The Greatest Writer of the 19th Century » Brownson's Writings » Philosophy and Catholicity

Philosophy and Catholicity

From Brownson’s Quarterly Review for October, 1855


A warm personal friend of the distinguished Father Ventura has very obligingly presented us with a copy of this highly instructive and most valuable work of the ex-general of the Theatins, which consists of discourses preached during the season of Lent, at Paris, in the year 1851 and 1852, augmented and accompanied with remarks and notes by the author. Of the genius, learning, ability, and extraordinary eloquence of the illustrious Italian it is not necessary for us to say a single word. In these respects he is above any eulogism of ours. When Gregory XVI, of immortal memory, was asked by a Frenchman who was the first savant at Rome, he replied, after a moment’s reflection, "Father Ventura." "We have," continued his Holiness, "no doubt, many distinguished theologians, apologists, philosophers, publicists, orators, and men of letters, but there is only the Father Ventura who is all of these, and in himself alone."

In 1848 we made some strictures on Father Ventura’s Funeral Oration on O’Connell, for it seemed to us to incline too much to the liberalism of the day. We regarded it as likely to encourage the revolutionary party throughout Europe, and as containing expressions which, in the state of men’s minds at the time, were likely to be understood as conceding that the church had not always been on the side of true freedom. His stay at Rome during the Roman revolution, and his conduct, as reported to us, during the short-lived reign of the Roman republic, gave us very unfavorable impressions as to his Catholic loyalty, and we feared that he would prove another La Mennais. But a friend of his, who professes to have been with him during the period we refer to, and to have shared his confidence, has assured us that the gravest things laid to his charge were false reports, and has satisfied us, if his account be correct, and we have no reason to doubt it, that the most to be said against him is that he suffered his impulsive nature to betray him into some imprudences, and perhaps some improprieties. But his subsequent conduct, and his honorable submission to the censure of the Congregation of the Index on one of his discourses, have amply repaired whatever faults he may have been guilty of, and should restore him to the full confidence of the Catholic public. We have nothing to censure ourselves for in what we have heretofore said respecting him, for we were never animated by any uncatholic feeling towards him, and we spoke according to the best information at the time within our reach. But if we have expressed at any time any opinion respecting him personally founded in false or inadequate information, we of course regret it, and assure him that we are any thing but disposed to persist in it.

In the confusion of revolutionary times, many false judgments of men and things are inevitable, even to the best disposed and the best informed. In 1848 and 1849, though ardent lovers of liberty, we found ourselves obliged to oppose what was called the republican or democratic movement, and to oppose it both in the name of religion and rational freedom. We thought we saw Father Ventura on the side of that movement, and aiding it against the Holy Father and the real interests of Europe, and judged his doings and sayings by the position in which we saw him, and the company in which we found him. If he did and said the things ascribed to him, we did not judge him too severely. Many of those things, we are assured by his friend, were falsely ascribed to him. We are told that he did not celebrate High Mass on the grand altar in St. Peter’s on a certain occasion, as reported, and that, though present, it was not as a priest, but as the Neapolitan [Sicilian?] ambassador. And we are further told, that he remained at Rome after the escape of the Holy Father to Gaeta, in order to do what he could to restrain the excesses of the republicans and to protect the interests of the Papacy. If this was so, we can exonerate him from the charge of disloyalty to religion, but we cannot think very highly of his discretion. But those things are past, and he has made all the submission that has been required of him, and we have no right to remember them against him. We shall make it a point, for ourselves, to give him all the respect and confidence due to his eminent ability, his profound learning, his rare genius, and his zealous and energetic labors as a Catholic priest.

Father Ventura is not, and never was, a sympathizer with red-republicanism; he is not, in the popular sense of the word a democrat; but there can be no doubt that his sympathies are with the people rather then with their masters,- that he would wish to see the Catholics of Europe less disposed to make common cause with the superannuated dynasties and modern bureaucracy, and more in earnest to restore the free constitution of European society which generally obtained prior to the heresy and schism introduced by the so-called reformation. In this there is much with which we agree, but there are serious difficulties in the way of realizing what he wishes, and the most serious of all is in the corruption of the people themselves. We are in favor of republicanism, but not on the principles of the party in Europe struggling for it. We like the general constitution of European society as it was during the Middle Ages, though not the barbarism we meet there side by side with Christian civilization; but joining the democracy, and aiding what is called the popular movement of the day, will not bring back what was good in those ages, or advance the cause of civil freedom. The republic, on the principles of English, American, or French statists, is not a whit better than the Caesarism of the courts. The fundamental principles of Caesarism and modern democracy are precisely the same, and liberty, in any rational sense, is possible under the reign of neither. Liberty presupposes the sovereignty of the spiritual order, under whose dominion authority and liberty are harmonized. But this sovereignty is rejected alike by modern democracy and modern monarchy. The one places the monarch, the other the people, above all law, and the principle of both is political atheism. The people are as averse to recognizing the supremacy of the divine law in the government of the world as are kings and emperors. The shallow and atheistical political system, which flows from the innovations of Luther in theology and of Descartes in philosophy, has penetrated nearly the whole modern world, and is embraced by the Catholic populations almost as generally as by the Protestant. Scarcely a Catholic statist of our acquaintance retains any conception of the profound political philosophy engendered by Catholic theology; and seldom do we meet one who seems capable of comprehending the state as it was comprehended by St. Augustine, St. Thomas, or even Suarez and Bellarmine. In the political order the mass of Catholics, as well as Protestants and infidels, follow either Bossuet and James I of England, or Locke and the shallow-pated Rousseau.

Here is the grand difficulty. If we side with authority and uphold the sovereigns, we favor, and cannot help favoring, monarchial despotism,- what we call Caesarism. If we side with the revolution and support the popular party, we favor, and cannot help favoring, the despotism of society, the absolutism of the many, and the unlimited right of the majority for the time being, which is scarcely less intolerable. The essential element of liberty is rejected alike by princes and people, and we are compelled to alternate between the despotism of the one and the despotism of the many. Gallicanism, so called, with Catholics, and unbelief with Protestants, have excluded God from the state, and no place is given to the divine Idea, or to the sovereignty of him who is King of kings and Lord of lords. Nor is this the worst. In countries where Protestantism prevails, we are obliged to wish for the success of the party that professes the least respect for religion, for, politically speaking, religious indifference is less to be deprecated than Protestantism or Evangelical fanaticism. We have then in Protestant countries another difficulty. The support we give to religion as an element of government turns to the advantage of Evangelicalism, the predominant religion of Protestants, and the favor we show the party of indifference, though it may stave off the evil day, tends in the end to undermine society, and to render the catastrophe still more terrible when it comes. The truth is, modern society, in both Catholic and Protestant countries, is pagan, and is every where becoming a prey to pagan errors, vices, and corruptions. All we can do is to refrain from siding absolutely with either party, and to use what freedom we have to recall men to the recognition of the divine sovereignty, to make our Catholic populations, who have as yet a conscience, as Catholic in their politics as in their religion.

The divorce of Christianity from the church, proclaimed by Luther, led the way to the divorce of philosophy from theology, proclaimed by Descartes, which in its turn led to the divorce of the religion from the state, proclaimed by Louis XIV and his courtier bishops, who forgot their God for their king, and which was popularized by the philosophers and statists of the last century. We must labor to reunite in Catholic minds and hearts what God has joined together, and which no man had the right to put asunder; for it is only through the Catholic people that we can hope to save society. This is a great work, and a work that cannot be done without meeting opposition on all sides,- on the side of Catholics, who have become pagans as to their politics, as well as Protestants; but nevertheless we must labor to accomplish it, whatever the opposition, for the salvation of society, of freedom, of civilization, depends on it. We shall encounter persecution, and the land may be saturated with our blood, as was that of pagan Rome with the blood of the early martyrs; but we know that we are following out the spirit of the church, and that, if we proceed with singleness of heart, Almighty God will approve us, and give us success. We see nothing else for us here or elsewhere, but to devote ourselves, heart and soul, for life or death, to the great work of reconverting society relapsed into paganism to the Gospel of our Blessed Lord, and, to do this, to begin with ourselves.

In one department of this work Father Ventura has, in the volumes before us, done manly and heroic service. His aim has been, if we may so express it, to undo the work of Descartes, that shallow thinker and but too successful corrupter of modern thought, and to reunite theology and philosophy, which he had divorced. He shows, by a wealth of erudition that astonishes us, and by an eloquence which, though he speaks and writes in a foreign tongue, hardly yields to that of the great Bossuet, that philosophy divorced from theology, or human reason proceeding by itself alone, has never in the moral or intellectual order discovered or established a single truth, but has uniformly made shipwreck of the common faith of mankind, obscured or lost sight of the most essential truths, and, falling from error to error, has uniformly ended in the frightful abyss of universal doubt. He contrasts, in all ages, the Catholic reason and the philosophical reason, and shows conclusively that by the former truth is attained and preserved, while by the latter it is lost and finally denied, even in relation to the natural order, as well as to the supernatural. This our readers know is what we have uniformly insisted on, and though never accepting the doctrines ascribed to the traditionalists by their opponents, we have never failed to assert that philosophy or human reason alone can never attain to any solid system of truth, even in the natural or intelligible order. We are most happy, therefore, to find this doctrine, which we regard as all-important, powerfully and conclusively vindicated by so distinguished as advocate as is the Very Reverend Father Ventura de Raulica.

"If," says the illustrious author, "man could by his own means and private reflection formulate his beliefs and duties easily, with certainty, and without admixture of error, de facili, sine miscela erroris, fixa certitudine, as says St. Thomas, it would be all over with revalation; Si ratio humana sufficienter experimentum praebet, totaliter excludit meritum fidei.(Summa, 2. 2, q. 2, a. 10) And in fact, what would be the use of a positive revelation, if man were able of himself to know what he ought to believe and what he ought to do? If such were the case, all the world would have the right to say, with the Genevan sophist, ‘I have no need of a revealed religion; I am contented with natural religion’; and rationalism would be at the same time true religion and true philosophy. This is the doctrine, which, as Clement of Alexandria tells us, Plato summed up in these words, ‘My esteem is to believe on no authority, and to submit only to the reasons which, after reflection, appear to me best.’ Cicero professed the same doctrine: ‘Every one should follow his own reason, for it is difficult to obey the reason of others,’ – ‘Cum suo quisque judicio sit utendus, difficile factu est me id sentire quod tu veils.’(De Nat. Deor., lib. iii) It is this doctrine or this method that I call the philosophical reason.

"But if, on the contrary, man cannot without a superior revelation in an easy manner attain to a precise and certain formula of his beliefs and duties, it is necessary that our great philosophers, those lofty intelligences as empty as they are proud, should prostrate themselves before the doors of the church, and listen to the instruction of life from the God-made-man; Ipsum audite. If this be so, nothing is more reasonable than to submit their reason as their will, and rationalism is only a culpable delirium or an enormous extravagance. This is the doctrine fo the apostle St. Paul, who says, ‘Subject your intellect in obedience to Jesus Christ, and believe that this obedience is reasonable,’ – In captivitatem redigentes omnem intellectum in obsequium Christi. … Rationabile obsequium vestrum.(2 Cor. X, 5), And this constitutes what I call the Catholic reason.

"In these few words is summed up the whole question debated today between the Church and the School, between Catholicity and Rationalism, between Religion and Philosophy. On the one side, we have the philosophical reason maintaining that man is sufficient of himself to know perfectly his own nature, his relations to other beings, and his final destiny; and on the other, the religious or Catholic Reason, asserting that, to know all these things, man has great need of God, and that he must submit his understanding to the teachings of the Son of God made man." Tom. I. pp. 5-8.

The philosophical reason, so called by the author, because it pretends to be philosophical without being so, is human reason proclaiming its own sufficiency, operating without accepting any aid from revelation, and refusing to recognize any truth which it has not by its own unassisted efforts found out and established; the religious or human reason is the same human reason operating with principles originally supplied it by direct revelation from God, in submission to those principles, and for their preservation, development, and realization in the conduct of life, intellectual and moral. To enter fully into the thought of the very reverend author, we must bear in mind that the revelation of which he speaks dates from the origin of the world, and was made to the first man, and from him, by means of tradition and language, has been propagated through all the world, as has been material existence by natural generation. The first man had the same revelation that we have, and the same faith that we possess. The Catholic faith began with Adam before his prevarication, and has always been in the world as the one only true faith, as the one only means of knowing our duty and returning to God as our final destiny. The patriarchs believed as we believe, only for them Christ was to come in the flesh, and for us he has so come; and hence you find that to the question, What must I believe? The apostles answered, In the Lord Jesus Christ; that is, that he who was to come had come, and was that same Jesus of Nazareth whom the Jews with wicked hands had crucified, and whom God had raised up on the third day from the dead; for this was all that was necessary to complete the faith of those who retained the primitive revelation. Our Lord did not come to give a new faith or to found a new religion, but to fulfill the promises, or to accomplish the things promised in the beginning,- to perfect the faith of the fathers, which otherwise would have been vain. The church dating from our Lord and the apostles is founded on the fulfillment of the promises, but it existed before, from the beginning of the world, as founded on the promise to be fulfilled; yet as it is impossible for God to promise and not to fulfill, the church has substantially existed from the beginning, as it will exist to the consummation of the world, the one and the same holy Catholic Church, una sancta ecclesia catholica, the Spouse of God, and Mother of all the faithful. Hence the Abbe Rohrbacher with perfect propriety commences his Universal History of the Catholic Church with the creation of the world, and brings it down in an unbroken series to the pontificate of our present Holy Father, Pius IX. We undoubtedly have an explicit belief of many things which the patriarchs believed only implicitly; but the world had in substance, as St. Thomas teaches, the same revelation of truth before as it had since the coming of Christ. On this point the Holy Scriptures are explicit. "God created man of the earth; and made him after his own image….He created of him a helpmate like unto himself; he gave them counsel, and a tongue, and eyes and ears, and a heart to devise; and he filled them with the knowledge of understanding. He created in them the science of the spirit; he filled their heart with wisdom, and showed them both good and evil. He set his eye on their hearts to show them the greatness of his works, that they might praise the name which hath sanctified; and glory in his wondrous acts, that they might declare the glorious things of his works. Moreover, he gave them instructions and the law of life for an inheritance. He made an everlasting covenant with them; and he showed them his justice and his judgments. And their eyes saw the majesty of his glory; and their ears heard his glorious voice; and he said to them, Beware of all iniquity. And he gave to every one of them commandment concerning his neighbor." (Ecclus. 17, 1-12). Or, as rendered by Father Ventura:

"God in creating man of the earth and in forming him from his body the first woman, to be, since of the same nature, his companion through life, gave to both the perfect use of their senses and their faculties, the rule of the understanding, the law of the mind and heart, thought, sentiment, language; so that they might from the first moment walk, operate, think; understand, reason, will, and speak. God revealed to them evil that they might avoid it, and good that they might practice it. He deigned also to look with a peculiar love upon these first human souls, in order to elevate them even to himself. He showed them the divine magnificence of his works. He taught them to render worship unto his name, not only because that name is all-powerful, but also because it is alone holy. He taught them not to glory in themselves, but in him, considering themselves as the most noble works of his hands, and to relate to their children the wonders of the creation of the world. In fine, he taught them in what manner they should conduct themselves, in giving them the law of life, which they were to transmit as an inheritance to their descendants. He established with them, by his grace, an everlasting covenant of love, and fixed its conditions in the revelation which he made them of the sanctity of his precepts, and the severity of his judgments." – Ibid. pp. 8-10.

This rendering of the sacred text, if not literal, is just, and does but bring out its real sense. Hence the author may well say:

"Thus, then, according to this admirable, this magnificent, this touching passage of the Sacred Books, God was for the first man what our parents, our fathers, have been for us. Our parents, our fathers, have not given us merely physical life, which consists in the union of soul and body, but they have also given us intellectual life, which consists in the union of the mind with truth. Yes, what all fathers in the succession of time have done for their children, God did instantaneously for the first man. When, therefore, the Scriptures tell us (Genesis ii.) that man came forth from the hands of his Creator a living soul, factus est in animam viventem, it is manifest that the Holy Ghost would tell us that man from the first instant of his creation began to live the double life proper to him,- the life of the body by the soul, and the life of the soul by the truth.

"Of the grand fact of a primitive revelation, attested by Scripture, the great St. Thomas gives the reasons and the proofs. In his admirable treatise De Scietia [Cognitione] Primi Hominis, or on the Knowledge of the First Man, he tells us, ‘that Adam must have had from the very instant of his creation a knowledge of natural things, not only in their principles but in their conclusions, because God created him to be the father of the human race, and children must receive from their father not only material existence by generation, but also the rule of life by instruction. Adam must then have been perfect in all his parts, perfect under the relation of body, so that he could become a father, and perfect in relation of knowledge, so that he could be the teacher of mankind. We cannot conceive, we cannot admit, that the human mind was created a blank sheet on which the hand of his Creator wrote nothing. As the first man knew not the weakness of infancy in relation to the body, so he knew not the darkness of ignorance in relation to the mind. He obtained from the first moment, instantaneously, all that we learn successively during our early years. He received by the Divine operation what we receive by human education, a perfect body, and a mind endowed with the full and perfect use of reason admirably enlightened by the truth. It would have been contrary to the perfection necessary to the first man, to have been created without the plentitude of science, and obliged to learn it slowly and painfully from experience.

" ‘But independently of natural knowledge, Adam received also the knowledge of grace. In Adamo duplex fuit cognition, naturalis et gratiae. He knew not only at once natural things, which the human understanding may know by the aid of first principles, but also many [superintelligible] things by virtue of a special revelation, to which reason by its own strength cannot attain; and in knowing these only by revelation, and receiving them solely on the authority of God revealing them, he had from the first faith. Adam in primo statu habuit.’"Now would you know who instructed Adam in the beginning of the world? It was, says Tertullian, ‘the divine person of the Word, who was to be made flesh, - it was he who instructed the first man.’ Deus in terris cum hominibus conversari non alius potuit quam Sermo [Verbum] qui caro erat futurus.’( Advers. Praxeam. C. xvi.) Thus he whom the Eternal Father constitutes now our Master in all things, he himself taught the first man all the truths of the moral and intellectual order, and even of the most elevated [the superintelligible] order; for St. Thomas adds that Jesus Christ taught Adam the mystery of his Incarnation even before Adam had sinned. ‘Ante peccatum, Adam habuit fidem explicitam de Christi incarnatione, prout ordinabatur ad consummationem gloriae.’ It was then in testimony to this same Divine Word before he was incarnated, and in supporting itself on this primitive revelation of the Word preserved in the world by this Word, that human reason commenced from the origin of the world its progress; it was sustained by this faith, enlightened by this light, that the ancient patriarchs fixed the public worship, developed the truth, defended and preached it to the world, which obtained them the glorious title given them by St. Peter, of ‘preachers of justice.’

"This is what the Apostle John would tell us when he says: ‘The Eternal Word is the light which enlighteneth every man coming into this world,- ‘Lux vera quae illuminat omnem hominem venientem in hinc mundum.’ And it is the light of this primitive revelation, of this primitive instruction given by the Word to the first man, which, from the first man, through tradition and language, is diffused over the whole world, as by material generation is diffused through all the earth material life; and it is this instruction which has always remained, and which the darkness of idolatry has obscured, but has never been able to efface. Lux in tenebris lucet, et tenebrae non comprehenderunt. It was in applying divine revelations to the knowledge of causes, to the usages of human life, that the great men of antiquity developed the intellect of man, founded public society, established laws, created science, invented the arts. In the primitive revelation is the origin of true philosophy, proceeding always by the light of religion, having for its purpose to maintain and defend religion, and to procure man the greatest happiness on earth possible without losing sight of heaven. Thus true philosophy established in the world with faith commences also with the world." – Ibid., pp 10-15.

To avoid all misunderstanding here, and to keep clear of the Jansenistic heresy, which founds science on faith, and involves the denial of both faith and science, it will be well to remark, that, according to St. Thomas, the primitive revelation is twofold, of natural things and of things of grace, that is, of two orders, which we call, after Gioberti, the intelligible and the superintelligible. The primitive revelation makes known to man supernaturally, for all divine revelation is supernatural, both orders, and in the conduct of life the knowledge of both constitutes one inseparable and indissoluble doctrine, what our author calls the religious or Catholic reason. But while the truth in either order is revealed, and never could have been found out by the human reason operating by itself alone, we must beware of confounding the truth of the one order with that of the other, or of maintaining that truths of the intelligible order are held only on the authority of the revelation. On this point the illustrious author is not so clear and precise as he could wish, and he even seems at times to favor the notion, that the principles or first truths of natural science are held on the authority of faith, and are not, even when revealed, evident per se to natural reason. This is the error we have so often pointed out in the so-called traditionalists, into which, as they are presented by their opponents, they certainly fall; and it is an error fraught with fatal consequences. We are far enough from charging this error upon Father Ventura, but we are obliged to say that, as far as we have seen, he does not take sufficient pains to guard his readers or hearers against it. He no doubt for himself observes the mean between the two extremes, but he does not always observe it for others.

We agree perfectly with the illustrious author, that all true science, all our knowledge in the intellectual and moral order, begins in the supernatural revelation made to our first parents; but we distinguish, without separating, in that revelation, between the truths of the intelligible order and those of the superintelligible. The latter constitute the matter of faith, the former the matter of science,- the principles of knowledge, of philosophy, as distinguished from Catholic theology. The truths of the superintelligible order are inevident per se to natural reason, and are held by us as belief on the authority of the Revealer. The truths of the intelligible order, though they require, for our clear, distinct, and reflective understanding of them, to be revealed and presented to us through the medium of language of some sort, are, when represented by language, evident per se to natural reason. The principles of science, or the first truths of the natural order, must, although indemonstrable, be evident to natural reason, or science is impossible; and if science is impossible faith is impossible, since gratia suponit naturam. The difference between science and belief is, that in science the matter received or assented to is, in principle at least, evident per se to natural reason, or our noetic faculty, whereas the matter of faith, even in principle, is inevident per se, and is evident only per alium, and is accepted on authority or testimony. It is not known in itself, and is cognizable only analogically, by the analogy it bears to the intelligible. If, then, there be for us no intelligible, no science proper, there can be no faith, as there can be then no analogical recognition of the unintelligible. While, then, we recognize that the primitive revelation contained a revelation of the principles or first truths of both orders, and that man never could have had moral and intellectual science if it had not, we maintain that only those which pertain to the superintelligible are held on the authority of the revelation, and that those which pertain to the intelligible order are evident per se, and of the domain of science as distinguished from faith. We take as an illustration what Gioberti calls the ideal formula, L’Ente crea l’esistenze, Ens creat existentias, or Real and necessary being creates existences. This formula every Christian of course holds to be true, and every philosopher worthy of the name detects it as the ideal and apodictic element of every thought; but without the revelation, In principio creavit Deus coelum et terram, it never could have been discovered by the human mind, and held as a distinct truth. Yet when once represented to the human mind through the medium of language, it is evident per se, that is, it affirms or evidences itself to our reason as an intelligible truth, and therefore, as the principle of science, as of things. It is held as a formula known, not merely as a formula believed.

With these remarks, thrown out solely as a necessary precaution to our readers, we accept the doctrine of the author with regard to the primitive revelation without hesitation and without reserve, and contend with all the earnestness of our nature, that it is only form that revelation, as preserved by tradition and language, as the substance of the instruction which, through every generation, children receive from their parents, we must take alike the principles of our faith and of our science.

The primitive revelation, however rejected by the philosophical reason in ancient or modern times, has never been wholly effaced from the minds of the race of Adam.

"St. Irenaeus, Tertullian, Minucius Felix, Arnobius, St. Augustine,- all the apologists of Christianity, all the theologians and Christian philosophers,- when wishing to demonstrate the existence of God from the general consent of mankind, have proved that the human race, even after the fall into idolatry, preserved the idea of only one God, Master and Governor of heaven and earth. Nothing more true. With Homer, Hesiod, Virgil, Ovid, those witnesses to the popular beliefs, Jupiter is the puissant God, the Father of gods and men, the superior God, the God whose will is the last reason of things, whose decrees are fate, he who gives to kings their power, who breaks the pride of cities, hurls the thunderbolt, raises the tempest, and holds the first link of the chain on which hangs the universe; it is he who orders all events, who blesses the labors of the husbandman, inspires courage, assures victory, protects persons, gives mind, talent, well-being, riches, health, life.

"with Cicero the orator, who, inspired by the beliefs of the people, speaks for otherwise than Cicero the philosopher, Jupiter was not the Jupiter of mythology, but the Jehovah, or very nearly the Jehovah, of the Jews; for he was God supreme and most perfect. Deus optimus maximus, the eternal reason, the sovereign God, Ratio aeterna summi Jovis, Author and Preserver of nations, states, and empires.

" ‘Idolaters,’ says a great contemporary theologian, the archbishop of Rheims, whose lofty science and merits the Sovereign Pontiff has just rewarded with the Roman purple,- ‘idolaters have never confounded their celestial and terrestrial gods with the supreme God. If by polytheism you understand many sovereign, independent, increate, eternal gods, it is false that the people in this sense have ever admitted a plurality of gods. Polytheism means the belief, not in many equal gods, but in many gods subordinated to one supreme God. The notion of the true God, it is agreed, has never been as distinct, as pure, as perfect, with the Pagans as with the Jews; but it is nevertheless true, that, though altered or impaired by the superstitions of idolatry, this idea is found everywhere, and that, as the martyr Saturninus declared to the Council of Carthage in the year 258, the Pagans, although they worship idols, yet know and confess God sovereign, father, and creator,- quamvis idola colant, tamen suumum Deum patrem et creatorem agnoscunt et confitentur.’" – Ibid., pp. 21-23.The pagan nations never, in their most degraded state, lost entirely the notion of the true God, as we learn from St. Paul, who makes their guilt consist in not having worshipped him, although he was known by them. "The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all impiety and injustice of those men who detain the truth of God in injustice, because that which is known of God is manifest in them. For God hath manifested it to them. For the invisible things of him are clearly seen from the creation of the world, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and divinity; so that they are inexcusable. Because when they had known God they did not glorify him as God, nor give him thanks; but became vain in their thoughts, and their foolish heart was darkened; for professing themselves to be wise, they became fools. And they changed the glory of the incorruptible God into the likeness of the image of a corruptible man, and of birds, and four-footed beasts, and of creeping things." (Rom. 1, 18-23). Polytheism may have grown out of a satanic corruption of the true doctrine with regard to good and bad angels, and of ministering spirits. We know on divine authority that the gods of the heathen were demons, that is, fallen angels, who succeeded in seducing men from their allegiance, and in persuading them to render them that service and worship which they owed to God. But we are more inclined to believe that polytheism originated in pantheism, which certainly underlies all the mythological systems known to us. But be this as it may, all polytheism bears witness to the fact of the notion of one God, supreme Author and Ruler of the universe, was never wholly effaced from the minds of pagan people, and that all traces of the primitive revelation were never wholly lost. The following, from our author, is strictly true:

"By the side and under the shadow of this first truth of the existence of one eternal, increate God, Author and Lord of all, the various peoples of the earth still preserved, even after they had fallen into the absurdities and obscenities of idolatry, many other great and important truths. They all and always believed in the existence of a moral law, whose author is God, commanding obedience and respect to parents and superiors, and forbidding theft, murder, adultery, lying, and detraction,- a moral law which is obligatory on all, and the observance or violation of which constitutes justice or sin, virtue or vice. They have always believed that it is necessary to honor God by sacrifice, to propitiate him by repentance, and to seek his assistance by prayer; that, to show that we acknowledge him as the Lord of the earth, of life, and of the means of sustaining it, we must especially consecrate to him some portion of space, by erecting temples,- some portions of time, by setting apart certain days for festivals in his honor,- some portions of our ailments and goods, by the practice of fasting and almsgiving; that besides this Supreme Deity, we must also honor with a religious worship, always in his name and for his sake, those lesser spirits whom he has been pleased to use as his ministers in the government of the world, as also those great men who, by the perfection of their lives, or by the services they have rendered to other men, have visibly represented here below the most beautiful attributes, and exercised the providence of the invisible God. They have very nearly and always believed that the human race have fallen from their primitive happiness and perfection; that they can be restored only by the sacrifice of blood; that the merits of an innocent, holy, and perfect being may be communicated to a wicked, guilty, and imperfect being; that the latter may be redeemed by the devotion and voluntary sacrifice of the former; and that the gifts of the gods and purely spiritual graces are conferred and spread over the human race by corporal and sensible means, rites, and ceremonies.

"They have all and always believed that virginity is a sublime virtue, which renders man pleasing to God; that the priest should be more or less chaste, according to the functions he is called upon to perform in the exercise of worship; that there is a communicable merit of expiation in the voluntary practice of chastity; that every guilty action displeases God, and cannot escape punishment, just as every virtuous action is pleasing to him, and will be rewarded either in this world or in the other; that in the other world there is a paradise and a hell, where the rewards of virtue and the punishment of crime are eternal. Finally, they all and always believed that, besides the place of eternal punishment, there is a place where the souls of the dead expiate their lighter faults, and are purified by temporal privations and sufferings; that in this state of expiation and suffering they may be assisted, and even entirely delivered, by the prayers and sacrifices of the living; that the body of man, no less than his soul, is destined to be immortal, to partake of his eternal happiness or pain. This is proved by the care and respect which have always and everywhere been paid to the human corpse, by the rites which have always accompanied its burial, and by the profound and universal respect for tombs.

"Certainly these truths have not been always and everywhere believed, nor these laws always and everywhere understood, in the same manner. At different times and in different places error has been more or less mingled with truth, and vice with virtue. It is thus that the Holy Scripture understands the work of religious despotism of certain governments, and of the license of human reason and passions. Hence that prodigious difference of theogonies, worships, manners, and religion among the ancients. But it is not less true, that the symbol that I have just traced was, at bottom, the symbol of the human race, though more or less disfigured by absurd superstitions in its results and application. The gods of the Hindoos were not the gods of the Medes and Persians, any more than the gods of the Egyptians were the gods of the Greeks and Romans. But the supreme, eternal, omnipotent God was everywhere the same, under different names, and even under gross and absurd forms; and Jehovah, whom the Jews alone knew in all his truth (notus in Judaea Deus), was worshipped by all men.

"Each people had its own religion, as it had its own language; but these different religions in their general and common principles were but the same religion differently understood and differently applied. Scarcely an error can be found in their beliefs which, as Bossuet has remarked, had not its rook concealed in a truth. Scarcely a vice in laws or manners which, as St. Thomas has explained, was not the false and absurd application of some one of the immutable principles of the natural law. There is not a single nation which has not preserved more or less pure the primitive traditional beliefs of mankind. Constantly everywhere we perceive these beliefs floating upon the ocean of errors, fables, superstitions, and obscenities which darken the surface of the earth. We see them everywhere standing up like an inextinguishable beacon lighted by the hand of God since the beginning of the world for the direction of man. Erat lux vera, illuminans omnem hominem venientem in hunc mundum. Lux in tenebris lucet, et tenebrae eam non comprehenderunt." – Ibid., pp.24-29we have permitted the author the more fully to develop his views on this point, because many Catholic writers, misapprehending the relation between the intelligible and the superintelligible, and more or less affected by the philosophical reason, which is by no means confined to the non-Catholic world, make little or no account of the primitive revelation made by our Lord as a good father and a wise instructor to our first parents. In some Catholic writers even, we find a total forgetfulness of the real state of the first man, and the doctrine that the human race were left, as to the natural or intelligible order, to find out everything by their own unassisted reason, to invent language and to create for themselves all the moral and intellectual sciences. Hence even they favor the absurd doctrine that the savage was the primitive man, and barbarism the primitive state of human society. This doctrine is embraced by many educated Catholic laymen, and is one of the greatest obstacles we have to surmount in reconverting the world from paganism. It places God at too great a distance from us, and obscures the close and tender relations which subsist between him and us as our Father, our Teacher, our Guide, our Director, and our Friend. It places a contradiction between what is called reason and faith, philosophy and religion, which it is all but impossible to remove. Men believe because they think they must or be damned, because they are unable to get over the proofs of the credibility of Catholicity, and because they see that the church is indispensably necessary to the maintenance of order and consistency in religion and morals, since both are evidently shipwrecked among the sects; but it were idle to pretend, that between their faith and what they regard as science there does not appear to them an invincible mutual repugnance. Piety may prevent from daring even to avow it to themselves, but they feel unable to reconcile the immovable character of their church with what seems the them the progressive nature of man and society, and they would feel much better satisfied with her if she would accept what they regard as liberal ideas, and place herself in harmony with the spirit and tendencies of the age. They are disposed to believe that in process of time there has been discovered and accumulated in the intelligible order a large body of truth unknown in the primitive ages, which the church does not accept, nay, which she rejects.

Such is the fact as to the state of the minds of many, deny or disguise it as we will, and it is to this state of mind we must more particularly address ourselves. We may say that our church accepts and teaches all truth, for such is the fact; we may say that it is impious to doubt it, for so it is; but the voice of authority, or the tenderness of conscience, may silence, but it cannot and does not remove, the difficulties which even well-disposed Catholics, nurtured in the philosophy and literature of our age, do and cannot but feel. There is another task, and a more difficult task, imposed upon the instructors of our times, than that of mere appeals to extrinsic authority, because, whatever the respect felt for authority, or however clear and distinct its voice, it cannot reach the heart of the difficulty. What is wanted is not positive commands to the will, but instruction for the understanding, an actual clearing up of the difficulties felt. Our older controversialists did not come down at once with the authority of the church upon misbelievers; they sought first to enlighten and to convince their understandings, by arguments drawn from sources which they admitted. Thus when the erring still recognized the Scriptures as the word of God, Catholics appealed to them, and sought to show the harmony between the Catholic doctrine and the manifest teachings of the Scriptures. The difficulty now lies deeper; for the philosophic reason of our age places the Scriptures and the church in the same category, and in point of fact is even less indisposed to recognize the latter than the former. We have, then, in order to meet the difficulties now felt, to recur to first principles, and to show that the philosophical reason, in so far as it causes these difficulties, is demonstrably false, and that this supposed body of truth, discovered and accumulated by the ceaseless activity of the human mind during the ages, and which the church disowns, is in reality no truth at all, but vain imagination, or idle theorizing. We must not merely say this is so, but we must take the pains to show it.

The first step to this is, with Father Ventura, to recall our Catholic laity, disturbed by the rationalistic philosophy of the times, to Catholic reason, and show them what in regard to the human race has always been the gracious providence of God, and under what conditions and what conditions only the human intellect has been developed and placed in possession of intellectual and moral truth. The second step is to show that, just in proportion as men, whether in ancient or modern times, overlook or depart from these conditions, they fall, not upon the truth, but into the gravest errors and grossest absurdities, and therefore that what passes for philosophy as detached from theology is manifestly not true philosophy, but a fatal illusion. Both of these points have been shown by the illustrious Ventura in these volumes. He proves that in the intellectual and moral order man started, through the bounty of his Maker, with the full complement of truth, and that philosophy, whether ancient or modern, has made no addition to the original stock, but has wasted the goods it received, and reduced itself to the condition of the Prodigal Son, that of tending swine and feeding on the husks they eat; that is, under it and by it men have been reduced to the low and ignoble condition of mere animal life. This is not idly said. Every body knows that the ancient philosophy resulted in the denial of the moral and spiritual life of man, and in representing him as a mere animal. Horace did not blush to avow himself a pig from the sty of Epicurus, Bene curata cute vises Epicuri de grege porcum, and a French philosopher at the beginning of the present century defined man to be "a digestive tube, open at both ends." Philosophy, taking its portion of goods and departing from its father’s house, has squandered them, and found itself unable to discover and establish ant thing more in or for man than this pig of Epicurus, or this digestive tube of Cabanis. But surely this is not and never has been the belief of mankind. We have seen what were in ancient and what are in modern times the beliefs of the human race when not enlightened by philosophers; but if philosophy can attain only to the herd of swine or the digestive tube, whence came the human race by these sublime beliefs, which they have always had, and which they have for the greater part always in substance maintained, in spite of the corruptions, the darkness, and the abominations of pagan idolatry, and in spite too of the speculations of philosophers? You can, on the principles of that very inductive philosophy you boast, account for them by assuming only the primitive revelation the Holy Scriptures assert, that God was himself the original instructor of mankind. If so, then nothing can be more reasonable than in our philosophizing to recur to that primitive revelation for our first principles, our primitive data, or, so to say, our premises.

The grand error of philosophers in ancient and modern times is, if they but did know it, precisely in that which they regard as their chief glory, namely, the divorce of the natural from the supernatural and of the intelligible from the superintelligible, and the attempt to build up a complete system of moral and intellectual truth by the lights of natural reason alone. No doubt, the rationalistic philosophy begins with an effort, in many cases honest, to explain and account for the primitive beliefs of mankind; but it uniformly ends by denying them. And it cannot help it, because it seeks their origin and explanation in unassisted reason alone; because it seeks to be, not the servant, but the mistress, of faith. This rationalistic philosophy is of comparatively a recent date, and is commonly fixed for the ancient world with Socrates, and for the modern world with Descartes.

In the ancient world prior to the rise of the Greek philosophy, and in the modern Christian world prior to Descartes, philosophy was not disengaged from theology, and, though cultivated, was cultivated as the rational element of faith, distinct but not separate from revelation. At these two epochs it was separated, and took up an independent course of its own. This it boasts, and this it calls its glory. But what has it done by its free and independent action? What new light on God, man, or the universe ahs it shed? You imagine that it has in its progress made a succession of brilliant discoveries, and amassed a body of truth unknown to the primitive ages and overlooked or denied by the church. If this really were so, the church would and ought to give way; but if you who think so were called upon to specify any one of these supposed discoveries, or any particular truth, held outside of the church and rejected or not accepted by her, and from the first making part of her doctrine, you would be not a little embarrassed. In the purely material order, there have no doubt been discoveries and inventions of greater or less value to our simple animal life, and this we may well assert without supposing any corresponding discoveries in the intellectual and moral order; for the Holy Scriptures assure us that the Lord has given the earth to the children of men, and abandoned it to their disputations. Whatever the free activity of the human mind has accomplished in the material order, out of that order it has, unassisted, accomplished less than nothing. Your rationalistic philosophy, your philosophy emancipated from the tutelage of revelation, marching with its free and independent step, has reduced man to a pig or digestive tube open at both ends. It matters little whom we cite, in order to show that the rationalistic philosophy reduces man to a mere animal. Let us take Horace, that almost universal favorite with our polished classical authors,- Horace, who owns that he is one of the swine-pen of Epicurus. He tells us that

"The first human beings sprung, like animals, from the earth,- a mute and filthy herd, making war upon one another for an acorn of a den, at first with nails and fists, then with sticks, and afterwards with artificial arms. At length they invented speech, formed language for the expression of their sentiments, and gave names to things. They then desisted from war, began to build and fortify cities, and to found laws prohibiting theft, murder, and adultery. For even before Helen, woman had been the most shameful cause of war. Addicted to the pleasures of the flesh, without marriage, after the manner of wild beasts, they fought among themselves, the stronger overpowering the weaker, as a bull in a herd of cattle. But those men have perished unknown. Explore the annals and monuments of the world, and you will be obliged to admit that laws originated in the fear of the wicked, for nature is impotent to distinguish good from evil, the just from the unjust, and to separate what is permitted from what is to be avoided." (Satyrar Lib. 1, 3).

So sings the polished Horace. Cicero speaks to the same purpose:

"There was formerly a time when men roamed the fields, fed themselves, and propagated their species after the manner of brutes. In the conduct of life they followed the instincts of the body, instead of obeying the dictates of reason. They observed as yet no religion, no law, no duty. Legitimate marriage was unknown, and fathers acknowledged not their own children. No one understood the utility of right and equity. All was ignorance, error, abuse of bodily forces, and under the shadow of these most pernicious satellites, blind and reckless passion domineered over the soul."

Whether you consult the ancient or modern philosophers, this is what the rationalistic philosophy opposes, on the explanation of the origin of man and civilization, to the doctrine of the church and the universal traditions of the human race. Father Ventura may well ask,-

"Can any thing more shameful, more degrading for man be imagined than such an explanation of his origin, nature, and condition? Can there be any thing really more absurd than this system, which assumes that man, while ignorant and stupid as a sheep, was able to invent what was most profoundly scientific, what is grandest and sublimest in his possession, that is to say, reason and speech? That man, ferocious, degraded, corrupt as a wild beast, was able to create justice, duty, laws, and voluntarily submit to them? That by its sole means, by its own efforts alone, the brute is able to make itself a man, and that barbarism and savagism can spontaneously and without extrinsic aid transform themselves into civilization? But once impudently admitted that men originally sprung from the vegetation of the earth, as onions, or from the corruption of other beings, as insects, that they have created for themselves ideas, sentiments, reason, language, truth, justice, law, and religion, it is absolutely necessary also to admit, that man has nothing in common with God, holds nothing from God; that God has revealed him nothing; and imposed upon him no law whose execution he has a right to demand; that man is his own reason and law, and in that which concerns him he holds only from himself; that the reason of each individual must walk alone, and should acknowledge no superior law, no authority, but should regard itself as free to do whatever seems to itself good. Here is the doctrine which constitutes, as I have said, the philosophical reason. Here then is the ancient philosophical reason originating in a fable as absurd as degrading. Its origin is as ignoble, as abject, as that of the religious or Catholic reason is noble, worthy, and majestic."- Ibid., pp.19-21.

There is no difference between the ancient and modern philosophical reason, or, as we prefer to say, rationalistic philosophy. Waiving or denying the primitive revelation, it must suppose that man received no instruction, no reason, language, or science from his Maker, and therefore that he began his career on earth through the ages as an untutored savage, nay, as a ferocious beast, living a purely animal life. Now if man began as a purely animal life, and is left to his own resources, to his own self-development induced by his animal wants, nothing but a purely animal life can be arrived at; for you can have nothing in the development not contained seminally in the principle. Hence your modern doctrine of progress, which you boast of, and secretly or openly condemn the church for not accepting, and which some few Catholic writers even take it upon them to inform her that she may accept with advantage to her cause, based as it is on the denial of the primitive revelation, and the assertion of the purely animal or vegetable origin of human beings, can at best be only a progress in the growth or development of the animal or vegetable life of man. It is a homely but true saying, that one cannot make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. It is, we apprehend, equally difficult for a sow to develop into a moral and intellectual, a speaking and reasoning, human soul. Hence it is that, when we analyze the boasted progress of man, we find that it is progress in provisions for the wants of the human body, or man as an animal, alone. Nothing but the animal being in the premises, nothing but the animal can be in the conclusion. But this is not the worst of it. The soul is, as the church has defined, forma corporis, and the life of the body, the animal life itself, depends on the union of soul and body of one person, and derives from the soul itself; so that in proportion as man neglects the proper life of the soul he loses that of the body, and suffers equally in his animal life. We are not to live the life of the soul for the sake of the body, but sensible goods are in their highest degree attainable only by those who live the rational life of the soul for the sake of God. Hence our Lord says, "Seek first the kingdom of God and his justice, and all these things (sensible goods after which the heathen seek) shall be added unto you." So it falls out that by neglecting or denying the primitive revelation, and living not according to the law of the soul, but according to the instincts of the body, we retrograde instead of making progress in that order where we freely admit a large margin for human progress was left, namely, in providing for the animal life of man. You do the church foul wrong when you blame her for opposing the doctrine of progress asserted by the rationalistic philosophy of the day, because that progress is divorced from moral and intellectual truth, because it is no real progress even as to the actual enjoyments of animal life, and because its tendency is to destroy the animal life of the body as well as the moral life of the soul. It is not progress in earthly well-being the church opposes, as you foolishly imagine, but the attempt to effect that progress in disregard of the only conditions on which it can be a progress and not a regress. The multiplication of sensible goods, or the increase and accumulation of material riches, do not of themselves constitute a progress even in earthly well-being, unless preceded and accompanied by the higher life of the soul, by conformity, after the inner man, to the truth and law of God made known to us in the primitive revelation. The mere man of the world, the epicurean, the sensualist, is, as all experience proves, whatever his material wealth, the most wretched of mortals. We know well that no Catholic denies this; but those Catholics who accept the modern doctrine of progress, and seek to incorporate it with the doctrine of the church, should know that this modern doctrine has for its basis the vegetable or animal origin of man, or the mere animal and savage state of the primitive man asserted by Horace and Cicero, or the ancient rationalistic philosophy, and cannot be accepted without denying the nobler part of man, without neglecting the moral life of the soul, and therefore not without losing that very earthly well-being that is sought. This well understood, no Catholic can for a moment countenance the modern rationalistic philosophy, fatal alike to soul and body, or feel that his church does not well in rejecting it. Let any man, Catholic, or non-Catholic, study these volumes, and he will understand this, and understand it well.

We have neither the space nor the ability to give a complete analysis of these volumes, for they are themselves only an analysis of the subject they treat. We have indicated of few of their more salient points, and that chiefly for the purpose of stimulating the curiosity of our readers to master their contents. What chiefly arrests our attention is the necessity demonstrated by the author of reuniting reason and faith, religion and philosophy, society and the church. The divorce proclaimed by philosophy in modern as in ancient times has led, and could not but lead, to the most fatal results. Religion divorce