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Papal Conspiracy Exposed

 From Brownson’s Quarterly Review for April, 1855
We assure the author, that it is very far from our intention to offer a formal reply to the false charges, calumnies, and illogical conclusions of his elaborate volume, which contains the quintessence of Evangelical acidity double distilled. He may have more natural ability, but he is, if possible, less truthful and amiable than the Re. Rufus W. Clark, reviewed in the present number. We will, however, concede that, if his Papal Conspiracy Exposed had been issued before that article was written, we should have selected it as the subject of our comments, instead of Romanism in America, for it was our wish to take the most malignant, the most bitter, and the least scrupulous Protestant production against Catholics that we could lay our hands on. In this point of view, Dr. Beecher’s volume is superior to Mr. Clark’s. It is even more savage in its spirit, more elaborate in its falsehoods, more vigorous in its sophistry, if less polished in its literary execution. Yet it must be admitted that both are admirable specimens of Evangelical literature, and, if they could be used, would be a very good substitute for vinegar.

Dr. Edward Beecher is a son of the renowned Dr. Lyman Beecher, and brother of the really able and independent Henry Ward Beecher, and of the world-famous or world notorious Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. He is not naturally imbecile, or even destitute of logical power. We think nature has even been liberal to him, and that, placed in favorable circumstances and under genial influences, he would have proved himself worthy of esteem both as a thinker and as a writer. But he is a melancholy example of the influence of modern Evangelicalism to prevent all manly development of the intellect, and all generous and noble expansion of the heart. His Puritanism, which he has never had the manliness to shake off, has kept him in a state of intellectual childhood, and prevented him from opening his heart to the genial rays of the sun of justice. He knows no freedom, and remains cramped, "cribbed, cabined, and confined," by his Protestantism, which cannot stand a moment before free thought and worm love, and can be defended only by falsehood, misrepresentation, calumny, vituperation, and chicane. If any thing could deepen our disgust at Evangelicalism, it would be the book before us, which proves its power to extinguish a naturally noble mind and a naturally generous heart. Dr. Beecher, we hesitate not to say, was born for better things; he might have been a man, and have done a man’s work; but having early stuck in the mire of Calvinism, he can save his race only as a beacon, or as the drunken Helots served to teach temperance to the Spartans.

Dr. Beecher is haunted by strange visions of a papal conspiracy against American Protestantism and American liberty, and in his agitated dreams he calls out upon his countrymen to put an extinguisher upon Catholicity. The poor man is certainly dreaming. There is no conspiracy of the sort he imagines. We probably know as much of the subject as he does, and our word is as good as his; and we tell him and our countrymen that there is no papal conspiracy in the case, and the only conspiracy we know of is that of Protestantism and in the Know-Nothing movement, to deprive Catholics of their political and civil rights, and perhaps to exterminate them, or to expel them from the country. "Even Mr. Brownson," the author says, "confesses that there is a system designed to exterminate Protestantism, not by force, but by argument and conviction." Suppose Mr. Brownson does so confess. What then? Suppose that what he confesses, or rather asserts, is true, does it prove the reality of "a papal conspiracy"? Catholicity and Protestantism, as everybody knows are mutually antagonistic. A man cannot be a Protestant without being opposed to Catholicity, or a Catholic without being opposed to Protestantism. The church labors to make all men Catholics, and Dr. Beecher labors, we suppose, to make all men Protestants. The success of either is, in the nature of the case, the extermination of the other. Even Dr. Beecher, we suppose, could understand this much. The church, in fulfilling her divine mission, seeks to convert all the non-Catholic portion of the people of this country to Catholicity, to gather them within her communion, and to nourish them at her breast, that she may present them pure and holy to her heavenly Spouse. Should she succeed in doing this, she would, of course, exterminate Protestantism. But here is no conspiracy. All is open and avowed. It is precisely what, if the Christian Church, she must aim at, and what she has always and everywhere aimed at, and to prove that it is so is no proof or exposure of a papal or any other conspiracy. It is no wonderful discovery.

The church works in open day, and all he proceedings are public. She avows her object, and her means of attaining it. Her object is to convert the whole world in general, and, if you please, this country in particular, to Catholicity. But by what means? By force? No. But by "argument and conviction." That is, by convincing the reason and the will that she is God’s church, out of which salvation is not possible. This supposes that she seeks only voluntary converts, and that she exterminates Protestantism only by convincing Protestants of its falsity, and inducing them voluntarily to abandon it. Now, does Dr. Beecher confess that, in an open field and fair play, Protestantism cannot stand before Catholicity? Does he call it a "conspiracy," to resolve to attack Protestantism by argument, by an appeal to the reason of the Protestants? Would he maintain that a Protestant convinced of the falsity of Protestantism and the truth of Catholicity ought not to be allowed to profess himself a Catholic? Would he go so far as to deny to Catholicity the right to make converts if she can by "argument and conviction"? does he feel that it is all over with Protestantism if Catholicity is free to combat it by argument? If so, how is it that he professes to defend it "in the light of reason, history, and Scripture"? If reason, history, and Scripture are on the side of Protestantism, what has it to fear in argument with Catholicity? Why does it call in force to close the reason and shut the mouth of its opponent? No man is ever against reason, unless he feels or fears that reason is against him.

If Dr. Beecher had spoken of a Protestant conspiracy for the extermination of Catholicity, he would have spoken of what is not at all an imagination or a dream. Everybody knows that Protestants express their determination to exterminate Catholicity, not in our country only, but in all countries. To this end they have formed and sustained alliances and associations, in conjunction with acknowledged conspirators, for the purpose of revolutionizing every Catholic state in Europe, in the hope that, by revolutionizing the state in the sense of red republicanism, they will put an end to the papacy, and with the papacy to Catholicity. They have conspired, and still conspire, with Mazzini and other revolutionary leaders, against the church, the grand bulwark of social freedom and of social order. They have gone further; they have formed a real and undeniable conspiracy,- a secret society, a secret organization, sustained by the most rigid rules, and, if not belied, by the most fearful oaths,- whose express object is to deprive Catholics of all their political rights, to reduce them, if it suffers them to live, to the condition of slaves in their native land, and for no offense but that of worshipping God according to the dictates of their own conscience. They have succeeded in possessing themselves of the government of this ancient commonwealth, and they are laboring in secret conclave to get that of the Union, and to place the whole political power of this country in the hands of this secret society, governed by unknown and irresponsible chiefs, and substituting a secret and invisible despotism for the constitutional and public authority of the people. Now, with this well-known Protestant conspiracy against Catholics, with its ramifications throughout the Union, and perhaps throughout Christendom, what more shameless, what more satanic, than for a man like Dr. Beecher to turn round and accuse us of a "papal conspiracy" against Protestantism? We are exposed at any moment to the fury of a Protestant mob, inflamed by the passionate appeals of Protestant ministers; our churches are blown up, burnt down, or desecrated; the sanctuary of our private schools and colleges is invaded, or threatened to be invaded, by illegal and unconstitutional legislative committees; our dead are all but denied a burial; our children are kidnapped and placed in Protestant families to be brought up in what we regard as a damnable heresy; legislatures are devising ways and means to confiscate the funds given by Catholic charity for the support of divine worship and feeding of the poor; our lives and property are insecure, and the authorities afford us hardly a shadow of protection; and our rights as Catholics, as citizens, or as men are every day trampled upon with impunity; and yet Protestants have the incredible impudence to accuse us of conspiracy, to represent themselves as the victims of our secret councils,- as in danger from us of losing their liberty, and maybe their lives! This is adding mockery to injury, and, if it is a fair exposition of Protestantism, as we have but too much evidence that it is, we and all Catholics cannot be too thankful to Almighty God, that we are not Protestants.

Quem Deus vult perdere, prius dementat. Nothing can more clearly prove that Protestants are demented than their present violence against Catholics. Never has Protestantism been willing to concede to Catholicity an open field and fair play. It boasts of religious liberty, but the only religious liberty it has ever recognized is its liberty by civil pains and penalties, or by material force, to shut the reason and close the mouth of Catholics. No country has ever become Protestant through the labors of peaceful Protestant missionaries, or by appeals to reason, history, and Scripture. Among whatever people Protestantism has gained an establishment, it has been by violence, by civil or physical force, and wherever it has sustained itself, it has been by falsehood, misrepresentation, calumny, and for the most part by civil laws disabling Catholics. It was not to be expected that it would change its nature on being transplanted to this New World. It indeed used fair words, and appeared gentle and tolerant when Catholicity was not here, or when it was so weak as to excite no fears; but the moment that Catholics became a little numerous, and seemed likely to gain a permanent foothold in the country, its tiger nature broke forth as of old. It could not be otherwise, for it is only a modern form of that old gentilism which in the martyr ages cried out so vehemently, Christianos ad Leones! This is now seen, and save for the sake of Protestants we do not regret it. In fact, we rejoice to see Protestantism exposing itself, throwing off the mask, and confessing itself to be able to sustain itself only by persecution. This book by Dr. Beecher justifies all that we have ever said against Protestantism, and the rage of the Evangelicals against the unoffending Catholics now exhibited will disgust every intelligent and fair-minded man in the Protestant ranks with a pretended religion that can inspire it. These recent movements show Protestantism in its true light, in its inherent ugliness, and will drive from the Protestant ranks all who have the least love of justice and fair dealing in their hearts. For, after all, what have we as Catholics done to provoke them? Have we not always, in these United States, demeaned ourselves as good and loyal citizens? Have we ever resorted to unfair or underhanded methods in our dealings with Protestants? Have we ever denied or sought to deny them any of their rights? Have we ever burned down any of their meeting-houses or school-houses? Have we ever tarred and feathered any of their ministers? Have we kidnapped their orphan children, placed them with Catholics, and forced them to grow up on our religion? When have we set snares for unsuspecting Protestants? When have we attempted to convert them by any but fair, open, and honorable means? When have we tried to provoke them to riot and bloodshed? When have we mobbed them, and shot them down in the streets, or in their own houses? Or when have we without provocation stirred up a mob against them, killed and wounded large numbers of them, and then published in all the journals that it was they who mobbed us, and that we acted only in self-defense? Thank God! None of these things can be laid to our charge. There are men amongst Protestants who know this, and have the honesty and manliness to avow it. These see and feel Protestant injustice toward us, and we may be assured it will not deepen their attachment to Protestantism.

We are here what the Christians were under Diocletian, Galerius, and Maximian, and the Protestants represent the part of the persecuting pagans. We are the descendants of those Christians, holding their faith, and animated by the same spirit. They conquered, and so shall we; not in slaying, but in being slain. The old pagans were defeated in the very moment of their apparent triumph, not by being slain, but by slaying. Let our soil be saturated with the blood of Catholic martyrs, and it will no longer bear Protestantism. Protestantism will wither and die. How little, then, have we to fear Protestant persecution! "It is sweet," sings the patriot, "to die for our country"; how much more sweet to die for our God, who has died for us, and to know that in dying for him we win the victory? How pants the true soldier of the cross for the glorious crown of martyrdom! Courage, dear brethren! Perhaps that crown is reserved for some of us, and that we may not always have to envy those who fought the good fight under Nero, Decius, and Diocletian. Martyrdom is fearful only to those who inflict it, and persecution need only alarm persecutors. They, indeed, have reason to fear and tremble. We, for ourselves, can forgive them and pray for them, nay, thank them for the service they render us; but there is One above us and above them who will not forgive them unless they repent. God will avenge his spouse, and the blood of his saints. Let men like Dr. Beecher, Rufus W. Clark, and the host of puritanical ministers at the head of the violent movements against Catholics, reflect on the fate of the persecuting pagan emperors, and remember that they who are most responsible for them are they on whom the divine vengeance will fall swiftest and heaviest.

We have already said that we have no intention of offering a formal reply to Dr. Beecher’s book. It is not worthy of an answer. There is nothing in it against the church that has not been answered over and over again. It may have weight with a few credulous and fanatical Protestants, who read no answer to it were we to give one; it may be used as a pretext, by artful and unprincipled demagogues, for attacking the political and civil rights of Catholics; but to all intelligent, well-disposed, and fair-minded Protestants it carries with it its own refutation. The author has overshot his mark. He lies stoutly, but not adroitly. He betrays too openly his malignity, and the thoughtful and sober part of his readers will not believe that either we, or our church, are so black as he paints us. Then the motives which govern him and his brethren are too patent. The undeniable fact is, that Protestantism as a religion is in this country on its last legs, and is fast going the way of all the earth. Its ministers are losing their social position, their hold on the people, and their livelihood. They see and feel that their craft is in danger, and that their calling is no longer held in reverence or respect by the community at large. They are fast sinking into popular contempt, as were sunk, in the time of Diocletian, the pagan priests. They must do something to recover their standing and influence, and they hope to be able to do so by getting up a violent persecution against Catholics. But we tell them it is too late. Their day is over, and these violent movements they are heading are only the violent throes of one in his agony. The people of this country are not yet Catholic, but they have lost their confidence in Protestant ministers, and hold them in about the esteem that the intelligent Romans, under the empire, held their priests. Whenever a party is obliged to resort to a secret organization in order to effect its purposes, it virtually confesses its weakness, and owns that the public is against it. If it has been in power, if it has once held the public, its resort to secret organization and to subterranean methods of operation is a proof that it has fallen, and that its doom is sealed. Its agony may be long and painful, but in its agony it is. Here is a fact that the Protestant leaders would do well to consider. Their secret organization, or their readiness to avail themselves of such organization, proves that they have no longer the mind or the heart of the American people on their side. This Know-Nothing movement is an humiliating confession of Protestant weakness; this book of Dr. Beecher is a cry of despair from the depths of the American Protestant heart.

No doubt expiring Protestantism may be revived to one last, vigorous, and desperate effort, as expiring paganism was under Diocletian and Galerius, and the persecution of God’s people may be severe and terrible; but that effort will exhaust it. To whom the empire will descend, we say not; but the people will be found to have had enough of Protestantism. No heresy has ever retained its vigor for over three hundred years; those three hundred years for Protestantism have passed away, and it seems now to have the presentiment of its doom. The American people are not yet Catholic, they are not very generally disposed to become Catholic; but the day is near at hand when they must make their election between Catholicity and no religion. The half-and-half religion of Protestantism no longer satisfies their hearts, hardly blinds or confuses their intellectual vision. They are beginning to see that whoso holds that God has made a revelation of his will to man recognizes, in principle, an authority as universal, as positive, as inflexible, and as obligatory, as that which the Catholic claims for his church; that the Protestant, who asserts any supernatural authority, can never make good his defense against the Catholic, is inconsistent in rejecting Catholicity, and either goes too far or not far enough; and that there is no alternative for a man, who can and who does reason, but to fall back either on the church or on unmitigated rationalism. He who questions this is ignorant of the state of the American mind. The fact is really undeniable, and therefore it is that we tell the Protestant ministers that their day is over, and that they will never recover their authority. Convinced of this, we see no use in spending time in replying to their tirades against Catholicity.

There are, however, one or two points raised by Dr.Beecher, on which we will offer a few remarks; not for his benefit, for he is past all human aid, but for the benefit of such honest-minded Protestants as are willing to know the truth, and to be just even to Catholics. Professor Park of Andover, some years since, asserted that the church teaches that "no faith is to be kept with heretics." This we, of course, denied. Cr. Beecher cites certain documents, which he calls papal bulls, in which he maintains that the doctrine is taught. In this he does no great credit to his critical sagacity, or to his principles as a moralist. The documents assert no doctrine we denied. There is in them, even as given by the author, no such doctrine as that "no faith is to be kept with heretics." The only doctrine we find in them bearing on the point is, that men who enter into engagements with heretics, or anybody else, to do that which it is unlawful or wrong for them to do, are not permitted to keep those engagements, but are bound to break them off. Does Dr. Beecher maintain the contrary? Suppose he had entered into an engagement with John Smith to cut our throat, would he be bound to keep the engagement? Suppose we entered into an engagement with some of our associates to burn down his meeting-house, should we be bound to keep it? The doctrine of the church is, that our faith, lawfully pledged, is to be kept; unlawfully pledged, it is not to be kept. If we pledge ourselves to heretics to do that which we are free to do, which it is lawful and right for us to do, we are bound to fulfill our engagement; but if we pledge ourselves to them to do that which we are not free to do, which is not lawful and right, which it were a sin or crime in us to do, we are not to keep it. We sin in making the engagement, but not in breaking it, because the engagement is itself sinful or criminal, and therefore null. The same principle governs the question of oaths. A lawful oath binds in conscience, and is to be kept, to whomsoever it is given, but not an unlawful oath. If we swear to do that which is wrong, we sin in so swearing, but should sin doubly if we kept the oath. Oaths such as are said to be taken by the Know-Nothings in their lodges are, by the laws of this state, unlawful and criminal. The Know-Nothing sins, and commits a crime, in taking them, because, being illegal and criminal, they were never obligatory. The principle is, that no man can bind himself to sin, or incur an obligation which it would be sinful to take, or sinful to keep. Man never is and never can be morally bound to do wrong, to sin, or to commit a crime. Now suppose Catholics, princes or subjects, contract obligations with heretics against the rights of the church, they would sin in contracting those obligations, but not in breaking them, for they could not be bound to fulfill them. Suppose Dr. Beecher should enter into an engagement with some of the followers of the late Abner Kneeland, to deprive, by violence, his church of their meeting-house, and to convert it into a dancing-hall, or an infidel conventicle, would he be bound to keep that engagement, or would he sin in breaking it? His sin would be in making such an engagement, and would be increased by keeping it. He would, even he will concede, be bound to break that engagement. What would he think of us, then, if we should say, Dr. Beecher teaches that no faith is to be kept with unbelievers, and that lying and perjury are no sin? Just what we think of him, when he says the same things of the church, and alleges that she teaches that no faith is to be kept with heretics. No faith is to be kept with heretics, or with anybody else, when to keep it requires us to sin, or do wrong; but faith is to be kept with heretics, and with all others, when to keep it requires us to do nothing wrong or unlawful, although it may require us to do things against our own interest. Here is the whole doctrine of the church on this subject, and this doctrine makes no distinction between the obligation of faith pledged to a heretic, and of faith pledged to a Catholic. He who objects to this doctrine only proves, either that he does not understand it, or that he has made no great proficiency in moral theology.

The object of Protestants in bringing this charge against Catholics is to make it appear that Catholics cannot be loyal to a heretical prince. Loyal to him in that he is a heretic, they cannot be; that is, they cannot obey, aid, or sustain him in his heresy; but as a prince, in all temporal matters, in the whole temporal order, if a legitimate prince, they can be, and are bound to be, loyal. If a prince, by the constitution of his state, holds his crown only on condition of being a Catholic, professing and protecting the Catholic religion, as was the case with the German emperors, and nearly all the Christian princes of Europe, down to the reformation, his lapse into heresy undoubtedly forfeits his crown, and absolves his subjects, not by a law of the church, but by the constitution of his realm. So, if the queen of Great Britain and Ireland should become a Catholic, she would, according the constitution, legally forfeit her crown, and he subjects would be absolved from their allegiance, for she holds it only on condition of being a Protestant. But even in Great Britain, as long as the queen holds her crown according to the constitution of the realm, Catholics owe her full and unreserved temporal allegiance, just as much as they would if she were a Catholic. In this country, the state, according to the constitution, is bound neither to be Catholic nor Protestant, and holds, therefore, under the law of nature alone. Catholics, therefore, owe it precisely the same allegiance that non-Catholics owe it. Grace does not supercede nature, and therefore all the rights a non-Catholic prince has, under the law of nature, over his infidel subjects, he has over his Catholic subjects. We are, in all temporal matters, just as much bound to be loyal to the state here, as we should be if it were professedly Catholic. We Catholics are neither Jansenists nor Calvinists, and therefore we admit the reality of the natural law; consequently, the rights of the state it confers, and the duties of subjects it imposes. This is sufficient as to our loyalty to an heretical or non-Catholic sovereign.

There is one other point, the relation of the papacy, on which we wish to make a remark or two in addition to what we have said in our review of Mr. Clark’s Romanism in America. Dr. Beecher, and several others of his class, have cited our defense of the supremacy of the spiritual power, and the subordination of the temporal, and given it as their opinion, that we have the advantage as against those of our Catholic friends who take the ground of what is called Gallicanism. We understand and appreciate their motives. They wish to promote divisions and get up angry controversies among Catholics themselves. In this they will signally fail, for we are none of us so foolish as to fight one another, when our citadel is besieged by the enemy. They think, also, that the papal power is more odious to the American people in the form in which we have presented it, than that in which some others present it. But even here they are probably mistaken, and there are not a few among Protestants, who, if they are to admit the papacy at all, would sooner accept as defended by Bellarmine than as defended by Bossuet. Let us have it, they would say, in its plentitude, in its integrity, not mutilated and shorn of its strength. However this may be, the Protestant has the right to hold us to the defense of the papacy as defended by Bellarmine, because a Catholic may hold Bellarmine’s doctrine without suspicion of heterodoxy, and no Catholic has the right to insist that Protestants shall take Bossuet’s, or even Fenelon’s, as the only approved Catholic doctrine. All a Catholic can say to a Protestant is, a man may be a Catholic without holding that the authority exercised by popes and councils over temporal sovereigns in the middle ages was an authority inherent in the papacy, but he cannot tell him, that to be a Catholic one must so hold. So, whether we are Gallicans or ultramontanists, Protestants have the right, if they choose, to hold us to the defense of the papacy on ultramontane principles, and we must be prepared always so to defend it, till we are able to declare by authority that those principles are heterodox.

The point made against us is, supposing the pope to have the supremacy alleged, Catholics owe him allegiance, and therefore cannot be loyal to the temporal government; or, in another form, the state is so subject to the pope, that it has, and can have, no temporal independence. If all civil government held from the church, or from God through the church, that is, under grace and not under nature, this objection would be plausible; but this is not the doctrine we defend. There have been three classes of governments. 1. Governments that are bound by their constitution to profess and defend the Catholic religion. Such was the Holy Roman Empire, revived by St. Leo III, and conferred on Charlemagne. 2. Governments held as fiefs of the Holy See, such as were England, Russia, Aragon, Sicily, Naples, and some others. 3. Governments holding simply under the law of nature, as was the case with pagan Rome, and as it is with our republic, and most modern states. The relations which existed between the first two classes and the papacy, in so far as they were peculiar, do not concern us. For us, the question comes up simply as to the relations between the papacy and governments in so far as they hold under the law of nature, and have only obligations of the natural law to the spiritual. The question, moreover, does not relate to a non-Catholic people, for the church does not judge them who are without. It has practical importance for the American people only in so far as they are Catholics. Suppose the American people should become Catholic, what would be, on the principles we have defended, the authority of the pope in regard to their temporal government? Precisely his authority as the divinely appointed guardian and interpreter of the natural law. Supposing, what is true, that our civil constitution contains nothing repugnant to the law of nature, or natural justice, he would have no authority to alter or modify it. Being the legitimate constitution, in would be binding on the Catholic conscience, and the law for the pope in his intercourse with the American state, no less than for the citizens themselves. He could not absolve us from our allegiance to it, because that allegiance is due under the law of nature, is a precept of the natural as well as the revealed law, and the pope can grant a dispensation from no precept of either law. We must understand that the pope has no arbitrary power in the case, and has, and claims, as we learn from Boniface VIII, no authority to dispose of temporal kingdoms, or to dispose temporal princes at his own will and pleasure. Such an authority Bellarmine is as far from asserting as is Bossuet himself. The pope does not make the law under which the prince holds, and can declare him deposed only in case he has forfeited his power by the law under which he holds. Unless the prince has forfeited his power by that law, the pope cannot absolve his subjects from their oath of allegiance, for he cannot absolve anyone from an oath which, in the particular case, has not in justice ceased to bind. The real nature of the absolution is the judicial declaration, that in the particular case, under the particular circumstances, the law does not require it to be kept, and therefore that the subject is free. The act of deposition is judicial, not legislative. It does not make or annul the law, but declares and applies it. The prince can be deposed only in case he is a tyrant, abuses and forfeits his trusts, and his subjects can be absolved only in the case they are really so in natural justice. Here is nothing incompatible with the just freedom and independence of states, and the papal authority is and can be terrible only to tyrants. The pope is made by it, practically, a simple arbitrator, and exercises by divine right, and with the weight of his spiritual authority, the functions which our peace-men would have exercised by a congress of nations, or which are attempted, with indifferent success, to be exercised by modern diplomacy. It makes him the divinely appointed court of appeal, in matters of difference between sovereign and sovereign, and between a sovereign and his subjects. The utility of such a court, and its necessity to the internal tranquility of states and the peace of Christendom, all good men feel, and not a few even among non-Catholics acknowledge. Without it, there is and can be no Christendom; there is and can be in the political order, only gentilism, only a heathendom.

Protestants make singular blunders whenever they speak of Catholicity. Assuming that the church in not from God, that she is at best a mere human institution, they are forced to attempt to explain what they witness amongst us on natural, evil, or satanic principles. They travesty our holiest doctrines, and see only craft and wickedness, a secret and satanic meaning, in our most innocent expressions, and our most innocent, nay, our most praiseworthy, proceedings. Nothing can be more edifying than the conduct of our Catholic population under the present Know-Nothing provocations. Every one must be struck by their singularly calm and collected deportment. They manifest, as a body, no excitement, apparently feel no alarm, show no disposition to retaliate on their enemies, and quietly and peaceably pursue their ordinary avocations. How explain this? The Protestant cannot explain it in a good sense, and supposes that it is policy, that it is all owing to the influence of the priests. The priests have given the order, and the poor, superstitious, priest-ridden laity dare not disobey. Assuming this to be the fact, Protestants even find in it an argument against our religion itself. Can it be safe, they argue, to tolerate in a republic a religion whose priests have such power over their flocks? Today, indeed, they exert their power to keep their people quiet; but who can say that they may not tomorrow use it to stir them up to murder and massacre poor defenseless Protestants, or to take away our liberties? But priests are men as well as the laity, and have like feelings and passions. How happens it, then, that the priests themselves are so calm and collected? Whence comes it that they cannot only restrain their people, but themselves also? They are, it is answered, ordered to do so by the pope. The pope, having certain designs on this country, has given his orders, and they must be executed. But by what magic does the pope, more than three thousand miles off, secure such unlimited obedience to his orders? How is the pope able, at this distance, to make men put a curb on their national tempers, and the natural passions of the human heart, and rise so much above themselves, overcome their natural powers and their physical timidity, and stand unmoved, calm and collected, before a whole people in wrath against them, insulting them, and reviling all they hold sacred? Here is something which our Protestant philosophers cannot explain, on their theory of Catholicity.

Protestants observe in the Catholic community certain remarkable phenomena, which they observe amongst no other people. Precluded by their Protestantism from explaining them by the operations of divine grace, they undertake to explain them as the result of satanic influence, or of the most consummate human policy. They suppose that the clergy are full of all craft and subtlety, and that the pope is constantly interfering, directly or indirectly, most despotically, with every thought and every action of the individual Catholic. They assume that we have no freedom, no spontaneity; that we are automatons in the hands of the priests, mere puppets, moving only as we are moved by secret wires, adroitly pulled by the bishops and clergy, at the command of the pope. But in this they forget that we are Catholics, and reason as if we were Calvinists, with John Calvin, John Knox, or Cotton Mather for pope. A system of policy, craft, fraud, and tyranny, like that which Protestants imagine to explain what they observe amongst us, would itself be supernatural, and its maintenance for eighteen hundred, or even for twelve hundred years, in the most civilized nations of the earth, would itself be the most stupendous miracle recorded in history. Nothing is philosophically or historically falser than this Protestant theory of the church. There is nothing of this astuteness, of this consummate policy, in her history. Trace her through eighteen hundred years, and you will find, according to our human modes of judging, that her clergy, from the pope downwards, have been far more successful in attaining to the simplicity of the dove, than to the prudence of the serpent. Strange as it may sound to Protestants, the thing which most strikes a convert from Protestantism, especially a convert from Evangelical Protestantism, on entering the church, is the freedom and naturalness he finds amongst his new associates, and the total absence of that officiousness on the part of the clergy which he had been accustomed to in the Evangelical ministers. Every thing is free, natural, spontaneous. The bandage is stripped from his eyes and his limbs. He is no longer in swaddling-clothes; no longer swathed and lashed to a board, like the Indian infant, to be thrown over the back of its mother, set up against a tree, or hung on a branch. He feels a strange sensation of relief, and a life, a buoyancy, that is as new as delightful. He feels that he has suddenly burst from darkness into light, from the most galling slavery into the glorious liberty of the children of God. He feels that he is in very deed a freeman.

This notion of Protestants that we are under an iron despotism is purely imaginary, and Catholics, if the matter were not so grave, would be much amused at their talk about papal orders, rigidly enforced by the popes on the bishops, by the bishops on their clergy, and by the clergy on the faithful. It would seem that they really believe that we are in all matters, temporal and spiritual, subject to arbitrary will or caprice, and that the people rules us as despotically as some of our old puritan ministers did their respective congregations. But the government of the church is, from first to last, a government of law, not of mere will. Amongst Protestants, authority is for the most part personal, and depends on the personal character of the minister, and with them an organization as complete as that of the church would be an unmitigated despotism, and an ambitious man at the head of it could use it to gratify his lust for dominion. But with us he cannot, because with us authority is not personal, attaches not to the person, but to the office, and is determined by law. We may esteem one priest as a man higher than another, but this personal esteem does not mingle with our obedience to the priest as a priest. We reverence his office, and we obey him for the sake of the office, not for the sake of the man. Now the office is fixed in the original constitution of the church, and its rights and duties are defined by an unalterable law. This law enters into Catholic instruction, and forms the Catholic conscience. Hence the clergy could not, if deposed, exert an illegitimate influence over the laity, because, the moment they attempted it, they would find not only the law, but the Catholic conscience itself, against them.

Catholic conscience is formed by Catholic faith, by Catholic teaching, which must be uniform throughout the world, and the same in every age. Hence it is not in the power of the popes and clergy combined to change the Catholic conscience, or to pervert it to any personal or selfish ambition, even if they would. They have no influence, except through Catholic faith and conscience, neither of which is under their personal control. The pope himself cannot create a new dogma, or change the law of conscience. The Protestant overlooks this fact, and supposes that with us, as with him, faith and conscience are variable, or changeable at will. This is a mistake. Catholic doctrine, which forms the Catholic conscience, is invariable, and not alterable at the will of its ministers. It is open, public, and taught to children before any ill-disposed priest can think of availing himself of his office of teacher to mould the young mind to his selfish or ambitious purposes. The influence which the clergy are able through their office to exert could become dangerous only on condition that they could control the faith they teach, and form the Catholic conscience at their will, as is, to a great extent, the case with Protestant ministers. If, per impossibile, all Protestant sects could unite in one body, in a single organization, the world would see a despotism far more rigid and oppressive than was exercised even by the old heathen sacerdocies, for these ministers would be restrained by no Protestant conscience, and would have the sole control over their own teaching. The principles applicable to such an organization cannot, even humanly, apply to the church, because their pastors can only teach what they and the laity also have been taught from the beginning, and are bound by the same law that binds the body of the faithful.

This reasoning applies to the question before us. The rights and duties of sovereigns and subjects are in Catholic teaching clearly defined. Nothing in regard to either is left to arbitrary will or caprice. Those rights and duties as the church in her public teaching has always defined them are sacred and inviolable for all Catholics, for the pope and clergy no less than for the laity. Whatever power of intervention the pope may be assumed to have, he can intervene in no case not foreseen, and in no respect except in accordance with the principles always publicly recognized and always publicly taught. He cannot impose a new political duty on sovereign or subject, or exact from either what has not always been exacted by the law under which the authority holds. What will sustain his intervention? What can he rely on to give his intervention success? Catholic faith and conscience. Nothing else. But these he does not and cannot form, and these he does not control, for they were formed before he was pope, and therefore could not be relied on in case of the contravention of either. Suppose the pope, as we and many Catholics hold, has power to depose a temporal sovereign, or to declare him fallen from his dignity, and his subjects absolved from their oath of fidelity to him, he can do so only in case such sovereign has, according to Catholic morality, publicly taught and presumed to be well known by everybody, abused and forfeited his trusts, and has already ceased de jure to reign. Now that morality, which no pope makes or can alter, and which binds the pope as well as the prince, teaches that power is amissible indeed, but that no temporal sovereign forfeits his trusts, committed to him by God through the people, except by abusing them, by using his power iniquitously, contrary to the common good, and in grievous oppression of his subjects. And what man, worthy to be a freeman, and not imbued with the spirit of an oriental slave, will not acknowledge, nay, will not maintain, that, when a prince so abuses his powers, he ought to be deposed? The old Puritans of England, under Cromwell, went further, and not only deposed their sovereign, but beheaded him; and the doctrine of those at the present day who are most inveterate in their hostility to the papacy is, that it is lawful to depose a sovereign even because he is a sovereign, and solely for the sake of changing the form of government. Ultramontanism, in what its enemies may regard as its most odious form, goes by no means so far, and they who take the highest views of the papal prerogative hold that the pope can depose a temporal prince, holding under the law of nature, only in case he so abuses his power as to forfeit his right to reign. He is deposed for his crimes, his iniquity, his tyranny, his oppression of his subjects, for nothing else.

The difficulties which honest and fair-minded non-Catholics feel on the subject arise from supposing that, because we admit the plenary authority of the pope as vicar of Jesus Christ on earth, we necessarily admit that he has the sovereign authority over our faith and morals, and can make them what he pleases. They do not see how it is that we can recognize such an authority without subjecting ourselves to the will or caprice of him who holds it. They do not see this, because they do not understand that Catholic faith and morals are in themselves entirely independent of the papal will, and that the pope has no more power to impose an article of faith or a precept of morality than the humblest layman. He as head of the church is guardian and interpreter of the faith once delivered to the saints, and he can define what is of faith and morals, what has been delivered, what the law of which he is the guardian enjoins; but he cannot, even if we could conceive him to wish to do so, mould either faith or morality to suit, any passion or selfish purpose of his own. In this sense he has no power over our faith or conscience. There is not a Protestant minister in the land that has not in this respect more power over the faith and conscience of his congregation, providing he gains their confidence, than the pope has over the faith and conscience of Catholics. The minister to a great extent forms the doctrine he teaches out of his own brain, and imposes upon his followers his own private opinions; he can insist on a new and peculiar morality, and impose on the Protestant conscience of law of his own enacting, as we every day witness. The pope cannot. By the nature of the case, as well as by divine grace, he is restricted in his teaching to what he has received, and in his government of the church to the law imposed from the first. His legislative authority is limited to matters of discipline and administration, and in these is bound by the fundamental law. He can introduce no new principle, or change or reject no principle hitherto recognized and acted upon. This, if considered, would satisfy, we should think, any honest and serious mind, that the pope really has no power of his own over faith and conscience, and that in regard to them he is the simple organ of the law, or of the authority that originally enacted it. The law for the Catholic conscience is not that we shall believe and do whatever the pope commands us, but that we shall believe and do whatever God commands us through the pope, or in the law of which the pope is the divinely instituted guardian and interpreter. The divine command or this law binds the pope as much as it does us, and he cannot give it an arbitrary interpretation, because its interpretation- an interpretation that is fixed and inalterable- has been given and known to the church from the first, and is not left to be discovered or invented by any individual pope. New questions come up indeed for decision, but these are not decided by a new and previously unknown interpretation of the law, but by the application of the law as always interpreted, or in the sense in which the church has always understood it. We as individual Catholics may not know in this or that case what God commands, or what is the true sense of the law, and we apply to the Holy Father to be informed. He answers us, not by a new command or a new interpretation, but by telling us what in the sense of the church has always been the law or the divine command on the subject. He enlightens our conscience, but he does not form it. The law which he proclaims as the law of our conscience is equally the law of his, and he can no more make it what he will than we can what we will. We are as free, therefore, in our faith and conscience as he is in his. The Protestant notion, that the Catholic has no faith or conscience but what the pope wills, is wholly unfounded.

We insist so strenuously on this point, because we are confident that it is the on which Protestants most frequently and most seriously misunderstand Catholicity. They really think that we are deprived of all freedom, and are mere slaves to our priests, or if not the priests, at least to the pope. Nothing is further from the truth. Priests are the ministers of the law to us, no the law itself. Catholic faith or morals are not private or arbitrary things. They are catholic, public, and taught openly to all the faithful. We have them all in our catechism, and we know there can be no departure from them,- nothing varied in them, nothing added to them, nothing taken from them. The church knew her work in the beginning, and sprung into life with the full possession of her faculties. She had her credo to start with; she had her doctrines fully formed, in the outset; and there were for her no new discoveries to make, no new interpretations to give. These doctrines may not be equally well known by all the faithful, but the church has always equally possessed and known them, and they have always and everywhere been taught to her children, and in their substance known and believed by them all. Having been so known and believed, they have formed alike in the church teaching and in the church believing the law of the Catholic conscience, to which the pastors are as subject as their flocks, and which teachers no more than believers can alter, for the teachers must be believers before being teachers. For Catholics there is and can be no slavery to persons, whatever their rank or dignity. There is no power in pope or bishop to enslave our consciences, or to reduce us to that spiritual thralldom Protestants in their folly speak of; for neither, if they would, could make us believe that we are bound in good conscience to do what is repugnant to the faith and morals they have uniformly taught us, and which they had assured us had been taught them also. All that you can say against us is that in your opinion the faith and morals taught us are false and mischievous, but you cannot call us spiritual slaves because we believe them, and feel ourselves bound in conscience to conform to them. We believe them because we believe that God has taught them and commands us to conform to them, and it is not slavery to be bound to believe and obey God. The most you can say is that we labor under a mistake, but in so saying you are at least as liable to labor under a mistake as we. At the worst we can judge of that question as well as you, fallible as you certainly are and confess yourselves.

If Protestants would bear in mind that Catholic faith and morality are always the same, and are taught to all Catholics, and form for all the law of conscience, the spring of action, and the guide of the understanding, they would be able to explain, in a much more simple way than is usual with them, many things they observe among Catholics, and see that they can interpret them more rationally in a good than a bad sense. They would see that much of that which they attribute to the direct and positive orders of the clergy, or to a secret and well-concerted scheme of action, is the spontaneous expression of our Catholic life. Unity of life begets unity of action. Uniform faith and morals produce uniform private and public effects. We act freely as Catholics from the faith we have received and the life that is in us, and the conduct which is often supposed to result from papal orders, clerical influence, or subtle policy is nothing nut the open and frank expression of the interior life common to all the faithful. The papal orders are much rarer than is commonly supposed; and much less is to be attributed to the personal influence of the clergy than is commonly imagined. There is a Catholic common sense, that counts for something, and Protestants would be surprised to know how much of that which they charge to conspiracy is perfectly free and spontaneous with us.

Resolved to understand every thing among us in a bad sense, Protestants attribute the introduction and spread of Catholicity in this country to a papal conspiracy. They sometimes go so far as to attribute the Irish migration hither to the pope and cardinals. We have not learned whether they attribute to the pope and cardinals, or not, the Irish famine of 1846. We should not, however, be surprised to find that they do. They regard every Catholic Irish servant-girl in a Protestant family as an emissary of the pope, initiated more or less into the secret of the papal conspiracy. Every Irish maid-servant and man-servant is supposed to have no faith, no conscience, but to do the will of the priest, and to be ready to obey his order, whether it be to poison the Protestant master, or to burn down his house. Verily, one is not surprised at Barnum’s success. Now the pope and cardinals had no more to do with the Irish migration than they had with the landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth. The Irish were forced to emigrate by the misgovernment of their country by Protestant England, and came here because we promised them liberty of conscience, civil and political equality, after a short probation, with natural-born citizens, and good wages and plenty of employment. They came here Catholics, and they chose to remain so. They are so far from being engaged in a conspiracy to deliver over this country to the pope, that, if we were to reproach them at all, it would be for their want of zeal for the conversion of our non-Catholic countrymen. They have suffered so long and so much from the Anglo-Saxon, that they can hardly persuade themselves that his conversion enters into the design of Providence. They know their faith, and love it; they know the rights it gives them, and the duties it imposes, and there is not one among them who, if ordered by a priest to do any thing contrary to Catholic morality, would not say to him, "Get behind me, Satan." If there could be found a priest base enough to give the order supposed, there is no Catholic servant that is so ignorant as to believe it obligatory. He, the priest, would, were he to give it, lose all his influence, and be looked upon, not as a priest, but as a moral monster. To poison one’s mater or to burn down his house, Catholic morality, as taught to all, condemns, and every Catholic knows that whosoever should advise or order it denies Catholic teaching, and therefore is to be held as separated from the faithful. If an angel from heaven, says St. Paul, should preach to you any other Gospel than that which we have preached, let him be anathema. No conspiracy by the pope and clergy to do what is contrary to the faith and morals publicly taught, and which are held by all Catholics, could possibly be formed, and to do what is required by Catholic faith and morals no conspiracy is needed, and no additional power could possibly be derived from it.

There are no doubt among Catholics the silent operations of divine grace, and the secret or invisible influences of faith and charity; but the Protestant notion that the church is a huge secret society, somewhat like that of the Know-Nothings, is as far from the truth as was the notion of the old heathens, that Christian’s worshipped an ass’s head, and killed and eat an infant in their assemblies. The church is open and frank, and what she does she does in the light, not in the dark. She has no secrets but those of the interior life, and she condemns all secret societies. Her faith is proclaimed on the House-tops, before all the world; her dogmas and morals are not concealed; all may know them who will; and she calls upon all by her missionaries, not emissaries, to make themselves acquainted with them. Her emissaries, you say, are secretly at work to bring this great, free, and glorious republic under the dominion of Popery. Translate this into civil and gentlemanly language, and it means that Catholic missionaries are at work to convert the people of this country, as of all others, to Catholicity. And what is there so very objectionable in this? If they can, by appeals to reason, history, and Scripture, convince the American people that Catholicity is from God, who has the right to complain? Reason, history, and Scripture are open to you to use against them, if you choose. They are willing to meet you on fair and equal terms before the American public, and if you are unwilling to meet them on the same terms, or, so meeting them, are worsted, is this their fault?

But Dr. Beecher would persuade us that Popery is itself a grand conspiracy agaistn the Gospel and the liberties of mankind; but Dr. Beecher is not a very high authority, nor very persuasive in his speech. He deals too much in filth to have much influence with men of a tolerable stomach. The pretence is absurd. You may say Catholicity in your judgment is not true Christianity, and is unfavorable to true freedom, but you cannot say it is a conspiracy. A conspiracy is a combination of men for an evil purpose, more especially an unlawful plot to overthrow a government. In neither sense can you call the church a conspiracy. It is not a conspiracy against governments is general, or any particular government, certainly not against ours, which it is our sacred duty as Catholics to sustain. It is not a combination for an evil purpose, for the purpose of the church is to convert the world to Jesus Christ, and to establish on earth the reign of peace. This is a good purpose, and even if the church could be mistaken, as she uses and suffers to be used none but lawful means to accomplish it, she is and can be no combination of men for an evil purpose. To talk of exposing the papal conspiracy, is only to expose your own looseness of language, or something still more reprehensible.

But enough. We have wished in what we have said to address ourselves to that class of Protestants- large, we would fain hope- who love fair play, and who, however they may dislike Catholicity, would deal justly and honorably with Catholics. We have wished to offer some suggestions which may, if taken up and pursued by their own thought and reflection, satisfy them that Catholics, even if ultramontanists, may be as free and act as spontaneously, to say the least, as their Evangelical opponents. In general, however, we are unwilling to assume even the appearance of an apologist. Works like Dr. Beecher’s can do us, in the long run, no harm. They can make no lasting impression on the American people, and in the end will operate greatly to the damage of Protestantism. Sensible people will be led by them to ask, Whence is it that Protestantism shows itself so weak and malignant, so untruthful in its statements, so un-philosophical in its reasoning? Can it make no better defense? Has it no more refinement, no more honesty, no more virtue? Protestantism cannot long survive the asking of such questions.