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Art. I. — Methodist Quarterly Review, for July, 1844.
New-York : Lane & Tippent. Art. II. Literary Policy of the Church of Rome.
The journal, the title of which we have placed at the head of this article, is the organ of the Episcopal Methodists of this country, and is conducted with considerable spirit and ability. If not remarkable for profound erudition and severe logic, it is at least quite commendable for its rhetoric ; and if we miss in its pages the simplicity and unction of the earlier Methodists, we still find its papers characterized by a liveliness and freshness which contrast favorably with the more elaborate essays in religious periodicals of much higher pretensions. It is thoroughly Protestant, and holds the benighted Papists in due hor
Its number for July last contains an article against the Catholic Church, which, for its hearty hatred of Catholicism, and its vituperative character, if not for its strength and energy of expression, would have gladdened the heart of even Luther himself. Although the article is nothing but a string of false charges, or misrepresentations, from beginning to end, we have thought it would not be amiss to notice it, because its subject is one of great importance, on which the Church of Christ is perpetually traduced by its enemies and persecutors.
“It is proposed in this paper,” says the Review, “to exhibit the proof that the Church of Rome has ever waged a deadly warfare upon the liberty of the press, and upon literature, and that her expurgatory and prohibitory policy is perpetuated to the present hour, not only against the truth of revelation, but equally against the truth in nature and in science,
VOL. II. NO. I.
both learning and religion having been the doomed victims of her perennial despotism." - p. 348.
The analysis of this passage gives us four distinct charges against the Church of Rome, namely : 1. Hostility to the Liberty of the Press ; 2. Hostility to Literature ; 3. Hostility to Science ; 4. Hostility to Revelation and Religion.
The first three of these charges, even if well founded, are urged with an ill grace by a Methodist. If we have been rightly informed, the Methodist press is itself under the strict surveillance of the bishops and elders, and the Methodist people have, we believe, great scruples about purchasing books, even of their own denomination, when not published by their own Book Society, which monopolizes the principal part of their publishing business. We even remember the time when the Methodist ministers were proverbial for their ignorance, and distinguished by their contempt for human science and learning. A better feeling is now, we are happy to admit, beginning to obtain among them, and the denomination has succeeded in establishing a few very respectable schools of its own; but we have not yet heard of a Methodist in this country of any remarkable literary attainments, and we are quite sure that no Methodist, clergyman or layman, has as yet made any valuable or permanent contribution either to literature or science. It betrays, then, a great want of modesty, on the part of a Methodist editor, to bring charges of hostility either to literature or science against any portion of the community, however true, in itself, such a charge might be. We are commanded to cast the splinter out of our own eye, before we undertake to pull the mote out of our broth
But this by the way. We proceed to take up and consider, in their order, each of the four charges preferred.
I. LIBERTY OF THE Press. The Review charges the Church of Rome with having ever waged a deadly warfare upon the liberty of the press, and promises to exhibit the proofs which sustain it; but these proofs it seems to have forgotten. The editor has apparently presumed his readers prepared in advance to believe any thing which can be said against the Roman Church, and therefore ready to take the assertion itself for proof. He does not adduce a single fact to prove his assertion, and, more than all that, he cannot. We deny his assertion, and defy him to lay his finger on a single act of the Roman Catholic Church, which indicates the least hostility on her part to a free press. He tells us, and he enters into a long and labored argument to prove, that the Church is now what she always was, and always was what she is now. For this we thank him. We not only concede, but we contend, that she is now what she always was, and always was what she now is, and always will be to the end of time. We hold the Church to be immutable, like Him whom she represents. Will it be pretended, that, prior to the sixteenth century, the Church, as the Church, ever waged war upon the liberty of the press ? Prior to the invention of printing, there was no press, in the modern sense of the term ; how could the Church, then, be said to be hostile to its freedom ? Is the Methodist reviewer acquainted with the writings of the fathers and monks of the Middle Ages ? Does he find in them any want of freedom of thought or of expression ? Prior to the invention of printing, the office of the modern press was mainly supplied by the pulpit. Did ever press speak freer than the old Catholic pulpit, when the humble priest dared address the monarch on his throne as a man and a sinner, and the cowled monk feared not to reprove even the Pope himself ? But the Church has not changed, and therefore, if it was not hostile to the freedom of the press then, it is not now.
Printing itself was invented before the Reformation, in good old Catholic times, and by a Catholic. Its glory belongs to Catholics, not to Protestants. And who were the first to welcome it, and to sustain the first printers ? The dignitaries of the Catholic Church. The first printers in Italy, companions of Faust, were received and protected by the Pope. The earliest patrons of Caxton, the first printer in England, were Thomas Milling, Bishop of Hereford, and the Abbot of Westminster Abbey, and it was in Westminster Abbey that he established his first printing-office. It was by the aid of the Bishop of Holun, that Mathieson was enabled to introduce printing into Iceland, and whoever knows any thing of the subject knows, that the Church of Rome has always encouraged literature and the free multiplication of books.
But the Review adduces the instance of expurgatory indexes, &c., as proof of hostility on the part of the Church of Rome to the liberty of the press. The existence of such indexes we of course admit; but so far as they concern merely the Pope's own temporal dominions, they come not within the scope of our present argument. The temporal court of Rome is to be judged the same as any other court, and the Church is no more responsible for its acts than it is for the acts of the court of France, of Spain, or even of England. The expurgatory indexes concern us, as members of the Roman Catholic Church, only so far as they are designed for the instruction of the faithful throughout the world. But what, after all, are these expurgatory indexes, about which we hear so much, and which are such frightful monsters to our Protestant brethren? They are simply matters of discipline, prepared by the highest pastoral authority in the Church, — not to encroach on the liberty of the press, for no book is likely to find a place in the index, if not published, - but to guard the faithful against the destructive effects of the licentiousness of the press. This is all.
Nobody, we presume, no matter of what religious persuasion, can recommend to all persons the indiscriminate reading of all manner of books and tractates which may be published. There are books, and books even not without some value when read by persons prepared to profit by them, which no prudent parent would put into the hands of his children. It is not every book that is suitable for every person's reading. A full-grown man, well grounded in his principles, and strengthened and confirmed by divine grace, may perhaps read without injury almost any publication ; but what Christian father would not tremble to find his son, some eighteen or twenty years of age, reading Paine's Age of Reason, Volney's Ruins, or Baron d'Holbach's Système de la Nature ? or what Christian mother would willingly see her daughter reading Wolstonecraft's Rights of Woman, or the novels of Paul de Kock, Sir Lytton Bulwer, George Sand, or Eugene Sue, before experience, and maturity of thought and sentiment, had secured her against the subtle poison they contain ? Books are companions, and bad books are as dangerous as any other species of companions. Evil communications corrupt good manners, and we may be corrupted by reading bad books as well as by frequenting bad company. Every body knows this, and every father of a family, if he deserve at all the name, has virtually an index expurgatorius, which he does his best to enforce on all intrusted to his care. All admit its importance, so far as concerns children or young persons. Would the Methodist bishops and elders tolerate Universalist, Unitarian, Papistical, or infidel books in their Sunday-school libraries, or recommend them to the members of their flock for family reading? Do not the American SundaySchool Union alter, expurgate, or amend the books they publish, to make them conform to their standard of orthodoxy and propriety? Do not the laws of Massachusetts, New York, nay, of every State in the Union that has a public school tem, institute an expurgatory index, by prohibiting all sectarian
books from being used in the schools, or introduced into the common school libraries ? And so far as relates to common schools in this Commonwealth, what is our Board of Education, with its learned Secretary, but a “ Congregation of the Index” ?
In all communities there are large numbers who are children as long as they live. Every clergyman, no matter of what denomination, can point to not a few in his congregation, who are by no means qualified for reading with profit, or without detriment, all manner of books or publications which may be issued ; and we know no clergyman that does not use his utmost influence to prevent the members of his flock from reading such works as in his judgment may prove injurious to them. Indeed, we see not how he could answer it to his conscience and to his God, if he should not. Is he not, by virtue of his office, set as an overseer, to watch over, guard, and promote their spiritual welfare ? Our early acquaintance with the Methodists, with whom in a good measure we were brought up, has led us to believe that their ministers are by no means remiss in this duty. Indeed, all the sects, unless we must except Unitarians and Universalists, do their best to prevent their respective members from reading publications hostile to their peculiar tenets. The Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, and Congregationalists, are as strict in this respect as Catholics themselves. Each denomination has an expurgatory index, as much as the Church of Rome, — only it does not publish it, — and an index equally exclusive, to say the least. What, then, but rank hypocrisy, is this outcry against the Catholic Church? Wherein is her peculiar offence? Is it in the fact, that she publishes her index for the guidance of the faithful throughout the world, and does not profess one thing and do nother?
But, as we have said, the index is merely an affair of discipline, and simply points out the books not approved by the Church, which are not sound in the faith, or which cannot be read without danger to piety or morals. Yet the reading of the books placed in the index is not absolutely prohibited ; it is simply remitted to the discretion of the bishops or pastors, and may be allowed to any one, when any good reason can be assigned why it should be.
But we are told, or may be told, that the Church of Rome establishes a rigid censorship of the press.
Not the Church of Rome, but the court of Rome ; and not for the Church Universal, but for the Pope's temporal dominions. How rigid this censorship may be we know not, nor does it concern us, who are not temporal subjects of the Pope, to inquire. The Pope,