were assembled together for the ostensible purpose of witnessing a chariot race, and at a given signal the soldiery fell upon the people and involved men, women and children in an indiscriminate massacre, to the number of about seven thousand. Some time after the Emperor presented himself at the Cathedral of Milan; but the intrepid Prelate told him that his hands were dripping with the blood of his subjects, and forbade him entrance to the church till he had made all the reparation in his power to the afflicted people of Thessalonica.
People affect to be shocked at the sentence of ex-communication occasionally inflicted by the Church on evil-doers. Here is an instance of this penalty. Who can complain of it as being too severe? It was a salutary punishment and the only one that could bring rulers to a sense of duty.
The greatest bulwark of civil liberty is the famous Magna Charta. It is the foundation not only of British, but also of American constitutional freedom. Among other blessings contained in this instrument it establishes trial by jury and the right of Habeas Corpus, and provides that there shall be no taxation without representation.
Who were the framers of this memorable charter? Archbishop Langton, of Canterbury, and the Catholic Barons of England. On the plains of Runnymede, in 1215, they compelled King John to sign that paper which was the death-blow to his arbitrary power and the cornerstone of constitutional government.
Turning to our own country, it is with no small degree of satisfaction that I point to the State of Maryland as the cradle of civil and religious liberty and the "land of the sanctuary." Of the thirteen original American Colonies, Maryland was the only one settled by Catholics. She was, also, the only one that raised aloft over her fair lands the banner of liberty of conscience, and that invited the oppressed of other colonies to seek an asylum beneath its shadow.
Lest I should be suspected of being too partial in my praise of Maryland toleration, I shall take most of my historical facts from Bancroft, a New England Protestant clergyman.
NOTE—The first edition of Bancroft's History was published in 1834. From that date till nearly half a century afterward upwards of twenty editions were issued, all of which retain the passages I have cited on Maryland toleration. Early in the 80s a new edition was given out, which omits or abridges some of the passages quoted in this chapter. I may add that all of Bancroft's eulogies of Lord Baltimore's benevolent administration are borne out by the original documents, and by McMahon, Bozman and McSherry, and other historians of Maryland.
Leonard Calvert, the brother of Lord Baltimore and the leader of the Catholic colony, having sailed from England in the Ark and the Dove, reached his destination on the Potomac in March, 1634.
"The Catholics took quiet possession of the little place, and religious liberty obtained a home, its only home in the wide world, at the humble village which bore the name of St. Mary."(303)
"The foundation of the colony of Maryland was peacefully and happily laid. Within six months it had advanced more than Virginia had done in as many years.... But far more memorable was the character of the Maryland institutions. Every other country in the world had persecuting laws; but through the benign administration of the government of that province, no person professing to believe in Jesus Christ was permitted to be molested on account of religion. Under the munificence and superintending mildness of Lord Baltimore, a dreary wilderness was soon quickened with the swarming life and activity of prosperous settlements; the Roman Catholics who were oppressed by the laws of England were sure to find a peaceful asylum in the quiet harbors of the Chesapeake; and there too, Protestants were sheltered against Protestant intolerance. Such were the beautiful auspices under which Maryland started into being.... Its history is the history of benevolence, gratitude and toleration."
"Maryland was the abode of happiness and liberty. Conscience was without restraint. A mild and liberal proprietary conceded every measure which the welfare of the colony required; domestic union, a happy concert between all the branches of government, an increasing emigration, a productive commerce, a fertile soil, which heaven had richly favored with rivers and deep bays, united to perfect the scene of colonial felicity. Ever intent on advancing the interests of his colony, Lord Baltimore invited the Puritans of Massachusetts to emigrate to Maryland, offering them lands and privileges and free liberty of religion; but Gibbons, to whom he had forwarded the commission, was so wholly tutored in the New England discipline, that he would not advance the wishes of the Irish Peer, and so the invitation was declined."(304)
On the 2d of April, 1649, the General Assembly of Maryland passed the following Act, which will reflect unfading glory on that State as long as liberty is cherished in the hearts of men.
"Whereas, the enforcing of conscience in matters of religion hath frequently fallen out to be of dangerous consequence in those commonwealths where it has been practiced, and for the more quiet and peaceable government of this province, and the better to preserve mutual love and unity amongst the inhabitants, no person whatsoever within this province professing to believe in Jesus Christ shall from henceforth be anyways troubled or molested for his or her religion, nor in the free exercise thereof, nor anyway compelled to the belief or exercise of any other religion against his or her consent."(305)
Upon this noble statute Bancroft makes the following candid and judicious comment: "The design of the law of Maryland was to protect freedom of conscience; and some years after it had been confirmed the apologist of Lord Baltimore could assert that his government had never given disturbance to any person in Maryland for matter of religion; that the colonists enjoyed freedom of conscience, not less than freedom of person and estate, as amply as ever any people in any place of the world. The disfranchised friends of Prelacy from Massachusetts and the Puritans from Virginia were welcomed to equal liberty of conscience and political rights in the Roman Catholic province of Maryland."(306)
Five years later, when the Puritans gained the ascendency in Maryland, they were guilty of the infamous ingratitude of disfranchising the very Catholic settlers by whom they had been so hospitably entertained. They "had neither the gratitude to respect the rights of the government by which they had been received and fostered, nor magnanimity to continue the toleration to which alone they were indebted for their residence in the colony. An act concerning religion forbade liberty of conscience to be extended to 'Popery,' 'Prelacy,' or 'licentiousness of opinion.' "(307)
I shall also quote from "Maryland, the History of a Palatinate," by William Hand Browne.(308) Mr. Browne was a graduate of the University of Maryland. For several years he was editor of the Maryland Archives, and of the Maryland Historical Society. He became afterward Professor of English Literature in the Johns Hopkins University. He devoted his long life to the Colonial history of Maryland, and is justly recognized as a standard authority on that subject. I may add that he cannot be suspected of undue partiality, as he was not a member of the Catholic Church.
Speaking of Calvert, the Proprietary of the Maryland Colony, the author remarks that "while as yet there was no spot in Christendom where religious belief was free, and when even the Commons of England had openly declared against toleration, Calvert founded a community wherein no man was to be molested for his faith. At a time when absolutism had struck down representative government in England and it was doubtful if a Parliament of freemen would ever meet again, he founded a community in which no laws were to be made without the consent of the freemen.
The Ark and the Dove were names of happy omen. The one saved from the general wreck the germs of political liberty; and the other bore the olive branch of religious peace."(309)
When the rule of the Catholic Proprietary was overthrown and the Puritans had gained the ascendency in the Province, the new Commissioners issued writs of election to a general assembly—writs of a tenor hitherto unknown in Maryland. No man of the Roman Catholic faith could be elected as a burgess, or even cast a vote. The Assembly obtained by this process of selection, justified its choice. It at once repealed the Toleration Act of 1649 and created a new one, more to its mind, which also bore the title: "An Act concerning Religion," but it was toleration with a difference. It provided that none who professed the Popish religion should be protected in the Province, but were to be restrained from the exercise thereof.
For Protestants it provided that no one professing faith in Christ was to be restrained from the exercise of his religion, "provided that this liberty be not extended to Popery, or Prelacy, nor to such as under the profession of Christ, hold forth and practice licentiousness. That is, with the exception of the Roman Catholics and churchmen, together with the Brownists, Quakers, Anabaptists, and other miscellaneous Protestant sects, all others might profess their faith without molestation."(310)
After the overthrow of the Puritan authority, and the advent to power of the members of the Church of England, the second act of the Assembly was to make the Protestant Episcopal Church the established church of the Province.
The Act imposed an annual tax of forty pounds of tobacco per poll on all taxables for the purpose of building churches, and maintaining the clergy. In 1702 it was re-enacted with a toleration clause: "Protestant Dissenters and Quakers were exempted from the penalties and disabilities, and might have separate meeting-houses, provided that they paid their forty pounds per poll to support the Established Church. As for the 'Papists,' it is needless to say that there was no exemption nor license for them."(311)
The author then sets before us the three kinds of toleration, like three portraits, so that their distinctive features appear in bold relief.
"We may now," he says, "place side by side the three tolerations of Maryland."
The toleration of the (Catholic) Proprietaries lasted fifty years, and under it all believers in Christ were equal before the law, and all support to churches or ministers was voluntary.
The Puritan toleration lasted six years, and included all but Papists, Prelatists and those who held objectional doctrines.
The Anglican toleration lasted eighty years, and had glebes and churches for the Establishment, connivance for Dissenters, the penal laws for Catholics, and for all, the forty per poll.
In fact, an additional turn was given to the screw in this year; the oath of "abhorrency," a more offensive form of the oath of supremacy, being required, beside the oath of allegiance, and for one thing, no Catholic attorney was allowed to practise in the Province.(312)
When the members of the Constitutional Convention declared in 1787, that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," it is worthy of note that they were echoing the sentiments, and even repeating the language of the Maryland Assembly of 1649, which declared that "No person whatsoever within this Province, professing to believe in Jesus Christ, shall from henceforth be any ways molested for his or her religion, nor in the free exercise thereof."
We may therefore affirm that Lord Baltimore's Toleration Act of 1649 was the bright dawn that ushered in the noon-day sun of freedom in 1787. And we have every reason to believe that the Proprietary's charter of liberty with its attendant blessings, served as an example, an incentive, and an inspiration to some at least of the framers of the Constitution, to extend over the new Republic, the precious boon of civil and religious liberty.
It is proper to also observe that the Act of 1649 was not a new declaration of religious freedom on the part of Lord Baltimore's administration, but was a solemn affirmation of the toleration granted by the Catholic Proprietary from the beginning of the Settlement in 1634.
I will close this subject in the words of a distinguished member of the Maryland Historical Society: "Higher than all titles and badges of honor, and more exalted than royal nobility is the imperishable distinction which the passage of this broad and liberal Act won for Maryland, and for the members of that never-to-be-forgotten session, and sacred forever be the hallowed spot which gave it birth."(313)
What shall I say of the prominent part that was taken by distinguished representatives of the Catholic Church in the cause of our American Independence? What shall I say of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, who, at the risk of sacrificing his rich estates, signed the Declaration of Independence; of Rev. John Carroll, afterward the first Archbishop of Baltimore, who, with his cousin Charles Carroll and Benjamin Franklin, was sent by Congress to Canada to secure the co-operation of the people of that province in the struggle for liberty; of Kosciusko, Lafayette, Pulaski, Barry and a host of other Catholic heroes who labored so effectually in the same glorious cause? American patriots without number the Church has nursed in her bosom; a traitor, never.
The Father of his Country was not unmindful of these services. Shortly after his election to the Presidency, replying(314) to an address of his Catholic fellow-citizens, he uses the following language: "I presume that your fellow-citizens will not forget the patriotic part which you took in the accomplishment of their revolution, and the establishment of their government; or the important assistance they received from a nation in which the Roman Catholic faith is professed."
And the Catholics of our generation have nobly emulated the patriotism and the spirit of toleration exhibited by their ancestors. They can neither be accused of disloyalty nor of intolerance to their dissenting brethren. In more than one instance of our nation's history our churches have been desecrated and burned to the ground; our convents have been invaded and destroyed; our clergy have been exposed to insult and violence. These injuries have been inflicted on us by incendiary mobs animated by hatred of Catholicism. Yet, in spite of these provocations, our Catholic citizens, though wielding an immense numerical influence in the localities where they suffered, have never retaliated. It is in a spirit of just pride that we can affirm that hitherto in the United States no Protestant house of worship or educational institution has been destroyed, nor violence offered to a Protestant minister by those who profess the Catholic faith. God grant that such may always be our record!
It is just because the Church has ever resisted the tyranny of kings, in their encroachments on the sacred rights of conscience, that she has always been the victim of royal persecution. In every age, in the language of the Psalmist, "the kings of the earth rose up, and the princes assembled together against the Lord and against His Christ."(315) The brightest and most thrilling pages of ecclesiastical history are those which record the sufferings of Popes and Prelates at the hands of temporal sovereigns for conscience' and for justice' sake.
Take, for instance, St. John Chrysostom, the great Archbishop of Constantinople in the fifth century, and the idol of the people. He had the courage, like John the Baptist, to raise his eloquent voice against the lasciviousness of the court, and particularly against the Empress Eudoxia, who ruled like another Jezabel. He was banished from his See, treated with the utmost indignity by the soldiers, and died in exile from sheer exhaustion and ill-treatment.
Witness Pope Gregory VII., the fearless Hildebrand, in his life-long struggle with the German Emperor, Henry IV. Gregory directed all the energies of his great mind towards reforming the abuses which had crept into the church of France and Germany in the eleventh century. In those days the Emperor of Germany assumed the right of naming or appointing Bishops throughout his Empire. This sacred office was commonly bestowed on very unworthy candidates, and very often put up at auction, to be sold to the highest bidder, as is now the case with the schismatic Greek church in Turkey.
These Bishops too often repaid their imperial benefactor by pandering to his passions and by the most servile flattery. The intrepid Pope partially succeeded in uprooting the evil, though the effort cost him his life. The Emperor invaded Rome and drove Gregory from his See, who died uttering these words with his last breath: "I have loved justice and hated iniquity, and therefore I die in exile."
For the same cause Thomas a Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, was slain at the altar by the hired assassins of Henry II., of England.
Observe how Pius VII. was treated by the first Napoleon in the beginning of the present century. The day-dream of Napoleon was to be master of Europe, and to place his brothers and friends on the thrones of the continent, that they might revolve, like so many satellites, around his throne in France. Napoleon makes two demands on the venerable Pontiff: First—That he dissolve the marriage which had been contracted between the Emperor's brother, Jerome, and Miss Patterson, of Baltimore. His ostensible reason for having the marriage dissolved was because Miss Patterson was a Protestant, but his real motive was to secure a royal bride for his brother instead of an American lady. Second—That he close his ports against the commerce of England, with which nation Napoleon was then at war, and make common cause with the Emperor against his enemies. The Pope rejected both demands. He told the Emperor that the Church held all marriages performed by her as indissoluble, even when one of the parties was not a Catholic; and that, as the common father of Christendom, he could close his port against no Christian power. For refusing to comply with this second demand the Pope was arrested and sent into exile, where he lingered for years.
At this very moment the old conflict between the Church and despotic governments is raging fiercely throughout Europe. The scene enacted by John and Herod is today reproduced in almost every kingdom of the old world. It is the old fight between brute force and the God-given rights of conscience.
In Russia we see the Bishop of Plock exiled for life from his See to Siberia. His only offence is his refusal to acknowledge that the Emperor Alexander is the head of the Christian Church.
If we pass over into Italy we see religious men and women driven from their homes; their houses and libraries confiscated—libraries which pious and learned men had been collecting and consulting for ages. The only crime of those religious is that they have not the power to resist brute force.
Cross the Alps into France and there you will see that many-headed monster, the Commune, assassinating the Archbishop of Paris and his clergy, solely because he and they were the representatives of law and order.
In the Republic of Switzerland Bishop Mermillod is expelled from Geneva without the slightest charge adduced against his character as a citizen and a Christian Prelate. Faithful clergymen are deprived by the government of their parochial rights and renegade Priests are intruded in their place. The shepherd is driven away and wolves lay waste the fold.
Go to Prussia; what do you behold there? A Prime Minister flushed with his recent victories over France. He is not content with seeing his master wear the imperial crown of Germany; he wants him to wear also the tiara of the Pope. Bismarck, like Aman, the minister of King Assuerus, is not satisfied with being second in the kingdom so long as Mardochai, that is the Church, refuses to bow down and worship him.
He fines the venerable Archbishop of Gnesen-Posen and other Prussian Prelates again and again, sells their furniture and finally sends them to prison for a protracted period. St. John Chrysostom beautifully remarks that St. Paul, elevated to the third heaven, was glorious to contemplate; but that far more glorious is Paul buried in the dungeons of Rome. I can say in like manner, of Archbishop Ledochowski of Posen, that he was conspicuous in the Vatican Council among his peers; but he was still more conspicuous sitting solitary in his Prussian prison.
The loyalty of the Prussian clergy is above reproach. The Bishops are imprisoned because they insist on the right of educating students for the ministry, ordaining and appointing clergy, without consulting the government. They are denied a right which in this country is possessed by Free Masons and every other human organization in the land.
Perhaps a simple illustration will present to you in a clearer light the odious character of the penal laws to which I have alluded. Suppose the government of the United States were to issue a general order requiring the clergy of the various Christian denominations to be educated in government establishments, forcing them to take an oath before entering on the duties of the ministry, and forbidding the ecclesiastical authorities to appoint or remove any clergyman without permission of the civil power at Washington. Would not the American people rise up in their might before they would submit to have fetters so galling forged on their conscience? And yet this is precisely the odious legislation which the Prussian government is enacting against the Church. And the Catholic Church, in resisting these laws, is not only fighting her own battles, but she is contending for the principle of freedom of conscience everywhere.
But, thank God, we live in a country where liberty of conscience is respected, and where the civil constitution holds over us the aegis of her protection, without intermeddling with ecclesiastical affairs. From my heart, I say: America, with all thy faults, I love thee still. Perhaps at this moment there is no nation on the face of the earth where the Church is less trammelled, and where she has more liberty to carry out her sublime destiny than in these United States.
For my part, I much prefer the system which prevails in this country, where the temporal needs of the Church are supplied by voluntary contributions of the faithful, to the system which obtains in some Catholic countries of Europe, where the Church is supported by the government, thereby making feeble reparation for the gross injustice it has done to the Church by its former wholesale confiscation of ecclesiastical property. And the Church pays dearly for this indemnity, for she has to bear the perpetual attempts at interference and the vexatious enactments of the civil power, which aims at making her wholly dependent upon itself.
Some years ago, on my return from Rome, in company with the late Archbishop Spalding I paid a visit to the Bishop of Annecy, in Savoy. I was struck by the splendor of his palace and saw a sentinel at the door, placed there by the French government as a guard of honor. But the venerable Bishop soon disabused me of my favorable impressions. He told me that he was in a state of gilded slavery. I cannot, said he, build as much as a sacristy without obtaining permission of the government.
I do not wish to see the day when the Church will invoke or receive any government aid to build our churches, or to pay the salary of our clergy, for the government may then begin to dictate to us what doctrines we ought to preach. If it is a great wrong to muzzle the press, it is a greater wrong to muzzle the pulpit. No amount of State subsidy would compensate for the evils resulting from the Government censorship of the Gospel, and the suppression of Apostolic freedom in proclaiming it. St. Paul exults in the declaration that, though he is personally in chains, the word of God is not enchained.(316)
And moreover, in proportion as State patronage would increase, the sympathy and aid of the faithful would diminish.
May the happy condition of things now existing among us always continue, in which the relations between the clergy and the people will be direct and immediate, in which Bishops and Priests will bestow upon their spiritual children their voluntary labors, their tender solicitude, their paternal affection, and pour out like water their hearts' blood, if necessary; and in which they will receive in return the free-will offerings—the devotion and gratitude of a filial people.
CHARGES OF RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION.
I. The Spanish Inquisition.
But did not the Spanish Inquisition exercise enormous cruelties against heretics and Jews? I am not the apologist of the Spanish Inquisition, and I have no desire to palliate or excuse the excesses into which that tribunal may at times have fallen. From my heart I abhor and denounce every species of violence, and injustice, and persecution of which the Spanish Inquisition may have been guilty. And in raising my voice against coercion for conscience' sake I am expressing not only my own sentiments, but those of every Catholic Priest and layman in the land.
Our Catholic ancestors, for the last three hundred years, have suffered so much for freedom of conscience that they would rise up in judgment against us were we to become the advocates and defenders of religious persecution. We would be a disgrace to our sires were we to trample on the principle of liberty which they held dearer than life.
When I denounce the cruelties of the Inquisition I am not standing aloof from the Church, but I am treading in her footprints. Bloodshed and persecution form no part of the creed of the Catholic Church. So much does she abhor the shedding of blood that a man becomes disqualified to serve as a minister at her altars who, by act or counsel, voluntarily sheds the blood of another. Before you can convict the Church of intolerance you must first bring forward some authentic act of her Popes or Councils sanctioning the policy of vengeance. In all my readings I have yet to find one decree of hers advocating torture or death for conscience' sake. She is indeed intolerant of error; but her only weapons against error are those pointed out by St. Paul to Timothy: "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, entreat; rebuke with all patience and doctrine."(317)
But you will tell me: Were not the authors of the Inquisition children of the Church, and did they not exercise their enormities in her name? Granted. But I ask you: Is it just or fair to hold the Church responsible for those acts of her children which she disowns? You do not denounce liberty as mockery because many crimes are committed in her name; neither do you hold a father accountable for the sins of his disobedient children.
We should also bear in mind that the Spaniards were not the only people who have proscribed men for the exercise of their religious belief. If we calmly study the history of other nations our enmity towards Spain will considerably relax, and we shall have to reserve for her neighbors a portion of our indignation. No impartial student of history will deny that the leaders of the reformed religions, whenever they gained the ascendency, exercised violence toward those who differed from them in faith. I mention this not by way of recrimination, nor in palliation of the proscriptions of the Spanish government; for one offence is not justified by another. My object is merely to show that "they who live in glass houses should not throw stones;" and that it is not honest to make Spain the scapegoat, bearing alone on her shoulders the odium of religious intolerance.
It should not be forgotten that John Calvin burned Michael Servetus at the stake for heresy; that the arch-reformer not only avowed but also justified the deed in his writings; and that he established in Geneva an Inquisition for the punishment of refractory Christians.
It should also be remembered that Luther advocated the most merciless doctrine towards the Jews. According to his apologist Seckendorf, the German Reformer said that their synagogues ought to be destroyed, their houses pulled down, their prayer-books, and even the books of the Old Testament, to be taken from them. Their rabbis ought to be forbidden to teach and be compelled to gain their livelihood by hard labor.
It should also be borne in mind that Henry VIII. and his successors for many generations inflicted fines, imprisonment and death on thousands of their subjects for denying the spiritual supremacy of the temporal sovereign. This galling Inquisition lasted for nearly three hundred years, and the severity of its decrees scarcely finds a parallel in the Spanish Inquisition. Prescott avows that the administration of Elizabeth was "not a whit less despotic and scarcely less sanguinary than"(318) that of Isabella. The clergy of Ireland, under Cromwell, were ordered, under pain of death, to quit their country, and theological students were obliged to pursue their studies in foreign seminaries. Any Priest who dared to return to his native country forfeited his life. Whoever harbored a Priest suffered death, and they who knew his hiding-place and did not reveal it to the Inquisitors had both their ears cut off.
At this very moment not only in England, but in Ireland, Scotland and Holland, Protestants are worshiping in some of the churches erected by the piety of our Catholic forefathers and wrested from them by violence.
Observe, also, that in all these instances the persecutions were inflicted by the express authority of the founders and heads of Protestant churches.
The Puritans of New England inflicted summary vengeance on those who were rash enough to differ from them in religion. In Massachusetts "the Quakers were whipped, branded, had their ears cut off, their tongues bored with hot irons, and were banished upon pain of death in case of their return and actually executed upon the gallows."(319)
Who is ignorant of the number of innocent creatures that suffered death in the same State on the ridiculous charge of witchcraft toward the end of the seventeenth century? Well does it become their descendants to taunt Catholics with the horrors of the Spanish Inquisition!
In the religious riots of Philadelphia in 1844 Catholic churches were burned down in the name of Protestantism and private houses were sacked. I was informed by an eyewitness that owners of houses were obliged to mark on their doors these words, This house belongs to Protestants, in order to save their property from the infuriated incendiaries. For these acts I never heard of any retaliation on the part of Catholics, and I hope I never shall, no matter how formidable may be their numbers and tempting the provocation.
In spite of the boasted toleration of our times, it cannot be denied that there still lurks a spirit of inquisition, which does not, indeed, vent itself in physical violence, but is, nevertheless, most galling to its victims. How many persons have I met in the course of my ministry who were ostracized by their kindred and friends, driven from home, nay, disinherited by their parents, for the sole crime of carrying out the very shibboleth of Protestantism—the exercise of private judgment, and of obeying the dictates of their conscience, by embracing the Catholic faith! Is not this the most exquisite torture that can be inflicted on refined natures?
Ah! there is an imprisonment more lonely than the dungeon; it is the imprisonment of our most cherished thoughts in our own hearts, without a member of the family with whom to communicate.
There is a sword more keen than the executioner's knife; it is the envenomed tongue of obloquy and abuse. There is a banishment less tolerable than exile from one's country; it is the excommunication from the parental roof and from the affections of those we love.
Have I a right to hold the members of the Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian and Congregationalist churches responsible for these proscriptive measures to which I have referred, most of which have been authorized by their respective founders and leaders? God forbid! I know full well that these acts of cruelty form no part of the creed of the Protestant churches. I have been acquainted with Protestants from my youth. They have been among my most intimate and cherished friends, and, from my knowledge of them, I am convinced that they would discountenance any physical violence which would be inflicted on their fellow-citizens on account of their religious convictions. They would justly tell me that the persecutions of former years of which I have spoken should be ascribed to the peculiar and unhappy state of society in which their ancestors lived, rather than to the inherent principles of their religion.
For precisely the same reasons, and for reasons still more forcible, Protestants should not reproach the Catholic Church for the atrocities of the Spanish Inquisition. The persecutions to which I have alluded were for the most part perpetrated by the founders and heads of the Protestant churches, while the rigors of the Spanish tribunal were inflicted by laymen and subordinate ecclesiastics, either without the knowledge or in spite of the protests of the Bishops of Rome.
Let us now present the Inquisition in its true light. In the first place, the number of its victims has been wildly exaggerated, as even Prescott is forced to admit. The popular historian of the Inquisition is Llorente, from whom our American authors generally derive their information on this subject. Now who was Llorente? He was a degraded Priest, who was dismissed from the Board of Inquisitors, of which he had been Secretary. Actuated by interest and revenge, he wrote his history at the instance of Joseph Bonaparte, the new King of Spain, and, to please his royal master he did all he could to blacken the character of that institution. His testimony, therefore, should be received with great reserve. To give you one instance of his unreliability, he quotes the historian Mariana as his authority for saying that two thousand persons were put to death in one year in the dioceses of Seville and Cadiz alone. By referring to the pages of Mariana we find that author saying that two thousand were put to death in all Spain during the entire administration of Torquemada, which embraced a period of fifteen years.
Before beginning to examine the character of this tribunal it must be clearly understood that the Spanish Inquisition was not a purely ecclesiastical institution, but a mixed tribunal. It was conceived, systematized, regulated in all its procedures and judgments, equipped with officers and powers, and its executions, fines and confiscations were carried out by the royal authority alone, and not by the Church.(320)
To understand the true character of the Spanish Inquisition, and the motives which prompted King Ferdinand in establishing that tribunal, we must take a glance at the internal condition of Spain at the close of the fifteenth century. After a struggle of eight centuries the Spanish nation succeeded in overthrowing the Moors, and in planting the national flag over the entire country. At last the Cross conquered the Crescent, and Christianity triumphed over Mahometanism. The empire was consolidated under the joint reign of Ferdinand and Isabella.
But there still remained elements of discord in the nation. The population was composed of three conflicting races—the Spaniards, Moors and Jews. Perhaps the difficulties which beset our own Government in its efforts to harmonize the white, the Indian and the colored population, will give us some idea of the formidable obstacles with which the Spanish court had to contend in its efforts to cement into one compact nation a conquering and a conquered people of different race and religion.
The Jews and the Moors were disaffected toward the Spanish government not only on political, but also on religious grounds. They were suspected, and not unjustly, of desiring to transfer their allegiance from the King of Spain to the King of Barbary or to the Grand Turk.
The Spanish Inquisition was accordingly erected by King Ferdinand, less from motives of religious zeal than from those of human policy. It was established, not so much with the view of preserving the Catholic faith, as of perpetuating the integrity of his kingdom. The Moors and Jews were looked upon not only as enemies of the altar, but chiefly as enemies of the throne. Catholics were upheld not for their faith alone, but because they united faith to loyalty. The baptized Moors and Israelites were oppressed for their heresy because their heresy was allied to sedition.
It must be remembered that in those days heresy, especially if outspoken, was regarded not only as an offence against religion, but also as a crime against the state, and was punished accordingly. This condition of things was not confined to Catholic Spain, but prevailed across the sea in Protestant England. We find Henry VIII. and his successors pursuing the same policy in Great Britain toward their Catholic subjects and punishing Catholicism as a crime against the state, just as Islamism and Judaism were proscribed in Spain.
It was, therefore, rather a royal and political than an ecclesiastical institution. The King nominated the Inquisitors, who were equally composed of lay and clerical officials. He dismissed them at will. From the King, and not from the Pope, they derived their jurisdiction, and into the King's coffers, and not into the Pope's, went all the emoluments accruing from fines and confiscations. In a word, the authority of the Inquisition began and ended with the crown.
In confirmation of these assertions I shall quote from Ranke, a German Protestant historian, who cannot be suspected of partiality to the Catholic Church. "In the first place," says this author, "the Inquisitors were royal officers. The Kings had the right of appointing and dismissing them.... The courts of the Inquisition were subject, like other magistracies, to royal visitors. 'Do you not know,' said the King (to Ximenes), 'that if this tribunal possesses jurisdiction, it is from the King it derives it?'
"In the second place, all the profit of the confiscations by this court accrued to the King. These were carried out in a very unsparing manner. Though the fueros (privileges) of Aragon forbade the King to confiscate the property of his convicted subjects, he deemed himself exalted above the law in matters pertaining to this court.... The proceeds of these confiscations formed a sort of regular income for the royal exchequer. It was even believed, and asserted from the beginning, that the Kings had been moved to establish and countenance this tribunal more by their hankering after the wealth it confiscated than by motives of piety.
"In the third place, it was the Inquisition, and the Inquisition alone, that completely shut out all extraneous interference with the state. The sovereign had now at his disposal a tribunal from which no grandee, no Archbishop, could withdraw himself. As Charles knew no other means of bringing certain punishment on the Bishops who had taken part in the insurrection of the Communidades (or communes who were struggling for their rights and liberties), he chose to have them judged by the Inquisition....
"It was in spirit and tendency a political institution. The Pope had an interest in thwarting it, and he did so; but the King had an interest in constantly upholding it."(321)
That the Inquisition acted independently of the Holy See, and that even the Catholic hierarchy fell under the ban of this royal tribunal, is also apparent from the following fact: After the convening of the Council of Trent, Bartholomew Caranza, Archbishop of Toledo, was arrested by the Inquisition on a charge of heresy, and his release from prison could not be obtained either by the interposition of Pius IV. or the remonstrance of the Council.
It is true that Sixtus IV., yielding to the importunities of Queen Isabella, consented to its establishment, being advised that it was necessary for the preservation of order in the kingdom; but in 1481, the year following its introduction, when the Jews complained to him of its severity, the same Pontiff issued a Bull against the Inquisitors, as Prescott informs us, in which "he rebuked their intemperate zeal and even threatened them with deprivation." He wrote to Ferdinand and Isabella that "mercy towards the guilty was more pleasing to God than the severity which they were using."
When the Pope could not eradicate the evil he encouraged the sufferers to flee to Rome, where they found an asylum, and where he took the fugitives under his protection. In two years he received four hundred and fifty refugees from Spain. Did the Pontiff send them back, or did he inflict vengeance on them at home? Far from it; they were restored to all the rights of citizens. How can we imagine that the Pope would encourage in Spain the legalized murder of men whom he protected from violence in his own city, where he might have crushed them with impunity? I can find no authenticated instance of any Pope putting to death, in his own dominions, a single individual for his religious belief.
Moreover, sometimes the Pope, when he could not reach the victims, censured and excommunicated the Inquisitor, and protected the children of those whose property was confiscated to the crown.
After a struggle he succeeded in preventing the Spanish government from establishing its Inquisition in Naples or Milan, which then belonged to Spain, so great was his abhorence of its cruelties.
To sum up: I have endeavored to show that the Church disavows all responsibility for the excesses of the Spanish Inquisition, because oppression forms no part of her creed; that these atrocities have been grossly exaggerated; that the Inquisition was a political tribunal; that Catholic Prelates were amenable to its sentence as well as Moors and Jews, and that the Popes denounced and labored hard to abolish its sanguinary features.
And yet Rome has to bear all the odium of the Inquisition!
I heartily pray that religious intolerance may never take root in our favored land. May the only king to force our conscience be the King of kings; may the only prison erected among us for the sin of unbelief or misbelief be the prison of a troubled conscience; and may our only motive for embracing truth be not the fear of man, but the love of truth and of God.
II. What About The Massacre Of St. Bartholomew?
I have no words strong enough to express my detestation of that inhuman slaughter. It is true that the number of its victims has been grossly exaggerated by partisan writers, but that is no extenuation of the crime itself. I most emphatically assert that the Church had no act or part in this atrocious butchery, except to deplore the event and weep over its unhappy victims. Here are the facts briefly presented:
First—In the reign of Charles IX. of France the Huguenots were a formidable power and a seditious element in that country. They were under the leadership of Admiral Coligny, who was plotting the overthrow of the ruling monarch. The French King, instigated by his mother, Catherine de Medicis, and fearing the influence of Coligny, whom he regarded as an aspirant to the throne, compassed his assassination, as well as that of his followers in Paris, August 24th, 1572. This deed of violence was followed by an indiscriminate massacre in the French capital and other cities of France by an incendiary populace, who are easily aroused but not easily appeased.
Second—Religion had nothing to do with the massacre. Coligny and his fellow Huguenots were slain not on account of their creed, but exclusively on account of their alleged treasonable designs. If they had nothing but their Protestant faith to render them odious to King Charles, they would never have been molested; for, neither did Charles nor his mother ever manifest any special zeal for the Catholic Church nor any special aversion to Protestantism, unless when it threatened the throne.
Third—Immediately after the massacre Charles despatched an envoy extraordinary to each of the courts of Europe, conveying the startling intelligence that the King and royal family had narrowly escaped from a horrible conspiracy, and that its authors had been detected and summarily punished. The envoys, in their narration, carefully suppressed any allusion to the indiscriminate massacre which had taken place, but announced the event in the following words: On that "memorable night, by the destruction of a few seditious men, the King had been delivered from immediate danger of death, and the realm from the perpetual terror of civil war."
Pope Gregory XIII., to whom also an envoy was sent, acting on this garbled information, ordered a "Te Deum" to be sung, and a commemorative medal to be struck in thanksgiving to God, not for the massacre, of which he was utterly ignorant, but for the preservation of the French King from an untimely and violent death, and of the French nation from the horrors of a civil war.
Sismondi, a Protestant historian, tells us that the Pope's nuncio in Paris was purposely kept in ignorance of the designs of Charles; and Ranke, in his History of the Civil Wars, informs us that Charles and his mother suddenly left Paris in order to avoid an interview with the Pope's legate, who arrived soon after the massacre; their guilty conscience fearing, no doubt, a rebuke from the messenger of the Vicar of Christ, from whom the real facts were not long concealed.
Fourth—It is scarcely necessary to vindicate the innocence of the Bishops and clergy of France in this transaction, as no author, how hostile soever to the Church, has ever, to my knowledge, accused them of any complicity in the heinous massacre.
On the contrary, they used their best efforts to arrest the progress of the assailants, to prevent further bloodshed and to protect the lives of the fugitives. More than three hundred Calvinists were sheltered from the assassins by taking refuge in the house of the Archbishop of Lyons. The Bishops of Lisieux, Bordeaux, Toulouse and of other cities offered similar protection to those who sought safety in their homes.
Thus we see that the Church slept in tranquil ignorance of the stormy scene until she was aroused to a knowledge of the tempest by the sudden uproar it created. Like her Divine Spouse on the troubled waters, she presents herself only to say to them: "Peace be still."
III. Mary, Queen of England.
I am asked: _Must you not admit that Mary, Queen of England, persecuted the Protestants of the British realm_? I ask this question in reply: _How is it that Catholics are persistently reproached _ for the persecutions under Mary's reign, while scarcely a voice is raised in condemnation of the legalized fines, confiscations and deaths inflicted on the Catholics of Great Britain and Ireland for three hundred years—from the establishment of the church of England, in 1534, to the time of the Catholic emancipation?_ Elizabeth's hands were steeped in the blood of Catholics, Puritans and Anabaptists. Why are these cruelties suppressed or glossed over, while those of Mary form the burden of every nursery tale? Is it because persecution becomes justice when Catholics happen to be the victims, or is it because they are expected, from long usage, to be insensible to torture?
If we weigh in the scales of impartial justice the reigns of both sisters, we shall be compelled to bring a far more severe verdict against Elizabeth.
First—Mary reigned only five years and four months. Elizabeth's reign lasted forty-four years and four months. The younger sister, therefore, swayed the sceptre of authority nearly nine times longer than the elder; and the number of Catholics who suffered for their faith during the long administration of Elizabeth may be safely said to exceed in the same proportion the victims of Mary's reign. Hallam asserts that "the rack seldom stood idle in the tower for all the latter part of Elizabeth's reign;"(322) and its very first month was stained by an intolerant statute.(323)
Second—The most unpardonable act of Mary's life, in the judgment of her critics, was the execution of Lady Jane Grey. But Lady Jane was guilty of high treason, having usurped the throne of England, which she occupied for nine days. Elizabeth put to death her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots, after a long imprisonment, on the unsustained charge of aspiring to the English throne.
Third—Mary's zeal was exercised in behalf of the religion of her forefathers, and of the faith established in England for nearly a thousand years.
Elizabeth's zeal was employed in extending the new creed introduced by her father in a moment of passion, and modified by herself. Surely, the coercive enforcement of a new creed is more odious than the rigorous maintenance of the time-honored faith of a nation.
Mary, therefore, insisted on perpetuating the established order of things; Elizabeth on subverting it.
Fourth—The elder sister was propagating what she believed to be the unchangeable and infallible doctrines of Jesus Christ; the younger sister was propagating her own and her father's novel and more or less uncertain opinions.
Fifth—While Mary had no private or personal motives in oppressing Protestants, Elizabeth's hostility to the Catholic Church was intensified, if not instigated, by her hatred of the Pope, who had declared her illegitimate. Her legitimacy before the world depended on the success of the new religion, which had legalized her father's divorce from Catherine.
Sixth—Hence as Macaulay says, Mary was sincere in her religion; Elizabeth was not. "Having no scruple about conforming to the Romish Church when conformity was necessary to her own safety, retaining to the last moment of her life a fondness for much of the doctrine and much of the ceremonial of that Church, she yet subjected that Church to a persecution even more odious than the persecution with which her sister had harassed the Protestants. Mary ... did nothing for her religion which she was not prepared to suffer for it. She had held it firmly under persecution. She fully believed it to be essential to salvation. Elizabeth, in opinion, was little more than half a Protestant. She had professed, when it suited her, to be wholly a Catholic.... What can be said in defence of a ruler who is at once indifferent and intolerant?"(324)
An intelligent gentleman in North Carolina once said to me tauntingly, What do you think of bloody Mary? Did you ever hear, I replied, of her sister's cruelties to Catholics? He answered that he never read of that mild woman persecuting for conscience' sake. I was amazed at his words, until he acknowledged that his historical library was comprised in one work—D' Aubigne's History of the Reformation. That veracious author has prudently suppressed, or delicately touched, Elizabeth's peccadilloes as not coming within the scope of his plan. How many are found, like our North Carolina gentleman, who are familiar from their childhood with the name of Smithfield, but who never once heard of Tyburn!
GRACE—THE SACRAMENTS—ORIGINAL SIN—BAPTISM—ITS NECESSITY—ITS EFFECTS—MANNER OF BAPTIZING.
The grace of God is that supernatural assistance which He imparts to us, through the merits of Jesus Christ, for our salvation. It is called supernatural, because no one by his own natural ability can acquire it.
Without Divine grace we can neither conceive nor accomplish anything for the sanctification of our souls. "Not that we are sufficient," says the Apostle, "to think anything of ourselves, as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is from God."(325) "For it is God who worketh in you, both to will and to accomplish"(326) anything conducive to your salvation. "Without Me," says our Lord, "you can do nothing."(327) But in order that Divine grace may effectually aid us we must co-operate with it, or at least we must not resist it.
The grace of God is obtained chiefly by prayer and the Sacraments.
A Sacrament is a visible sign instituted by Christ by which grace is conveyed to our souls. Three things are necessary to constitute a Sacrament, viz.—a visible sign, invisible grace and the institution by our Lord Jesus Christ.
Thus, in the Sacrament of Baptism, there is the outward sign, which consists in the pouring of water and in the formula of words which are then pronounced; the interior grace or sanctification which is imparted to the soul: "Be baptized, ... and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost;"(328) and the ordinance of Jesus Christ, who said: "Teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."(329)
Our Savior instituted seven Sacraments, namely, Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, Extreme Unction, Orders and Matrimony, which I shall explain separately.
According to the teachings of Holy Writ, man was created in a state of innocence and holiness, and after having spent on this earth his allotted terms of years he was destined, without tasting death, to be translated to the perpetual society of God in heaven.(330) But in consequence of his disobedience he fell from his high estate of righteousness; his soul was defiled by sin; he became subject to death and to various ills of body and soul and forfeited his heavenly inheritance.
Adam's transgression was not confined to himself, but was transmitted, with its long train of dire consequences, to all his posterity. It is called original sin because it is derived from our original progenitor. "Wherefore," says St. Paul, "as by one man sin entered into this world, and by sin death, and so death passed unto all men, in whom all have sinned."(331) And elsewhere he tells us that "we were by nature children of wrath."(332)
"Who," says Job, "can make him clean that is conceived of unclean seed," or, as the Septuagint version expresses it: "There is no one free from stain, not even though his life be of one day."(333) As an infant one day old cannot commit an actual sin, the stain must come from the original offense of Adam. "Behold," says David, "I was conceived in iniquities, and in sins did my mother conceive me."(334) The Scripture also tells us that Jeremiah and John the Baptist were sanctified before their birth, or purified from sin, and, of course, at that period of their existence they were incapable of actual sin. They were cleansed, therefore, from the original taint.
These passages clearly show that we have all inherited the transgression of our first parents, and that we are born enemies of God. And it is equally plain that these texts apply to every member of the human family—to the infant of a day old as well as to the adult.
Indeed, even without the light of Holy Scripture, we have only to look into ourselves to be convinced that our nature has undergone a rude shock. How else can we account for the miseries and infirmities of our bodies, the blindness of our understanding, the perversity of our will—inclined always to evil rather than to good—the violence of our passions, which are constantly waging war in our hearts? How well does the Catholic doctrine explain this abnormal state. Hence, Paschal truly says that man is a greater mystery to himself without original sin than is the mystery itself.
The Church, however, declares that the Blessed Virgin Mary was exempted from the stain of original sin by the merits of our Savior Jesus Christ; and that, consequently, she was never for an instant subject to the dominion of Satan.
This is what is meant by the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.
But God, in passing sentence of condemnation on Adam, consoled him by the promise of a Redeemer to come. "I will put enmities," saith the Lord, "between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed; she shall crush thy head."(335) Jesus, the seed of Mary, is the chosen one who was destined to crush the head of the infernal serpent. And "when the fulness of time was come God sent His Son, made of a woman, ... that He might redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons."(336)
Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, came to wash away the defilement from our souls and to restore us to that Divine friendship which we had lost by the sin of Adam. He is the second Adam, who came to repair the iniquity of the first. It was our Savior's privilege to prescribe the conditions on which our reconciliation with God was to be effected.
Now He tells us in His Gospel that Baptism is the essential means established for washing away the stain of original sin and the door by which we find admittance into His Church, which may be called the second Eden. We must all submit to a new birth, or regeneration, before we can enter the kingdom of heaven. Water is the appropriate instrument of this new birth, as it indicates the interior cleansing of the soul; and the Holy Ghost, the Giver of spiritual life, is its Author.
The Church teaches that Baptism is necessary for all, for infants as well as adults, and her doctrine rests on the following grounds:
Our Lord says to Nicodemus: "Amen, amen, I say to thee, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."(337) These words embrace the whole human family, without regard to age or sex, as is evident from the original Greek text, for τις, which is rendered man in our English translation, means any one—mankind in its broadest acceptation.
The Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles of St. Paul, although containing only a fragmentary account of the ministry of the Apostles, plainly insinuate that the Apostles baptized children as well as grown persons. We are told, for instance, that Lydia "was baptized, and her household,"(338) by St. Paul; and that the jailer "was baptized, and all his family."(339) The same Apostle baptized also "the household of Stephanas."(340) Although it is not expressly stated that there were children among these baptized families, the presumption is strongly in favor of the supposition that there were. But if any doubt exists regarding the Apostolic practice of baptizing infants it is easily removed by referring to the writings of the primitive Fathers of the Church, who, as they were the immediate successors of the Apostles, ought to be the best interpreters of their doctrines and practice.
St. Irenaeus, a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of St. John the Evangelist, says: "Christ came to save all through Himself; all, I say, who are born anew (or baptized) through Him—infants and little ones, boys and youths, and aged persons."(341)
Origen, who lived a few years later, writes: "The Church received the tradition from the Apostles, to give baptism even to infants."(342)
The early church of Africa bears triumphant testimony in vindication of infant baptism. St. Cyprian and sixty-six suffragan Prelates held a council in the metropolitan city of Carthage, in the year 253. While the Council is in session a Prelate named Fidus writes to the Fathers, asking them whether infants ought to be baptized before the eighth day succeeding their birth, or on the eighth day, in accordance with the practice of circumcision. The Bishops unanimously subscribe to the following reply: "As to what regards the baptism of infants, ... we all judged that the mercy and grace of God should be denied to no human being from the moment of his birth. If even to the greatest delinquents the remission of sins is granted, how much less should the infant be repelled, who, being recently born according to Adam, has contracted at his first birth the contagion of the ancient death."(343) The African Council asserts here two prominent facts—the universal contagion of the human race through Adam's fall, and the universal necessity of Baptism without distinction of age.
Upon this decision, I will make two observations: First—Fidus did not inquire about the necessity of infant baptism, which he already admitted, but about the propriety of conferring it on the eighth day, in imitation of the Jewish law of circumcision. Second—The Bishops assembled in that Council were as numerous as the whole Episcopate of the United States, which contains about five thousand Priests and upwards of six millions of Catholics. We may therefore reasonably conclude that the judgment of the African Council represented the faith of several thousand Priests and several millions of Catholics.
St. Augustine, commenting on this decision, justly observes that St. Cyprian and his colleagues made no new decree, but maintained most firmly the faith of the Church. And this is the unanimous sentiment of tradition from the days of the Apostles to our own times.
Is it not ludicrous as well as impious to see a few German fanatics, in the sixteenth century, raising their feeble voice against the thunder tones of all Christendom, by decrying a practice which was universally held as sacred and essential? In judging between the teachings of Apostolical antiquity on the one hand and of the Anabaptists on the other, it is not hard to determine on which side lies the truth; for, what becomes of the Christian Church, if it has erred on so vital a point as that of Baptism during the entire period of its existence?
Original sin, as St. Paul has told us, is universal. Every child is, therefore, defiled at its birth with the taint of Adam's disobedience. Now, the Scripture says that nothing defiled can enter the kingdom of heaven.(344) Hence Baptism, which washes away original sin, is as essential for the infant as for the full grown man, in order to attain the kingdom of heaven.
I said that regeneration is necessary for all. But it is important to observe that if a man is heartily sorry for his sins, if he loves God with his whole heart, if he desires to comply with all the Divine ordinances, including Baptism, but has no opportunity of receiving it, or is not sufficiently instructed as to its necessity, God, in this case, accepts the will for the deed. Should this man die in these dispositions, he is saved by the _baptism of _ desire_, as happened to the Emperor Valentinian who died a Catechuman: "I lost him whom I was about to regenerate," says St. Ambrose, "but he did not lose that grace he sought for." Or, if an unbaptized person lays down his life for Christ, his death is accepted as more than an equivalent for baptism; for he dies not only sanctified, but he will wear a martyr's crown. _He is baptized in his own blood._
But is not that a cruel and heartless doctrine which excludes from heaven so many harmless babes that have never committed any actual fault? To this I reply: Has not God declared that Baptism is necessary for all? And is not God the supreme Wisdom and Justice and Mercy? I am sure, then, that there can be nothing cruel or unjust in God's decrees. The province of reason consists in ascertaining that God has spoken. When we know that He has spoken, then our investigation ceases, and faith and obedience begin. Instead of impiously criticising the Divine decree, we should exclaim with the Apostle: "O! the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how incomprehensible are His judgments, and how unsearchable His ways! For, who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been His counsellor?"(345)
Let us remember that heaven is a place to which none of us has any inherent right or natural claim, but that it is promised to us by the pure favor of God. He can reject and adopt whom He pleases, and can, without injustice, prescribe His own conditions for accepting His proffered boon. If your child is deprived of heaven by being deprived of Baptism, God does it no wrong because He infringes no right to which your child had any inalienable title. If your child obtains the grace of Baptism be thankful for the gift.
It is proper here to state briefly what the Church actually teaches regarding the future state of unbaptized infants. Though the Church, in obedience to God's Word, declares that unbaptized infants are excluded from the kingdom of heaven, it should not hence be concluded that they are consigned to the place of the reprobate. None are condemned to the torments of the damned but such as merit Divine vengeance by their personal sins.
All that the Church holds on this point is that unregenerate children are deprived of the beatific vision, or the possession of God, which constitutes the essential happiness of the blessed.
Now, between the supreme bliss of heaven and the torments of the reprobate, there is a very wide margin.
All admit that the condition of unbaptized infants is better than non-existence. There are some Catholic writers of distinction who even assert that unbaptized infants enjoy a certain degree of natural beatitude—that is, a happiness which is based on the natural knowledge and love of God.
From what has been said you may well judge how reprehensible is the conduct of Catholic parents who neglect to have their children baptized at the earliest possible moment, thereby risking their own souls, as well as the souls of their innocent offspring. How different was the practice of the early Christians, who, as St. Augustine testifies, hastened with their new-born babes to the baptismal font that they might not be deprived of the grace of regeneration.
If an infant is sick, no expense is spared that its life may be preserved. The physician is called in, medicine is given to it, and the mother will spend sleepless nights watching every movement of the infant; she will sacrifice her repose, her health; nay, she will expose even her own life that the life of her offspring may be saved. And yet the supernatural happiness of the child is too often imperiled without remorse by the criminal postponement of Baptism.
But if they are to be censured who are slow in having their children baptized, what are we to think of that large body of professing Christians who, on principle, deny Baptism to little ones till they come to the age of discretion? What are we to think of those who set their private opinions above Scripture, the early Fathers of the Church and the universal practice of Christendom?
We may smile indeed at a theological opinion, no matter how novel or erroneous it may be, so long as it does not involve any dangerous consequences. But when it is given in a case of life and death, how terrible is the responsibility of those who propagate doctrines so erroneous!
The opposite practice of the Catholic and the Baptist churches, in their treatment of the newborn infant, may be well compared to the conduct of the true and the false mother who both claimed the child at the tribunal of Solomon. The king exclaimed: "Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one and half to the other." The pretended mother consented, saying: Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it. "But the woman whose child was alive, said to the king (for her bowels were moved upon her child): I beseech thee, my lord, give her the child alive, and do not kill it." While the Baptist church is willing that the child should die a spiritual death, the true mother, the Catholic Church, cries out: Keep the child, provided its spiritual life is saved, even at your hands. Let it be clothed with the robe of innocence even by a stranger. Let it be nursed at the breasts even of a step-mother. Better it should live without me than perish before my face. I will still be its mother, though it know me not.
Ah! my Baptist friend, you think that Baptism is not necessary for your child's salvation. The old Church teaches the contrary. You admit that you may be wrong, and it is a question of life and death. Take the safe side. Give your child the benefit of the doubt. Let it be baptized.
Baptism washes away original sin, and also actual sins from the adult who may have contracted them. The cleansing efficacy of Baptism was clearly foreshadowed by the prophet Ezechiel in these words: "I will pour upon you clean water, and you shall be cleansed from all your filthiness. And I will give you a new heart and will put a new spirit within you."(346)
When the Jews asked St. Peter what they should do to be saved the Apostle replied: "Repent, and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins."(347)
And Ananias said to Saul, after his conversion: "Rise up and be baptized, and wash away thy sins."(348)
"We were by nature," says St. Paul, "children of wrath," but by our regeneration, or new birth in Baptism, we become Christians and children of God. "For, ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized in Christ have put on Christ."(349) We are adopted into the same family with Jesus Christ. What He is by nature we are by grace—children of God, and consequently brethren of Christ. Nay, our union with Jesus is still more close. We become true members of His mystical body, which is His Church, and His Divine image is stamped upon our soul.
Baptism also clothes us with the garment of sanctity, so that our soul becomes a fit dwelling-place for the Holy Ghost. The Apostle, after giving a fearful catalogue of the vices of the Pagans, says to the Corinthians: "And such some of you were; but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of God."(350)
Baptism, in fine, makes us heirs of heaven and co-heirs with Jesus Christ. "We ourselves also," says St. Paul, "were sometimes unwise, incredulous, erring, slaves to divers desires and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But when the goodness and kindness of God our Savior appeared, ... He saved us by the laver of regeneration and renovation of the Holy Ghost, whom He hath poured forth abundantly upon us, through Jesus Christ our Savior, that being justified by His grace, we may be heirs, according to the hope of life everlasting."(351)
Here we plainly see that the forgiveness of sin, the adoption into the family of God, the sanctification of the soul and the pledge of eternal life are ascribed to the due reception of Baptism—not, indeed, that water or the words of the minister have any intrinsic virtue to heal the soul, but because Jesus Christ, whose word is creative power, is pleased to attach to this rite its wonderful efficacy of healing the soul, as He imparted to the pool of Bethsaida the power of healing the body.(352)
From what has been said, I ask you candidly what are you to think of the decision rendered in 1872 by the Bishops of the Protestant Episcopal Church, who, in their convention in Baltimore, declared that by the word regeneration we are not to understand a moral change. If no moral change is effected by Baptism, then there is no change at all; for certainly Baptism produces no physical change in the soul.
Is it no change to pass from sin to virtue, from a "child of wrath" to be a "child of God;" from corruption to sanctification; from the condition of heirs of death to the inheritance of heaven? If all this implies no moral change, then these words have lost their meaning.
Modes of baptizing. The Baptists err in asserting that Baptism by immersion is the only valid mode. Baptism may be validly administered in either of three ways, viz: by immersion, or by plunging the candidate into the water; by infusion, or by pouring the water; and by aspersion, or sprinkling.
As our Lord nowhere prescribes any special form of administering the Sacrament, the Church exercises her discretion in adopting the most convenient mode, according to the circumstances of time and place.
For several centuries after the establishment of Christianity Baptism was usually conferred by immersion; but since the twelfth century the practice of baptising by infusion has prevailed in the Catholic Church, as this manner is attended with less inconvenience than Baptism by immersion.
To prove that Baptism by infusion or by sprinkling is as legitimate as by immersion, it is only necessary to observe that, though immersion was the more common practice in the Primitive Church, the Sacrament was frequently administered even then by infusion and aspersion.
After St. Peter's first discourse three thousand persons were baptized.(353) It is not likely that so many could have been immersed in one day, especially when we consider the time occupied in instructing the candidates.
On reading the account of the Baptism of St. Paul and the jailer the context leaves a strong impression on the mind that both received the Sacrament by aspersion or by infusion.
Early ecclesiastical history records a great many instances in which Baptism was administered to sick persons in their beds, to prisoners in their cells, and to persons on shipboard. The Fathers of the Church never called in question the validity or the legitimacy of such Baptisms. Now, it is almost impossible to believe that candidates in such situations could receive the rite by immersion.
We have seen, moreover, that Baptism has always been declared necessary for salvation. It is reasonable, hence, to believe that our Lord would have afforded the greatest facility for the reception of so essential a Sacrament.
But if Baptism by immersion only is valid, how many sick and delicate persons, how many prisoners and seafaring people, how many thousands living in the frigid zone, or even in the temperate zone, in the depth of an inclement winter, though craving the grace of regeneration, would be deprived of God's seal, or would receive it at the risk of their lives! Surely God does not ordinarily impose His ordinances upon us under such a penalty.
Moreover, if immersion is the only valid form of Baptism, what has become of the millions of souls who, in every age and country, have been regenerated by the infusion or the aspersion of water in the Christian Church?
THE SACRAMENT OF CONFIRMATION.
Confirmation is a Sacrament in which, through the imposition of the Bishop's hands, unction and prayer, baptized persons receive the Holy Ghost, that they may steadfastly profess their faith and lead upright lives.
This Sacrament is called Confirmation, because it confirms or strengthens the soul by Divine grace. Sometimes it is named the laying on of hands, because the Bishop imposes his hands on those whom he confirms. It is also known by the name of Chrism, because the forehead of the person confirmed is anointed with chrism in the form of a cross.
Frequent mention is made of this Sacrament in the Holy Scripture. In the Acts it is written that "When the Apostles who were in Jerusalem had heard that Samaria had received the Word of God they sent unto them Peter and John, who, when they were come, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Ghost; for He was not yet come upon any of them, but they were only baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost."(354)
It is also related that the disciples at Ephesus "were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, and when Paul had imposed his hands upon them the Holy Ghost came upon them and they spoke tongues and prophesied."(355)
In his Epistle to the Hebrews St. Paul enumerates Confirmation, or the laying on of hands, together with Baptism and Penance, among the fundamental truths of Christianity.(356)
To the Corinthians he writes: "He that confirmeth us with you in Christ, and that hath anointed us, is God; who also hath sealed us and given the pledge of the Spirit in our hearts."(357) God confirmeth us in faith; He hath anointed us by spiritual unction, typified by the sacred chrism which is marked on our foreheads. He hath sealed us by the indelible character stamped on our souls, which is indicated by the sign of the cross impressed on us. He hath given the pledge of the Holy Ghost in our hearts, by the testimony of a good conscience, as an earnest of future glory. The Bishop performs the external unction, but God, "who worketh all in all," sanctifies the soul by His secret operation.
It cannot be asserted that the laying on of hands and the graces which followed from it, as recorded in the Acts, were not intended to be continued after the Apostles' times, for there is no warrant for such an assumption. This function of imposing hands formed as regular and imperative a part of the Apostolic ministry as the duties which they exercised in preaching, baptizing, ordaining, etc. Hence the successors of the Apostles in the nineteenth century have precisely the same authority and obligation to confirm as they have to preach, to baptize or to ordain.
Those who were confirmed by the Apostles usually gave evidence of the grace which they received by prophecy, the gift of tongues and the manifestation of other miraculous powers. It may be asked: Why do not these gifts accompany now the imposition of hands? I answer: Because they are no longer needed. The grace which the Apostolic disciples received was for their personal sanctification. The gift of tongues which they exercised was intended by Almighty God to edify and enlighten the spectators, and to give Divine sanction to the Apostolic ministry. But now that the Church is firmly established, and the Divine authority of her ministry is clearly recognized, these miracles are no longer necessary. St. Gregory illustrates this point by a happy comparison: As the sapling, he says, when it is first planted is regularly watered by the gardener, who softens the earth around it, that the sun and the moisture may nourish its roots until it takes deep root and it no longer requires any special care, so the Church in her infancy had to be nourished by the miraculous power of God. But after it had taken root in the hearts of the people and spread its branches over the earth it was left to the ordinary agencies of Providence.
St. Augustine writes also on the same subject: "In the first days (of the Church) the Holy Ghost came down on believers, and they spoke in tongues which they had not learned.... These were miracles suited to the times.... Is it now expected that they upon whom hands are laid should speak with tongues? Or, when we imposed hands on these children, did each of you wait to see whether they would speak with tongues?... If, then, there be not now a testimony to the presence of the Holy Spirit by means of these miracles, whence is it proved that he has received the Holy Spirit? Let him ask his own heart; if he loves his brother, the Spirit of God abides in him."(358)
Following in the footsteps of the Apostles we find the Fathers of the Church, from the earliest age, recognizing Confirmation as a Divine and sacramental institution and proclaiming its salutary effects.
"The flesh," says Tertullian, "is anointed, that the soul may be consecrated; the flesh is marked, that the soul may be fortified; the flesh is overshadowed by the imposition of hands, that the soul may be enlightened with the Spirit."(359)
St. Cyprian, speaking of the Christians baptized in Samaria, says: "Because they had received the legitimate baptism, ... what was wanting, that was done by Peter and John, that prayer being made for them and hands imposed, the Holy Ghost should be invoked and poured forth upon them. Which now also is done amongst us, so that they who are baptized in the Church are presented to the Bishops of the Church, and by our prayer and imposition of hands they receive the Holy Ghost and are perfected with the seal of the Lord."(360)
St. Cyril of Jerusalem compares the sacred Chrism in Confirmation to the Eucharist: "You were anointed with oil, being made sharers and partners of Christ. And see well that you regard it not as mere ointment; for, as the bread of the Eucharist, after the invocation of the Holy Ghost, is no longer mere bread but the body of Christ, so likewise this holy ointment is no longer common ointment after the invocation, but the gift of Christ and of the Holy Ghost, being rendered efficient by His Divinity. You were anointed on the forehead, that you might be delivered from the shame which the first transgressor always experienced, and that you might contemplate the glory of God with an unveiled countenance.... As Christ, after His baptism and the descent of the Holy Ghost upon Him, going forth overcame the adversary, so you likewise, after holy baptism and the mysterious unction, clothed with the panoply of the Holy Ghost, stand against the adverse power and subdue it, saying: 'I can do all things in Christ, who strengtheneth me.' "(361)
St. Ambrose, commenting on these words of the Apostle, "God ... hath given us the pledge of the Spirit," (II. Cor. i. 22) expressly applies the text to the seal of Confirmation. "Remember," he says, "that you have received the spiritual seal, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and fortitude, the spirit of knowledge and piety, the spirit of holy fear. God the Father hath sealed you; Christ the Lord hath confirmed you, and hath given the pledge of the Spirit in your hearts, as you have learned from the lesson read from the Apostle."(362)
St. Ambrose here speaks of the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Ghost which are received in Confirmation, and every Bishop in our day invokes these same gifts on those whom he is about to confirm.
"Do you know," writes St. Jerome against the sect of Luciferians of his time, "that it is the practice of the churches that the imposition of hands should be performed over baptized persons and the Holy Ghost thus invoked? Do you ask where it is written? In the Acts of the Apostles; but were there no Scriptural authority at hand the consent of the whole world in this regard would have the force of law."(363)
"You willingly understand," says St. Augustine, "by this ointment the Sacrament of Chrism, which, indeed, in the class of visible seals is as sacred as Baptism itself."(364)
The Oriental schismatic churches recognize Confirmation as a Sacrament, and administer the rite as we do, by the imposition of hands and the application of chrism. Now, some of these churches have been separated from the Catholic Church since the fourth and fifth centuries. This fact is an eloquent vindication of the Apostolic antiquity of Confirmation, and is an ample refutation of those who would ascribe to it a more recent origin.
Protestantism, which made such havoc of the other Sacraments, did not fail to abolish Confirmation in its sweeping revolution.
The Episcopal church retains, indeed, the name of Confirmation in its ritual, and even borrows a portion of our prayers and ceremonial. But, in opposition to the uniform teaching of the Catholic, as well as of all the Oriental churches, both orthodox and schismatic, it declares Confirmation to be a mere rite and not a Sacrament.
In violation of the practice of all antiquity it mutilates the rite by omitting the sacred unction. It retains the shadow without the substance.
It raises, indeed, its hands over the candidates; but they are not the anointed hands of Peter or John, or Cyprian or Augustine, to whom it is said: "Whatsoever thou shalt bless, let it be blessed; whatsoever thou shalt sanctify, let it be sanctified."(365) Their hands were lifted up with authority and clothed with supernatural power; but the hands of the Episcopal Bishops are spiritually paralyzed by the suicidal act of the Reformers, and they expressly disclaim any sacramental efficacy in the rite which they administer.
THE HOLY EUCHARIST.
Among the various dogmas of the Catholic Church there is none which rests on stronger Scriptural authority than the doctrine of the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist. So copious, indeed, and so clear are the passages of the New Testament which treat of this subject that I am at a loss to determine which to select, and find it difficult to compress them all within the compass of this short chapter.
The Evangelists do not always dwell upon the same mysteries of religion. Their practice is rather to supplement each other, so that one of them will mention what the others have omitted or have touched in a cursory way. But in regard to the Blessed Eucharist the sacred writers exhibit a marked deviation from this rule. We find that the four Evangelists, together with St. Paul, have written so explicitly and abundantly on this subject that one of them alone would be amply sufficient to prove the dogma without taking them collectively.