Puslapio vaizdai

Luther was born. Solomon said ages ago, "there is nothing new under the sun.” Protestants have not done even so much as to invent a new error or a new blasphemy. The Reformation has done nothing for progress, but to misdirect and retard it. The progress effected since the Reformation bears no comparison with that effected from the sixth to the ninth, or from the tenth to the fourteenth centuries, when you consider the difference in the starting point at the two epochs. From the state of Europe at the beginning of the Barbarian era and its state near the end of the reign of the Emperor Charlemagne, the progress of society was far greater and more difficult to effect than that which has been effected by European society since Luther. Take European society at as low a point in the sixteenth century as the Reviewer can suppose, and that point was not so low as that at which the Church took it at the commencement of any three hundred years previous, from the fall of the Western Empire ; and granting him all that he claims for his Protestantism, it will not have effected so much as the Church effected in any previous period of three hundred years.

There is a gross fallacy in all the Protestant reasonings on this subject. They reason as if society had been constantly deteriorating from the sixth to the sixteenth century, that it was the influence of the Church that caused it to deteriorate, that it has been constantly advancing since the Reformation, and that its progress subsequently has been solely through the influence of Protestantism. Not one of these assumptions is true. In some respects civilization in what had been the Roman Empire was in the sixteenth century below what it was in the third, and perhaps is so even yet ; but the fall was not owing to the Church, for Roman civilization actually advanced under her influence, as we may see by comparing the legislation of the Christian emperors with that of the pagan Republic. In the Imperial legislation there is embodied a sentiment of humanity, a respect for personal rights, and a tenderness for human life, of which you shall find no trace in the legislation of Republican Rome. The fall, as every body knows, was owing to the Barbarian invasion and conquests, which placed on the ruins of the empire a comparatively uncivilized people. The true starting-point of modern Europe is, the date of the destruction of the Roman power by the Germanic conquerors, say at the beginning of the sixth century. Now if you take the sixth century for your starting-point, you will find that European society continued to advance, notwithstanding the Hunnic, Saracenic, and Norman invasions and devastations, not finally checked till the great wars of the crusades, and had at the opening of the sixteenth century attained on the whole, though not in every respect, to a better state than it could boast in the century before the irruption of the Barbarians began. No man who knows the history of that long period of a thousand years can doubt for a moment that the grand agent of the progress effected was the Catholic Church. I do not hold up those ages between the sixth and the sixteenth centuries as model ages; I do not place them above the present ; I concede that they were often dark and barbarous ; but it was not the Church that made them so; it was, on the contrary, the Church that gradually enlightened them, and rescued them, slowly if you will, from barbarism. Let this be remembered that Europe overrun by Barbarians in the fifth century, and reduced to a barbarous state, was by the Church rescued from that state, and under the paternal guidance of the Popes enabled to advance to the comparatively enlightened and civilized state in which the Reformers found it in the sixteenth century.

Now the Reformers, it must be borne in mind, took European society at the highest point it had reached after the fall of the Western Roman Empire. The chief labor had already been done. Catholic faith, Catholic zeal, Catholic piety, and Catholic charity had covered Europe all over with churches, colleges, hospitals, and foundations

The Church had diffused every where the Biblical spirit. She had to a great extent Christianized philosophy, science, art, literature, and even politics. Into these labors of society under her inspiration the Reformers entered, and Protestantism in the outset started with all the capital which Catholics had been patiently and laboriously accumulating for a thousand years

. The venerable universities of Oxford and Cambridge were founded and endowed by Catholic zeal and charity, and the glorious old cathedrals which make the pride of England to-day, were

for the poor.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

erected by our Catholic ancestors. Take these facts into consideration and you will see that society ought not only to have advanced, but to have advanced much more rapidly after the sixteenth century than it had done before, for there was the accumulated force of a thousand years to push it onwards. But has such been the fact ? I will not say that there has been no progress since the Reformation, but I will say, and facts will bear me out in the assertion, that there has been far less than was to be expected, considering the vantage-ground already gained by European society. It is manifest to every one qualified by his genius and studies to form a judgment on such questions that there were causes in operation before the Reformation, which, if not counteracted or impeded, would have ensured a far greater progress than has been realized, and that what real progress has been effected has been in spite of the Reformation, rather than by it. Judging from what was done in any three hundred years during the thousand years prior to Luther, it is impossible to doubt, that if religious unity had not been broken, the Protestant heresy and schism had not been introduced, involving one hundred years of fearful and destructive civil wars, from the sad effects of which Europe has not yet recovered, and the Church had been permitted to continue to exert her directing power and her maternal influence in the whole of Europe, that the progress of the last three hundred years would have been far greater, and of a far higher order than it actually has been. In such case, moral and spiritual progress would have kept pace with material progress, and society would bave reflected the lofty principles, the free spirit, and the sublime charity of our holy religion, instead of being as it is a pale reflex of Græco-Roman society.

It is only common justice to bear these facts in mind. Under the thousand years that Catholicity was the predominant religion of Europe, society advanced from the barbarism of the sixth century to the comparatively high civilization of the sixteenth. This proves that the Church is not unfavorable to the progress of civilization, and that whatever defects there may bave been in the civilization of the sixteenth century, she was not answerable for them. It was not the Church that had reduced a civilized people to a barbarous people ; it was not the Church that


seated the Barbarians on the ruins of the ancient civilization; it was not the Church that gave those Barbarians

; their barbarous manners, their cruel, or their lawless dispositions, their savage customs, their impatience of restraint, and their contempt of the arts and refinements of civilized life. They had them all before her, and brought them with them or borrowed them from Pagan Rome; and it was precisely against them that she had for one thousand years to struggle ; and struggle she did with supernatural energy, and not without effect. Protestantism has had no such struggle. It has had no barbarous people to convert, at least it has converted and civilized none. It has taken no people from the depths of barbarism and brought them up even to a half-civilized state. It exterminates the savage or the barbarian when it comes in contact with him ; it never civilizes or Christianizes him. It has founded no state. The nations that are Protestant were old states, organized long before Luther, and as regularly organized as they are now. Protestantism commenced with powerful civilized states, and has, under the temporal order, had nothing to do, but to suffer them to continue the direction they had previously received, and develop the principles and institutions already established. Yet the result obtained, rating it as high as any Protestant can have the conscience to rate it, falls far short of what the previous progress had given us the right to expect. Protestantism has lent those principles and institutions no force, and has really proved an obstacle to their natural development and growth.

“From that day, Protestant Christianity has been the representative of freedom, freedom first in the domain of conscience, and then consequently in philosophy, art, science, church, and state.” Freedom of conscience in Protestant countries to reject the Pope and Councils, to form sects, and to persecute Catholics, conceded, but not in any other respect, for in no other respect do Protestants themselves, as a body, recognize freedom in the domain of conscience. “Freedom in philosophy.” There is just as much freedom since Luther as before, and that is all. Men in the domain of philosophy, as long as they confined themselves within that domain, were always free. St. Anselm, St. Thomas, St. Bonaventura, philosophized as freely

as Bacon or Leibnitz, Hobbes or Locke, Reid or Hegel, and far more profoundly and justly. Freedom in the arts." We do not understand the claim put forth by the Reviewer. Art is not Protestant, and while we do not pretend that all the great artists of the modern world have been exemplary Catholics, we deny that a great Protestant artist in any department of art can be named. Moreover the impulse to both art and science was given prior to Luther, and we believe Leo X. did not deny to art any reasonable freedom. Freedom in the “church.” In the Catholic Church, there is about the same degree of freedom and restraint that there was before the Reformation. In some respects, however, the abuses introduced and sustained by Protestantism, have led to the adoption of a more stringent discipline than was previously necessary. In the Protestant "church," the claim is absurd, for there was no Protestant church before, and there is none now. There are Protestant sects, establishments, conventicles, temples, but no Protestant church, except by courtesy. As for freedom in religion, we have seen what that is among Protestants ; as for the internal discipline which the so-called Evangelical sects exercise over their members, it is far more stringent than any known amongst Catholics; and as for arbitrary authority exercised without responsibility or control, you

will find it in its perfection in the Methodist bishops and conferences. It is carrying the joke a little too far for a Methodist to talk of freedom in the church. Whoever knows the Book of Discipline, or the constitution John Wesley gave to the sect he founded, will listen with impatience to à Methodist claiming freedom in religious matters. Of all the Protestant sects I am acquainted with,—and, if what is the stock charge against me be true, I must be acquainted with a large portion of them,

the Methodists have the least freedom, and are subjected to the most stringent discipline. They are more enslaved than even the Presbyterians. Freedom in the “state.” There is not a Protestant state in the world that has introduced into its constitution a principle of freedom not contained in it before the Reformation. We in this country have done nothing but embody the great principles of natural right and justice, developed and defended by all the great Catholic doctors from St. Augustine down to the Spanish Jesuit,

« AnkstesnisTęsti »