The Purpose of the Papacy
by John S. Vaughan
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- Transcriber's Notes: Fixed a few obvious typos in the text: actually for actully, origin for orgin; and changed the case of "sees" to "Sees". -




"Let us go back to the beginning of the sixteenth century. Either there was a Church of God then in the world, or there was not. If there was not, then the Reformers certainly could not create such a Church. It there was, they as certainly had neither the right to abandon it, nor the power to remodel it."—J.K. STONE.





It may seem an impertinence on the present writer's part to indite a preface to the work of a brother Bishop; and it would be a still greater one to pretend to introduce the Author of this little book to the reading public, to whom he is so well and so favourably known by a stately array of preceding volumes. Nevertheless Bishop Vaughan has been so insistent on my contributing at least a few introductory lines, that, for old friendship's sake, I can no longer refuse.

It is a remarkable and outstanding fact that never before in the history of the Church has the Roman Papacy, though shorn of every vestige of its once formidable temporal might, loomed greater in the world, ruled over such vast multitudes of the faithful, or exercised a greater moral power than at the present day. Never has the conscious unity of the whole world-wide Church with its Visible Head—thanks to the marvellous developments of modern means of communication and transport—been so vivid, so general, so intense as in these times. Not only does "the Pope's writ run," as we may say, by post and telegraph, and penetrate to the inmost recesses of every part of the globe, so that the Holy See is in daily, nay hourly communication with every bishop and every local Catholic community; but never has there been a time when so many thousands, nay tens of thousands of Catholic clergy and laity, even from the remotest lands, have actually seen the Vicar of Christ with their own eyes, heard his voice, received his personal benediction. Well may we say to Pius X. as to Leo XIII.: "Lift up thy eyes round about and see; all these are gathered together, they are come to thee; thy sons shall come from afar, and thy daughters shall rise up at thy side. Then shalt thou see and abound, and thy heart shall wonder and be enlarged, when the multitude of the sea shall be converted to thee, the strength of the Gentiles shall come to thee" (Isaias, lx. 4, 5).

But not only is the present position of the Papacy thus unique and phenomenal in the world; as the Author of this little book shows in his first part, its career across the more than nineteen centuries of the world's chequered history, from Peter to Pius X., is no less unique and no less phenomenal. This is a fact which may well rivet the attention, not of the Catholic alone, but of every thinking man, be he Christian or non-Christian, and which surely calls for some explanation that lies beyond and above that of the ordinary phenomena of history. The only possible satisfactory solution of this problem is the one so concisely, yet so simply, set forth in the following pages.

The second part is concerned with a more particular aspect of the same problem, in its relation to the Church in this country, and especially to that incredible latter-day myth which goes by the name of "the Continuity Theory". It is difficult to us to realise how such a theory can possibly be held by thoughtful and earnest men and women who have even a moderate acquaintance with history. Bishop Vaughan applies more than one touchstone, which, one would imagine, ought to be sufficient to prove to any unprejudiced mind the falsity of that theory. Among these, what I may call the "pallium touchstone,"—which still bears its irrefragable testimony in the arms of the Archbishops of Canterbury,[1]—has always appeared to me peculiarly conclusive.[2]

In the present small volume, Bishop Vaughan adds another to the series of popular and instructive books which have made his name a household word among Catholic writers. May its success and its utility be as great as in the case of those which have preceded it.

[cross] LOUIS CHARLES, Bishop of Salford.


[Footnote 1: Not in those of York since 1544, see Woodward's Ecclesiastical Heraldry, p. 191 and plate XX.]

[Footnote 2: See The Pallium, by Fr. Thurston, S.J., (C.T.S.) and the striking list in Baxter's English Cardinals, pp. 93-98.]


The following chapters were not intended originally for publication. If they are now offered to the public in book form, it is only in response to the expressed request of many, who listened to them when delivered viva voce, and who now wish to possess a more permanent record of what was said.

In the hope that they may help, in some slight measure at least, to promote the sacred cause of truth, we wish them Godspeed.

[cross] JOHN S. VAUGHAN, Bishop of Sebastopolis.



















No one who is given to serious reflection, can gaze over the face of the earth at the present day without being struck by the religious confusion that everywhere reigns. Who, indeed, can help being staggered as well as saddened by the extraordinary differences, the irreconcilable views, and the diversities of opinion, even upon fundamental points, that are found dividing Christians in Protestant lands! The number of sects has so multiplied, that an earnest enquirer scarcely knows which way to turn, or where to look for the pure unadulterated truth. A spiritual darkness hangs over the non-Catholic world; and chaos seems to have come again.

Yet, amid this almost universal confusion, one bright and luminous path may be easily descried. As a broad highroad runs straight through some tangled forest, so this path runs through the ages, from the time of Christ, even to the present day.

We can trace its course, from its earliest inception in apostolic times, and then in its development age after age, down to our own day: from Peter to Gregory, from Gregory to Leo, and from Leo to Pius X., now gloriously reigning. We refer to the mystical (and one might almost say the miraculous) path trodden by the Popes, each Pontiff carrying in turn, and then handing on to his successor, the glorious torch of divine truth. Though clouds may gather and thunders may roll, and tempests may rage, and though the surrounding darkness may grow deeper and deeper, that supernatural light has never failed, nor grown dim, nor refused to shed its beams and to illuminate the way.[3]

The continual persistency of the Papacy, to whom this steadily burning torch of truth has been entrusted, is unquestionably one of the most certain, as it is one of the most startling facts in the whole of history. It stares us full in the face. It arrests the attention of even the least observant. It puzzles the historian. It taxes the explanatory powers of the philosopher, and will remain to the end, a permanent difficulty to the scoffer and to the sceptic, and to all those who have not faith. As a fact in history, it is unique: forming an extraordinary exception to the law of universal change: a portent, and a standing miracle. Its persistence, century after century, in spite of fire and sword; of persecution from without, and of treachery from within; in prosperity, and in adversity; in honour and dishonour; while kingdoms rise and fall; and while one civilisation yields to a higher, and the very conditions of society shift and change, is deeply significative, and betokens an inherent strength and vitality that is more than natural and that must be referred to some source greater than itself, yea, to a power far mightier than anything in this world,—viz., to the abiding presence and divine support of Christ the Man-God.

Verily, there is but one possible explanation, and that explanation is furnished us, by the words of the promise made by God-incarnate, viz., "Behold, I am with you all days, even unto the consummation of the world" (Matt, xxviii. 20). Yes, I, Who am "the true light which enlighteneth every man that cometh into this world" (John i. 9), "will abide with you for ever, and will lead you into all truth" (John xvi. 13).

If but few persons, outside the Catholic Church, realise the force and import of these words, it is because few realise the absolute and irresistible power of Him Who gave them utterance. With their lips they profess Christ to be God, but then, strange to relate, they proceed to reason and to argue, just as though He were merely man—one, that is to say, Who, when He established His Church, did not consider nor bear in mind man's weakness and fickleness, and who possessed no power to see the outcome of His own policy, nor the difficulties that it would engender, nor the future multiplication of the faithful, in every part of the world. For, did He know and foresee all these things, He must have guarded against them; and this they practically deny, by continuing to associate themselves with churches where His promises are in no sense fulfilled, and where His most solemn pledges remain unredeemed. We refer to those churches wherein there is no recognised infallible authority; in fact, nothing to protect their subjects from the inroads of the world, and from the faults and errors inseparable from the exercise of purely human and fallible reason.

Those, however, who can put aside such false notions, and awaken to the real facts, will find the truth growing luminous before their gaze. History constrains them to admit that it was Christ Who established the Church, with its supreme head, and its various members. But Christ is verily God; of the same nature, and one with the Father, and possessing the same divine attributes. Now, since He is God, there is to Him no future, just as there is no past. To him, all is equally present. Hence, in establishing a Church, and in providing it with laws and a constitution, He did this, not tentatively, not experimentally, not in ignorance of man's needs and weaknesses, and folly, but with a most perfect foreknowledge of every circumstance and event, actual and to come. He spoke and ordered and arranged all things, with His eyes clearly fixed on the most remote ages, no less than on the present and the actual. We mortals write history after the characters have already lived and died, and when nations have already developed and run their course. But with Christ, the whole history of man, his wars and his conquests, his vices and his virtues, his religious opinions and doctrines, had been already written and completed, down to the very last line of the very last chapter, an eternity before He assumed our nature and founded His Church. It was with this most intimate knowledge before Him, that He promised to provide us with a reliable and infallible teacher, who should safeguard His doctrine, and publish the glad tidings of the Gospel, throughout all time, even unto the consummation of the world. Since it is God Who promises, it follows, with all the rigour of logic, that this fearless Witness and living Teacher must be a fact, not a figment; a stupendous reality, not a mere name; One, in a word, possessing and wielding the self-same authority as Himself, and to be received and obeyed and accepted as Himself: "Who heareth you heareth Me" (Luke x. 16).

This teacher was to be a supreme court of appeal, and a tribunal, before which every case could be tried, and definitely settled, once for all. And since this tribunal was a divine creation, and invested by God Himself with supernatural powers for that specific purpose, it must be fully equipped, and thoroughly competent and equal to its work. For God always adapts means to ends. Hence it can never resemble the tribunals existing in man-made churches, which can but mutter empty phrases, suggest compromises, and clothe thought in wholly ambiguous language—tribunals that dare not commit themselves to anything definite and precise. Yea, which utterly fail and break down just at the critical moment, when men are dividing and disagreeing among themselves, and most needing a prompt and clear decision, which may close up the breach and bring them together.

No! The decisions of the authority set up by Christ are in very truth—just what we expect to find them—viz., clear, ringing and definite. They divide light from darkness, as by a divine hand; and segregate truth from error, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.

Christ promised as much as this, and if He keep not His promise, then He can hold out no claim to be God, for though Heaven and earth may pass away, God's words shall never pass away. That He did so promise is quite evident; and may be proved, first, explicitly, and from His own words, and secondly, implicitly, from the very necessity of the case; and from the whole history of religious development. Cardinal Newman, even before his reception into the Church, was so fully persuaded of this, that he wrote: "If Christianity is both social and dogmatic, and intended for all ages, it must, humanly speaking, have an infallible expounder.... By the Church of England a hollow uniformity is preferred to an infallible chair; and by the sects in England an interminable division" (Develop., etc., p. 90). In the Catholic Church alone the need is fully met.

The Church is established on earth by the direct act of God, and is set "as an army in battle array". It exists for the express purpose of combating error and repressing evil, in whatever form it may appear; and whether it be instigated by the devil, or the world, or the flesh. But, let us ask, Who ever heard of an army without a chief? An army without a supreme commander is an army without subordination and without law or order; or rather, it is not an army at all, but a rabble, a mob.

The supreme head of Christ's army—of Christ's Church upon earth, is our Sovereign Lord the Pope. Some will not accept his rule, and refuse to admit his authority. But this is not only to be expected. It was actually foretold. As they cried out, of old, to one even greater than the Pope, "We will not have this man to reign over us" (Luke xix. 14), so now men of similar spirit repeat the self-same cry, with regard to Christ's vicar.

Nevertheless, wheresoever his authority is loyally accepted, and where submission, respect and obedience are shown to him, there results the order and harmony and unity promised by Christ: while, on the contrary, where he is not suffered to reign there is disorder, rivalry and sects.

To be able to look forward and to foresee such opposite results would perhaps need a prophetic eye, an accurate estimate of human nature, and a very nice balancing of cause and effect. It could be the prognostication only of a wise, judicious, and observant mind. But we are now looking, not forwards, but backwards, and in looking backwards the case is reduced to the greatest simplicity, so that even a child can understand; and "he that runs may read".

The simplest intelligence, if only it will set aside prejudice and pride, and just attend and watch, will be led, without difficulty, to the following conclusions: firstly, without an altogether special divine support, no authority can claim and exercise infallibility in its teaching; and secondly, without such infallibility in its teaching no continuous unity can be maintained among vast multitudes of people, least of all concerning dogmas most abstruse, mysteries most sublime and incomprehensible, and laws and regulations both galling and humiliating to human arrogance and pride.

It is precisely because the Catholic Church alone possesses such a supreme and infallible authority that she alone is able to present to the world that which follows directly from it, namely a complete unity and cohesion within her own borders.

Yes! Strange to say: the Catholic Church to-day stands alone! There is no rival to dispute with her, her unique and peerless position. Of all the so-called Christian Churches, throughout the world, so various and so numerous, and, in many cases, so modern and so fantastic, there is not a single one that can approach her, even distantly, whether it be in (a) the breadth of her influence, or in (b) the diversity and dissimilarity of her adherents, or in (c) the number of her children, or in (d) the extent of her conquests, or (e) in the absolute unity of her composition.

Even were it possible to unite into one single body the great multitude of warring sects, of which Protestantism is made up, such a body would fall far short of the stature of her who has received the gentiles for her inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for her possession (Ps. ii. 8), and who has the Holy Ghost abiding with her, century after century, in order that she may be "a witness unto Christ, in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and even to the uttermost parts of the world" (Acts i. 8). But we cannot, even in thought, unite such contradictories, such discordant elements; any more than we can reduce the strident sounds of a multitude of cacophonous instruments to one harmonious and beautiful melody.

And if the Catholic Church stands thus alone, again we repeat, it is because no other has received the promise of divine support, or even cares to recognise that such a promise was ever made. The Catholic Church has been the only Church not only to exercise, but even to claim the prerogative of infallibility: but she has claimed this from the beginning. Every child born into her fold has been taught to profess and to believe, firstly, that the Catholic Church is the sole official and God-appointed guardian of the sacred deposit of divine truth, and, secondly, that she, and no other, enunciates to the entire world—to all who have ears to hear—the full revelation of Christ—His truth; the whole truth, and nothing but the truth; fulfilling, to the letter, the command of her Divine Master, "Go into the whole world, and preach the Gospel to every creature" (Mark xvi. 15).

How has this been possible? Simply and solely because God, Who promised that "the Spirit of Truth" (i.e., the Holy Ghost) "should abide with her for ever; and should guide her in all truth" (John xiv. 16, xvi. 12), keeps His promise. When our Lord promised to "be with" the teaching Church, in the execution of the divine commission assigned to it, "always" and "to the end of the world," that promise clearly implied, and was a guarantee, first, that the teaching authority should exist indefectibly to the end of the world; and secondly, that throughout the whole course of its existence it should be divinely guarded and assisted in fulfilling the commission given to it, viz., in instructing the nations in "all things whatsoever Christ has commanded," in other words, that it should be their infallible Guide and Teacher.

Venerable Bede, speaking of the conversion of our own country by Augustine and his monks, sent by Pope Gregory the Great, says: "And whereas he [Pope Gregory] bore the Pontifical power over all the world, and was placed over the Churches already reduced to the faith of truth, he made our nation, till then given up to idols, the Church of Christ" (Hist. Eccl. lib. ii. c. 1). If we will but listen to the Pope now, he will make it once again "the Church of Christ," instead of the Church of the "Reformation," and a true living branch, drawing its life from the one vine, instead of a detached and fallen branch, with heresy, like some deadly decay, eating into its very vitals.


[Footnote 3: No Pope, no matter what may have been his private conduct, ever promulgated a decree against the purity of faith and morals.]



The clear and certain recognition of a great truth is seldom the work of a day. We often possess it in a confused and hidden way, before we can detect, to a nicety, its exact nature and limitations. It takes time to declare itself with precision, and, like a plant in its rudimentary stages, it may sometimes be mistaken for what it is not—though, once it has reached maturity, we can mistake it no longer. As Cardinal Newman observes: "An idea grows in the mind by remaining there; it becomes familiar and distinct, and is viewed in its relations; it leads to other aspects, and these again to others.... Such intellectual processes as are carried on silently and spontaneously in the mind of a party or school, of necessity come to light at a later date, and are recognised, and their issues are scientifically arranged." Consequently, though dogma is unchangeable as truth is unchangeable, this immutability does not exclude progress. In the Church, such progress is nothing else than the development of the principles laid down in the beginning by Jesus Christ Himself. Thus—to take a simple illustration—in three different councils, the Church has declared and proposed three different articles of Faith, viz., that in Jesus Christ there are (1) two natures, (2) two wills, and (3) one only Person. These may seem to some, who cannot look beneath the surface, to be three entirely new doctrines; to be, in fact, "additions to the creed". In sober truth, they are but expansions of the original doctrine which, in its primitive and revealed form, has been known and taught at all times, that is to say, the doctrine that Christ is, at once, true God and true Man. That one statement really contains the other three; the other three merely give us a fuller and a completer grasp of the original one, but tell us nothing absolutely new.

In a similar manner, and by a similar process, we arrive at a clearer and more explicit knowledge of other important truths, which were not at first universally recognised as being contained in the original deposit. The dogma of Papal infallibility is an instance in point. For though no Catholic ever doubted the genuine infallibility of the Church, yet in the early centuries, there existed some difference of opinion, as to where precisely the infallible authority resided. Most Catholics, even then, believed it to be a gift conferred by Christ upon Peter himself [who alone is the rock], and upon each Pope who succeeded him in his office, personally and individually, but some were of opinion that, not the Pope by himself, but only "the Pope-in-Council," that is to say, the Pope supported by a majority of Bishops, was to be considered infallible. So that, while all admitted the Pope with a majority of the Bishops, taken together, to be divinely safeguarded from teaching error, yet the prevailing and dominant opinion, from the very first, went much further, and ascribed this protection to the Sovereign Pontiff likewise when acting alone and unsupported. This is so well known, that even the late Mr. Gladstone, speaking as an outside observer, and as a mere student of history, positively brings it as a charge against the Catholic Church that "the Popes, for well-nigh a thousand years, have kept up, with comparatively little intermission, their claim to dogmatic infallibility" (Vat. p. 28). Still, the point remained unsettled by any dogmatic definition, so that, as late as in 1793, Archbishop Troy of Dublin did but express the true Catholic view of his own day when he wrote: "Many Catholics contend that the Pope, when teaching the Universal Church, as their supreme visible head and pastor, as successor to St. Peter, and heir to the promises of special assistance made to him by Jesus Christ, is infallible; and that his decrees and decisions in that capacity are to be respected as rules of faith, when they are dogmatical, or confined to doctrinal points of faith and morals. Others," the Archbishop goes on to explain, "deny this, and require the expressed or tacit acquiescence of the Church assembled or dispersed, to stamp infallibility on his dogmatic decrees." Then he concludes:—"Until the Church shall decide upon this question of the Schools, either opinion may be adopted by individual Catholics, without any breach of Catholic communion or peace."

This was how the question stood until 1870. But it stands in that position no longer; for the Church has now spoken—Roma locuta est, causa finita. Hence, no Catholic can now deny or call into question the great prerogative of the Vicar of Christ, without suffering shipwreck of the faith. At the Vatican Council, Pope Pius IX. and the Archbishops and Bishops of the entire Catholic world were gathered together in Rome, and after earnest prayer and prolonged discussion, they declared that the prerogative of infallibility, which is the very source of Catholic unity, and the very secret of Catholic strength, resides in the individual Pope who happens, at the time, to occupy the Papal chair, and that when he speaks ex cathedra, his definitions are infallibly true, and consonant with Catholic revelation, even before they have been accepted by the hierarchy throughout the world. But here it must be borne in mind that the Pope speaks ex cathedra, that is to say, infallibly, only when he speaks:—

1. As the Universal Teacher.

2. In the name and with the authority of the Apostles.

3. On a point of Faith or Morals.

4. With the purpose of binding every member of the Church to accept and believe his decision.

Thus it is clearly seen that from the year 1870 the dogma of Papal, in contra-distinction to ecclesiastical infallibility, has been defined and raised to an article of faith, the denial of which is heresy.

The doctrine is at once new and yet not new. It is new in the sense that up to the time of the Vatican Council it had never been actually drawn out of the premises that contained it, and set forth before the faithful in a formal definition. On the other hand, it is not new, but as old as Christianity, in the sense that it was always contained implicitly in the deposit of faith. Any body of truth that is living grows, and unfolds and becomes more clearly understood and more thoroughly grasped, as time wears on. The entire books of Euclid are after all but the outcome of a few axioms and accepted definitions. These axioms help us to build up certain propositions. And one proposition, when established, leads to another, till at last we seem to have unearthed statements entirely new and original. Yet, they are certainly not really new, for had they not been all along contained implicitly in the few initial facts, it is quite clear they could never have been evolved from them. Nemo dat, quod non habet.

Hence Papal Infallibility is not so much a new truth, or an "addition to the Faith," as some heretics would foolishly try to persuade us, as a clearer expression and a more exact and detailed presentation of what was taught from the beginning.

It is here that the well-known historian, Doellinger, who rejected the definition, proved himself to be not only a proud rebel but also a very poor logician. Until 1870, he was a practising Catholic, and, therefore, like every other Catholic, he, of course, admitted that the Pope and the Bishops, speaking collectively, were divinely supported and safeguarded from error, when they enunciated to the world any doctrine touching faith or morals. Yet, when the Pope and the Bishops, assembled at the Vatican, did so speak collectively, and did conjointly issue the decree of Papal Infallibility, he proceeded to eat his own words, refused to abide by their decision, and was deservedly turned out of the Church of God: being excommunicated by the Archbishop of Munich on the 17th of April, 1871, in virtue of the instructions given by Our Divine Lord Himself, viz.: "If he will not hear the Church (cast him out, i.e.), let him be to thee as the heathen and publican" (Matt. xviii. 17). He, and the few misguided men that followed him in his rebellion, and called themselves Old Catholics, had been quite ready to believe that the Pope, with the Bishops, when speaking as one body, were Infallible. In fact, if they had not believed that, they never could have been Catholics at any time. But they did not seem to realise the sufficiently obvious fact that, whether they will it or not, and whether they advert to it or not, it is utterly impossible now to deny the Infallibility of the Pope personally and alone, without at the same time denying the Infallibility of the "Pope and the Bishops collectively," for the simple reason that it is precisely the "Pope and the Bishops collectively" who have solemnly and in open session declared that the Pope enjoys the prerogative of Infallibility in his own individual person. Since the Vatican Council, one is forced by the strict requirements of sound reason to believe, either that the Pope is Infallible, or else that there is no Infallibility in the Church at all, and that there never had been.

Those who were too proud to submit to the definition followed, of course, the example of earlier heretics in previous Councils. They excused themselves on the plea that the Council was (a) not free, or else (b) not sufficiently representative, or, finally, (c) not unanimous in its decisions. But such utterly unsupported allegations served only to accentuate the weakness of their cause and the hopelessness of their position; since it would be difficult, from the origin of the Church to the present time, to find any Council so free, so representative, and so unanimous.

Pope Pius IX. (whom, it seems likely, we shall soon be called upon to venerate as a canonised saint) convened the Vatican Council by the Bull AEterni Patris, published on 29th June, 1868. It summoned all the Archbishops, Bishops, Patriarchs, etc., throughout the Catholic world to meet together in Rome on 8th December of the following year, 1869. When the appointed day arrived, and the Council was formally opened, there were present 719 representatives from all parts of the world, and very soon after, this number was increased to 769. On 18th July, 1870—a day for ever memorable in the annals of the Church—the fourth public session was held, and the constitution Pater AEternus, containing the definition of the Papal Infallibility, was solemnly promulgated. Of the 535 who were present on this grand occasion, 533 voted for the definition (placet) and only two, one from Sicily, the other from the United States, voted against it (non placet). Fifty-five Bishops, who fully accepted the doctrine itself, but deemed its actual definition at that moment inopportune, simply absented themselves from this session. Finally, the Holy Father, in the exercise of his supreme authority, sanctioned the decision of the Council, and proclaimed officially, urbi et orbi the decrees and the canons of the "First Dogmatic Constitution of the Church of Christ".

It may be well here to clothe the Latin words of the Pope and the assembled Bishops in an English dress. They are as follows: "We (the Sacred Council approving) teach and define that it is a dogma revealed, that the Roman Pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra—that is, when discharging the office of Pastor and Teacher of all Christians, by reason of his supreme Apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine regarding faith or morals to be held by the whole Church—in virtue of the Divine assistance promised to him in Blessed Peter, possesses that Infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer willed that His Church should be endowed in defining doctrine regarding faith or morals, and that, therefore, such definitions of the said Sovereign Pontiff are unalterable of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church. But if any one—which may God avert—presume to contradict this our definition, let him be anathema."

"Every Bishop in the Catholic world, however inopportune some may have at one time held the definition to be, submitted to the Infallible ruling of the Church," says E.S. Purcell. "A very small and insignificant number of priests and laymen in Germany apostatised and set up the Sect of 'Old Catholics'. But all the rest of the Catholic world, true to their faith, accepted, without reserve, the dogma of Papal Infallibility."[4]

For over eighteen hundred years the Infallible authority of the Pope-in-Council had been admitted by all Catholics. And in any great emergency or crisis in the Church's history, these Councils were actually held, and presided over by the Pope, either in person or by his duly appointed representatives, for the purpose of clearing up and adjusting disputed points, or to smite, with a withering anathema, the various heresies as they arose, century after century. But in the meantime, the Church, which had been planted "like a grain of mustard seed, which is the least of all seeds" (Mark iv. 31), was fulfilling the prophecy that had been made in regard to her, and "was shooting out great branches" (Mark iv. 32) and becoming more extended and more prolific than all her rivals. She enlarged her boundaries and spread farther and farther over the face of the earth, while the number of her children rapidly multiplied in every direction.

In course of time, the immense continents of America and Australia, together with New Zealand and Tasmania and other hitherto unknown regions, were discovered and thrown open to the influences of human industry and enterprise. And as men and women swarmed into these newly acquired lands, the Church accompanied them: and new vicariates and dioceses sprang up, and important Sees were formed, which in time, as the populations thickened, became divided and sub-divided into smaller Sees, till at last the number of Bishops in these once unknown and distant regions rose to several hundreds.

Thus the whole condition of things became altered; and the calling together of an Ecumenical Council—a very simple affair in the infancy of the Church—was becoming daily more and more difficult. Not so much, perhaps, by reason of the enormous distances of the dioceses from the central authority, for modern methods of locomotion have almost annihilated space, but because of the immense increase in the number of the hierarchy that would have to meet together, whenever a Council is called.

On the other hand, with the greater extension of the Church, would naturally come an increased crop of heresies. For, cockle may be sown, and weeds may spring up, in any part of the field, and the field is now a hundred times vaster than it was. Now, it is extremely important that as fast as errors arise they should be pointed out, and rooted up without delay, and before they can breed a pestilence and corrupt a whole neighbourhood. But the complicated machinery of a great Ecumenical Council, which involves prolonged preparation, considerable expense, and a temporary dislocation in almost every diocese throughout the world, is too cumbersome and slow to be called into requisition whenever a heresy has to be blasted, or whenever a decision has to be made known.

Hence we cannot help recognising and admiring the Providence of God over His Church, in thus simplifying the process, in these strenuous days, by which His truth is to be maintained and His revelation protected. For the fact—true from the beginning, viz., that the Pope enjoys the prerogative of personal infallibility—is not only a profound truth; but a truth for the first time formally recognised, defined, promulgated and explicitly taught as an article of Divine faith. Consequently, without summoning a thousand Bishops from the four quarters of the globe, the Sovereign Pontiff may now rise in his own strength, and proclaim to the entire Church what is, and what is not, consonant with the truths of revelation. This is evident from the Vatican's definition, which declares that "THE POPE HAS THAT SAME INFALLIBILITY WHICH THE CHURCH HAS"—"Romanum Pontificem ea infallibilitate pollere, qua divinus Redemptor Ecclesiam suam in definienda doctrina de fide vel moribus instructam esse voluit". Words of the Bull, "PASTOR AETERNUS".


[Footnote 4: See Life of Cardinal Manning, vol. ii., p. 452.]



The most sacred deposit of Divine Revelation has been committed by Jesus Christ to the custody of the Church, and century after century she has guarded it with the utmost jealousy and fidelity. Like a loyal watchman, stationed on a lofty tower, the Pope, with anxious eyes, scans the length and breadth of the world, and, as the occasion demands, boldly, and fearlessly, and categorically condemns and anathematises all who, through pride or cunning, or personal interest and ambition, or love of novelty, attempt to falsify or to minimise or to distort the teaching of Our Divine Master. Without respect of persons, without regard to temporal consequences, without either hesitancy or ambiguity, he speaks "as one having power" (Matt. vii. 29). And while, on the one hand, every true Catholic throughout the world, who hears his voice, is intimately conscious that he is hearing the voice of Christ Himself, "who heareth you, heareth Me" (Luke x. 16); so, on the other hand, every true Catholic likewise knows that all who refuse to obey his ruling, and who despise his warnings, are despising and disobeying Christ Himself. "Who despises you, despises Me" (Luke x. 16). Thus, the Sovereign Pontiff, as the infallible source of religious truth, becomes at the same time the strong bond of religious unity: for, just as error divides men from one another, so truth always and necessarily draws them together. In this way the Pope becomes the connecting link which unites over 250,000,000 of men: and the foundation stone (or petros—Peter) of the mystical building erected by God-incarnate ("Upon this rock will I build My Church," Matt. xvi. 18). He is the foundation, that is to say, which supports it, and keeps its various parts together, in one harmonious and symmetrical whole, and against which the angry surges rise, and the muddy waves of error for ever beat, yet ever beat in vain: for "the gates of hell [Satan and his hosts] shall not prevail against it". Who doubts this denies the most formal and unmistakable promises of the Eternal Son of God, and makes of Him a liar.

Our non-Catholic friends close their eyes to these patent facts, and—with great peril to their salvation—refuse to see even the obvious. As the Jews of old were so blinded by their prejudice, jealousy and hatred of Him, whom they contemptuously styled "the Son of the Carpenter," that they steadily refused to consider the justice of His claims, and could not (or would not?) bring themselves to understand how clearly the Scriptures bore witness to His divinity, and how marvellously the prophecies and predictions (the words of which they accepted), were fulfilled in His Divine Person; so now Protestants steadily refuse to consider the claims of Her whom they contemptuously style "the Romish Church," and are so prejudiced and full of suspicion, if not of hate, that they too cannot bring themselves to understand how She, like her Divine Founder, bears upon her immortal brow the distinctive and unmistakable impress of her supernatural origin and destiny. The Incarnate Son of God, who never asks, nor can ask in vain, implored His Heavenly Father, that all His followers might be one, and why? In order that this marvellous unity might ever be fixed as a seal of authenticity to His Church, and be to all men a permanent sign and proof of her genuineness.

"Father," He prayed, grant "that they may ALL BE ONE, as Thou art in Me, and as I am in Thee, that they also may be one in us, THAT THE WORLD MAY KNOW that Thou hast sent Me" (John xvii. 21). Unity, then, is undeniably the test and sign-manual attached by Christ to His Bride, the Church; the presence or absence of which must (if there be any truth in God) determine the genuineness or the falsity of every claimant.

Now, this mark is nowhere found outside the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, whose centre is in Rome.

Other Churches not merely do not possess unity. They do not possess so much as the requisite machinery to produce it, nor even the means of preserving it, if produced.

With us, on the contrary, it flows as naturally and as directly from the recognised Supremacy and Infallibility of the Vicar of Christ as light flows from the sun. It is so manifest that it would seem only the blind can fail to see it: so that one is sometimes puzzled to know how to excuse educated Protestants from the damnable sin of vincible ignorance. Thus, the faithful throughout the entire world are in constant communication with their respective pastors; the pastors, in their turn, are in direct communication with their respective Bishops, and the Bishops, dispersed throughout the length and breadth of Christendom, are in close and direct communication with the one Supreme and Infallible Ruler, whom the Lord has placed over all His possessions; who has been promised immunity from error; and whose special duty and office is to "confirm his brethren" (Luke xxii. 32). By this most simple, yet most practical and effective expedient, the very least and humblest catechumen in China or Australia is as truly in touch with the central authority at the Vatican, and as completely under its direction in matters of faith and morals, as the crowned heads of Spain or Austria, or as the Archbishops of Paris or Malines. Certainly Digitus Dei est hic: the finger of God is here. The simple fact is, there is always something about the works of God which clearly differentiate them from the products of man, however close may be the mere external and surface resemblance. A thousand artists may carve a thousand acorns, so cunningly coloured, and so admirably contrived as to be practically indistinguishable from the genuine fruit of the oak. Each of these thousand artists may present me with his manufactured acorn, and may assure me of its genuineness. And, alas! I may be quite deceived and taken in; yes, but only for a time. When I plant them in the soil, together with the genuine acorn, and give them time to develop, the fraud is detected, and the truth revealed. For the real seed proves its worth. How? In the simplest way possible, that is to say, by actually doing what it was destined and created to do. That is, by growing and developing into a majestic oak, while the false and human imitations fall to pieces, belie all one's hopes, and are found to produce neither branch nor leaf nor fruit.

This is but an illustration of what may be observed equally in the spiritual order, although there it is attended by more disastrous consequences. Thus we find hundreds of Churches proclaiming themselves to be foundations of God, which Time, the old Justice who tries all such offenders, soon proves, most unmistakably, to be nothing but the contrivances of man. They may bear a certain external resemblance to the true Church, planted by the Divine Husbandman, but like the man-made acorns, they deceive all our expectations, and are wholly unable to redeem their promises, or to live up to their pretensions.

For, while one and all declare with their lips that they possess the truth as revealed by Christ, their glaring divisions, irreconcilable differences, and internal dissensions emphatically prove that the truth is not in them: and that they have been built, not on the rock, but on the shifting sand, and are the erections, not of God, but of feeble, fickle men.

On the other hand, the Catholic Church, amid a thousand sects, resembles the genuine acorn among the thousand imitations. Not only does she alone possess the whole truth; but she alone can stand up and actually prove this claim to the entire world, by pointing defiantly at her marvellous and miraculous unity—a unity so conspicuous, and so striking, and so absolutely unique, that even the hostile and bigoted Protestant press can sometimes scarcely refrain from bearing an unwilling testimony to it.

We might give many instances of this, and quote from many sources, but let the following extract from London's leading journal serve as an example. It is no other paper than the Times, which makes the following admission on occasion of the Vatican Council which opened in 1869: "Seven hundred Bishops, more or less, representing all Christendom, were seen gathered round one altar and one throne, partaking of the same Divine Mystery, and rendering homage, by turns, to the same spiritual authority and power. As they put on their mitres, or took them off, and as they came to the steps of the altar, or the foot of the common spiritual Father, it was IMPOSSIBLE not to feel the UNITY and the power of the Church which they represented" (16th Dec., 1869). Here, then, is the most influential journal certainly of Great Britain, perhaps of the world, proclaiming to its readers far and wide, not simply that the Roman Catholic Church is one, but that her oneness is of such a sterling quality, and of so pronounced a character that it is impossible—mark the word, impossible!—not to feel it. Yet men ask where the Church of God is to be found. They ask for a sign, and lo! when God gives them one they cannot see it, nor interpret it, nor make anything out of it: and prefer to linger on in what Newman calls "the cities of confusion," than find peace and security in "the communion of Rome, which is that Church which the Apostles set up at Pentecost, which alone has 'the adoption of sons, and the glory and the covenants and the revealed law, and the service of God and the promises,' and in which the Anglican [or any other Protestant] communion, whatever it merits and demerits, whatever the great excellence of individuals in it, has, as such, no part". But this is a digression. Let us return to our subject.

The incontestable value and immense practical importance of the Papal prerogative of infallibility have been rendered abundantly manifest ever since its solemn definition nearly forty years ago. In fact, although the enormous increase of the population of the world has not rendered the position of the Sovereign Pontiff any easier, yet he is better fitted and equipped since the definition to cope promptly and effectually with errors and heresies as they arise than he was before. We do not mean that his prerogative of infallibility is invoked upon every trivial occasion—one does not call for a Nasmyth hammer to break a nut—but it is always there, in reserve, and may be used, on occasion, even without summoning an Ecumenical Council, and this is a matter of some consequence. For, though time may bring many changes into the life of man, and may improve his physical condition and surroundings, and add enormously to his comfort, health, and general corporal well-being, it is found to produce no corresponding effect upon his corrupt and fallen nature, which asserts itself as vigorously now, after nearly two thousand years of Christianity, as in the past. Pride and self still sway men's hearts. The spirit of independence and self-assertion and egotism, in spite of all efforts at repression, continue to stalk abroad. And human nature, even to-day, is almost as impatient of restraint, and as unwilling to bear the yoke of obedience, as in the time when Gregory resisted Henry of Germany, or when Pius VII. excommunicated Napoleon. If, even in the Apostolic age, when the number of the faithful was small and concentrated, there were, nevertheless, men of unsound views—"wolves in sheep's clothing"—amongst the flock of Christ, how much more likely is this to be the case now. If the Apostle St. Paul felt called upon to warn his own beloved disciples against those "who would not endure sound doctrine," and who "heaped to themselves teachers, having itching ears," and who even "closed their ears to the truth, in order to listen to fables" (2 Tim. iv. 1-5), surely we may reasonably expect to find, even in our own generation, many who have fallen, or who are in danger of falling under the pernicious influence of false teachers, and who are being seduced and led astray by the plausible, but utterly fallacious, reasoning of proud and worldly spirits. It would be easy to name several, but they are too well known already to need further advertising here.

Then, she has adversaries without, as well as within. For, though the Church is not of the world, she is in the world. Which is only another way of saying that she is surrounded continually and on all sides by powerful, subtle, and unscrupulous foes. "The world is the enemy of God," and therefore of His Church. If its votaries cannot destroy her, nor put an end to her charmed life, they hope, at least, to defame her character and to blacken her reputation. They seize every opportunity to misrepresent her doctrine, to travesty her history, and to denounce her as retrograde, old fashioned, and out of date. And, what makes matters worse, the falsest and most mischievous allegations are often accompanied by professions of friendship and consideration, and set forth in learned treatises, with an elegance of language and an elevation of style calculated to deceive the simple and to misguide the unwary. It is Father W. Faber who remarks that, "there is not a new philosophy nor a freshly named science but what deems, in the ignorance of its raw beginnings, that it will either explode the Church as false or set her aside as doting" (Bl. Sac. Prologue). Indeed the world is always striving to withdraw men and women from their allegiance to the Church, through appeals to its superior judgment and more enlightened experience; and philosophy and history and even theology are all pressed into the service, and falsified and misrepresented in such a manner as to give colour to its complaints and accusations against the Bride of Christ, who, it is seriously urged, "should make concessions and compromises with the modern world, in order to purchase the right to live and to dwell within it". What is the consequence? Let the late Cardinal Archbishop and the Bishops of England answer. "Many Catholics," they write in their joint pastoral, "are consequently in danger of forfeiting not only their faith, but even their independence, by taking for granted as venerable and true the halting and disputable judgment of some men of letters or of science which may represent no more than the wave of some popular feeling, or the views of some fashionable or dogmatising school. The bold assertions of men of science are received with awe and bated breath, the criticisms of an intellectual group of savants are quoted as though they were rules for a holy life, while the mind of the Church and her guidance are barely spoken of with ordinary patience."

In a world such as this, with the agents of evil ever active and threatening, with error strewn as thorns about our path at every step, and with polished and seductive voices whispering doubt and suggesting rebellion and disobedience to men, already too prone to disloyalty, and arguing as cunningly as Satan, of old, argued with Eve; in such a world, who, we may well ask, does not see the pressing need as well as the inestimable advantages and security afforded by a living, vigilant, responsible and supreme authority, where all who seek, may find an answer to their doubts, and a strength and a firm support in their weakness?

And as surely as the need exists, so surely has God's watchful providence supplied it, in the person of the Supreme Pontiff, the venerable Vicar of Christ on earth. He is authorised and commissioned by Christ Himself "to feed" with sound doctrine, both "the lambs and the sheep"; and faithfully has he discharged that duty. "The Pope," writes Cardinal Newman, "is no recluse, no solitary student, no dreamer about the past, no doter upon the dead and gone, no projector of the visionary. He, for eighteen hundred years, has lived in the world; he has seen all fortunes, he has encountered all adversaries, he has shaped himself for all emergencies. If ever there was a power on earth who had an eye for the times, who has confined himself to the practicable, and has been happy in his anticipations, whose words have been facts, and whose commands prophecies, such is he, in the history of ages, who sits, from generation to generation, in the chair of the Apostles, as the Vicar of Christ, and the Doctor of His Church."

"These are not the words of rhetoric," he continues, "but of history. All who take part with the Apostle are on the winning side. He has long since given warrants for the confidence which he claims. From the first, he has looked through the wide world, of which he has the burden; and, according to the need of the day, and the inspirations of his Lord, he has set himself, now to one thing, now to another; but to all in season, and to nothing in vain.... Ah! What grey hairs are on the head of Judah, whose youth is renewed like the eagle's, whose feet are like the feet of harts, and underneath the Everlasting Arms." Would that our unfortunate countrymen, tossed about by every wind of doctrine, and torn by endless divisions, could be persuaded to set aside pride and prejudice, and to accept the true principle of religious unity and peace established by God. Then England would become again, what she was for over a thousand years, viz.: "the most faithful daughter of the Church of Rome, and of His Holiness, the one Sovereign Pontiff and Vicar of Christ upon earth," as our Catholic forefathers were wont to describe her.



A natural tendency is apparent in all men to differ among themselves, even concerning subjects which are simple and easily understood; while, on more difficult and complicated issues, this tendency is, of course, very much more pronounced. Hence, the well-known proverb: "Quot homines, tot sententiae"—there are as many opinions as there are men.

Now, if this is found to be the case in politics, literature, art, music, and indeed in everything else, except perhaps pure mathematics, it is found to be yet more universally the case in questions of religion, since religion is a subject so much more sublime, abstruse, and incomprehensible than others, and so full of supernatural and mysterious truths, with which no merely human tribunal has any competency to deal. Then, let me ask, what chance has a man of arriving at a right decision on the most important of all questions—questions concerning his own eternal salvation—who is thrown into the midst of a world where there is no uniformity of view on spiritual matters, where every variety of opinion is expressed and defended, and where every conceivable form of worship has its fervent supporters and followers.

Or, leaving all others out of account, may we not well ask how the vast multitudes even of Catholics, scattered throughout such a world as this, are to maintain "the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph. iv. 3), to preserve the tenets of their creed intact, and to discriminate accurately and readily between the teaching of God, and the fallacious doctrines of men? In dealing with anxious and angry disputants there is little use to appeal, as Protestants do, to the authority of teachers who have nothing more to commend them than a learning and an intelligence but little better than that of their disciples. Where man differs from man each will prefer his own view, and claim that his personal opinion is as deserving of respect and as likely to be right as his adversary's—which is practically what obtains among non-Catholics at the present day. Indeed, the only superhuman and infallible authority on earth recognised by them is the Bible; and that, alas! has proved a block of stumbling and not a bond of union, since, in the hands of unscrupulous men, it may be made to prove absolutely anything. The most sacred and fundamental truths, even such as the sublime doctrine of the Blessed Trinity, the Divinity of Christ, and the Atonement, have all, at one time or another, been vehemently denied on the authority of the Bible! The Anglican Bishop Colenso, in writing to the Times, could quote eleven texts of Scripture to prove that prayer ought not to be offered to Our Divine Lord! yet, it made no difference. He was allowed to go on teaching just as before! No one seemed to care. What is "pure Gospel" to Mr. Brown is "deadly error" to Mr. Green; while "the fundamental verities" of Mr. Thompson are "the satanical delusions" of Mr. Johnson. In fact, there is really less dispute among men as to the interpretation of the Vedas, of Chinese chronology, or of Egyptian archaeology, than of the Bible, which, to the eternal dishonour of Protestant commentators, has now almost ceased to have any definite meaning whatever, because every imaginable meaning has been defended by some and denied by others. It is beyond dispute that the Bible, without an infallible Teacher to explain its true meaning, will be of no use whatsoever as a bond of unity.

If the unity, promised by God-incarnate, is to be secured, the present circumstances of the case, as well as the actual experience of many centuries, prove three conditions to be absolutely necessary, viz.: a teacher who is firstly ever living and accessible; secondly, who can and will speak clearly and without ambiguity; and thirdly, and most essential of all, whose decisions are authoritative and decisive. One, in a word, who can pass sentence and close a controversy, and whose verdict will be honoured and accepted as final by all Catholics without hesitation. These three requisites are found in the person of the infallible Head of the Catholic Church, but nowhere else.

Experience shows that where, in religion, there is nothing but mere human learning to guide, however great such learning may be, there will always be room left for some differences of opinion. In such controversies even the learned and the well read will not all arrange themselves on one side; but will espouse, some one view, and some another. We find this to be the case everywhere. And, since the Church of England offers us as striking and as ready an example as any other, we cannot do better than invoke it as both a warning and a witness.

Though her adherents are but a small fraction, compared with ourselves, and though they are socially and politically far more homogeneous than we Catholics, who are gathered from all the nations of the earth, yet even they, in the absence of any universally recognised and infallible head, are split up into a hundred fragments.

So that, even on the most essential points of doctrine, there is absolutely no true unanimity. This is so undeniable that Anglican Bishops themselves are found lamenting and wringing their hands over their "unhappy divisions". Still, we wish to be perfectly just, so, in illustration of our contention, we will select, not one of those innumerable minor points which it would be easy to bring forward, but some really crucial point of doctrine, the importance of which no man in his senses will have the hardihood to deny. Let us say, for instance, the doctrine of the Holy Eucharist. Can we conceive anything that a devout Christian would be more anxious to ascertain than whether Our Divine Lord and Saviour be really and personally and substantially present under the appearance of bread, or no! Picture to yourselves, then, a fervent worshipper entering an Anglican church, where they are said "to reserve," and kneeling before the Tabernacle. Just watch the poor unfortunate man utterly and hopelessly unable to decide whether he is prostrating and pouring out his soul before a mere memorial, a simple piece of common bread, or before the Infinite Creator of the Universe, the dread King of kings, and Lord of lords, in Whose presence the very angels veil their faces, and the strong pillars of heaven tremble! Imagine a Church where such a state of things is possible! Yet, we have it on the authority of an Anglican Bishop—and I know not where we shall find a higher authority—that this is indeed the case; as may be gathered from the following words, taken from a "charge" by the late Bishop Ryle, which are surely clear enough: "One section of our (i.e., Anglican) clergy," says the Bishop, "maintains that the Lord's Supper is a sacrifice, and another maintains with equal firmness that it is not.... One section maintains that there is a real objective presence of Christ's Body and Blood under the forms of the consecrated bread and wine. The other maintains that there is no real presence whatsoever, except in the hearts of the believing communicant."[5] Was such a state of pitiable helplessness ever seen or heard or dreamed of anywhere! And yet this church, please to observe, is supposed to be a body sent by God to teach. Heaven preserve us from such a teacher. As a further illustration of the utter incompetency of the Establishment to perform this primary duty, we may call to mind the strikingly instructive correspondence that was published some years ago between his Grace Archbishop Sumner and Mr. Maskell, who very naturally and very rightly sought direction from his Ordinary concerning certain points of doctrine, of which he was in doubt.

"You ask me," writes the Archbishop to Mr. Maskell, "whether you are to conclude that you ought not to teach, and have not the authority of the [Anglican] Church to teach any of the doctrines spoken of in your five former questions, in the dogmatical terms there stated."

Here, then, we have a perfectly fair and straightforward question, deserving an equally clear and straightforward answer: and such as would be given at once if addressed by any Catholic enquirer to his Bishop. But how does the Anglican Archbishop proceed to calm and comfort this helpless, agitated soul, groping painfully in the dark? What is his Grace's reply? He cannot refer the matter to a Sovereign Pontiff, for no Pontiff in the Anglican Church is possessed of any sovereignty whatsoever. In fact the Archbishop himself has to "verily testify and declare that His Majesty the King is the only supreme Governor in spiritual and ecclesiastical things as well as temporal," etc.[6] Nor dare he solve these troublesome doubts himself: for he is no more infallible than his questioner. Then what does he do? Practically nothing. He throws the whole burden back upon poor Mr. Maskell, and leaves him to struggle with his doubts as best he may. Thus; though the Church of God was established to "teach all nations," and must still be teaching all nations if she exist at all; the Church of England seems unable to teach one nation, or even one man.

But to continue. The Archbishop begins by putting Mr. Maskell a question. "Are they (i.e., the doctrines about which he is seeking information) contained in the Word of God? St. Paul says, 'Preach the Word'.... Now whether the doctrines concerning which you inquire are contained in the Word of God, and can be proved thereby, you have the same means of discovering for yourself as I have, and I have no special authority to declare."

Did any one ever witness such an exhibition of ineptitude and spiritual asthenia? We can conceive a man rejecting all revelation. It is possible even to conceive a man denying the Divinity of Christ. But we know nothing that would ever enable us even to conceive that Infinite Wisdom and Infinite Power had established a Church which cannot teach, or had sent an ambassador utterly unable to deliver His message. There is no use for such Church as that. Total silence is better than incoherent speech. What is the consequence? The consequence is that in the Anglican community endless variations and differences exist and flourish side by side, not alone in matters where differences are comparatively of little account, but in even the most momentous and fundamental doctrines, such as the necessity of Baptism, the power of Absolution, the nature of the Holy Eucharist, the effects of the sacrament of Holy Orders, and so forth. Were it not for the iron hand of the State, which grasps her firmly, and binds her mutually repellent elements together, she must have fallen to pieces long ago. Now, we must beg our readers to consider well, that from the very terms of the institution such a deplorable state of things as we have been contemplating is absolutely impossible and unthinkable in the Church (1) which God-incarnate founded, for the express purpose of handing down His doctrine, pure and undefiled to the end of time; and (2) with which He promised to abide for ever; and (3) which the Holy Ghost Himself, speaking through St. Paul, declared to be "the pillar and ground of truth" (1. Tim. iii. 15). Nevertheless, if the Catholic Church, numbering over 250,000,000 of persons, is not to fall into the sad plight that has overtaken all the small churches that have gone out from her, she must not only desire unity, as, no doubt, all the sects desire it, but she must have been provided by her all-wise Founder with what none of them even profess to possess, viz., some simple, workable, and effective means of securing it. This means, as practical as it is simple, is no other than one supreme central and living authority, enjoying full jurisdiction over all—that is to say, the authority of Peter, ever living in his See, and speaking, now by the lips of Leo, and now by the lips of Pius, but always in the name, and with the authority, and under the guidance of Him who, in the plenitude of His divine power, made Peter the immovable rock, against which the gates of hell may indeed expend their fury, but against which they never have prevailed and never can prevail. "The gates of hell shall not prevail against Thee." That any one can fail to understand the meaning of these inspired words; that any one can give them any application save that which they receive in the Catholic Church, is but another illustration of the extraordinary power of prejudice and pride to blind the reason and to darken the understanding.

Without this final Court of Appeal, set up by the wisdom of God, the Church would disintegrate and fall into pieces to-morrow. To remove from the Church of Christ the infallibility of the Pope would be like removing the hub from the wheel, the key-stone from the arch, the trunk from the tree, the foundation from the house. For, in each case the result must mean confusion. If such a result could ever have been doubted in the past, it can surely be doubted no longer. The sad experience of the past three hundred years speaks more eloquently than any words; and its verdict is conclusive. It proves two things beyond dispute. The first is, that even the largest and most heterogeneous body of men may be easily united and kept together, if they can all be brought to recognise and obey one supreme authority; and the second is, that, even a small and homogeneous body of men will soon divide and split up into sections, if they cannot be brought to recognise such an authority.

Further, any one looking out over the face of Christendom, with an unprejudiced eye, for the realisation of that unity which Christ promised to affix to his Church as an infallible sign of authenticity, will find it in the Catholic Communion, but certainly nowhere else—least of all in the Church of England.

"What," asks a well-known writer in unfeigned astonishment, "what opinion is not held within the Established Church? Were not Dr. Wilberforce and Dr. Colenso, Dr. Hamilton and Dr. Baring equally Bishops of the Church of England? Were not Dr. Pusey and Mr. Jowett at the same time her professors; Father Ignatius and Mr. Bellew her ministers; Archdeacon Denison and Dr. M'Neile her distinguished ornaments and preachers? Yet their religions differed almost as widely as Buddhism from Calvinism, or the philosophy of Aristotle from that of Martin Tupper." If a Catholic priest were to teach a single heretical doctrine, he would be at once cashiered, and turned out of the Church. But "if an Anglican minister must resign because his opinions are at variance with some other Anglican minister, every soul of them would have to retire, from the Archbishop of Canterbury down to the last licentiate of Durham or St. Bees".

As surely as infallibility is the essential prerogative of a divinely constituted Teaching Church, so surely can it exist only in that institution which alone has always claimed it, both as her gift by promise and the sole explanation of her triumphs and her perpetuity. It would be the idlest of dreams to search for it in a fractional part of a modern community, like the Church of England, which had always disowned and scoffed at it, and which could account for its own existence ONLY on the plea that the Promises of God had signally failed, and that it alone was able to correct the failure.

Men ask for some sign, by which they may recognise the true Church of God and discriminate it readily from all spurious imitations. God, in His mercy, offers them a sign—namely UNITY. Yet they hesitate and hold back, and refuse to guide their tempest-tossed barques by its unerring light into the one Haven of Salvation.


[Footnote 5: See Charge, etc., dated November, 1893.]

[Footnote 6: Ang. Ministry, by Hutton, p. 504.]



1. The Church of God can be but one; because God is truth: and, truth can be but one. The world may, and (as a matter of fact) does abound in false Churches, just as it abounds in false deities; but, this is rendered possible only because they are false. Two or more true Churches involve a contradiction in terms. Such a condition of things is as intrinsically absurd, and as unthinkable, as two or more true Gods—as well talk of two or more multiplication tables! No! There can be but "One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism". If several Churches all teach the true doctrine of Christ, unmixed with error, they must all agree, and, consequently, be virtually one and the self same. There is no help for it; and sound reason will not tolerate any other conclusion. The "Branch Theory" stands self-condemned, if truth be of any importance: because it is inconsistent with truth. For, if one Church contradicts the other on any single point of doctrine, then one or the other must be false, that is, it must be either asserting what Christ denied; or else denying what Christ asserted. They cannot, under any circumstances, be described as true Churches. This is not sophistry or subtilty. It is common-sense. Christ promised unity in promising truth; since truth is one. Is Christ divided? asks St. Paul. No! Then neither is His Church.

2. How was His truth to be maintained and securely developed, century after century, pure and untainted, and free from all admixture of error? Humanly speaking, the thing was impossible. Then what superhuman guarantee did He offer? What was to be our security? Nothing less than the abiding presence of the Holy Ghost Himself.

Surely, then, we need not be anxious after that! Listen, and remember it is to God you are listening. "The Spirit of Truth shall abide with you for ever" (John xiv. 17). Non-Catholics do not seem in the least to realise what those words mean, or that it is God Himself who promises. But, to continue; what is the purpose of this extraordinary and enduring presence? Why is it given? What is it for? Well, for the express purpose of hindering divisions and sects. In order to lead, not to mislead us. How do we know? Because God said so: "He shall guide you into all truth" (John xvi. 13). And this truth, thus permanently secured, was to draw all together into one body. In fact, we have it on Divine authority, that the Church of Christ was to be as truly a single organic whole, in which every part is subject to one head, as is a living human body. The similitude is not of man's choosing, but is inspired by the Holy Spirit Himself. "As the (natural) body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.... Now, ye are the (mystical) Body[7] of Christ" (1 Cor. xii.).

What can be clearer, what more explicit? Now, if the Spirit of Truth, that is to say, the Holy Ghost, is really with the Church (as God promised He always would be), and if He is always present for the express purpose of "guiding her into all truth" (as God promised would be the case), surely this guidance must be a great reality, and not the mere sham that it is everywhere found to be, outside the Catholic Church.

3. Consciously or unconsciously, Anglicans and other non-Catholics have for centuries denied the truth of Our Lord's words and have contradicted His clearest statements. In fact, the Church of England, in her Book of Homilies, declares that "clergy and laity, learned and unlearned, all ages, sects, and degrees of men, women, and children, of whole Christendom, were altogether drowned in damnable idolatry by the space of 800 years and more"! (Hom. on Peril of Idol., part iii.). This is a specimen of the way in which God's promises are set aside, and the Bible misinterpreted by outsiders while professing to make it the foundation of their creed. Nor was this the teaching of a few irresponsible persons. It was enforced by the whole Anglican Church. "All parsons, vicars, curates, and all others having spiritual cure," were "straitly enjoined" to read these Homilies Sunday after Sunday throughout the year in every church and chapel of the kingdom. And the 25th Article declares the second book of Homilies to contain "a godly and wholesome doctrine and necessary for these times"! Probably this "godly and wholesome doctrine" is no longer obliged to be read and taught by Anglicans; probably they no longer consider it either "godly" or "wholesome," but quite the reverse. This we are quite ready to admit. But, in the name of common prudence, who, in his senses, would trust the salvation of his immortal soul to a Church that teaches a thing is white in one century and black in the next, and never knows its own mind?

Here then let us put two very pertinent questions, for our non-Catholic friends to ponder over, and to answer, if they can. First: How is it possible for the Church to go astray, if God the Holy Ghost is really guiding? Second: How is it possible for the Church to wander away into error, if this same Spirit be leading her into all truth? Will some one kindly explain that, without at the same time denying the veracity of God?

4. However, granting the absolute truth of Christ's promises, we may now proceed to inquire in what way this divine and (because divine) infallible guidance into all truth is brought about? Is it by the Holy Spirit whispering to each individual priest or to each individual Bishop? Emphatically not. Why not? Because, if that theory were well founded, then every priest and Bishop would believe and teach precisely the same set of doctrines, without any need of an infallible Pope to guide him. For, clearly, the Spirit of Truth could not whisper "yea" to one, and "nay" to another, nor could He declare a thing to be "black" to one person and "white" to his neighbour. In fine, we have but two alternatives to choose from. We must confess either that the promises themselves, so solemnly made, are lies (which were blasphemy to affirm), or else, that God directs His Church, and safeguards its truth, through its head, or chief Pastor; just as we regulate and control the members of the physical body through the brain. We must either renounce all belief in Christ and His promises, or else admit that His words are actually carried out, and that the prayer has been heard which He made for Peter, and for those who should, in turn, exercise Peter's office and functions, and should speak in his name. Harken to the narrative, as given by St. Luke: "The Lord said: Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you [observe, the plural number] that he may sift you as wheat; but I have prayed [not for all, but] for thee, that thy faith fail not: and thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren" (Luke xxii. 32) [observe the singular number, "thee," "thy" and "thou"].

Peter still lives, in the person of Pope Pius X., and in virtue of that prayer, and through the omnipotent power of God, Peter still "confirms his brethren," and will continue to confirm them in the true and pure doctrine of Christ, until the final crack of doom. As the venerable Bishop W.B. Ullathorne wrote to Lady Chatterton, soon after the Vatican Council, i.e., 19th November, 1875: "There is but one Church of Christ, with one truth, taught by one authority, received by all, believed by all within its pale; or there is no security for faith. If we examine Our Lord's words and acts, such a Church there is. If we follow the inclinations of our fallen nature, ever averse to the control of authority, we there find the reason why so many who love this world, receive not the authority that He planted, to endure like His primal creation, to the end."

"It is pleasant to human pride and independence to be a little god, having but oneself for an authority, and a light, and a law to oneself. But does this or does it not contradict the fact that we are dependent beings, and that the Lord, He is God? This spirit of independence, with self-sufficiency for its basis, and rebellion for its act, is just what Sacred Scripture ascribes to Satan" (p. 230).

True. And it is just the reverse of the disposition that Christ demands from all who wish to enter into His One Fold: for He declares with startling clearness that "unless we become as little children" (i.e., docile, submissive, trustful, etc.) "we shall not enter into the Kingdom of heaven," which is His Church.

* * * * *

5. Before proceeding further, it may be well here to draw a distinction between the Pope, considered as the supreme ruler, and the Pope, considered as the infallible ruler. The reigning Pontiff, whosoever he may be, is always the Supreme Ruler, the Head of the Church, and the Vicar of Christ; but he is not, on all occasions, nor under all circumstances, the infallible ruler.

To guard against any mistake as to the meaning of our words, let us explain that infallibility is a gift, but not a gift that the Pope exercises every day, nor on every occasion, nor in addressing individuals, nor public audiences, nor is it a prerogative that can be invoked, except under special and indeed we may certainly add, very exceptional circumstances. And further—unlike other powers—it can never be delegated to another. The Pope himself is Infallible, but he cannot transfer nor communicate his Infallibility, even temporarily or for some special given occasion, to anyone else who may, in other respects, represent him, such as a Legate, Ambassador, or Nuncio.

"Neither in conversation," writes the theologian Billuart, "nor in discussion, nor in interpreting Scripture or the Fathers, nor in consulting, nor in giving his reasons for the point which he has defined, nor in answering letters, nor in private deliberations, supposing he is setting forth his own opinion, is the Pope infallible." He is not infallible as a theologian, or as a priest, or a Bishop, or a temporal ruler, or a judge, or a legislator, or in his political views, or even in the government of the Church: but only when he teaches the Faithful throughout the world, ex cathedra, in matters of faith or of morals, that is to say, in matters relating to revealed truth, or to principles of moral conduct.

"It in no way depends upon the caprice of the Pope, or upon his good pleasure, to make such and such a doctrine the object of a dogmatic definition. He is tied up and limited to the divine revelation, and to the truths which that revelation contains. He is tied up and limited by the Creeds, already in existence, and by the preceding definitions of the Church. He is tied up and limited by the divine law and by the constitution of the Church. Lastly, he is tied up and limited by that doctrine, divinely revealed, which affirms that, alongside religious society, there is civil society, that alongside the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, there is the power of temporal magistrates, invested, in their own domain, with a full sovereignty, and to whom we owe in conscience obedience and respect in all things morally permitted, and belonging to the domain of civil society."[8]

Further, a definition of divine faith must be drawn from the Apostolic deposit of doctrine, in order that it may be considered an exercise of infallibility, whether in Pope or Council. Similarly, a precept of morals, if it is to be accepted as from an infallible voice, must be drawn from the moral law, that primary revelation to us from God. The Pope has no power over the Moral Law, except to assert it, to interpret it and to enforce it.

6. From this, it is at once realised how restricted, after all, is the infallible power of the Pope, in spite of the alarm its definition excited in the Protestant camp, in 1870.

Still, it must be clearly understood that whether speaking ex cathedra or not, the Pope is always the Vicar of Christ and the divinely appointed Head of His Church, and that we, as dutiful children, are bound both to listen to him with the utmost attention and respect, and to show him ready and heartfelt obedience. Anyone who should limit his submission to the Pope's infallible utterances is truly a rebel at heart, and no true Catholic.

The Holy Scripture is far from contemplating the exceptional cases of infallible definitions when it lays down the command: "Remember them, who have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God, whose faith follow". And, "obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves, for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief". The margin in the Protestant Version (observes Cardinal Newman) reads "those who are your guides," and the word may also be translated "leaders". Well, whether as rulers or as guides and leaders, whichever word be right, they are to be obeyed.

7. From this it is evident enough that assent is of two kinds. There is firstly the assent of Divine Faith; and secondly there is the assent of religious obedience. Neither can be dispensed with. Both are binding. All we affirm is that the one is not the other, and that the first must not be confused with the last. A special kind of assent, that is to say, the assent of Divine Faith must be given to all those doctrines which are proposed to us by the infallible voice of the Church, as taught by Our Lord or the Apostles, and as contained in the original deposit [fidei Depositum]. They comprise (a) all things whatever which God has directly revealed; and (b) whatever truth such revelation implicitly contains.

These implicit truths are deduced from the original revelation, very much as any other consequence from its premisses. For example. It is a truth directly revealed, that the Holy Ghost is God. But, since God is to be adored: the further proposition:—the Holy Ghost is to be adored; is also contained, though only implicitly, in revelation; and is therefore, equally, of faith. So again; that Christ is man, is a fact of revelation; but the further proposition—Christ has a true body—though not explicitly stated, is implicitly affirmed in the first proposition. All consequences, such as the above, which are seen immediately and evidently to be contained in the words of revelation, must be accepted as of faith. Other consequences, which are equally contained in the original deposit, but which are not so readily detected and deduced, must be explicitly accepted as of faith, only so soon as the Church has publicly and authoritatively declared them to be so contained; but not before. Thus, to take an illustration, the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin is a fact contained from the beginning, implicitly locked up, as it were, in the deposit of faith, left by the Apostles. Were it not so it never could have been defined; for the Church does not invent doctrines. She only transmits them. Yet, this doctrine is not so clearly and so self-evidently included, and lies not so luminously and unmistakably on the very surface of revelation as to be at once perceptible to all. Hence, before its actual definition, a Catholic might deny it, or suspend his judgment, without censure; whereas, to do either the one or the other, after the Church has solemnly declared the doctrine to be contained in the teaching of Christ and the Apostles, would be nothing short of heresy.

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