"Weninger's Protestantism and Infidelity" Brownson's Quarterly Review for April 1862

Fr. Weninger, the distinguished Jesuit missionary to the Germans, is, we believe, an Austrian by birth, and from a family of some note in his own country.  He is a man of large views, and a warm heart, great ability, indomitable energy, and untiring zeal,- the very model of a Missionary.  His whole soul appears to be in his work, and he seems only to work for his Master’s glory in the salvation of souls.  There is no counting the good he has done and is doing, a good the vast extent of which we shall never know till the final judgment.  Not contented with travelling day and night, and writing and publishing catechetical and other works in his own language, for the instruction or edification of our German population, he devotes no little time to preaching and preparing works in the English language, for the benefit of our English-Speaking world, Catholic and non-Catholic.  Some months ago, he published an excellent Manual or Doctrinal Catechism, admirably adapted to the wants of Catholics in this country, and now in the work before us he makes a direct appeal to our non-Catholic countrymen, earnestly calling upon them to examine seriously the unhappy and destructive character of their heterodoxy. 

The work is designed for popular reading, and is written in a clear, affectionate, popular style, adapted to the apprehension of readers of ordinary capacity and intelligence, but is written with ability, with adequate knowledge of the topics it treats, and cannot fail to interest and command the respect of all classes of readers, however enlightened or cultivated.  It is addressed to our heterodox and unbelieving countrymen, as is indicated by its title, Protestantism and Infidelity; and we are pleased to see that it does not treat them either as totally destitute of Christian knowledge, or even Christian feelings.  The heterodox are not Catholics, but they in some sense pertain the Christian world and to the Church.  They hold not the truth in its unity and catholicity; yet they hold more or less of it, and, for the most part, the same moral and spiritual appeals to conscience which move the Catholic move them, and even these among them who fancy they do not even believe in Christianity.  There are great differences between them and us, but the points of resemblance are more numerous, and more important.  Let a Catholic preach to a congregation of non-Catholics, very much as he would preach to a congregation of Catholics, in whom he wished to awaken a sense of the importance and necessity of religion as the condition of their salvation and sanctity, and they will listen to him as respectfully as would his Catholic auditory, and be moved by his preaching very much as they would be.  Reason is the same, and the law of conscience is the same in both.  This important fact Fr. Weninger fully recognizes, and adopts it as the law of his proceeding.

The author, though he has served principally as a missionary to an old Catholic people settled in the country, has, by his varied intercourse with non-Catholic Americans come to believe their conversion to the Catholic Church is not only possible, but comparatively easy, if missions were open to them, and serious and earnest efforts were made to present them that faith in its simplicity, freed from those associations which have hitherto repelled rather than attracted them to it.  He has learned to like the American people, and he believes that they only need to join the Catholic faith and worship to their order of civilization, to be the greatest and noblest people on earth.  Nothing more grieves his heart then the very general neglect to open missions to them, directly to recall them to unity and Catholicity.  He cannot bear to look, under a Catholic point of view, on their spiritual destitution, and he leaves no stone unturned to induce the proper authorities to direct attention to their wants, and, instead of pushing them aside as heterodox and infidel, to send them missionaries who will present them the Church in her true and proper character.  He judges the American people rightly, and does them no more than simple justice.  In their order of civilization they are already the most Catholic people on earth, and there are no people better predisposed to accept and conform to Catholic truth in religion than they are, when once it is presented to them, and so presented that they see that it is catholic and not simply sectarian.

The Catholic religion has never yet been rejected by the American people, for it has never yet been presented to them.  What they regard as the Catholic religion is not that religion itself, but its accidents, or certain things that it has gathered around it in its passage through various nations and ages, and which not only they, but many Catholics themselves, confound with it.  These things they reject, and are quite right in doing so, but, in rejecting them, they reject nothing catholic, for catholicity is only that which is believed everywhere and always, by all the faithful.  What pertains to this or that age or nation, participates of time and place, is local and temporary in its character, and not catholic, and is no essential part of catholic truth, even when not repugnant to it.  What the American people want is not the Catholic religion of Irishmen, Englishmen, or Germans, or the Catholic religion as these have developed, explained, modified or overlaid it, but the simple catholic truth which subsists in all ages and nations, and does and will outlive all the mutations of time and space.  This and this alone is Catholic truth, this and this alone is Catholic religion, and this and this alone is what is necessary to present to the American people, and what has as yet never been distinctly presented to them.  But this, they who are simply missionaries to the old Catholic people, do not present pure and simple; far less is it presented by an old Catholic laity from old and foreign Catholic countries.  These always think the gentile converts must be circumcised, and observe the Jewish law, and need a St. Paul to preach to them the freedom we have in Christ.  They, who are especially missionaries to the Gentiles are the first to get rid of Judaism, and to understand that the observance of the Jewish law is no essential part of Christianity.

Every man has, who are especially appointed to labor for a people already Catholic, are seldom those who can labor with the most zeal and success for the conversion of the heterodox and unbelievers.  Indeed, in our country, the Bishops and Parish Priests could not specially devote themselves to those outside of the Catholic communion, however ardently they might desire to do so.  They have no time to spare for that purpose.  They must, first of all, attend the spiritual wants of the faithful who have been committed to their charge, and this engrosses all their time and energy.  Even Protestants do not rely on their “settled” ministry to bring us Catholics into their various sects, and send out missionaries supposed, but often erroneously supposed, to be specially adapted to the work of converting Romanists, who make that their special vocation.  Now, every Catholic holds his Church to be the only true Catholic Church, holding and teaching the only true Catholic faith, without which no man is joined to Christ as his head, or is in the way of salvation, “for there is no other name than that of Jesus Christ given under Heaven among men whereby we can be saved.”  Every Catholic, then, must desire, in proportion to his charity, to convert all unbelievers and misbelievers, and to bring all men into the Church, and into union with Him who died to redeem us, and lives to save us, and glorify us in Heaven.  He who should not so desire would be a bad Catholic, and prove that he lacked Christian charity, without which knowledge and faith, miracles and alms-deeds can avail one nothing.  He is not to be branded as a zealot or a bigot because he burns with the ardent desire to make all men Catholics.  His desire is the natural desire of every Catholic, and only proves the earnestness and sincerity of his faith, and his consistency as a man.  This conduct can give no offence to those who are mot of his religion, so long as he seeks their conversion only by fair and honorable means, only by arguments addressed to intelligence and the moral affections.  The Catholic Church, if a living Church, must be progressive, and progressive by propagandism.  This is a proof not of her illiberality, bigotry, and exclusiveness, but of her life, vigor, and love.  Catholics in this country must desire and feel themselves bound to labor in the most practicable way for the conversion of the country, if they have any faith or confidence in their own religion.  They must not merely rejoice when the stray sheep returns to the fold, but they must leave the ninety and the nine in the wilderness who went not astray, and go forth into the mountains to seek and find the one sheep that was lost.  The Son of Man came to seek and to save; he did not wait till he was sought, or give command to let the stray sheep go, and merely take care that no more go astray; and Christ is the Good Shepherd, and the model of the good pastor.

Nothing in fact produces a more unfavorable impression upon non-Catholics than the apparent indifference of our bishops and priests to their conversion, and their apparent earnestness only in guarding the remnants of the flock that remain.  This guarding of the faithful should, of course, be attended to, but the conversion of the unbelievers should not be neglected.  The Good Shepherd commits to them the care of all his sheep; but all his sheep are not already in the fold.  “Other sheep have I, not of this fold; them also I must bring in, that there may be one fold and one shepherd.”  These other sheep not in the fold must not be neglected, and when they whose business is to bring them in, only sit still and wait for them to come in, or only open the door and let them come in when they knock at it and beg for admission, are not faithful shepherds, and neither follow the example nor obey the injunctions of their Master.  This lack of fidelity, of earnestness, and zeal, begets in the minds of non-Catholics a distrust of their faith, and that in turn begets a distrust of the value of the religion they profess.  Those outside are frequently edified by the strong attachment manifested by simple faithful Catholics to the Church for themselves, but they would be led to esteem the Church more, if they saw her children equally attached to her for the sake of others.

If the Church is to live and take root in this country, she must prove that she has in her the vital energy of propagandism, and she must advance and extend herself by conversions, not by mere natural increase.  As the bishops and priests charged with the care of the faithful population cannot personally attend to it, Father Weninger’s plan of opening missions directly to the non-Catholic American people seems to us an excellent one, and deserving of all encouragement.  Missionaries devoted especially to the work of converting the American people, and having their heart in the work, whether native-born or foreign-born, will study the American institutions and character, learn the peculiarly American mind, ascertain its real disposition and wants, and presents the Catholic truth in its purity and simplicity, stripped of all that is foreign or not necessary to it, that may have been associated with it by old Catholics.  They will be embarrassed by none of the prejudices, habits, customs, and, we may say, superstitions of a foreign population, and, if we may know anything of our countrymen, they will meet with ample success, even though they should be men of no remarkable genius, ability, learning, or eloquence.  Twelve fishermen from the Lake of Gensareth converted the world, and twelve honest, simple-minded, earnest, and faithful men can do it again, for they can have the same truth, the same Lord Jesus Christ as the medium of their power, and the same Holy Ghost to give them their heroism and victory.  The truth is as living and as present, the Word made flesh is as near, and the Holy Ghost as strong and as loving today, as on the day of Pentecost.  Men only have changed. 

We hope, then, we shall not be thought to go out of the proper sphere of a layman, if we second what we know to be Father Weninger’s wishes, and respectfully urge upon the proper authorities the opening in some way of American missions, and the setting on foot of the measures necessary, we say not to convert, but to give the American people a fair opportunity of becoming converted if they choose.  The time was never more favorable than now.  The calamities of civil war, the distress in many parts of the country, and the manifest failure of many of our plans and hopes, have disposed the great body of the American people to thoughtfulness, shaken their confidence in most of the radicalisms in religion, politics, and morals, so rife a few years ago, more them more ready to listen to the wisdom of past ages, and to be told that the true future must have its root in what has been, and be simply its evolution or development.  And although Catholics have not done what they might, and should have done, to prove their sympathy with constitutional freedom and their loyalty to the United States, yet the readiness with which larger numbers of them have volunteered to fight the battles of the country, and to aid in saving the life and integrity of the nation, has removed many prejudices from the minds of non-Catholic Americans, and rendered them less unwilling to listen to the claims of our Church.  They see and feel the necessity of a stronger conservative element than we have hitherto had, and an element, not like that of slavery repugnant to freedom, but a conservative element, which, while it favors order and stability, favors also the free development of thought, the evolution of truth, and the real and continuous progress of civilization; and we go not too far when we say many of them are beginning to ask themselves if this element may not, after all, be found in the old Catholic Church, presented in her purity and catholicity.  Never has there been, and, if neglected, never will there be, at least for a long time to come, so favorable an opportunity for gaining a respectful hearing in this country for our religion.

In the work of presenting the Catholic cause to the favorable notice of those alien from our communion, we have few works popular in their character superior to this little volume, written out from the very heart and soul of its author, on “Protestantism and Infidelity.”  It should be distributed broadcast by the missionaries among non-Catholics, and though it will not take root in all of them, it will take root in some hearts, spring up, and bear fruit, it may be a hundred fold.  We will not say that, in our judgment, it is the best book of the sort that could be written, but it is a good book, and should go along with the Questions of the Soul and the Aspirations of Nature, by Fr. Hecker, and the excellent volume of sermons recently published by the Paulists.  The author begins by endeavoring to prove, in a clear and affectionate manner, that Protestantism is a Religion of Despair, because it fails to meet the wants and necessities of the human soul, and because it leads to Infidelity, which is only another name for despair itself, since it is the grave of faith and hope.  Having arrived at this conclusion, he proceeds to present the Catholic religion as the religion of faith, hope, and love, to explain briefly its dogma and sacraments, and to refute in few words the more frequent objections urged against them.  The two parts of the book make together an excellent tract on the deficiencies and dangers of Protestantism, and the truth, completeness, excellence, and desirableness of the Catholic religion. 

With regard to the position that Protestantism leads to Infidelity, understanding by the term infidelity the total rejection of the Christian religion as a revelation of the super-intelligible, we remark that Protestantism is heterodox, and all heterodoxy holds truth, but not in its unity and catholicity.  All truth is in its own nature one and catholic, and heterodoxy or error is not so much the total denial of all truth, as it is the failure to recognize and hold truth in its real and proper relations.  It mutilates truth, and misplaces the truth it retains.  As all truth is one and catholic, that is, one and universal truth, any error against it taken by itself, or as the logical point of departure, necessarily involves the denial of all truth, or the reversal of the whole order of truth.  In this sense, if you take Protestantism on the side of its error, and complete it negatively, it leads necessarily to infidelity, or pure negation; while, on the other hand, if you take it on the side of truth it retains, and complete it in a positive or affirmative sense, it leads to the one and catholic truth held by the Church and evolved in her life.

But while we say this, we must not forget that if in Protestant countries there are infidels who may trace their infidelity to Protestantism, there are also infidels in Catholic countries in nearly equal numbers, who have not derived their infidelity from that source.  There are, in proportion to the population, very nearly as many unbelievers in Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, and Spanish and Portuguese America, as in Protestant Germany, Great Britain, and the United States.  These unbelievers in Catholic countries have not been made so by Protestantism.  We cannot deny their existence, and it would be unjust to make Protestantism responsible for their unbelief.  Protestantism, by making the authority in revealed truth a dead Book, leads to infidelity, because the Book, having no living interpreter, necessarily confines those who rely on it alone to a dead past, and permits no continuous or living evolution of truth, to meet the ever-varying wants of human science and human culture.  Catholics would favor the same result, if, in transferring the authority from the Book to the Church, they transferred it to a dead and not a living Church.  It is not authority that is objected to on either side, for all know that as religion has its root and life in the superintelligible, it must depend on supernatural revelation, which can be received by the human mind only by faith, therefore only by authority.  Everybody knows, also, that the revelation when made, is and must be authoritative.  Protestantism does not lead to infidelity, because it denies authority and asserts private judgment, for it, as well as Catholicity, asserts authority, and Catholics must assert private judgment in understanding the words of the Church, as well as Protestants in interpreting the words of Scripture.  In principle, on both of these points Catholics and Protestants are agreed, and both are catholic, for the principle of authority is alike asserted whether, in point of fact, you place authority in the Church or in the Book; and the liberty of private interpretation is alike asserted in principle when allowed as to the words of either. 

The principle that leads to unbelief is neither the principle of authority nor the principle of private examination, or interpretation.  All who recognize belief at all, as distinguished from science, admit the principle of authority; and all who recognize belief as an intellectual act, do, and must admit the principle of private judgment, for we must attach some meaning to the words we believe, and the meaning we attach is our private judgment of their sense.  What leads to infidelity in most cases where it exists, is the assertion of the authority of the past in a sense to interdict the future, so as to prohibit the future continuous explication and application of the Christian Idea the Church is realizing, and to bind the believer back to a dead past.  The Reformers did this when they denied a living authority of the Church, and transferred authority to the words of a Book, for a Book is of the past, not of the present, a dead, not a living Book.  Their doctrine strictly adhered to would have interdicted the whole future.  The founders of the Anglican establishment practically did the same, for though they did not absolutely or formally deny the authority of the Church, they denied her to be catholic in time, by binding her back to the first four General Councils, and to the words of a dead book.  They bound her to the past, and interdicted the evolution of the future.  The Catholic Church in herself can do no such thing, because she is Catholic in time as well as space, is an ever-present living Church, living by the indwelling presence of the Word made flesh, and the continuous evolution, explication, and application of her Divine-human or Theandric Idea.  But Catholics who are orthodox as to the letter of the dogma, may and often do fall into an error of precisely the same sort, and transfers the authority which belongs only to the living, ever-present Church to the past Church, and making the authority of the past interdict the liberty of the present and the future.  This, we apprehend, is the chief cause of unbelief in Catholic countries.  There is little or no infidelity in Catholic nations so long as Catholics are progressive as well as conservative, and labor to advance as well as preserve.

All progress is by evolution, and must have its germs in the past, and be the evolution and continuation of that in the past that could not die or become itself past.  This evolution or progress is a right of truth and of the human mind, because both have the right to live, and neither can live without it.  When this evolution is denied in the name of religion, then it is forced to go on without religion, that is, out of unity and catholicity, and consequently as infidelity, and thus be an abnormal progress, tending more and more to become simply progress in destruction.  This asserting of the authority of the past, so as to shut out the future, has, in modern times, been not uncommon among Catholics; and it is this, we apprehend, that has filled Italy and France, as well as other Catholic nations, with unbelievers.  You may call it Protestantism, for it is identically the mother error of Protestantism, and therefore charge the infidelity of modern times in all nations to Protestantism, that is, a protest against unity and catholicity; but you have no right to charge it exclusively or chiefly to those who are recognized as Protestants.  No people are more responsible for it than Catholics themselves, who fail to perceive and accept the catholicity of their own Church, and they have no right to exonerate themselves, and hold others alone responsible for it.  It may be much more agreeable to our self-love to throw all the blame of their infidelity upon the infidels themselves, or, at least, upon those outside of our communion; but, perhaps, it would be more in accordance with truth, as well as with Christian humility, to take a large share of it to ourselves.  Our Lord addressed his severest reproaches, not to those outside of the Synagogue, but to those within, and occupying the chief seats in it.  Doubtless all Catholics believe the Church is catholic, but they do not always practically regard her as catholic in time, and here is an error in practice they must correct before they can hope for much success in converting the heterodox.

Fr. Weninger’s proofs of the Church are, for the most part, as they should be, clear and brief statements and expositions of her character and dogmas.  For ourselves, we believe our long, labored scholastic proofs of the Church are of very little practical value. Indeed, we hardly accept the scholastic notion of proof at all.  There is no intelligible proposition that can, as an isolated proposition, ever be established by direct positive proof.  It can be proved only by showing its harmony in relation to the general order of truth.  You may prove facts, but not principles.  Principles are given, not sought or found.  They are in the mind from the first.  The world outside the Church accepts, and always has accepted, all catholic principles, and all who claim to be Christian admit, and always have admitted, the unity and catholicity of the church, at least of the internal church.  The only serious controversy there is, or can be, is on the unity and catholicity of the external or visible Church, or external Church organism, for when once the unity and catholicity of that organism is conceded there are few that would concede that it is the organism that has its center at Rome, in the Roman Church.  But in God’s universe we must note three things: 1. The superintelligible 2. The intelligible, and 3. The sensible.  These three make up the cosmos.  The sensible has its root in the intelligible, and the intelligible in the superintelligible.  The superintelligible does not differ by nature from the intelligible, but is above our intelligence, and is known to us only analogically by supernatural revelation.  We know naturally there is a superintelligible, but what it is, we know only by faith, by which it is rendered analogically intelligible to us.  It expresses itself analogically in the intelligible, and the intelligible expresses itself in the sensible.  The internal Church is the superintelligible and intelligible Church, of which the sensible or visible Church is the external expression.  As the internal is one and catholic, so must the external be one and catholic, or it would not express the internal.  The internal must express its own unity and catholicity in the external, and an external lacking unity and catholicity, could not have its root in internal unity and catholicity.  The external copies the internal, for the internal produces it, is its immediate principle, and everything generates or produces its like.  Thus the Son, in the Mystery of the Trinty, is the exact image of the Father or generative principle, and thus creation is an external image of God, and copies in its progression his own Triunity, as we have shown in the second Article in the present number.  The visible Church must, then, as the expression of the invisible, express and copy the unity and catholicity of the internal or Ideal Church. 

Let the theologian explain this, and the preacher present it to the understanding of the people, and the controversy is ended.  Indeed, the belief in this is potential, or, rather, latent in all who have received the Christian faith at all, and been reared in the bosom of Christian civilization.  The preacher has far less to do, by way of argument, to prove his Church, than he commonly supposes.  Little more is necessary than that he and his hearers should come to a mutual understanding.  If they understand him, and he asks no more than he is required to ask, he will find them ready to concede pretty much all he asks.  Let him speak to them simply, address their plain common sense, and he will find in them all the elements of the faith he wishes them to accept.

It is so we view the question.  We do not pretend every man will be converted, and practically yield to the truth, for conversion requires the concreative act of the will, and the will is free.  Real conversion implies grace, for our Lord says: “No man can come to me except the Father draw him.”  Salvation is of election, and, though salvation is possible to all, only the elect will be saved, and we pretend not to fathom the mystery of election.  We are speaking of conversion in the sense of the inward working of Divine grace on the heart, but of conversion as a purely intellectual act, as a simple conviction of the understanding.  This conversion we believe is comparatively easy, and will invariably take place in every mind which really sees and grasps Catholic truth in its real character and relations.  There may remain afterward the moving of the heart, the correction of evil habits, the overcoming of passion and prejudice, and all that; but the life of man is in truth, and when you have once got the truth into a man’s, you have inoculated him with the principle of life, and have made a beginning, done the initial work, and have a basis for your efforts at evolution and completion, or practical realization.  After all, if we reach the understanding through the affections, we move the heart, that is, the will, through the understanding. 

These reflections have been naturally suggested by the subject of Fr. Weninger’s little book.  That they are not in all respects complimentary to our Catholic population is very possible; but we know not that their value is at all lessened by the fact.  We Catholics do not constitute a Mutual Admiration Society, nor a small private family, whose faults and peccadillos each member of the family should consider himself bound to do his best to conceal.  We belong to the Catholic Church, and are members of the great, the universal Christian community.  Our Church is before the world, and we ourselves are before the world, and we cannot escape the world’s judgment, if we would.  To pass ourselves off for better than we are can avail nothing in the long run, and to attempt to leave the world to judge the Church by us, is an injustice to the Church herself.  Thousands and thousands are prevented from even examining her claims, because they confound her with notions, opinions, and practices of Catholics, which she disapproves as much as they do.  Shall we not for their sake, if not for our own, distinguish between her and ourselves, and show them, when such is the fact, that what they object to is no part of Catholicity?  There are a multitude of traditions amongst Catholics, which are not Catholic; we do not quarrel with Catholics for retaining them and observing them, though only traditions of men; but we do insist that they shall not be thrown in the faces of non-Catholics, as something they must take and swallow, if they enter the Catholic communion.

“By their fruits you shall know them,” said our Lord to his disciples; by our fruits non-Catholics do and will judge our Church.  We for one are not willing that we Catholics in this country should be taken as the criterion of Catholicity, even when we think ourselves good Catholics.  We have amongst us excellent bishops, excellent priests, and amongst the laity individuals as good and as honest as the day is long, who adorn the religion they profess by well-ordered lives and godly conversation; but externally, as we come before the public, we are by no means an edifying people.  Our political influence is not more helpful, is not wiser, is in no respect more beneficial to the country, than the political influence of non-Catholics.  The worst governed cities in the Union are precisely those in which Catholics are the most influential in the elections, and have the most to do with municipal affairs.  We furnish more than our share of the rowdies, the drunkards, and the vicious population of our larger cities.  The majority of grog-sellers in this city of New York are Catholics, and the portions of the city where grog-selling, drunkenness, and filth most abound are those chiefly inhabited by Catholics, and we scarcely see the slightest effort made for a reformation.  In ordinary life we do not find Catholics more honest, more truthful, more conscientious than the non-Catholic community.  There is much needing to be done before we in all things, except faith, really come up to the level as a people with the non-Catholic people of the country: and yet we are perpetually boasting, and our Catholic journals are continually glorifying the Catholic body, as if it had the infallibility and sanctity predicable only of the Ideal or internal Church.  Non-Catholics hear our boasts, and see and know at least our vices and defects.  What, then, must they think of the elevating and sanctifying influences of our religion?

We have found the Catholic Church more than we expected; we have found large masses of Catholics less than we had expected; and we say, frankly, with individual exceptions; we have not found among them that intelligence, that moral culture, and that high-toned moral principle, that we expected to find.  We read the catechism, and took it for granted that Catholics who went to Confession, and received Holy Communion, would be free from vulgar superstitions, and would be truthful, honest, no tale-bearers, no detractors, no drunkards, no quarrelers, no wife or husband beaters.  We expected to find Catholics willing always to pay homage to truth and justice, liberal and tolerant in matters of opinion, rigid, and uncompromising in matters of faith.  We have found them, in but too many instances, the reverse.  We have found people whose ancestors during fourteen hundred years, have been Catholics, who have yet to be taught the simplest principles and precepts of Christian morality, and who scarcely have any conception of duty, except going to Confession, and receiving Holy Communion.  We have seemed those who seemed to think, if they escaped the censure of the priest, they need give themselves no further trouble.  “As true as you are a living man,” said a Catholic lady to us, “I had been baptized, and been confirmed, had been married, and been to Confession, and to Communion, and yet I never knew till after coming to this country, at the age of seventeen, that there was any God back of the priest who had anything to do with the forgiveness of sins.  The thought that in Confession the priest forgives sin only as the minister of God, and that it is really God who forgives, never came into me head, till I was so taught by an American priest.”  We could not doubt what the lady told us, strange as it may seem.

No people without intelligence and high moral culture can be an eminently moral people.  There is a natural affinity between ignorance and vice, and as a rule you will find that a generally uncultivated people will have only a few virtues, and those of the simpler sort, in which they have been the more specially instructed.  Yet in moral culture and general intelligence the Catholic population are below the better class of non-Catholics.  The motives from which they are act are lower and more selfish.  We have been accused of being in error, because the majority of Catholics did not agree with us, and gravely exhorted by men whose sacred character ought to have taught them better, to change our course, because by doing so we might be one of the most popular editors in the country – thus virtually making popularity the criterion of truth, and the test of merit.  We have found views and opinions familiar to us from our youth up, and which we looked upon as mere commonplaces, treated as new, profound, and original.  We have found our Catholic journals making a multitude of statements that a simple tyro ought to know are not true.  We find them adducing as a proof of the catholicity of the Church, the assumed fact that Mass is everywhere said in one and the same language, and with the same rites and ceremonies, evidently supposing that Mass is everywhere said in Latin, and according to the Latin rite.  They argue as if the celibacy of the clergy were a universal law of the Church, forgetful of the fact that the clergy of the Oriental rites, as the Greek, the Armenian, etc., are allowed to retain the wives they had married before receiving Holy Orders.  We have read in them that there were no heresies before Luther, and that before him all Christians were united in one and the same Communion!

Now these, and other things far more important, and which, not to scandalize the weak, we forbear to mention, we can easily account for, and to a great extent excuse.  But their existence we cannot deny, and we insist that it is best for both Catholics and non-Catholics, that we frankly own them, and as frankly avow that they are faults, real faults.  Catholics should not wait to have them pointed out by their enemies, but should themselves point them out as contrary to Catholicity, and seek in earnest to correct them.  Many of the things which our non-Catholic countrymen find disedifying in Catholics may be merely national peculiarities, and no worse than our own national peculiarities, which we think nothing of, because familiar with them from infancy, perhaps not so bad; but still we should not identify them with Catholicity, nor be angry, when a publicist writing to give non-Catholics a just view of Catholicity, points them out as no part of the Catholic religion, nor should we speak because we profess the Catholic religion, as if we were immaculate, and not guilty of many of the same things that we condemn in non-Catholics.  Our profession will not avail us, unless we have something besides profession.  Catholics as well as Protestants may be excluded from the kingdom of heaven.  “Many will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name have cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works? Then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”  It is important, both for our own sake and the sake of those outside, that we avow distinctly that Catholics may both err and sin, and error and sin in them can receive no more favor than error and sin in others.

We continually speak of the necessity of our religion to the morals of the community, as a conservative element in society, and to wean men’s affections from the things of the earth.  This is all very well, for in so speaking, we speak truly; but what sort of conviction will our true words even produce in non-Catholics, when they find no countries more torn by revolutions than Catholic countries, no people more greedy of gain, or more attached to the pomps and vanities of this world, than Catholics in the United States, or when they find them politically siding with those who push the democratic tendency of the country to its most dangerous extreme, and to a fearful extent opposed to the abolition of slavery, that black curse on our nation, at this moment threatening its life?  A few of our pastors have spoken our against rebellion; the greater part have been silent.  Where is the conservatism that stands quietly by with its arms folded across its breast, and sees the life of the nation destroyed by a wicked and unprovoked rebellion?  Many Catholics we know have volunteered and are doing good service in our armies; but what pastor, bishop, or priest, has called upon them to do it as a Catholic duty?  In thus volunteering they have done no more than other citizens, not Catholics, and no more than was their duty as citizens.  We have heard more sympathy expressed by Catholics with the Southern rebellion than with the effort of the United States to suppress it.  What are professions worth, if belied by our practice? 

We could continue this line of remark much farther, but it is unnecessary.  We have said elsewhere that Catholics from a foreign colony in the country, and that the missions open to them are not missions opened to the American people.  The presentation of Catholicity to them or by them is not the presentation that will favorably affect the mass of our non-Catholic countrymen.  What we ask of them is, that they shall not be the dog in the manger; that they shall not denounce as uncatholic every Catholic who attempts to separate our religion from the errors, vices, and superstitions of an old Catholic people, and present it in its real character, free from everything, not essential to it, likely to repel them.  We want the Catholic religion in its catholicity for our countrymen, not in a sectarian or national character.  We want the Catholic dogma, the Catholic worship, the Catholic communion, but we want none of the Europeanism that has been associated with it, none of the arbitrary or despotic rule to which Catholics have been for so many ages subjected.  We want Catholicity in its living reality, in its charity, and in its power, in its authority, and in its liberty, in its conservatism, and in its progress.  We want the living Church of Christ, not the dry bones or worn out copy of the Medieval Church.  “Why seek ye the Lord among the dead?  Know ye not that he is risen, and dies no more?”  Our quarrel with our friends is not with them as Catholics, but as non-Catholics.  It is that they overlook or deny the catholicity of the Church in time, or her capacity to accept and bless, inspire and direct, inform and elevate the living civilization of our own age, and our own country. 

We must always distinguish in the Church between the human and the Divine.  On her Divine side the Church is infallible and holy, as is God himself.  On her human side we must distinguish between the Idea and its practical realization.  The Idea or Ideal of the Church is catholic, for it is Theandric, or man taken up into union with God.  In her Ideal the Church is catholic, infallible, and holy, as is the Word made flesh.  But she is only potentially catholic, infallible, and holy in her practical realization, of her Ideal in time and space.  “We have received the treasure in earthen vessels.”  The Idea of regenerated mankind is fully realized, individuated, completed, fulfilled only in the Man Christ Jesus.  All Christians are potentially Christ, but all have not attained to the full stature of perfect men in Him, and will not so attain till the final consummation.  Even St. Paul, who had been caught up to the third heavens, and heard things unutterable, counted himself not to have attained, but pressed onward toward the mark of the high calling in Christ Jesus.  Viewed on this side Christians, taken collectively as the Church, or distributivity as individuals, have not attained, have not identified their actual life with their Ideal, or realized their Theandric type.  Hence it is that men – here it makes no difference whether we speak of the Clergy or the laity – may have the Catholic Ideal, may be irreproachable under the point of view of dogma, or doctrine, and yet be practically uncatholic, narrow-minded, and sectarian.  The Church is in the world, and a world where nothing remains the same for two successive moments.  She must meet this world as best she can, but while her principles in dealing with it can undergo no change, her practical methods and arrangements must needs change as it changes.  These practical methods and arrangements depend on the practical wisdom and sagacity of the pastors under their chief, the Bishop of Rome, or successor of Peter in the Apostolic office.  But they depend on the practical wisdom and sagacity of these as men, and as men who are viatores, still on the way, and in no practical sense infallible.  The Church has authority in discipline, authority to rule and govern, but as we often say, she is not infallible in discipline or administration, that is to say, in that which does and must change with time and place, or the ever-varying changes in the world with which she stands related.  In discipline and government we owe her the filial obedience due from the child to the parent, from the loyal subject to legitimate authority; but we are not bound to believe that in these matters she cannot err, that popes and bishops and priests are all or any of them infallible, and commit no mistakes.  They are wiser, if you will, but with human wisdom, not with divine wisdom.  They are not specially inspired, are not specially enlightened in a supernatural manner, and have no more wisdom than even laymen of equal genius, opportunity, and study might attain to.  The infallible assistance of the Holy Ghost, we assert for the Church, has relation to the Ideal, to the preservation of the Depositum, that is to say, to faith and morals, not to discipline and government, which are matters of prudence, and in regard to which the infallible assistance is not requisite in order to retain the Idea in its integrity.

In discipline and government the Church, then, may err, and pursue a policy not always the wisest and best, and which, even if the wisest and best when adopted, becomes unwise and hurtful if continued after the reasons which originally led to its adoption have ceased to exist.  The changes constantly going on in time and place require corresponding changes on the part of the Church, not in doctrine, not in principle, not in her dogma, but in her practical methods and arrangements for promoting the interests of Christ’s kingdom on earth.  When Catholics object to these changes, when they try their best to prevent them, and denounce as heterodox all who believe them necessary, they, as we say, deny the catholicity of the Church in time, seek to arrest her in her career, to bring to a full stop the explication and evolution, or practical realization of the Ideal, and to bind her back to the dead past.  This denies the liberty and activity of the Church, and asserts her as a dead, not as a living Church.  Now we may be wrong, but we are fully convinced that this is actually the case with a large number of Catholics, and especially with those who are invested with the government of ecclesiastical affairs, and give tone and direction to the public sentiment of the Catholic community.  We believe there is amongst us an unwise and hurtful resistance to modern civilization, to modern liberty, to the freedom and activity of the mind.  It is to this resistance, to the obstinate adherence to institutions and usages which have outlived their time, and were never useful save as means to an end, that creates the opposition our religion encounters, and prevents that reunion and harmony of all who profess to be Christians in the bosom of the Catholic communion, which all lovers of our Lord and aspirants to a share in his glory most ardently desire.  We think the chief reason of the heterodoxy outside of the Church is to be found in the Church, or rather in those who are in the Church, and claim to be the only true, uncompromising Catholics.

Here, then, is the reason why we say so many things uncomplimentary to our Catholic brethren.  We believe that Catholics are answerable for the present distracted state of Christendom, and that it is only through them the distractions and divisions, the schisms and the heresies, over which we all do and must grieve, can be healed.  “Ye are the salt of the earth,” said our Lord to his disciples.  But the sale may lose its savor, and when it does, it is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out and trodden underfoot of men.  It is we Catholics who are in fault, and our fault is that we do not appreciate the treasure committed to our keeping, or that we fail to perceive and understand its value.  We at best wrap the talent we have received in a clean napkin and bury it in the earth, instead of putting it out to increase.  The old times have gone, and we cannot recall them if we would.  The medieval world has been rolled together as a scroll, and as a vestment it has been folded up.  Its elements have been dissolved, and in vain would we collect them from the four winds of heaven, and seek to reconstruct it.  We are in a new world, with new heavens, and a new earth.  It is in this new world the great work of the Church has now to be carried on.  Her work can go on in this new world as well as it ever went on in the old world; for she, though ancient, is never old.

We accept fully and unreservedly the Catholic faith, Catholic morals, Catholic authority, and will readily abandon any notion or opinion we may entertain that is uncatholic, or not consonant with Catholic faith or morals, the moment its error is made manifest to us; but we are not willing to take the opinions, the practice, or the sentiment of any community as the measure of Catholic truth and virtue, least of all as we find them in our own country.  We deny that our Catholic population or the Church in this country, is ether a full or fair expression of Catholic faith and morals.  Catholicity is superior to us.  We do not, therefore, hold ourselves exempt from faults, or imagine that our own shortcomings may not be more sinful in the sight of God than are those of our Catholic brethren here or elsewhere; we do not set ourselves up as one having authority to judge or censure; we do not claim the right to go on our own way, demand reform, and labor for it without respect to the hierarchy and the established discipline of the Church.  No reform of any value can be effected in a disorderly manner.  We are no revolutionists in ether Church or State.  But we deny that we are bound to be satisfied with everything the hierarchy does or approves, or that we have no right to call public attention to evils that we see, that we know exist, and cannot but deplore.  The laity have a mission in the Church as well as the clergy, and the pretence that the laity must never form or express any opinion not favorable to the clergy, is alike injurious to the clergy and the laity.  The laity have no right to usurp any sacerdotal or prelatical functions, but not therefore does it follow that they must be in the hands of the clergy like clay in the hands of the potter.

We all say our religion is favorable alike to authority and to liberty.  Let us prove it so by our example.  We all say that is does not destroy but strengthens our manhood; let us prove it by showing ourselves in the full vigor and dignity of our manhood.  We all say our religion purifies and elevates the understanding; let us prove it by showing ourselves clear-sighted men, by rising above vulgar prejudices, vulgar superstitions, into the serene and healthful atmosphere of truth and freedom.  We all say that our religion is the grand civilizer of men and nations, the very basis and cement of society; let us prove it by showing ourselves in earnest to advance civilization, and ready to greet every progress, civilization here or elsewhere may make.  It is of no use for us to talk simply of what the Church has done, or of what she may do.  The practical question is always, What here and now is she doing?  We know what the Church has done in the way of civilization.  She has founded modern civilization itself.  She has taken the rude, untamed Barbarians who overran the Roman empire, and made them the free, the great, the elevated, and refined nations of the modern world, for superior to the greatest and most renowned civilized nations of antiquity.  She has given a new and nobler meaning to the word virtue – a new and more spiritual aim to human activity itself.  This all the world knows, and nobody seriously disputes it.  But the real question is not there.  What is she doing for civilization here and now?  Are not her most zealous and influential members now everywhere arrayed against the onward progress of modern civilization, and doing all in their power to arrest it, and throw the world back where it was before the outbreak of the French Revolution?  Do they not do their best to repress every movement of humanity, and brand her irrepressible instincts as anti-Catholic and satanic?

If modern civilization assumes an irreligious or anti-catholic direction, whose fault is it?  Have we not begun by denouncing it, and have we not by rejecting it forced it to take the direction it takes, and which injures both it and religion?  We can explain why Catholics, leading influential Catholics we mean, have taken their stand against modern civilization, and we are far from alleging or pretending that their motives have been bad, or not, in many respects laudable; but we cannot deny the fact, nor its deplorable consequences.  By their stand they have lost for the Church the control of the modern world, modern literature, and science, and prepared the way for the revival of Gentilism.  Such, at least, is the sense in which we read modern history, and must we, such being our honest conviction, forbear to say so, and join our voice to swell the chorus of self-gratification?  Our boasting is intolerable, it provokes denial on the part of every honest man who really knows something of the way in which things have been managed; and the denial occasions scandal.  Catholics may glorify God as mush as they please, but all attempts to glorify themselves are bad, and should be abandoned.  We may show ourselves superior to others, if we can, but let it be by our deeds, not by our words.  “Self-praise is dispraise,” is a proverb that applies to nations and communities, as well as to individuals.

We say we accept heartily the Catholic authority, the Catholic faith, Catholic morality, Catholic discipline, without any equivocation or mental reservation; but we cannot insist that non-Catholics shall accept and embrace as Catholic anything not strictly and rigidly Catholic.  Nothing else will we ourselves be forced to accept or observe.  We say not this because we have only a stingy or grudging faith, but because we insist on judging and being judged by the law.  Our faith may be richer and more exuberant than our words.  Perhaps we hold many things as pious beliefs, and cherish them for our own private edification or consolation, which, though not repugnant to faith, are yet not of faith.  There are amongst Catholics a great many pleasing, pious, and tender private devotions, permitted, not commanded; we may adopt them as we see proper; we oppose them not, perhaps we love them, but we cannot urge them upon others as any essential part of Catholic worship.  Open any of our thousand and one Prayer Books, and you will easily perceive to what we allude.  We may for ourselves wear the scapular or the so-called miraculous medal in honor of Our Lady, as we would wear next our heart the picture of our mother, or of some dear friend; we may choose out among the canonized Saints some one to be our patron, and pay him special reverence and devotion; we may say our beads, repeat the prayers to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary, but all these are private devotions, left to our own choice, taste, or judgment, and we object to them only when you attempt to prescribe them as obligatory, or as having a sort of sacramental virtue in themselves.  In every living Catholic heart, faith and love will be exuberant, and push themselves out in a great variety of rich and delicate flowers, which we may call the “flowers of Catholic piety.”  These no man should touch with a rude hand, or expose to the rude gaze of a profane public.  They are for the private soul, in her own private devotions, and let her enjoy them according to her own mood, her own taste, or her own judgment.  These private devotions may often be attractive and consoling.  Medals, beads, scapulars, and things of that sort, have their value from association and use, but no more inherent value than the praying machines of the Tartars.  Their efficacy is never sacramental or ex opere operato.  We may ourselves personally resort to them or not according to our particular mood or temperament, but we will not permit our affection or non-affection for them to be made a test of our Catholic faith, or Catholic piety.  We will not make them or receive them as a test in the case of others, or insist on their observance or non-observance by those we would bring into the Church.  We will not make, and, as far as we have any influence, suffer to be made, the mistake of confounding the flowers either with the root or with the fruits of piety.  We think it well that all should understand, that breaking the string of one’s scapular, is not so grievous an offence as drunkenness or adultery, as lying and stealing, or as tale-bearing and detraction.

It is no answer to say that these abuses of good things are not common, and are only the result of ignorance, and that no Catholic properly instructed ever runs into them.  We know not how common they may be; we only know that where faith is strong, and knowledge is weak, there is in all men a tendency to superstition, as where faith is weak and knowledge strong, or thought to be strong, there is a tendency to irreligion.  Of the two, the tendency to superstition is the less dangerous, for we consider superstition a less evil than irreligion, a credulous faith less hurtful to the soul, than a sharp, carping, heartless skepticism.  But both are hurtful; both are opposed to catholicity, which is dialectic, and tolerates no sophistical extremes.  While, therefore, we upbraid non-Catholics with their irreligion, we should with equal fearlessness rebuke the superstition of Catholics.  We should take care that all Catholics be instructed in their religion; and we protest against the sophism of concluding they are so instructed from the fact that they ought to be.

Here are, at greater length than we intended, our reasons for remarks assumed to be uncomplimentary to our Catholic brethren.  We see our whole country overrun with heterodoxy, millions perishing for the lack of that faith we possess, and, as we believe, in a great measure through our faults, and precisely those faults which we most affectionately cherish, and which it is dangerous to designate and reprove, and seek to correct.  We personally have no interest in exposing them.  By doing it we only raise up enemies and alienate friends; and yet somebody must do it, or the Church will never gain a foothold here, and be that blessing to the country we all say she will be, and we personally believe her destined to be.  The faults, the greater or smaller, which we have without much order or fixed method touched upon, are scandals in the eyes of non-Catholic Americans, and lead them, though regarding Romanism as they call it, as the best religion for us, especially for the ignorant Irish, to turn up their noses in huge disdain, if we suggest it may possibly be the best religion also for them.  It is easy to declaim against these non-Catholics and denounce them for their pride; but we submit that it would be far better, for more Christian, to correct our faults, and let them see that such things, though existing among Catholics, are not held by Catholics to be catholic.