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Luther and the Reformation

 Brownson's Quarterly Review for January, 1855

The life of Luther is the first of four very interesting and important biographies published by the late M. Audin, and which taken together form a passably complete popular history of the Protestant reformation, admirably adapted to counteract the bad effects of such publications as M. Merle d'Aubigne's widely circulated romance on the same subject. These biographies, after that of Luther, are the lives of Calvin, Leo X, and Henry VIII. Of these, that of Pope Leo X, is generally regarded as the best, and we are surprised that it has not yet been translated into our language. In composing these works the author had access, to the original documents preserved in the archives of the Vatican and the libraries of Florence and Bologna, to the historical collections of Strasburg, Lyons, Mayence, Cologne, and Wittenburg, and to almost any number of German and Latin pamphlets of the time. He made a diligent and conscientious use of the materials at his disposal, and has cleared up many obscure passages in the history of the period, and presented many of the actors in the movement, Catholic as well as Protestant, in a new light. He has robbed the chief reformers of the unmerited glory with which their partisans had invested them, and presented them to the world in all their native weakness and deformity. He has vindicated the Catholic party of the time, and rescued the principal Catholic opponents of the reformers from the aspersions cast upon them by their unscrupulous adversaries. He is candid and impartial, and, so far as we are able to judge, has produced a very reliable, as well as a brilliant and interesting, popular history of the more popular characters and events of the terrible Protestant movement in the sixteenth century. We hope the whole four works, making nine volumes octavo in the last edition as revised by the author, will be translated into our language, and circulated widely wherever it is spoken. They will make an important edition to our meager English Catholic library, and contribute much to a right appreciation of the reformers.

M. Audin, born at Lyons, 1793, originally studied for the priesthood; but not taking orders, he turned his attention to law, and was admitted to the bar. He does not appear, however, to have practiced his profession, and eh devoted his life to literature, as an author and a bookseller, till his death, which took place February 9, 1851. He was a sincere and earnest Catholic, and has rendered no mean service to religion and historic truth by his works on the reformation. No man out of Germany, has done more to separate or disentangle in the popular mind that mingled yarn of history and romance, of truth and fiction, which Protestant authors for these three hundred years have palmed off upon the credulous, not of their own communion alone, as the authentic history of the Protestant movement. He is conscientious and painstaking, but we cannot regard him as very sagacious or profound; and under the relation of style or manner he is not sufficiently grave and dignified to suit our taste or to inspire us with full confidence in his judgment. He takes too much pains to be striking and brilliant, and appears to weigh the phrase more than the thought. One feels that he was writing in the bosom of a frivolous community, for readers who draw their instruction from the saloon, the theatre, or the feuilleton, and are to be arrested only by a tableau or a dramatic representation of historical events.

Regarded as popular works, as they probably were designed to be, we esteem very highly Audin's biographies; but regarded as studies on the reformation, they are deficient in philosophical depth and comprehensiveness. They take, in our judgment, quite too narrow and too superficial a view of the great Protestant movement, and afford us very little aid in understanding its real causes and internal character. The author has rendered a tardy justice to the Catholic party of the time, and proved its immeasurable superiority in solid and polite learning, in civilization and refinement, in virtue and manners, to the party of reform, and has shown to the last degree of evidence that the reformers were coarse and brutal, false and hypocritical, proud and selfish, lustful and ambitious, who shrunk from no baseness, and scrupled at no arts or falsehood that seemed likely to serve their purposes against the church. This, no doubt, is much, but it is not all that we have the right to expect in times like ours from a Catholic historian of the Protestant reformation. It is far too little and too superficial to enable us to explain that event. These reformers had all been reared in the external communion of the Catholic Church, and were many of them priests who had served at her altar. Whence came it that they were capable of such baseness and iniquity? Whence came it that their baseness and iniquity were capable of detaching nearly half of Europe from the faith in which they had been reared, and of founding a party which for three hundred years has been able to dispute the dominion of the world with Catholicity? Here is a grave problem to be solved, and which M. Audin does not solve, or furnish us the means of solving.

Indeed, taking the reformation as M. Audin leaves it, it must have been an impossible event,- an event which never happened, because it could never have happened. We can find in his pages no sufficient reason for it, no adequate means of effecting it. The reformers were inadequate to the work ascribed to them; all the elements of success were against them. Authority, tradition, learning, culture, habit, manners, customs, all were against them. They were worsted in argument by their Catholic opponents; they had no clearly defined system of doctrine, no well-concerted plan of action; they were unable to agree among themselves, were torn by intestine divisions, were compelled to blush at the licentiousness and impurity of their disciples, and rendered ridiculous by their continuous variations and self-contradictions. There was nothing in their speculations or opinions calculated to impose upon the understanding of a moderately instructed Catholic, or in their practice to win the affections of a single really Catholic heart. Their preaching and writings were fitted only to shock sincere and earnest Catholics, or to disgust and repel them. How then could they succeed? Yet succeed they did. They baffled princes and nobles, kings and Caesars, popes and cardinals, bishops and doctors, and gained over the multitude in more than a third part of Europe. How explain this fact? By the depravity of the reformers? But that depravity itself needs accounting for; and, moreover, on what principle explain its tremendous power? We know that evil naturally triumphs over good, but how can evil joined to weakness triumph over virtue joined to strength, and that even supernatural strength?

It is clear to the philosophical historian that we cannot explain the Protestant reformation by the baseness, the iniquity, the corruption, or the ability of the reformers themselves. No result of such magnitude could have been brought about by some scores of apostate priests and renegade monks. The reform must have sprung from deeper, broader, and mightier causes. It must have already been prepared in the public mind and heart, and Luther can be regarded only as its leading representative, not as its author or founder. He simply gave expression to what was already a general thought or sentiment. Without the preexistence and prevalence of that thought or sentiment, he and his associates would, with all their efforts, hardly have produced a momentary ripple on the surface of European society. There must have been a preparation earlier even than that effected by the quarrels of the schoolmen and the humanists, and the labors of those whom Protestants call "the Reformers before the Reformation," such as Rauchlin, Erasmus, and Ulrich von Hutten. Some of the humanists became Protestants indeed, but the more distinguished leaders and the bulk of the party, as M. Audin proves, remained faithful to the communion of the church. The Greek language never fell under the anathema of the church; she had always accepted it, and consecrated it by using it in celebrating throughout the East her sacred mysteries. It was the official language of the Greek Church before the Greek schism, and is used now in celebrating mass by the United or Catholic Greeks, as well as by the schismatic. Latin is not, and never was, the official language of the church. How then could Reuchlin, by insisting on its study, favor the Protestant movement? What was it that pointed the wit of Erasmus, that Voltaire of the sixteenth century, and enabled him to cover the monks with ridicule, and to destroy their character in the public estimation? What was it that rendered effective the dull, filthy, and disgusting Epistolae Virorum Obscurorum of Ulrich von Hutten? The public must have been previously prepared for these, as well as for the reformers themselves.

Nothing is more unphilosophical than to ascribe great events, whether good or bad, to petty causes. The effect cannot exceed the cause, any more than the stream can rise higher than the fountain. There must have been operating in the sixteenth century some cause of the Protestant reformation adequate to its production,- equal in magnitude to the effect produced. What was it? In our judgment, while the magnitude of the reformation is not overrated, we are too apt to overrate the magnitude of the work done by the reformers. It is a mistake to suppose that Protestantism in any of its essential features was a product of the sixteenth century. That century was by no means as Catholic in its beginning as is commonly imagined. Luther found, he did not create or introduce, his Protestantism. Protestantism, if analyzed, may be reduced to four elements:- 1. The rejection of the papacy; 2. The rejection of the Christian priesthood or sacerdotal order; 3. The denial of all dogmatic theology; and 4. The adoption of religion as a mere sentiment of the heart, called by some love, others faith. We do not, of course, pretend that all Protestants go the full length of these four elements, but these four elements embrace all of Protestantism. Luther did not formally reject all of dogmatic theology, but he did reject the papacy and the Christian priesthood; for his principal spite was directed against the pope, and he maintained, as the great body of Protestants do now, that under the New Law every believer is a priest and a king. His doctrine of justification by faith alone is the virtual rejection of dogmatic theology; for it is with him the essential element of the Gospel, and faith in his sense is simply a sentiment of the heart. Some Protestants go further, much further, in the developments of Protestantism, than Luther and his brother reformers went, but none of them go further than the four elements we have specified, and these elements may therefore be said, though not embraced by all Protestants, to embrace all Protestantism.

Now all these elements were held in Christian Europe by vast multitudes, many of them in the external communion of the church, passing themselves off as Catholics, though in fact occult heretics, centuries before Luther was born. At no period was Christian Europe, in point of fact, as Catholic as first appearances indicate, and at no period were all the real heretics outside of the external communion of the chruch. Protestants cannot, indeed, maintain for their party or doctrines an apostolic origin, but they can trace their succession from the apostolic age. Through the Bohemian Brethren, Lollards, Beghards, Cathares, Patarins, Albigenses, Bulgarians, Paulicians, Manicheans, and Gnostics, they can ascend to the very times of the apostles. These sects were all of the same family, and were all essentially Protestant. They were all condemned, indeed, by the church, but by means of secret organizations and outward conformity to Catholicity they always contrived to maintain themselves to a fearful extent in her external communion. From the twelth century to the sixteenth, Europe to the superficial observer was, save in the East, exclusively Catholic; but in point of fact she was little more Catholic than now. Catholicity was indeed the official religion, but even in the thirteenth century, regarded by a modern school as the culminating point of the Ages of Faith, virtual Protestantism was hardly less rife than in the sixteenth, and there was, we verily believe, more real Catholicity in the seventeenth century than in either the fourteenth or the fifteenth. Whoever would explain the origin and the causes of the Protestant reformation must study profoundly the heresies, political movements, and social changes of the last three centuries of the middle ages. They will find its origin and causes in these heresies, and in the growth of nationalism and royalism, or absolute monarchy, more especially in Germany, France, and England. These heresies, essentially Protestant, were then, it is true, openly professed by a smaller number than in the sixteenth century; but there is no lack of evidence that they were professed in a secret society, which spread over a large part of Europe, and to which belonged kings and emperors, princes and nobles, bishops and presbyters, courtiers and bards, lawyers and counsellors of popes and of monarchs,- nominally, sometimes ostentatiously, Catholic in public, before the church and the world, enjoying her honors, fattening on her revenues, and using her position to undermine the papal authority, and to render Catholicity odious. So were organized, and so acted, the formidable body of heretics known in history as Patarins, Cathares, or Albigenses, now conceded to have been Manicheans, and therefore a branch of the old Gnostic family, and whose abominable doctrines and abominable practices are still far in advance of the great body of modern Protestants.

We regard modern Protestantism as the lineal descendant of the Patarin or Albigensian heresy of the thirteenth century; if fact, as only a continuation, with various modifications, of ancient Gnosticism, which at different epochs showed itself openly, and at others concealed itself in the bosom of the church as an occult heresy, wearing the external garb of Catholicity, and speaking its language, though with a sense of its own, as in the Divine Comedy of Dante, the sonnets of Petrarch, the lays and roundelays of the troubadours of Provence, and the poems of the Ghibelline poets generally. It was obliged to conceal itself during the middle ages, because nationalism and royalism were too weak to permit them to set at defiance the public law and the Catholic organization of Europe. In the sixteenth century this ceased to be the case, and they could openly avow themselves. Through their own secret exertions, the natural course of events, the efforts of the German emperors, and the sacrilegious attacks on the papacy in the person of Boniface VIII by Philip the Fair of France, who appealed to the French nation and invoked the states-general to sustain him, nationalism, that is, gentilism, was revived, and royalism, or centralized monarchy, was introduced and consolidated. Royalism became independent, and the way was prepared for monarchy to become absolute. The emperor and the Ghibelline princes rendered Italy a scene of anarchy and confusion, of rapine and bloodshed, and compelled the popes to seek security by deserting Rome and taking up their residence at Avignon. This brought the Roman court under French influence, filled the sacred college with French cardinals, and prepared the way for the great western schism, which greatly impaired the power of the Holy See, depreciated the papacy in the popular estimation, and gave to nationalism and royalism the predominance throughout Christendom. We see this in the Council of Constance, where princes and their ambassadors play so distinguished a part, and where in the earlier sessions the unheard-of anomaly is introduced of voting by nations. The papacy, it is true, was not without lustre under the pontificates of Martin V, Eugene IV, Nicholas V, and Calixtus III; but it never, till after the reformation, if even then, recovered its former splendor, and Julius II is obliged to place himself as an Italian prince at the head of his troops, to defend the patrimony of St. Peter against the professedly Catholic invaders. Nationalism was so strong and royalism so much in the ascendency in 1517, the date of Luther's thesis against indulgences, that heretics, as to this world, had little to fear from any source except the temporal prince- in his heart anti-papal, and supporting Catholicity, if at all, only from policy- and the national sentiment, always, in so far as national in spiritual matters, anti-Catholic. They were then in most places free to throw off the mask, and to do openly what they had long been doing, not without success, in secret; and it is probable that the open position assumed by Luther really weakened their power, and served, instead of injuring, the cause of Catholicity.

The Protestant reformation, as we regard it, was not so much a falling away from the church of those who were really Catholics, as the coming forth from her communion of those who had previously been in it without being of it; and we must explain the rapid and almost marvellous diffusion of Protestantism as soon as publicly proclaimed, by the occult heresy, more or less developed, with which the population that voluntarily embraced it were already infected. Whether the secret organization of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries continued down to the sixteenth, we are unable to say; but that it did to some extent is probable, and hence, perhaps, the reason why the reformation broke out on so many points of Europe almost simultaneously. But be this as it may, the enemies of the church certainly had not decreased in number during the wars and revolutions of the fifteenth century, and this much must be conceded, that Luther found a large part of Europe either totally ignorant of the Catholic religion, or but feebly attached to it. The intelligent Catholics of today can see nothing in the doctrines or the practices of the reformers calculated to make a favorable impression on a Catholic mind or heart, and he is unable to believe that they ever gained one real convert to the reform. Protestantism promised something to the licentious, to populations impatient of restraint, weary of fasts and vigils, of works of mortification and penance, and who wished to find an easier road to heaven than that of self-denial and the crucifixion of the flesh, or that of inward purity and sanctity, sound faith and true charity; but its doctrines, together with the arguments by which the reformers sustained them, never could have produced any serious effect, or served any other purposes than that of shocking or disgusting the Catholic who understood and was attached to his religion. Indeed, sincere and intelligent Catholics were shocked and disgusted, and in no instance attracted by the reformed religion. They could hardly believe the reformers to be serious, or to be brought to put forth their full force in combating them. This is evident from the conciliatory policy pursued toward them by Pope Adrian, and which, if we were to judge the policy of the vicar of Jesus Christ after our human modes of judging, which we do not allow ourselves to do, proved so disastrous. It is therefore quite evident to us, that the mass of those who joined the reform movement of their own accord, without being forced to do so by the civil authority, were already heretics, or heretically inclined,- were already anti-papal and anti-Catholic.

The remote causes of the Protestant reformation were of course in the general causes of all heresy, as well as of ancient gentilism; but its proximate and more special causes, regarded simply as an anti-Catholic outbreak, are, we think, to be foundhistorically and philosophically in the growth and ascendency of royalism and nationalism from the twelth to the sixteenth century, or, in one word, in what in more recent times is called Gallicanism. The Christian religion is catholic, cosmopolitan, and takes its stand on an elevation above all particularism and all nationalism. It has no distinctive nationality, and the believer, as a disciple of Jesus Christ and member of his mystical body, has no national character, and no country, no patria but heaven, from which he regards himself as an exile, and to which he longs to return. On this earth he has no home, no abiding- place. He is pilgrim and a sojourner here, seeking a city whose builder and maker is God. Catholicity rising thus above all national distinctions, and thus condemning all nationalism whenever that nationalism would rise above the temporal order and interfere with things spiritual, has naturally for its enemies all in whom the spirit of nationality predominates. We see this in the Jews who appealed to the sentiment of Jewish nationality against our Lord, saying, "If you let this man go on, the Romans will come and take away our name and nation." Every nation is by its own national spirit exclusive and tyrannical. It seeks to render all that concerns it national, and labors incessantly to be a world in itself, to have a religion, as well as laws and institutions, manners and customs, of its own. We see this in the history of gentilism, in which each nation had its peculiar national religion, and everyone was required to conform to the religion of his nation. Nationalism, through the influence of the church, the kings and emperors of the Carlovingian race, during the centuries commonly called the "Dark Ages,"- so called because religion took precedence of politics, and Catholicity of nationalism,- was kept subordinate, and was unable to exert any controlling influence on politics or religion. But as the irruption of barbarians ceased, and the nationalities long held in abeyance began to declare themselves, and national governments were formed throughout most of Europe, it escaped from its subjection, and became in some sense, as it had not been before, the basis of the political order.

In the governments organized under the auspices of the church after the downfall of the Roman empire of the West, monarchy indeed had a place; but not monarchy in its modern sense. In them all, it was tempered by estates and corporations. It was in all cases elective, and restricted in its powers by the rights of the municipalities, and by the nobles or vassals of the crown, often in wealth and power hardly inferior to the suzerain himself. We pretend not that this constitution was perfect; no political constitution ever yet existed without its imperfections. The barons often, no doubt, oppressed the people, often were turbulent and abused their power, while the monarch was too weak to restrain or to punish their violence. But if it did not guard against the evils of weakness in the crown, it did avoid those of a centralized royalism. In no instance under that constitution could any sovereign say, with Louis XIV, "I am the state." But in the thirteenth century we see a movement on the part of the sovereigns to get rid of this constitution, and to centralize the power in the crown. This movement in France begins with the reign of Philip Augustus, the real founder of the French monarchy. A similar movement is made by the German emperors, which only partially succeeds, and by the English kings, which succeeds only under the Tudors in the fifteenth century. The aim was to centralize and consolidate the monarchy, and to render the monarch absolute, after the model of the Byzantine or eastern emperors.

The chief obstacle the monarchs, as well as nationalism, had to overcome in this enterprise, was in the papal constitution of the church. To attain to their end, they must trample on vested rights, rights of the church herself, rights of their vassals, and rights of the municipalities, and the church always and everywhere insists on the inviolability of all rights, natural or acquired. The first thing to be done therefore was to break the power of the church, which could be done only by destroying or abasing the papacy. Hence the sovereigns, for centuries, with varying success, but with little relaxation, carried on a war against the papacy, the divinely instituted guardian of all rights, and thus gave to royalism an anti-papal character, and made the temporal sovereign the antagonist of the pope. In this sacreligious war they appealed to national pride, national jealousies, prejudices, ambition, and intolerance, to sustain them. They placed the nation before the church, and studied to make themselves national. They appealed to the sentiment of national independence, national power, and national glory, and made of royalism, as representing the nation, a species of popular idolatry. Coutly prelates held their peace, or smiled assent, and courtly lawyers searched the Institutes, Pandects, Codes, and turned over Ulpian and Papinian to find, which was not difficult, maxims favorable to the royal power. Whoever refused to bow down and worship the new idol that was set up was declared disloyal, an enemy to the king, and worthy of exile or death. Quod placuit principi, id legis habet vigorem, became the fundamental maxim of the new caesarism, as it had been of the old, and the pleasure of the prince was to be done, let the church say what she might to the contrary. The church was in the royal and popular mind subordinated to the nation, and the pope to the temporal monarch. The head of the church must give way to the pleasure of the head of the state, and the good citizen or subject, in case of conflict, must obey the king in preference to the vicar of Jesus Christ. The lawyers and courtly prelates and doctors even found out that a Catholic, at the command of the king, might lawfully bear arms against the visible head of his church! The person of the king was sacred and inviolable, but not that of the pope, at least in the estimation of the degenerate grandson of St. Louis and his courtiers, as was proved in his treatment of Boiniface VIII.

The monarch, in carrying on his war against the papacy, used both the lords and the commons. The feudal lords, being in their own feudal territories petty sovereigns, imagined that their interests and those of the monarch were the same, and they sustained him, till he felt himself strong enough to attack them in their privileges, and then they found that they were too weak to resist him. The people, finding often a protector in the king against their more immediate masters, and being the depositaries of all that is exclusive in nationality, supported him with right good will,- their time to set up for themselves, and to treat him as he treated the pope, not having yet come. Thus aided, royalism thus emancipated itself from all spiritual direction, and supplanted in the national mind and heart the papacy. Those who adhered to the party of the pope against the party of the king were, as a term of reproach, called Papistae or Papists. Royalism encroached everywhere on the spiritual power. The king obtained the nomination of bishops, and filled the sees with his creatures; he passed statutes of praemunire and against provisors, and dictated the terms on which he would tolerate the church in his dominions. He denied the authority of the church over her own temporalities, and, as far as was possible without open schism, deprived her of all external authority. He made her all but national in his kingdom, and himself her external head, very nearly her pontifex maximus. It would seem that in all, save nere form, the bishops depended on the sovereign, and in no case were they to obey the pope without the royal permission. Hence the church in each nation seems to hold from the temporal lord, and to be bound to consult the royal pleasure. It is royal, not papal, and it is only by the royal condescension that the pope is permitted to interfere in its affairs. The people look no longer to Rome for direction; they look only to their sovereign, and care little what they do or believe, if sure of his approbation or connivance.

Such was the state of things throughout no small part of Europe at the epoch of the reformation. Luther hesitates not through fear of the pope, or dread of spiritual censures, at which he mocks, but only through fear of his temporal sovereign; and he speaks out boldly as soon as he has made sure of the protection of the powerful elector of Saxony.

The great majority of European sovereigns for three centuries had been anti-papal. By the centralization and consolidation of royalism, and the control they usurped in spiritual matters, they had succeeded in making large numbers of the people virtually Protestant, and formally Gallican. It is to be remarked, that, though the very soul of Luther's movement was hostility to the papacy, his Catholic opponents hardly attempt its defense. They seem willing to let controversy turn on dogma, to be decided by an appeal to the Scriptures. It was the Gallicanism of the secular courts, that is, the ascendency of royalism and nationalism, that prepared the way for the Protestant movement, and rendered it feasible for the occult heresies of ages to throw off all disguise and to avow themselves openly; as it was the Gallicanism, the royalism and nationalism, of Louis XIV that emboldened Jansenism, that subtlest form of Protestantism, to declare itself. Even the great Bossuet, who drew up the Four ARticles, while he leaves no stone unturned to procure the condemnation of certain inaccurate expressions in the Maxims of the Saints, writes a preface to a new edition of the Moral Reflections, and treats the Jansenists with great consideration and tenderness, though himself no Jansenist.

We agree with Protestant historians, that society in the sixteenth cintury was in a most wretched state, and that, though not in their sense, there was a loud call for a reformation. The ascendency of royalism, and its anti-papal tendency, had interfered with ecclesiastical discipline, had favored false and dangerous modes of thought and expression, and prevented the church from applying in the proper place and at the proper time the appropriate remedy. Rome taught one doctrine and the courts another, and the latter were believed instead of the former. The people to a fearful extent were taught only a mutilated Catholicity, because the temporal authority would tolerate no other, because pastors neglected their duty; bishops and priests turned against the pope, and found in their royal masters a ready support in their opposition. The mass of the people throughout no small part of Europe knew hardly the simplest elements of the Catholic religion. They may have been able to recite the apostles' creed and a prayer or two, but beyond this they knew little or nothing. Even in the theological schools of Germany theology could have been but imperfectly taught, if we may credit at all Luther's own account of his doubts and scruples. His doctrine of justification by faith alone betrays an ignorance of Catholic theology as great as that which it betrays of the Holy Scriptures. So far as Catholic doctrines are concerned, all religiously-minded Protestants today would pronounce them infinitely more solid and reasonable than the opposing Protestant doctrines, if they only thoroughly understood them. The faithful and the great body of the clergy seem to have been taken by surprise, and not to have known how to meet the reform movement; and, notwithstanding all M. Audin says to the contrary, we cannot help thinking that the controversy, at least in the beginning, was to a great extent blunderingly conducted on the side of the Catholic party. Evidently there was a great ignorance of the Catholic doctrine at the time upon the part of the clergy, or a great want of belief in Catholicity. In Germany they were lamentably defective. Many of the bishops even suffered themselves to be carried away with the movement, and of those who remained faithful, not one whose name has reached us proved himself equal to the emergency. In England all the bishops, save one, the bishop of Rochester, yielded to the demand of the lustful Henry, and even he at first gave his assent to the royal supremacy,- an assent which every tyro on Catholic theology knows could not be given without a virtual renunciation of Catholicity, a renunciation never for a moment contemplated by the noble bishop, as his subsequent conduct amply proves. His assent, though subsequently retracted, shows how little even the better class of Catholics in that age were accustomed to study the papal constitution of the church, and how far they were from regarding that constitution as essential to her existence, and to her unity and catholicity. The truth is, the mass of the Catholics in the sixteenth century, and even long before, had ceased to be genuine papists; they were royalists, preferring, save in the internal order, royalty to the papacy, and therefore, where royalty commanded them to break with the Holy See, and throw off its external authority, they either obeyed, or remained at a loss to know on what ground to defend their disobedience.

This state of things, so disheartening to the Catholic and so favorable to the reformers, we attribute, after the depravity of human nature, to the growth of nationalism and the ascendency of royalism, which prevented the church from duly instructing her children, and from freely and fully exercising her spiritual discipline. St. Liguori somewhere says, that from the teenth century to the sixteenth, those who received Holy Communion even once during their whole loves were rare exceptions. Very few except religious ever approached the sacraments. We may judge form this in what moral and spiritual state the monk Luther found the Catholic world. And yet these were called the Ages of Faith, as Dante, Petrarca, and the Provencal troubadours are called Catholic poets and bards. All went wrong as soon as kings undertook to be fathers of the church, and began to support her, if at all, from state policy, instead of honest principle and pious affection; and precious little gratitude does the church owe to royalism, which has often oppressed her, often persecuted her, and never rendered her any real service. There never was a greater mistake than that committed by modern liberals in alleging that royalty and Catholicity are natural allies. For these six hundred years scarcely a European court has rendered the church any service but at the price of some concession from her, which weakened her power and strengthened that of her royal rival. To the officious support and officious interference of royalism, as well as to its arbitrary measures against her, we owe most of the scandals which stand out on the canvas of her history, and which are so often and so maliciously cited against her. In a spiritual as well as in a temporal point of view, royalism for six hundred years has been the curse of Europe, and that it has not been a still greater curse is owing to superhuman struggles of the papacy against it.

In relation to what went before it, we can hardly regard the Protestant reformation as an untoward event. In it the peccant humors which had long infected the Catholic body came to a head, broke, and were carried off. From the day that Luther, amid the crowd of his students and followers, burnt at Wittenburg the papal bull, the heart of the Catholic began to beat more freely. The class who had impeded the exertions of the church went out from her, and sound doctrine and holy discipline became once more possible. They who would not become heretics, were forced to take the Catholic side in downright earnest. Royalism itself, as after 1848, became frightened at the revolutionary character of the reformation, as exhibited in the insurrection of the Westphalian peasants, and felt it necessary to allow the church, for a time at least, a freedom of action which it had hitherto denied her, and to suffer her to teach the faithful a sound and unmutilated Catholicity. The holy Council of Trent, that great fact of modern history, was convoked, and a Catholic reaction commenced, and, and aided by the brave and persevering sons of Loyola, continued without interruption, till checked by nationalism, represented by that unfaithful prince of the church, Cardinal Richelieu, who dragooned the Protestants into submission in France, and aided them with his policy and troops to subject Catholics in Germany, and by royalism in Louis XIV, who opened the(Damaged File Portion)


ionalism, and appeals to national exclusiveness and temporal supremacy. Nearly all heresy seems to know this by instinct, and hence the point first attacked is not the church in her dogmas, her sacraments, or her worship, but the church in her polity, as the visible kingdom of Christ upon earth, instituted by him for the government of all men and nations in all things pertaining to eternal salvation. The papal canstitution of the church gives unity and strength to the spiritual authority, and makes the church one and universal, and in all that is highest and best obliterates all national distinctions, and disregards all the prejudices of blood and diversities of race. Royalism- by which we mean not precisely the monarchical constitution of the state, but the assertion of the monarch as the state- and nationalism are by their own nature hostile to it, and consequently are the two things against which the Catholic must always be on his guard. Without the papacy the church cannot be maintained as one and catholic. Destroy the papacy or reduce the primacy of Peter to a mere primacy of order, and you cannot prevent religion in any particular nation from becoming a purely national religion, and therefore the slave either of the state or of the national sentiment. It was the national pride of England, wounded by belonging to a church whose visible chief resided out of the realm, that led her into schism. The chuch in England, yielding to this national pride, became a national church, a snug little English church, as if there had been a particular English God, and an English Jesus Christ, and in so doing lost her independence, and became a slave of the state, and her chief function is to wait upon gentlemen's younger sons, and provide them with fat livings. Wherever the church throws off the papacy it becomes national, and wherever it becomes national, it falls under the secular authority or the tyranny of public opinion. Nationalism and royalism gained the ascendency in the eastern empire, and induced the Greek church to deny the supremacy of Peter. From that moment the Greek church became the slave or the tool of the Byzantine court,- as infamous a court, perhaps, if we except that of Russia in the eighteenth century, as ever existed in a nominally Christian country. Wherever a non-papal religion is established, it is bound hand and foot by the secular order. So it is in Russia, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Ireland, England, Scotland, Holland, Prussia, the Swiss cantons, and the smaller Protestant states and principalities of Germany. Catholics themselves do not seem to us to be always suffiently aware of the absolute necessity of the papacy to the maintenance of the unity and catholicity, and therefore the freedom and independence, of the church. They hold, of course, that the church is papal, for they could not be Catholics if they did not; they admit that the papacy is highly useful in maintaining unity of doctrine and worship; but many of them do not seem to us to perceive that it is essential to the very being of the Catholic Church, and to the freedom and independence of religion in its conflicts with the powers of this world. Yet they should infer this from the fact that every heresy instinctively makes war on the papacy. All the great heresies which have prevailed began by disregarding the papacy, or by attempting to deprive the Holy See of the affection due it, or of some of its prerogatives; and we ought, whenever we meet a disposition to restrict the papal power, whether in favor of the episcopacy or the presbytery, the secular authority or the brotherhood, to suspect it of an heretical tendency. Our Lord founded his church on Peter, and Peter lives in his successor. Ubi Petrus, ibi ecclesia. We cannot conceive how, without the papal constitution maintained in its full right and vigor, it would be possible to preserve the church as a polity, as the visible kingdom of Christ on earth, or the natural supremacy of the moral order in the government of the world.

We have nothing here to say of what is called the temporal power of the popes, but it were to deny us the right to assert Catholicity itself, to command us to refrain from asserting on all occasions the independence and supremacy of the spiritual order, which is nothing else than asserting the freedom of religion and the supremacy of the law of God. The Lord God omnipotent reigneth, King of kings, and Lord of lords, and his will is the supreme law for all persons and dignities, for all men and nations, and in all the relations of life. The pope and the believer, the bishop and the presbyter, the prince and the subject, the nation and the individual, are alike under this law, and bound to obey it in all things whatsoever. We were false-hearted atheists, we were base recreants to Almighty God, and miserable cravens, if we denied this eternal truth, or feared to assert it. No power, no man, no body of men, has the right to forbid this assertion, for in making it we do but assert the supreme and universal dominion of God, the basis of all authority, of all duty, and of all religion. Even heathen morality itself asserted as much, and it is a sad day if a Christian may not assert as much for the supremacy of the moral order as was asserted by a Socrates, a Plato, a Confucius, or a Cicero. We must assert as much, or assert no morality, no moral obligation at all. The moral order is a real order, it is by its own nature supreme, for neither men nor nations have the right to do wrong. The church, in regard to this world, was introduced and constituted to assert and uphold the supremacy of the moral order, and without her that order cannot be effectively asserted or upheld. As long as the church stands in her freedom and independence, there is one friend to the soul of man, one protector of moral ideas, one shelter to which they who would follow the spirit and live for God can flee from an all-invading, an all-absorbing materialism. We, who have been reared in the world outside the church, feel, perhaps, as those who have been Catholics from their infancy do not and cannot, the incalculable value of this. We have known by bitter experience how the world mocks all our finer and nobler moral aspirations; we know how it chills the soul, and reduces us to a dead and deadening material life. How have we in our non-Catholic days mourned over the hollow morality of the non-Catholic world, its low and unspiritual aims, its want of disinterestedness and love! How have we been frozen by its heartlessness, and its indifference to all that constitutes the true dignity and glory of man! The body and its wants in our non-Catholic world engross every thought, and the soul and its wants are only subjects of pleasant or bitter mockery. In the church we find all our nobler aspirations respected and cherished, our moral wants are met, our souls are quickened and invigorated by a supernatural spiritualism. We find the supremacy of the moral order asserted, practically asserted, and a man's spiritual worth made the criterion by which his rank is to be determined. All men and things are judged either by the great law of charity or by the eternal law of right and wrong. All the factitious distinctions of rank and race are discarded. All men are brothers, and the poor African stands on a level with the most lordly kaiser, if his equal in spiritual worth. Right and goodness are honored in the lowest, wrong and iniquity are condemned and denounced in the highest. Humble virtue has a friend and protector; haughty vice a stern and inexorable censor. Conscience is respected, and he who acts from it is honored, not scorned or jeered.

We hear in our days much about religious liberty, but few in the non-Catholic world seem to have any understanding of what it means, or of the conditions in God's providence of its maintenance. Religious liberty, if it means any thing, means the freedom and independence of the moral order, its emancipation from materialism,- freedom of religion, that is, freedom to worship God and to do in all things what he commands, without let or hindrance from kings or kaisers, princes or nobles, sects or parties, nations or individuals. In this sense we claim religious liberty as the indefeasible right of all men. It is our solemn duty to assert it for every man, and to maintain it against all odds for ourselves. We hold this liberty from God; it is implied in our obligation to worship him, and no human power has the right to restrict it, or in any way to intermeddle with it. It is the right of rights, the liberty of liberties, and we can never consent to part with it. We will carry it with us in poverty and exile, in the dungeon, to the scaffold or the stake; but surrender it we will not. It is the only thing we can call our own, and with it we have all riches, as without it we have nothing. This is the religious liberty which makes martyrs and confessors, and hallows the earth with the blood of the righteous. It is true religious liberty, and the Catholic who will not assert it, and die for it, is a moral coward or a moral traitor,- a Protestant or a Know-Nothing in his heart. As a Catholic, we disown him.

But on what conditions can the external practice of this liberty in such a world as ours be secured? The world, the flesh, and the devil are opposed to it, princes and secular authorities hate it; for it is something above their power, which they cannot bind by their enactments or subdue by their arms. The flesh detests it, for it is its crucifixion; the world abhors it, for it tramples on the world; the devil is enraged against it, for it scorns his temptations and defeats his wiles. We can die at his bidding, and conquer them all, and gain a more than royal crown, even the crown of eternal life, bestowed upon us by the right hand of him who is Lord of all. But, nevertheless, all these make war upon it, and seek to deprive religion of external freedom, that is, to prevent the maintenance of the moral order in the affairs and government of the world. To be able under this point of view to withstand them, religious liberty needs an external organization. Conscience must have a visible polity, that is, the church, the visible kingdom of God on earth. Now, how without the papacy, with all its rights and prerogatives, can you maintain the freedom and independence of the church? And how without the freedom and independence of the church as the organized protector of the rights of conscience, are you to maintain the freedom of religion in the external affairs of the world? We do not forget that the church is episcopal as well as papal, and that ordinarily it is through the episcopacy that the papacy speaks to us; but the episcopacy without the papacy were a mere rope of sand. The bishops having no head, no political bond of union, would be obliged to succumb in the first conflict with the secular authority, or with the prejudices of the nation, and would be reduced to the necessity of teaching what the state or nation dictated, and of doing what the state or nation chose to command. Bishops are equal, and each, without the pope, would be supreme in his own diocese, and exposed to be influenced, even controlled, by the national spirit and character. Who would then call him to account if he was, or if he encroached on the rights of his spiritual subjects? Or where would be the protection of religious liberty against his spiritual tyranny? Who, moreover, would protect him against the lawlessness or rebellion of his flock, and assist him to maintain his proper episcopal authority? Shall he appeal to the temporal power as the proper judge in his case? That would be to subordinate the spiritual to the temporal, and to deny religious liberty in its most essential principle. Certain it is, that religion under the episcopacy, without the papacy binding together in one polity all the bishops of all the nations, forming thus a universal spiritual kingdom superior in dignity and broader in extent than any earthly kingdom, and organizing through them all the faithful of all nations into one vast spiritual union, as under presbyterianism, congregationalism, or individualism, could have neither the moral nor the physical conditions requisite to the maintenance of her freedom and independence. Without the perpetual intervention of miracles, the church, by ceasing to be catholic, would become enslaved to the temporal order. She would, as the race, be broken into nations, each nation would have its snug little national church, and we should have, as in the ancient gentile world, as many religions as nations. This is evident from what we see in those European nations that have cast off the papacy. In those nations there is no religious freedom, except the freedom to die, as under the pagan emperors, for religion. Let the national church of any Protestant nation attempt to assert the freedom of religion, or the supremacy of the moral order, against the national sentiment or the secular authority, and it would soon be made to feel the chains, all gilded as they may be, which bind its limbs. Who has forgotten Queen Elizabeth's letter to her bishop of Ely? "Proud prelate, I made you, and if you do not stop your insolence, by God, I will unmake you." Let the Anglican, the Prussian, the Danish, Swedish, or Russian church, dare take a stand in favor of outraged right against the queen, king, or emperor, and it would soon receive a rebuke from royal or imperial lips that it would long remember. Having no support above or beyond the national authority, it has and can have no power to resist that authority, and maintain its freedom in spite of it, unless it be when the secular authority itself has lost its hold upon the nation, and the national sentiment is against it, as was the case in England under James II. When the national church can ally itself with the national sentiment against the prince, it may, no doubt, maintain itself against his authority, but it only changes masters; for it then becomes the slave of that same national sentiment which it has invoked to its aid.

It would be the same in Catholic states and nations without the aid derived from the papacy, and even with all the aid thus derived, it is often very nearly the same. Let the church in France assert the freedom of religion and the supremacy of the moral order against the French sovereign, and it would be obliged to succumb to the state, and do his Imperial Majesty's will, if it had no reliance on some power out of France. Nothing but the papacy, strengthening the hands of good Catholics, and thundering its anathemas against the constitutional church and clergy, saved Catholicity in France during the old French revolution.

In this country, we have no royalism in name, and no national church so denominated, and so far we have an advantage over others. The laws and the national administration recognize true religious liberty. But the laws and the administration are for the most part impotent with us agianst popular sentiment, which can change them at will. Religious liberty here, as a matter of fact, lies at the mercy of the mob. We are a very religious people in our own way, almost every man having a religion of his own; but the predominant religion, being non-papal, with no chief and no support independent of the country, is obliged to follow instead of leading, much less resisting, popuolar sentiment or caprice. All religions are tolerated in so far as they are considered matters of no importance, and in so far as they are by their constitution flexible to public opinion, but no further. None of the sects is able to assert with any effect the inflexible moral law against the caprices of public opinion, or a public opinion hostile to it, and they all sustain themselves by their suppleness, and extend themselves by adroitly availing themselves of some local or general popular excitement. Against popular opinions, though in favor of truth and justice, the most powerful of them are impotent, and their denunciations are a mere brutum fulmen. There is outside and independent of them a power greater than theirs, which says to them, "Thus far you may come, but no further." Democracy with us takes the place of royalism in the Old World, and the people usurp the functions of the church.