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Independence of the Church, for Catholic World 1866



[From the Catholic World for October, 1866.]


                Our age is more sentimental than intellectual, more philanthropic then Christian, more material than spiritual. It may and no doubt does cherish and seek to realize, with such wisdom as it has, many humane and just sentiments, but it retains less Christian thought than it pretends, and has hardly any conception of catholic principles. It studies chiefly phenomena, physical or psychical, and as these are all individual, particular, manifold, variable, and transitory, it fails to recognize any reality that is universal, invariable, and permanent, superior to the vicissitudes of time and place, always and everywhere one and the same. It is so intent on the sensible that it denies or forgets the spiritual, and so engrossed with the creature that it loses sight of the creator.

                Indeed, there are not wanting men in this nineteenth century who deny that there is any creator at all, or that anything has been made, and maintain that all has been produced by self-development or growth. These men, who pass for the great scientific lights of the age, tell us that all things are in a continual process of self-formation, which they call by the general name of progress; and so taken up are they with their doctrine of progress, that they gravely assert that God himself, if Gov there be, is progressive, perfectible, ever proceeding from the imperfect towards the perfect, and seeking by unremitting action to perfect, fill out, or complete his own being. They seem not to be aware that if the perfect does not already really exist, or is wanting, there is and can be no progress; for progress is motion towards the perfect, and, if the perfect does not exist there can be no motion towards it, and in the nature of the case the motion can be only towards nothing, and therefore, as St. Thomas has well demonstrated in proving the impossible of progress without end, no motion at all. Nor do they seem any more to be aware that the imperfect, the incomplete, is not and cannot be self-active, or capable of acting in and from itself alone, and therefore has not the power in itself alone to develop and complete itself, or perfect its own being. Creatures may be and are progressive, because they live, and move, and have their being in their Creator, and are aided and sustained by him whose being is eternally complete, who is in himself infinitely perfect. They forget also the important fact that where there is nothing universal, there can be nothing particular, that where there is nothing invariable there can be nothing variable, that where there is nothing permanent there can be nothing transitory, and that where there is no real being there can be no phenomena, any more than there can be creation without a creator, action without an actor, appearance without any thing that appears, or a sign that signifies nothing.

                Now the age, regarded in its dominant tendency, neglects or denies this universal, invariable, persistent, real, or spiritual order, and its highest and most catholic principles are mere classifications or generalizations of visible phenomena, and therefore abstractions, without reality, without life or efficiency. It understands not that throughout the universe the visible is symbolical of the invisible, and that to the prepared mind there is an invisible but living reality signified by the observable phenomena of nature, as in the Christian economy an invisible grace is signified by the visible sacramental sign.  All nature is in some sense sacramental, but the age takes it only as an empty sign signifying nothing. Hence the embarrassment of the Christian theologian in addressing it; the symbols he uses and must use have for it no meaning. He deals and must deal with an order of thought of which it has little or no conception. He is as one speaking to a man who has no hearing, or exhibiting colors to a man who has no sight. He speaks of the transcendental to those who recognize nothing above the sensible-of the spiritual to men who are of the earth earthy, and have lost the faculty of rising above the material, and piercing beyond the visible. The age has fallen, even intellectually, far below the Christian order of thought, and is apparently unable to rise even in conception to the great catholic principles in accordance with which the universe is created, sustained, and governed.

                Nobody in his senses denies that man is progressive, or that modern society has made marvelous progress in the material order, in the application of science to the productive arts. I am no laudator temporis acti; I understand and appreciate the advantages of the present, and do not doubt that steam navigation, railroads, and lightning telegraphs, which bid defiance to the winds and waves, and as it were annihilate space and time, will one day be made to subserve higher than mere material interests; but I cannot shut my eyes to the fact that in many and very important respects, the modern world has deteriorated instead of improving, and been more successful in losing than in gaining. The modern nations commonly regarded, at least by themselves, as the more advanced nations, have fallen in moral and religious thought below the ancient Greeks and Romans. They may have more sounds dogmas, but they have less conception of principles, of the invisible or spiritual order, excepting always the followers of Leucippus, Democritus, and Epicurus, whose absurd materialism is revived with hardly any disguise by the most approved thinkers of our own age. The gentiles generally held catholic principles, but misapprehended and misapplied them, and thus fell into gross idolatry and degrading and besotting superstition; but the moderns while retaining many Catholic dogmas have lost the meaning of the word, principle. The Catholic can detect, no doubt, phases of truth in all the doctrines of those outside of the church, but the Christianity they profess has no universal, immutable, and imperishable principle, and degenerates in practice into a blind and fierce fanaticism, a watery sentimentality, a baseless humanitarianism, or a collection of unrelated and unmeaning dogmas, which are retained only because they are never examined, and which can impart no light to the understanding, infuse no life into the heart, and impose no restraint on the appetites and passions.

                Having fallen below the conception of a real order above the visible and phenomenal, and sunk to complete Sadducism, which believes in neither angel nor spirit, the age makes war on the church because she asserts such order, and remains fast anchored in it; because she is immovable and invariable, or as her enemies say, stationary, unprogressive, and therefore hostile to progress. She has, it is said, the insolence to attempt to teach and govern men and nations, instead of gracefully submitting to their views and wishes, and bestowing her blessing on their exertions for the liberty and progress of society. The age denies her to be the church of God, because she fails to prove herself to be the church of man, holding simply from a human authority. It denies her divine origin, constitution, and authority, because she is stable, cannot be carried away by every wind of doctrine, does not yield to every popular impulse, and from time to time resists individuals, civil rulers, the people even, and opposes their favorite theories, plans, and measures, whenever she finds them at war with her mission and her law. It applauds her, indeed, to the echo, when she appears to be on the side of what happens to be popular, but condemns her without mercy when she opposes popular error, popular folly, popular injustice, and asserts the unpopular truth, defends the unpopular cause, or uses her power and influence in behalf of neglected justice, and pleads with her divine eloquence for the poor, the wronged, the down-trodden. Yet this is precisely what she should do, if the church of God, and what it would be contrary to her nature and office on that supposition not to do.

                The age concedes nothing in the unseen and eternal. In its view religion itself is human, and ought to be subject to man, and determinable by society, dictated by the people, who in the modern mind usurp the place of God. It should not govern, but be governed, and governed from below, not from above; or rather, in its subversion of old ideas, it holds that being governed from below is being governed from above. It forgets that religion, objectively considered, is, if anything, the revelation and assertion of the divine order, or the universal and eternal law of God, the introduction and maintenance in the practical affairs of men and nations of the divine element, without which there would and could be nothing in human society invariable, permanent, or stable-persistent, independent, supreme, or authoritative. The church is simply the divine constitution and organ of religion in society, and must, like religion itself, be universal, invariable, independent, supreme, and authoritative for all men and nations. Man does not originate the church. She does not depend on man, or hold from him either individually or collectively; for she is instituted to govern him, to administer for him the universal and eternal law, and to direct and assist him in conducting himself in the way of his duty, to his supreme good, which she could not do if she held from and depended on him.

                The point here insisted on, and which is so far removed from the thought of this age, is, that this order transcending the phenomenal and the whole material or sensible universe, and which in the strictly philosophical language of Scripture is called "the Law of the Lord," is eminently real, not imaginary, not factitious, not an abstraction, not a classification or generalization of particulars, nor something that depends for its reality on human belief or disbelief. Religion which asserts this divine order, this transcendental order, is objectively "the law of the Lord," which, proceeding from the eternal reason and will of God, is the principle and reason of things. The church, as the divinely constituted organ of that law, is not an arbitrary institution, is not an accident, is not an afterthought, is not a superinduction upon the original plan of the Creator, but enters integrally into that plan, and is therefore founded in the principle, the reason, and the constitution of things, and is that in reference to which all things are created, sustained, and governed, and hence our Lord is called "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world."

                But this our age does not conceive. For it the divine, the invariable, the universal, and the eternal are simply abstractions or generalizations, not real being. Its only conception of immensity, is space unlimited-of eternity, is time without end-of the infinite, the undefined, and of the universal, totality or sum total. Catholic, in its understanding, means accepting or ranking together as equally respectable the doctrines, opinions, views, and sentiments of all sects and denominations, Christian, Jewish, Mahometan, and pagan. He, in the sense of modern philosophers, has a catholic disposition who respects all convictions, and has no decided conviction of his own. Cathoilicity is held to be something made up by the addition of particulars. The age does not understand that there is no catholicity without unity, and therefore that catholicity is not predicable of the material order, since nothing material or visible is or can be strictly one and universal. The church is catholic, not because as a visible body she is universal and includes all men and nations in her communion; she was as strictly catholic when her visible communion was restricted to the Blessed Virgin and the apostles as she is now, or would be if all the members of the race were recipients of her sacraments. She is catholic because she is the organ of the whole spiritual order, truth, or reality, and that order in its own intrinsic nature is one and universal. All truth is catholic, because all truth is one and invariable; all the dogmas of the church are catholic, because universal principles, always and everywhere true. The law of the Lord is catholic, because universally, always and everywhere law, equally law for all men and nations in every age of the world, on earth and in heaven, in time and eternity. The church is catholic, because she holds under this law, and because God promulgates and administers it through her, because he lives and reigns in her, and hence she is called his kingdom, the kingdom of God on earth, a kingdom fulfilled and completed in heaven. It is this order of ideas that the age loses sight of, and is so generally disposed to deny. Yet without it there were no visible order, and nothing would or could exist.

                The principle, reason, nature, or constitution of things is in this order, and men must conform to it or live no true, no real life. They who recede from it advance towards nothing, and, as far as possible, become nothing. The church is independent, superior to all human control, and persistent, unaltered, and unalterable through all the vicissitudes of time and place because the order in which she is founded is independent and persistent. She cannot be moved or harmed, because she rests on the principle, truth, and constitution of things, and is founded neither on the individual man, the state, nor the people, but on God himself, the Rock of Ages, against which anything created must rage and beat in vain. "On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall shall not prevail against it." The church is therefore, by her own divine constitution, by the very principle and law of her existence, indefectible. No weapon forged against her shall prosper. The wicked may conspire to destroy reality, and all reality is always invincible and indestructible. They cannot efface or overthrow her because she is founded in the truth and reality of things, or what is the same thing, in the unalterable reason and will of God, in whom all creatures have their principles-live, move, and have their being.

                They who oppose the church in the name of humanity or human progress, cannot succeed, because she is invincible, and they would utterly defeat themselves if they could. They would deprive the human race of the law of God, which makes wise the simple and strengthens the weak, and deprive men and nations of the truth and reality of things, the very principle of all life, and of the very means and conditions of all progress. Man no doubt is progressive, but not in and by himself alone. Archimedes demanded a   , a whereon to rest his fulcrum outside of the earth, in order to move it, and there is no conceivable way by which a man can raise himself by a lever supported on himself. How is it that our philosophers fail to see the universal application of the laws which they themselves assert? All progress is by assimilation, by accretion, as that hierophant of progress, Pierre Leroux, has amply demonstrated, and if there is no reality outside of man or above him, what is there for him to assimilate, and how is he to become more than at any given time he already is? Swift ridiculed the philosophers of Laputa, who labored to extract sunbeams from cucumbers, but even more ridiculous are they who pretend that something may be assimilated from nothing, or that a thing can in and of itself make itself more than it is. Where there is nothing above man with which he does or may commune, there is for him no possibility of progress, and men and nations can never advance beyond what they are. This is so in the nature of things, and it is only what is implied in the maxim, Ernihilo nihil fit.

                An institution, no matter by what sacred name called, founded by savages, embodying only what they are, and worked by them, would have no power to elevate them above their savage state, and could only serve to perpetuate their savagery. The age speaks of the applications of science to the productive arts, of the marvels of the steam engine, steamboats, the locomotive, and the magnetic telegraph, and boasts that it renders mind omnipotent over matter. Vain boast, poor philosophy. We have in the forces of nature, which are as independent of our reason and will as ever they were, as the first steamboat explosion will suffice to convince the most sceptical. We have subjected none of the forces of nature; we have only learned in some few instances to construct our machinery so as to be propelled by them, as did the first man who built a mill, constructed a boat, or spread his sails to catch the breeze. We alter not, we control not by our machinery the forces of nature, and all the advantage we have obtained is in conforming to them, and in suffering them, according to their own laws, or laws which we have not imposed on them, to operate for us. The principle is universal, catholic, and as true in the moral or spiritual as in the mechanical or physical world.

                Man does not create, generate, or control the great moral and spiritual forces on which he depends to propel his moral and spiritual machinery. They exist and operate independently alike of his reason and his will, and the advantages he derives from them are obtained by his placing himself within the sphere of their influence, or, to be strictly correct, by interposing voluntarily no obstacle to their inflowing, for they are always present and operative unless resisted. Withdraw him from their influence, or induce him obstinately to resist them, which he may do, for he is a free moral agent, and he can make no more progress then a sailing ship at sea in a dead calm. These forces are divine, are embodied in the church as her living and constitutive force-are in one sense the church herself, and hence men and nations separated from her communion and influence are thrown back on nature alone, and necessarily cease to be progressive. We may war against this as much as we please, but we cannot alter it, for the principle on which it rests is a universal and indestructible law.

                Individuals and nations separated by schism or heresy from the visible communion of the church do not become at once absolutely and in all respects unprogressive, for they are carried on for a time by the momentum she has given them, and besides, they are not, as she continues to exist, absolutely beyond or outside of the sphere of her influence, though indirect and reflected. But from the moment of the separation their progress begins to slacken, their spiritual life becomes sickly and attenuated, and gradually they lose all that they had received from the church, and lapse into helpless and unassisted nature. This, which is demonstrable a priori, is proved by the experience of those nations that separated from the church in the sixteenth century. These nations at first retained a large portion of their old  Catholic culture, and many of the habits acquired under the discipline and training of the church. But they have been gradually losing them ever since, and the more advanced portions of them have got pretty clear of them, and thrown off, as they express it, the last rag of popery. Indeed this is their boast.

                In throwing off the authority of the church, they came in religious matters under the authority of the state, or the temporal sovereign or ruler-a purely human authority, without competency in spirituals-and thus lost at once their entire religious freedom, or liberty of conscience. In Catholic nations the civil authority has always, or almost always, been prone to encroach on the authority of the church, and to attempt to control her external discipline or ecclesiastical administration; but, in the nations that were carried away by the so-called reformation, the civil authority assumed in every instance complete control over the national church, and prescribed its constitution, its creed, its liturgy, and its discipline. This for them completely humanized religion, and made it a department of state. It is true these nations professed to recognize the Bible as containing a divine revelation, and to be governed by it; and this would have been something, even much, had they not remitted its interpretation to the civil magistrate, the king, the parliament, the public judgment of the people, or the private judgment of the individual, which made its meaning, as practically received, vary from nation to nation, and even from individual to individual.

                This sacrificed, in principle, the sovereignty of God and the entire spiritual order, departed to a fearful distance from the truth and reality of things, and if it retained some of the precepts of the Christian law, it retained them as precepts not of the law of God but as precepts of the law of man, enjoined, explained, and applied by a purely human authority. In process of time, the authority of the state in religious matters was found to be usurped, tyrannical, and oppressive, and the thinking part of the separated nations asserted the right of private judgment, or of each believer to interpret the Holy Scriptures for himself. Having gone thus far, they went still further, and asserted for every one the right to judge for himself not only of the meaning, but of the inspiration, authenticity, and authority of the Scriptures, though the civil government in none of these nations, except the United States, not in existence at the time of the separation, has disavowed its authority in spirituals. Practically, the doctrine that each individual judges for himself is now generally adopted.

                The authority of the Scriptures has followed the authority of the church, and is practically, when not theoretically, rejected. It was perhaps asserted by the reformers at first for the purpose of presenting some authority not precisely human, which no Catholic would deny, as offset against that of the church, rather than from any deep reverence for it, or profound conviction of its reality. But, be this as it may, it counts for little now. The authors of "Essays and Reviews," and the Anglican bishop of Natal, take hardly less liberty with the Scriptures than Luther and Calvin did with the church. The more advanced thinkers, if thinkers they are, of the age go further still, and maintain not only that a man may be a very religious man, and a true follower of Jesus Christ, without accepting either the authority of the church or that of the Bible, but without even believing either in the existence of God or the immortality of the soul. Schleiermacher, the great Berlin preacher, went thus far in his "Discourses on Religion, addressed to the Cultivated among its Despisers;" and equally far, if not further, in the same direction, go the rising school or sect called positivists. Religion is reduced to a spontaneous development-perhaps I should say, to a secretion of human nature, implying no reality above or distinguishable from human nature itself.

                It is not pretended that all persons in these nations have as yet reached this result; but as there is a certain logic in error as well as in truth, all are tending and must tend to it. What is called progress of religious ideas or religious enlightenment is not held to consist in any accession to our stock of known truth, in penetrating further into the world of reality, and attaining a firmer grasp of its principles, nor in a better understanding of our moral relations and the duties growing out of them, but in simply casting off or getting rid of so-called popery-of every thing that has been retained in the nations, and the sects into which they divide and subdivide, furnished by the Catholic Church in which the reformers has been reared-and in reducing men and nations to the nakedness and feebleness of nature. The more advanced portion are already seen sporting in puris naturalibus, heedless alike of shame and winter's cold. The others are following more or less rapidly in the same direction; for there is no halting-place between Catholicity and naked naturalism, and men must either ascend to the one or descend to the other. But those who choose to descend can find no resting-place even in naturalism, for nature, severed from Catholicity, is severed from its principle, is severed from God, from the reality and truth of things, and is therefore unreal, nothing. Hence the descent is endless. Falsehood has no bottom, is unreal, purely negative, and can furnish no standing. Men can stand only on the true, the real, and that is Catholicity, the order represented in society by the church. Those who forsake the church, Catholicity, God, forsake therefore the real order, have nothing to stand on, and in the nature of the case can only drop into what the Scripture calls "the bottomless pit."

                We hear much of the ignorance, superstition, and even of idolatry of Catholics, nothing of which is true; but this much is certain, that those who abandon the church, and succeed in humanizing religion, making it hold from man and subject to his control, do as really worship gods of their fashioning as did the old worshippers of gods made of wood and stone, because their religion is really only what they make it, and fall into as gross an idolatry and into as besotted and besotting a superstition as can be found among any heathen people, ancient or modern.

                It is easy therefore to understand why the church sets her face so resolutely against modern reformers, liberals, revolutionists, in a word, the whole so-called movement party, professing to labor for the diffusion of intelligence and the promotion of science, liberty, and human progress. It is not science, liberty, or progress that she opposes, but false theories substituted, for science, and the wrong and destructive means and methods of promoting liberty and progress adopted and insisted on by liberals and revolutionists. There is only one right way of effecting the progress they profess to have at heart, and that is by conforming to truth and reality, for falsehood is impotent, and nothing can be gained by it. She opposes the movement party, not as a movement party, not as a party of light, liberty, and progress, but as a party of moving in the wrong direction, putting forth unscientific theories, theories which amuse the imagination without enlightening the understanding, which if they dazzle it is only to blind with their false glitter, which embraced as truth to-day, must be rejected as falsehood tomorrow, and which in fact tend only to destroy liberty, and render all real progress impossible. As the party, collectively or individually, neither is nor pretends to be infallible, the church, at the worst, is as likely to be right as they are, and the considerations presented prove that she is right, and that they are wrong. There is no science but in knowing the truth, that which really is or exists, and there is no real progress, individual or social, with nature alone, because nature alone has no existence, and can exist and become more than it is only by the gracious, the supernatural assistance of God, in whom all things live, move, and have their being.

                A great clamor has been raised by the whole movement party throughout the world against the encyclical of the Holy Father, dated at Rome, December 8, 1864, and even some Catholics, not fully aware of the sense and reach of the opinions censured, were at first partially disturbed by it; but the Holy Father has given in it only a proof of his pastoral vigilance, the fidelity of the church to her divine mission, and the continuous presence in her and supernatural assistance of the Holy Ghost. The errors condemned are all aimed at the unity and invariability, universality and persistency, of truth, the reality of things, the supremacy of the spiritual order, and the independence and authority of the divine law, at real science, and the means and conditions of both liberty and progress. In it we see the great value of the independence of the church,-of a church holding from God instead of holding from man. If the church had been human or under human control, she would have never have condemned those errors, because nearly all of them are popular, and hailed as truth by the age. Man condemns only what man dislikes, and the popular judgment condemns only what is unpopular. It is only the divine that judges according to truth, and without being influenced by the spirit of the age, or by what is popular or unpopular. If the church had been human, she would have been carried away by those errors, and proved herself the enemy instead of the friend, the protector, and the benefactor of society.

                These remarks on the divine character and independence of the church are not inappropriate to the present times, and may serve to calm, comfort, and console Catholics amidst the national convulsions and changes which, without the reflections they suggest, might deeply afflict the Catholic heart. The successes of Italy and Prussia in the recent unjustifiable war against Austria, and the humiliation of the Austrian empire, the last of the great powers on which the church could rely for the protection of her material interests, have apparently given over the temporal government of this world to her enemies. There is at this moment not a single great power in the world that is officially Catholic, or that officially recognizes the Catholic Church as the church of God. The majority of Frenchmen are or profess to be Catholics, but the French state professes no religion, and if it pays a salary to the Catholic clergy, Protestant ministers, and Jewish rabbis, it is not as ministers of religion, but as servants of the state. The Russian state is schismatic, and officially Protestant and anti-Catholic; and so are Holland, Sweden, Denmark, and Norway. Belgium and our own great republic profess officially no religion, but give freedom and protection to all religions not held to be contra bonos mores. Spain and Portugal, no longer great powers, and most of the Central and South American states, officially profess the Catholic faith, but they count for next to nothing in the array of nations. Hellas and the Principalities, like Russia, are schismatic, and the rest of the world, including the greater part of Asia and all of Africa, is Mahometan or pagan, and of course hostile to the church.

                I have not enumerated Austria, for what is to be her fate no one can now say; but as a portion of her population belong to the Greek schismatic church, and a larger portion still are Protestants, the most that can be expected of her is that she will, in regard to religion, assume the attitude of France and Italy. There is then really no power on which the church can now rely for the support of her external and material interests. I will not say that the triumph of Prussia is the triumph of Protestantism, for that would not be true; but it is, at least for the moment, the success of the party that denounced the papal encyclical, and would seem to be a complete victory, perhaps a final victory, over that system of mixed civil and ecclesiastical government which grew up on the downfall of the Roman empire and the conversion of the barbarian nations that seated themselves on its ruins. It is the total and final destruction of the Christian empire founded, with the aid of the pope and bishops, by Charlemagne and his nobles, and not unlikely will end in the complete severance of all official union of church and state-alike the official union between the state and the heretical and schismatic churches, and between the state and the Catholic Church; so that throughout the civilized world the people will be politically free to be of any religion they choose, and the state of no religion.

                This result is already reached in nearly all the nations hitherto called Catholic nations, but not in the officially Protestant and schismatic nations; and for a long time to come the anti-Catholic or anti-papal religions, schismatical, heretical, Mahometan, and pagan religions, will be retained as official or state religions, with more or less of civil tolerance for Catholics. For the moment, the anti-papal party appears to be victorious, and no doubt believes that it is all over with the Catholic Church. That party had persuaded itself that the church, as a ruling body, was of imperial origin-that the papal power had been created by the edicts of Roman emperors, and that it depends entirely on the civil authority for its continuance. Hence they concluded that, if the church could be deprived of all civil support, it must fall. They said, the church depends on the papacy, and the papacy depends on the empire; hence, detach the empire-that is, the civil power-from the papacy, and the whole fabric tumbles at once into complete ruin. It is not improbable that, to confound them, to bring to naught the wisdom of the wise, and to take the crafty in their own craftiness, Providence has suffered them to succeed. He has permitted them to detach the empire, that they may see their error.

                The successful party have reckoned without their host. They have reasoned from false premises, and come necessarily to false conclusions. The church is, undoubtedly, essentially papal as well as episcopal, and the destruction of the papacy would certainly be her destruction as the visible church; but it is false to assume that the papacy was created by imperial edicts and depends on the empire, for it is an indisputable historical fact that it existed prior to any imperial edict in its favor, and while the empire was as yet officially pagan, and hostile to the church. Hence it does not follow that detaching the empire from the papacy will prove its destruction. The church was as papal in its constitution when the whole force of the empire was turned against it, when it sought refuge in the catacombs, as it is now, or was in the time of Gregory VII. or Innocent III., and is as papal in this country, where it has no civil support or recognition, as in Spain, or the Papal States themselves. The very principle, idea, and nature of the church, as we have set them forth in asserting the independence and supremacy of the spiritual order, of which she is the organ, contradict in the most positive manner the dependency of the papacy on the empire.

                The church as a visible body, has no doubt, temporal relations, and therefore temporal interests susceptible of being affected by the changes which take place in states and empires, and it is not impossible, nor improbable, that the recent changes in Europe may more or less deeply affect those interests. The papacy has itself so judged, and has resisted them with all the means placed at its disposal. These changes, if carried out, if completed, will affect in a very serious manner the relations of the papacy with temporal sovereigns, or, to use the consecrated term, with the empire, and many of its regulations and provisions for the administration of ecclesiastical affairs will certainly need to be changed or modified, and much inconvenience during the transition to the new state of things will no doubt be experienced. All changes from an old established order, though in themselves changes for the better, are for a time attended with many inconveniences. The Israelites escaping from Egyptian bondage had to suffer weariness, hunger and thirst in the wilderness before reaching the promised land. But whatever temporal changes or inconveniences of this sort the church in her external relations may have to endure, they are accidental, and by no means involve her destruction, or impair her power or integrity as the church of God, or divinely instituted organ of the spiritual order.

                There is no question that the party that regards itself as having triumphed in the success of Italy and Prussia is bitterly hostile not only to what it calls the papal politics, but to the Catholic Church herself, and will not be satisfied with simply detaching the empire from her support, but will insist on its using all its power and influence against her. That party, indeed, demands religious liberty, but religious liberty, in its sense of the term, is full freedom for all religions except the Catholic, the only true religion. Error, they hold, is harmless when reason is free, but truth they instinctively feel is dangerous to their views and wishes, and must for their safety be bound hand and foot. But suppose the worst; suppose the civil power becomes actively hostile to the church, prohibits by law the profession and practice of the Catholic religion, punishes Catholics with fines and imprisonment, fire and sword, the dungeon and the stake, the church will be no worse off then she was under the pagan emperors, hardly worse off than she was under even the Arians. The empire under the Jew and the gentile exerted its utmost fury against her, and exerted it in vain. It found her irrepressible. The more she was opposed and persecuted, the more she flourished, and the blood of the martyrs fattened the soil for a rich growth of Catholics. Individuals and nations may be, as they have been, detached from her communion, and many souls for whom Christ died perish everlastingly, which is fearful loss to them, and society may suffer the gains acquired to civilization during eighteen centuries to be lost, and moral and intellectual darkness gather anew for a time over the land, once enlightened by the Sun of righteousness, for God governs men as free moral agents, not as machines or slaves; but the church will survive her persecutors, and reconquer the empire for God and his Christ. Is she not founded on the Rock of Ages, and is it not said by him who is truth itself, that the gates of hell shall not prevail against her?

                It would be impossible to subject the church to a severer ordeal than she has time and again passes through, and it is not likely that her children will be exposed to greater trails than those to which they were subjected in the fifth and sixth centuries by the subversion of the Roman empire by the pagan and Arian barbarians, or to suffer heavier calamities than were inflicted on them by the so-called reformation in the sixteenth century. The Protestants of today cannot be fiercer, more intolerant or fanatical than they were in the age of Luther and Calvin; and the infidels of today cannot be more envenomed against the church, or more bloodthirsty and brutal, than were the infidels in the French revolution; and all these the church has survived.

                The well-being of society, its orderly, peaceful, and continuous progress, requires, as the Holy See has constantly maintained, the cooperation and harmonious action of the church and the empire or republic, but the church has seldom found the empire ready and willing to cooperate with her, and the record of the struggles between her and it fills more than a brief chapter in ecclesiastical and civil history. In point of fact, the church has usually found herself embarrassed and oppressed by officially Catholic states, and most of the popular prejudices that still exist against her owe their origin neither to her doctrines nor to her practices, but to the action of secular governments officially Catholic. In the last century, her bitterest enemies were the sovereigns of officially Catholic states; the most generous friends of the Holy See were states officially heretical or schismatic, as Russia, Great Britain, Sweden, and Prussia. Austria is humiliated and suffering now for being in the way of the anti-papal aggression, and every generous-hearted man sympathizes with her noble-minded and well-disposed if not able emperor, and it is no time to speak of her past shortcomings; but this much may be said, she has seldom been a generous supporter of the Holy See, and sometimes has been its oppressor.

                Governments, like individuals, seldom profit by any experience but their own; yet experience has proved, over and over again, that governments the most powerful cannot, however determined on doing so, extirpate Catholicity by force from their dominions. Pagan Rome, once the haughty mistress of the world, tried it, made the profession of the Christian faith punishable with death, and death in the most frightful and excruciating forms, but failed. England, with all her power, with all her Protestant zeal, aided by her intense national prejudices, though she emulated the cruelties of the Caesars and even surpassed the Caesars in her craft and treachery, has never been able to extinguish the Catholic faith and love of the Irish people, the great majority of whom have never ceased to adhere to the Catholic religion. The church thrives under persecution, for to suffer for Christ's sake is a signal honor, and martyrdom is a crown of glory. The government can reach no further than to the bodies and goods of Catholics, and he who counts it an honor to suffer, a crown to die, for his faith, fears nothing that can be done to these, and is mightier than king or kaiser, parliament or congress. The Christians, as Lactantius wells says, conquered the world not by slaying but by being slain. Woe to him who slays the Catholic for his religion, but immortal honor and glory to him who is slain! Men are so constituted that they rarely love that which costs them nothing, no sacrifice. It is having suffered for our native land that hallows it in our affections, and the more we suffer for the church the more and the more tenderly do we love her. St. Hilary accuses the Arian Constantuis of being a worse enemy to the church than Nero, Decius, or Diocletian, for he seduced her prelates by favors, instead of enabling them to acquire glory in openly dying for the faith.

                The civil power can never uproot Catholicity by slaying Catholics, or robbing the church of her temporalities. Impoverish the church as you will, you cannot make her poorer than she was in our Lord himself, who had not where to lay his head, nor than she was in the twelve apostles when they went forth from that "upper room" in Jerusalem to conquer the world. She has never depended upon the goods of this world as the means of accomplishing her mission, and her possessions have often been an embarrassment, and exposed her to the envy, cupidity, and rapacity of secular princes. If deprived by the revolution of the temporalities of her churches, and left destitute, so to speak, of house or home, she can still offer up "the clean oblation," as she has often done, in private houses, barns, groves, catacombs, caverns in the earth, or clefts in the rocks.

                The church has frequently been deprived of her temporal possessions and of all temporal power, but the poor have suffered by it more than she. She is really stronger in France today than she was in the age of Louis XIV., and French society is, upon the whole, less corrupt than in the time of Francis I. Religion revives in Spain in proportion as the church loses her wealth. There are no countries where the church has been poorer than in Ireland and the United States, and none where her prosperity has been greater. Let matters, then, take the worst turn possible, Catholics have little to fear, the church nothing to apprehend, except the injury her enemies are sure to do themselves, which cannot fail to afflict her loving heart.

                Yet, whatever may be the extent of the changes effected or going on in the states and empires of Europe, I apprehend no severe or prolonged persecution of Catholics. The church in this world is and always will be the church militant, because she is not of this world, and acts on principles not only above but opposed to those on which kings and kaisers and the men of this world act. She therefore necessarily comes in conflict with them, and could render them no service if she did not. Conflicts there will be, annoyances and vexations must be expected; but in all the European states as well as our own, if we except Sweden and Denmark, there is too large a Catholic population to be either massacred, exiled, or deprived of the rights of person and property common to all citizens or subjects. The British government has been forced to concede Catholic emancipation, and all appearances indicate that she will be forced ere long to place Catholics in all respects on a footing of perfect equality with Protestants before the state. Prussia, should she, as is possible, absorb all Germany, will have nearly as many Catholic as Protestant subjects, and though she may insist on remaining officially Protestant and anti-Catholic, she will find it necessary to her own peace and security to allow her Catholic subjects to enjoy liberty of religion and equal civil rights. The mass of the Italian people are Catholics, and will remain Catholics; and these are not times when even absolute, much less constitutional, sovereigns can afford to disregard the rights, feelings and convictions of any considerable portion of their people.

                The anti-papal party may prove strong enough to deprive the Holy Father of his temporal sovereignty and make Rome the capital of the new kingdom of Italy; that is undoubtedly laid down in the programme, and is only a natural, a logical result of Napoleon's campaign of 1859 against Austria, and Napoleon holds that the logic of events must be submitted to. He said in 1859 that there were two questions to be settled, the Italian question and the Roman question. As the former has been settled by expelling the Austrians from Italy, so the latter is likely to be settled by the deprivation of the pope as temporal sovereign-the plan of settlement being evidently to secure to the anti-papal party all it demands. Austria humiliated cannot interpose in behalf of the temporal sovereignty, and is reported to have abandoned it; Napoleon will not do it, unless compelled, for he has been the determined but politic enemy of that sovereignty ever since, with his elder brother, he engaged in a conspiracy, in 1831, to destroy the papal government; and Russia, Great Britain, and Prussia, all anti-Catholic states, will abandon the papal throne to the logic of events. Under the providence of God, it depends on the Italian people whether the Holy Father shall retain his temporal sovereignty or not, and what they will do nobody can say. They are capable of doing any thing hostile to the pope one moment, and the next of falling on their knees before him, and, with tears in their eyes, begging his absolution.

                But beyond the rights of the supreme pontiff as sovereign of the Roman state, I do not apprehend any serious attacks on the papacy; or after the first fury has passed, even on ecclesiastical property. Much hostility for a time will be displayed, no doubt, against the monastic orders, and where they have any property remaining in their possession, it, not unlikely, will be confiscated, and the right of the church to be a proprietor may be legally denied or not recognized, yet property dedicated to religious uses will be passably secure under the general law protecting citizens in their rights of property, to make gifts inter vivos, and testamentary bequests. The law will gradually become throughout Europe what it is with us. The civil law in the United States knows nothing of the canons of the church establishing religious orders, or of the vows taken by the religious; it takes no cognizance of the church herself, it recognizes in her no proprietary rights, and gives her no standing in the courts, and yet nowhere is ecclesiastical property better protected or more secure, and nowhere are religious orders more free in person or more secure in property. This proceeds from the right of property secured to the citizens, and the right of the church, and of religious orders, not as proprietors, but, if I may so speak, as recipiendaries, or their right to receive and enjoy eleemosynary gifts, grants, and bequests in whatever form made, which the courts protect according to the will of the donors or testators. There may be great inconveniences resulting from the inevitable changes taking place, and great wrong is pretty sure to be done. The church has a valid right to be a proprietor, and it is a great crime and a great sin to rob her of any of her possessions; but she can carry on, and in most countries long has carried on, her mission without the law recognizing in her any proprietary rights.

                Present appearances indicate that the church throughout the world will be thrown back, as she was in the beginning, on her internal resources as a spiritual kingdom; that she will cease to be the official church of any nation-at least for a time, if not for ever; and that she will not henceforth govern or protect her children as civil communities, states, or empires through their civil rulers, but simply as Catholics, individual members of her communion, through her own spiritual ministry, her bishops and prelates along, without any official relation with the state. She can even then exercise her full spiritual authority over her own members, as the independent kingdom of God on earth, free from all entangling alliances with the shifting politics of nations.

                It is not assumed that the changes recent events have produced, or are producing, were desirable, are not evil, or are not brought about by evil passions, and from motives which every lover of truth and right does and must condemn; all that is argued is, that the church can survive them, and with less detriment to her material interests than her enemies have contemplated. Nothing that has taken place is defended, or defensible; but who can say that God in his gracious providence will not overrule all to the glory of his church and the good of them that love him? Who knows but he has given the victory to his enemies for the very purpose of confounding them, and showing them how vain are all their strivings against him and the order he has established? That very victory, seemingly so adverse and so afflicting to the Catholic heart, may prove to be the means of emancipating the church from her thraldom to the secular powers officially Catholic, but really anti-Catholic in spirit, and of preparing the way for her to labor more effectually than ever for the advancement of truth, the progress of civilization, and the salvation of souls. It is the prerogative of God to overrule evil for good, and the church, though immovable in her foundation, inflexible in her principles, and unchanging in her doctrines, has a wonderful capacity of adapting herself to all stages of civilization, and to all the changes in states  and empires that may take place; she is confined within no national boundaries, and wedded to no particular form of civil government-she can subsist and carry on her work under Russian autocracy or American democracy, with the untutored savage and the most highly cultivated European, and is equally at her ease with the high and the low, the learned and the unlearned, the rich and the poor, the bond and the free. The events which, to all human judgment, seem adverse often turn out to be altogether in our favor. "All these things are against me," said the patriarch Jacob, when required to send his son Benjamin down to Egypt, and yet the event proved that they were all for him. When the Jews with wicked hands took out Lord and slew him, crucified him between two thieves, they, no doubt, thought that they had succeeded, and that it was all over with him and his work; but what they did was a means to the end he sought, for it was only in dying that he could accomplish the work he came to do.

                The detachment of the empire from the church, which has been effected for purposes hostile to her, and with the hope of causing her destruction, perhaps will prove to her enemies that she does not rest on the state, that the state is far more in need of her than she of it, and show in a clear and unmistakable light her independence of all civil support, her inexhaustible internal resources, her supernatural energy and divine persistence. The empire detached from her and abandoning her to herself, or turning its force against her, will cease to incumber her with its official help, will no longer stand as an opaque substance between her and the people, intercepting her light, and preventing them from beholding her in her spiritual beauty and splendor. The change will allay much political hostility, remove most of the political prejudices against her, and permit the hearts of the people to turn once more towards her as their true mother and best friend. It may in fact tend to revive faith, and prepare the nations to reunite under her divine banner. Be this as it may, every Catholic knows that she is in herself independent of all the revolutions of states and empires, of all the changes of this world, and feels sure that she is imperishable, and that in some way the victories of her enemies will turn out to be their defeat, and the occasion of new triumphs for her.