Lecture 8. Ignorance Concerning Catholics the Protection of the Protestant View

Protestant Rule of Faith Obtruded on Catholics
Fallacy in Protestant Rule
Protestant Use of "Texts"
Ignorance the Mother of Conceit, Injustice
    Pope Pius VII.th's Captivity
Were Catholics But Known
Meaning of Terms
    Swift's Philosophers of Laputa
    Seely's Charges Against Them
    Disinterest in Convert Priests
Capes' Testimony


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{315} YOU may have asked yourselves, Brothers of the Oratory, why it was that, in exposing, as I did last week, the shallowness of the philosophy on which our opponents erect their structure of argument against us, I did not take, as my illustration, an instance far more simple and ready to my hand than that to which I actually directed your attention. It was my object, on that occasion, to show that Protestants virtually assume the point in debate between them and us, in any particular controversy, in the very principles with which they set out; that those first principles, for which they offer no proof, involve their conclusions; so that, if we are betrayed into the inadvertence of passing them over without remark, we are forthwith defeated and routed, even before we have begun to move forward to the attack, as might happen to cavalry who manœuvred on a swamp, or to a guerilla force which ventured on the open plain. Protestants and Catholics each have their own ground, and cannot {316} engage on any other; the question in dispute between them is more elementary than men commonly suppose; it relates to the ground itself on which the battle is legitimately and rightfully to be fought; the first principles assumed in the starting of the controversy determine the issue. Protestants in fact do but say that we are superstitious, because it is superstitious to do as we do; that we are deluded, because it is a delusion to believe what we believe; that we are knaves, because it must be knavery to teach what we teach. A short and pleasant argument, easier even and safer than that extempore and improvisatore mode of fabricating and fabling against us, of which I have said so much in former Lectures: easier and safer, inasmuch as, according to the proverb, "great wits ought to have long memories," when they deal with facts. In arguments about facts, there must be consistency, and speciousness, and proof, and circumstantial evidence; private judgment in short becomes subject to sundry and serious liabilities when it deals with history and testimony, from which it is comparatively free when it expatiates in opinions and views. Now of this high ą priori mode of deciding the question, the specimen I actually took was the Protestant argument against relics and miracles; and I selected this instance for its own sake, because I wished to bring out what I thought an important truth as regarded them; but a more obvious instance certainly would have been the surprising obtuseness, for I can use no other word, with which the Protestant Rule of Faith, which Catholics disown, is so often obtruded on us, as a necessary basis of discussion, which it is thought absurd and {317} self-destructive not to accept, in any controversy about doctrine.

All the world knows that Catholics hold that the Apostles made over the Divine Revelation to the generation after them, not only in writing, but by word of mouth, and in the ritual of the Church. We consider that the New Testament is not the whole of what they left us; that they left us a number of doctrines, not in writing at all, but living in the minds and mouths of the faithful; Protestants deny this. They have a right to deny it; but they have no right to assume their denial to be true without proof, and to use it as self-evident, and to triumph over us as beaten, merely because we will not admit it. Yet this they actually do; can anything be more preposterous? however, they do this as innocently and naturally as if it were the most logical of processes, and the fairest and most unexceptionable of proceedings. For instance there was a country gentleman in this neighbourhood in the course of last year, who, having made some essays in theology among his tenantry in his walks over his estate, challenged me to prove some point, I am not clear what, but I think it was the infallibility of the Holy See, or of the Church. Were my time my own, I should never shrink from any controversy, having the experience of twenty years, that the more Catholicism and its doctrines are sifted, the more distinct and luminous will its truth ever come out into view; and in the instance in question I did not decline the invitation. However, it soon turned out that it was a new idea to the gentleman in question, that I was not bound to prove the point in debate simply by Scripture; he considered that Scripture was to be the {318} sole basis of the discussion. This was quite another thing. For myself, I firmly believe that in Scripture the Catholic doctrine on the subject is contained; but had I accepted this gratuitous and officious proposition, you see I should have been simply recognising a Protestant principle, which I disown. He would not controvert with me at all, unless I subscribed to a doctrine which I believe to be, not only a dangerous, but an absurd error; and, because I would not allow him to assume what it was his business to prove, before he brought it forward, and because I challenged him to prove that Scripture was, as he assumed, the Rule of Faith, he turned away as happy and self-satisfied as if he had gained a victory. That all truth is contained in Scripture was his first principle; he thought none but an idiot could doubt it; none but a Jesuit could deny it; he thought it axiomatic; he thought that to offer proof was even a profanation of so self-evident a point, and that to demand it was a reductio ad absurdum of the person demanding;—but this, I repeat, was no extraordinary instance of Protestant argumentation; it occurs every other day.

The instance in controversy, to which I have been alluding, leads by no very difficult nor circuitous transition to the subject to which I mean to devote the present Lecture. Let it be observed, that the fallacy involved in the Protestant Rule of Faith is this,—that its upholders fancy, most unnaturally, that the accidental and occasional writings of an Apostle convey to them of necessity his whole mind. It does not occur to them to ask themselves, whether, as he has in part committed his teaching to writing so possibly he may not have expressed it in part {319} through other channels also. Very different this from their mode of acting in matters of this world, in which nothing are they more distrustful of, or discontented with, than mere letter-writing, when they would arrive at the real state of a case in which they are interested. When a government, or the proprietors of a newspaper, would gain accurate information on any subject, they send some one to the spot, to see with his eyes. When a man of business would bring a negotiation to a safe and satisfactory conclusion, he exclaims that letters are endless, and forthwith despatches a confidential person to transact the matter with the parties with whom he is treating. We know how unwilling heads of families are to take servants by written characters, considering that writing is not minute and real enough for their purpose. Writing, of course, has special advantages, but it has its defects; and other methods of information compensate for them. It must be recollected, too, as regards the New Testament, that it is not a technical document, like an act of Parliament, or a legal instrument, but is made up of various portions, exhibiting, more or less, the free and flowing course of thought of their respective writers. It is not worded with the scientific precision of a formal treatise, a creed, or a last will and testament. Now, works written in this natural style are especially liable to receive an interpretation, and to make an impression, not in correspondence with the writer's intention, but according to the private principles and feelings of the reader. The imagination draws the unknown or absent author in lineaments altogether different from the original. Did we suddenly see St. Peter or St. {320} Paul, and hear him converse, most of us would not recognise, or even suspect him to be the Apostle. How surprised we sometimes are by the sight of those of whom we have often heard speak, or whose writings we have often read! We cannot believe we have the living author before us. Hence it is common to hear it said in favour of intemperate partisans by their friends, "If you knew him, you really would like him; he is so different from his mode of writing or speaking"; others, on the other hand, meet with a person whom they have long admired through the medium of his works, and are quite mortified and annoyed that they like his conversation and his manners so little.

Unless my memory fails me of what I read years ago, a well-known authoress, lately deceased, supplies in her tales one or two instances in point. I recollect the description of an old-fashioned, straightforward East Indian, who had for years corresponded with the widow of a friend in England, and from her letters had conceived a high opinion of her good sense and propriety of feeling. Then, as the story goes on to tell, he comes back to England, becomes acquainted with her, and, to his disappointment, is gradually made aware that she is nothing else than a worldly, heartless, and manœuvring woman. The same writer draws elsewhere a very young lady, who, in a spirit of romance, has carried on a correspondence with another female whom she never saw; on the strength of which, from a conviction of the sympathy which must exist between them, she runs from home to join her, with the view of retiring with her for life to some secluded valley in Wales; but is shocked to {321} find, on meeting her, that after all she is vulgar, unattractive, and middle-aged. Were it necessary, numberless instances might be given to the purpose; of mistakes, too, of every kind; of persons, when seen, turning out different from their writings, for the better as well as for the worse, or neither for the better nor the worse, but still so different as to surprise us and make us muse; different in opinion, or in principle, or in conduct, or in impression and effect. And thus Scripture, in like manner, though written under a supernatural guidance, is, from the nature of the case, from the defect of human language, and the infirmity of the recipient, unable by itself to convey the real mind of its writers to all who read it. Instead of its forcing its meaning upon the reader, the reader forces his own meaning upon it, colours it with his own thoughts and distorts it to his own purposes; so that something is evidently needed besides it, such as the teaching of the Church, to protect it from the false private judgment of the individual. And if this be true when the New Testament, as a whole, is contemplated, how much more certainly will it take place when Protestants contract their reading professedly to only a part of it, as to St. Paul's Epistles; and then again out of St. Paul, select the two Epistles to the Romans and Galatians; and still further, as is so common, confine themselves to one or two sentences, which constitute practically the whole of the Protestant written word! Why, of course, it is very easy to put what sense they please on one or two verses; and thus the Religion of the Apostles may come in the event to mean anything or nothing. {322}


Here, then, we are arrived at the subject on which I mean to remark this evening. Protestants judge of the Apostles' doctrine by "texts," as they are commonly called, taken from Scripture, and nothing more; and they judge of our doctrine too by "texts" taken from our writings, and nothing more. Picked verses, bits torn from the context, half sentences, are the warrant of the Protestant Idea, of what is Apostolic truth, on the one hand, and, on the other, of what is Catholic falsehood. As they have their chips and fragments of St. Paul and St. John, so have they their chips and fragments of Suarez and Bellarmine; and out of the former they make to themselves their own Christian religion, and out of the latter our Anti-christian superstition. They do not ask themselves sincerely, as a matter of fact and history, What did the Apostles teach then? nor do they ask sincerely, and as a matter of fact, What do Catholics teach now? they judge of the Apostles and they judge of us by scraps, and on these scraps they exercise their private judgment,—that is, their Prejudice, as I described two Lectures back, and their Assumed Principles, as I described in my foregoing Lecture; and the process ends in their bringing forth, out of their scraps from the Apostles, what they call "Scriptural Religion," and out of their scraps from our theologians, what they call Popery.

The first Christians were a living body; they were thousands of zealous, energetic men, who preached, disputed, catechized, and conversed from year's end to year's end. They spoke by innumerable tongues, with {323} one heart and one soul, all saying the same thing; all this multitudinous testimony about the truths of Revelation, Protestants narrow down into one or two meagre sentences, which at their own will and pleasure they select from St. Paul, and at their own will and pleasure they explain, and call the Gospel. They do just the same thing with us; Catholics, at least, have a lively illustration and evidence of the absurdity of Protestant private judgment as exercised on the Apostolic writings, in the visible fact of its absurdity as exercised on themselves. They, as their forefathers, the first Christians, are a living body; they, too, preach, dispute, catechize, converse with innumerable tongues, saying the same thing as our adversaries confess, all over the earth. Well, then, you would think the obvious way was, if they would know what we really teach, to come and ask us, to talk with us, to try to enter into our views, and to attend to our teaching. Not at all; they do not dream of doing so; they take their "texts;" they have got their cut-and-dried specimens from our divines, which the Protestant Tradition hands down from generation to generation; and, as by the aid of their verses from Scripture, they think they understand the Gospel better than the first Christians, so, by the help of these choice extracts from our works, they think they understand our doctrine better than we do ourselves. They will not allow us to explain our own books. So sure are they of their knowledge, and so superior to us, that they have no difficulty in setting us right, and in accounting for our contradicting them. Sometimes Catholics are "evasive and shuffling," which, of course, will explain everything; {324} sometimes they simply "have never been told what their creed really is;" the priest keeps it from them, and cheats them; as yet, too, perhaps they are "recent converts," and do not know the actual state of things, though they will know in time. Thus Protestants judge us by their "texts;" and by "texts" I do not mean only passages from our writers, but all those samples of whatever kind, historical, ecclesiastical, biographical, or political, carefully prepared, improved, and finished off by successive artists for the occasion, which they think so much more worthy of credit and reliance as to facts, than us and our word, who are in the very communion to which those texts relate. Some good personal knowledge of us, and intercourse with us, not in the way of controversy or criticism, but what is prior—viz., in the way of sincere inquiry, in order to ascertain how things really lie, such knowledge and intercourse would be worth all the conclusions, however elaborate and subtle, from rumours, false witnessings, suspicions, romantic scenes, morsels of history, morsels of theology, morsels of our miraculous legends, morsels of our devotional writers, morsels from our individual members, whether unlearned or intemperate, which are the "text" of the traditional Protestant view against us. This, then, is the last of the causes, which in the course of these Lectures I shall assign, and on which this evening I shall insist, by way of accounting for the hatred and contempt shown towards the Catholics of England by their fellow-countrymen—viz., that the Catholics of England, as a body, are not personally known. {325}


I have already observed, that in matters of this world, when a man would really get information on a subject, he eschews reports, and mistrusts understandings, and betakes himself to head-quarters. The best letters and travels about a foreign people are tame and dead compared with the view he gains by residence among them; and when that has continued for a sufficient time, he perceives how unreal were even those first impressions, which, on his arriving, were made upon him by the successive accidents of the hour. Knowledge thus obtained cannot be communicated to others; it is imbibed and appropriated by the mind as a personal possession; an idea of the people among whom he lives is set up within him; he may like them or not, but his perception is real, and, if any one questions it, he need but appeal to the circumstance of his long residence in the country, and say he has a right to an opinion, which, nevertheless, he can perhaps but poorly and partially defend. He can but give his testimony, and must be believed on his reputation. And surely, if he has a fair name for powers of observation and good sense, he may be believed without proof. He has witnessed what others argue about. He has contemplated the national character in life and in action, as it is brought out in its opinions, aims, sentiments, and dispositions in the course of the day and the year; he has heard the words, seen the deeds, watched the manners, breathed the atmosphere, and so caught the true idea of the people;—in other words, he has mastered their Tradition. This is what Catholics mean by Tradition, {326} and why they go so much by it. It does not prove our doctrines to the man in question, but it will tell him, in a way no other informant can tell him, what our doctrines are. It has a substance and a reality peculiar to itself; for it is not a sample or specimen of us merely, but it is we, our thinking, speaking, acting self; our principles, our judgments, our proceedings. What we hold, what we do not hold, what we like, what we hate, cannot all be written down, whether by us or by others; you can have no daguerreotype of intellect, affection, and will; at best you have but a few bold strokes recorded for the benefit of others, according to the skill of the individual artist. Those who write books about a people or a school of men are hardly more than extempore sketchers; or they paint from memory; if you would have the real thing, what the men are, what they think, what they do, close your books, take a ticket by the first train, cross the Channel, plunge in among them, drink them in. This is what is called painting from the life; and what is here called life the Catholic calls Tradition, which eclipses and supersedes, when and where it can be had, the amplest collection of "texts" and extracts about our doctrine and polity which was ever put together by the ablest of compilers.

Now let me quote some words of my own on this subject, when I was a Protestant. As they are written in controversy with Catholics, they are so much more to my present purpose; especially as I did not when I wrote them, see their bearing on the point I am now insisting on. The passage is long, but its appositeness may excuse it.

"We hear it said," I then observed, "that they [the {327} Catholics] go by Tradition; and we fancy in consequence that there are a certain definite number of statements ready framed and compiled, which they profess to have received from the Apostles. One may hear the question sometimes asked, for instance, where their professed Traditions are to be found, whether there is any collection of them, and whether they are printed and published. Now, though they would allow that the Traditions of the Church are, in fact, contained in the writings of her Doctors, still this question proceeds on somewhat of a misconception of their real theory, which seems to be as follows:—By tradition they mean the whole system of faith and ordinances, which they have received from the generation before them, and that generation again from the generation before itself. And in this sense undoubtedly we all go by Tradition in matters of this world. Where is the corporation, society, or fraternity of any kind, but has certain received rules and understood practices, which are nowhere put down in writing? How often do we hear it said, that this or that person has 'acted unusually;' that so and so 'was never done before;' that it is 'against rule,' and the like; and then, perhaps, to avoid the inconvenience of such irregularity in future, what was before a tacit engagement is turned into a formal and explicit order or principle. The need of a regulation must be discovered before it is supplied; and the virtual transgression of it goes before its imposition. At this very time, great part of the law of the land is administered under the sanction of such a Tradition: it is not contained in any formal or authoritative code, it depends on custom or precedent. There is no explicit written law, for instance, simply declaring murder to {328} be a capital offence, unless, indeed, we have recourse to the divine command in the ninth chapter of the book of Genesis. Murderers are hanged by custom. Such as this is the Tradition of the Church; Tradition is uniform custom. It is silent, but it lives. It is silent like the rapids of a river, before the rocks intercept it. It is the Church's ... habit of opinion and feeling, which she reflects upon, masters and expresses, according to the emergency. We see, then, the mistake of asking for a complete collection of the Roman traditions; as well might we ask for a collection of a man's tastes and opinions on a given subject. Tradition in its fulness is necessarily unwritten; it is the mode in which a society has felt or acted, during a certain period, and it cannot be circumscribed, any more than a man's countenance and manner can be conveyed to strangers in any set of propositions." [Note 1]

I see nothing to alter in these remarks, written many years before I became a Catholic; and you see with what force they tell against the system of judging any body of men by extracts, passages, specimens, and sayings—nay, even by their documents, if these are taken by us to be sufficient informants, instead of our studying the living body itself. For instance, there has been lately a good deal of surprise expressed in some quarters, though it is not likely to have attracted your attention, that the infallibility of the Church has never been decreed, whether in General Council or by other ecclesiastical authority, to be a Catholic doctrine. This has been put about as a discovery, and an important one: and Catholics have been triumphantly asked, how it is that the tenet which is at the bottom of their whole {329} system is nowhere set down in writing and propounded for belief. But, in truth, there is neither novelty nor importance in the remark: on the one hand, it has been made again and again [Note 2]; and on the other, whenever it has been urged against us, it has been simply urged from ignorance, as I have already shown you, of the real state of the case. Is nothing true but what has been written down? on the contrary, the whole Catholic truth has ever lived, and only lived, in the hearts and on the tongues of the Catholic people; and, while it is one mistake in the objectors in question, to think that they know the Catholic faith, it is a second, to think that they can teach it to Catholics. Which party is more likely to be in possession of what Catholics believe, they or we? There is a maxim commonly accepted, that "Every one is to be trusted in his own art;" from which it would follow, that, as Frenchmen are the best masters of French, and pilots the best steersmen on the river, Catholics ought to know Catholicism better than other men. Military men do not show particular respect for the criticisms of civilians. As for amateur physicians, I suppose most of us would rather be doctored by the village nurse, who blindly goes by tradition and teaching, than by a clever person, who, among other things, has dabbled in family vade-mecums and materia-medicas, abounds in theories and views, and has a taste for experiments. Again, I have heard able men, who were not lawyers, impugn the institution of Trial by Jury; and the answer to them has been, "You are not learned in the law, it works {330} well." In like manner, a great statesman says of Protestant Clergymen, that they "understand least and take the worst measure of human affairs, of all mankind that can write and read." Yet any one is thought qualified to attack or to instruct a Catholic in matters of his religion; a country gentleman, a navy captain, a half-pay officer, with time on his hands, never having seen a Catholic, or a Catholic ceremonial, or a Catholic treatise, in his life, is competent, by means of one or two periodicals and tracts, and a set of Protestant extracts against Popery, to teach the Pope in his own religion, and refute a Council.


Suarez, Vasquez, de Lugo, Lambertini, St. Thomas, St. Buonaventura, a goodly succession of folios on our shelves! You would think the doctrine would take some time to master, which has occupied the lives and elicited the genius of some of the greatest masters of thought whom the world has known. Our Protestant, however, is sure there must be very little in such works, because they are so voluminous. He has not studied our doctrines, he has not learned our terms; he calls our theological language jargon, and he thinks the whole matter lies in a nutshell. He is ever mistaking one thing for another, and thinks it does not signify. Ignorance in his case is the mother, not certainly of devotion, but of inconceivable conceit and preternatural injustice. If he is to attack or reply, up he takes the first specimen or sample of our doctrine, which the Reformation Society has provided, some dreadful sentiment of the Jesuit Bellarmine, or the Schoolman Scotus. He has never turned to the passage in the original {331} work, never verified it, never consulted the context, never construed its wording; he blindly puts his own sense upon it, or the "authorized version" given to it by the Society in question, and boldly presents it to the British public, which is forthwith just as much shocked at it as he is. Now, anything is startling and grotesque, if taken out of its place, and surveyed without reference to the whole to which it belongs. The perfection of the parts lies in their subserviency to a whole; and they often have no meaning except in their bearing upon each other. How can you tell whether a thing is good or bad, unless you know what it is intended for? Protestants, however, separate our statements from their occasions and their objects, and then ask what in the world can be their meaning or their use. This is evident to any one whose intellect is not fettered to his particular party, and who does but take the trouble to consider Catholic doctrines, not as they stand in Reformation Tracts, torn up by the roots or planted head-downwards, but as they are found in our own gardens. I am tempted to quote a passage on the subject from a recent Review, which is as far as possible from showing any leaning to Catholicism. You will see how fully an impartial writer, neither Catholic nor Protestant, bears me out in what I have said:—

"A true British Protestant," he says, "whose notions of 'Popery' are limited to what he hears from an Evangelical curate, or has seen at the opening of a Jesuit church, looks on the whole system as an obsolete mummery, and no more believes that men of sense can seriously adopt it, than that they will be converted to the practice of eating their dinner with a Chinaman's chopsticks instead of the knife and fork ... Few {332} even of educated Englishmen have any suspicion of the depth and solidity of the Catholic dogma, its wide and various adaptation to wants ineffaceable from the human heart, its wonderful fusion of the supernatural into the natural life, its vast resources for a powerful hold upon the conscience ... Into this interior view, however, the popular polemics neither give, nor have the slightest insight ... It is not among the ignorant and vulgar, but among the intellectual and imaginative; not by appeals to the senses in worship, but by consistency and subtlety of thought, that in our days converts will be made to the ancient Church ... When a thoughtful man, accustomed to defer to historical authority, and competent to estimate moral theories as a whole, is led to penetrate beneath the surface, he is unprepared for the sight of so much speculative grandeur; and if he has been a mere Anglican or Lutheran, is perhaps astonished into the conclusion that the elder system has the advantage in philosophy and antiquity alike." [Note 3]

You see how entirely this able writer, with no sort of belief in Catholicism, justifies what I have been saying. Fragments, extracts, specimens, convey no idea to the world of what we are; he who wishes to know us must condescend to study us. The Catholic doctrine is after all too great to be comfortably accommodated in a Protestant nutshell; it cannot be surveyed at a glance, or refuted by a syllogism:—and what this author says of Catholic doctrine applies to Catholic devotion also. Last week I made some observations on our miracles; and I then said that they would be scorned and rejected, or not, according as this or that {333} First Principle concerning them was taken for granted; but now I am going to advance a step further. I really think then, that, even putting aside First Principles, no one can read the lives of certain of our Saints, as St. Francis Xavier, or St. Philip Neri, with seriousness and attention, without rising up from the perusal,—I do not say converted to Catholicism (that is a distinct matter, which I have kept apart throughout these Lectures),—but indisposed to renew the ridicule and scorn in which he has indulged previously. One isolated miracle looks strange, but many interpret each other: this or that, separated from the system of which they are a part, may be perfectly incredible; but when they are viewed as portions of a whole, they press upon the inquirer a feeling, I do not say absolutely of conviction, but at least of wonder, of perplexity, and almost of awe. When you consider the vast number which are recorded, for instance, in the Life of St. Philip, their variety, their exuberance in a short space of time, the circumstantial exactness with which they are recorded, the diversity and multitude of witnesses and attestations which occur in the course of the narrative, the thought will possess you, even though you are not yet able to receive them, that after all fraud or credulity is no sufficient account of them. No skill could invent so many, so rapidly, so consistently, and so naturally; and you are sensible, and you confess, that, whatever be the truth of the matter, you have not got to the bottom of it. You have ceased to contemn, you have learned to respect.


And so again I would say of any book which lets you into the private life of personages who have {334} had any great deal to do with the government of the Church; which brings you, so to say behind the scenes, where all pretence is impossible, and where men appear what they are: it is simply impossible, or at least it would be as good as a miracle, for any one to study such works, and still consider that the Pope was the man of sin, and the Mother of Saints a Jezebel. You see that Popes and Cardinals and Prelates are not griffins and wiverns, but men; good men, or bad men, or neither one nor the other, as the case may be; bold men, or weak men, worldly men or unworldly, but still men. They have human feelings, human affections, human virtues, human anxieties, human hopes and joys, whatever higher than mere human excellence a Catholic of course would ascribe to them. They are no longer, as before, the wild beasts, or the frogs, or the locusts, or the plagues of the Apocalypse; such a notion, if you have ever entertained it, is gone for ever. You feel it to have been a ridiculous illusion, and you laugh at it. For instance, I would take such a book as Cardinal Pacca's Memoirs of Pope Pius the VIIth's captivity. Here is a book of facts: here is a narrative, simple and natural. It does not give you the history of an absolute hero or of a saint; but of a good, religious, holy man, who would have rather died any moment than offend God; who had an overpowering sense of his responsibility, and a diffidence in his own judgment which made him sometimes err in his line of conduct. Here, too, is vividly brought out before you what we mean by Papal infallibility, or rather what we do not mean by it: you see how the Pope was open to any mistake, as others may be, in his own person, true as it is, that whenever he spoke ex cathedrą {335} on subjects of revealed truth, he spoke as its divinely-ordained expounder. It is difficult to bring this home to you by any mere extracts from such a work; and I shall be perhaps falling into the very fault I am exposing if I attempt to do so; yet I cannot refrain asking you candidly, whether passages such as the following can be said to fit in with the received Protestant Tradition of the Pope, as a sort of diabolical automaton, spouting out sin and wickedness by the necessity of his nature.

When Pope Pius and Cardinal Pacca were carried off by the French from Rome, as they sat in the carriage, "The Pope," says the Cardinal, "a few minutes afterwards, asked me whether I had with me any money: to which I replied, 'Your holiness saw that I was arrested in your own apartments, so that I have had no opportunity of providing myself.' We then both of us drew forth our purses, and, notwithstanding the state of affliction we were in at being thus torn away from Rome, and all that was dear to us, we could hardly compose our countenances on finding the contents of each purse to consist, in that of the Pope of one papetto (about 10d.), and in mine three grossi (7½d.). Thus the Sovereign of Rome and his Prime Minister set forth upon their journey, literally, without figure of speech or metaphor, in true Apostolic style, conformable with the precept of our Saviour addressed to His disciples. 'Take nothing for your journey, neither staves, nor scrip, neither bread, neither money; neither have two coats apiece.' We were without eatables, and we had no clothes except those we wore, not even a shirt; and the habits, such as they were, were most inconvenient for {336} travelling ... With regard to money, we had precisely thirty-five baiocchi (halfpence) between us. The Pope, extending his hand, showed his papetto to General Radet, saying at the same time, 'Look here; this is all I possess, all that remains of my principality.'" [Note 4]

Or take again the account of the Pontiff's conduct after having been betrayed into signing the unhappy Concordat with Napoleon. "The Pope, so long as the Emperor remained at Fontainebleau, manifested no outward appearance of the feelings that agitated his heart with regard to what had happened; but so soon as Napoleon was gone, he fell into a state of profound despondency, and was attacked by fever. Conversing with the Cardinals ... and discussing the subject of the articles to which he had just affixed his signature, he at once saw, by the undisguised expression of their countenances, the fatal consequences likely to be the fruit of that ill-advised deed, and became so horror-struck and afflicted in consequence, that for several days he abstained from the celebration of the holy sacrifice, under the impression that he had acted unworthily ... Perceiving the general disapprobation, and, as it were, shudder of the public mind among all religious, well-conducted persons, he fell into that hopeless state of deep melancholy, which I before attempted to describe, on the occasion of my arrival at Fontainebleau." [Note 5] "At first sight of the Holy Father, I was thoroughly shocked and astonished to see how pale and emaciated he had become, how his body was bent, how his eyes were fixed and sunk in his head, and how he looked at me {337} with, as it were, the glare of a man grown stupid ... The solitude and silence of the place, the expression of sadness that appeared on every countenance, added to the recent spectacle of profound grief I had witnessed in the person of the Pope, and, above all, the unexpectedly cold reception I had experienced from his Holiness, occasioned me a degree of surprise, and a sorrowful compression of heart, that it is far more easy for an indifferent person to imagine than for myself to describe ... He was ... overwhelmed by a depression of spirits the most profound, so much so, that in the course of speaking to me of what had happened, he frequently broke forth in the most plaintive ejaculations, saying, among many other similarly interjectional expressions, that the thought of what had been done tormented him continually, that he could not get it out of his mind, that he could neither rest by day nor sleep by night; that he could not eat more than barely sufficient to sustain life." [Note 6]

Then observe the difference after he had retracted the deed which distressed him so much, though at the very time he was anticipating the utmost fury of Napoleon in consequence, whose prisoner he was. "There suddenly appeared in his person and countenance an unexpected alteration. Previously, the profound grief in which, as I have before stated, he was continually immersed, was consuming him day by day, and was deeply imprinted on his features, which now, on the contrary, became all at once serene, and, as he gradually recovered his usual gaiety of spirits, were occasionally animated by a smile. Neither did he any longer complain of loss of appetite, {338} or of the inquietude and agitation that every night, for a considerable time before, had interrupted his repose." [Note 7]

These passages put one in mind of the beautiful legend contained in the Breviary of a far greater fault, the fault of Pope Marcellinus. "In the monstrous Diocletian persecution," says the Lesson, "Marcellinus, overcome with terror, sacrificed to the idols of the gods; for which sin he soon conceived so great repentance, that he came in sackcloth to Sinuessa, to a full council of Bishops, where, with abundant tears, he openly confessed his crime. Whom, however, none dare condemn, but all with one voice cried out, 'Thy own mouth, not our judgment, be thy judge, for the first See is judged by none. Peter, too, by a like infirmity of mind, failed, and by like tears obtained pardon from God.' Then he returned to Rome, went to the Emperor, severely reproached him for tempting him to that impiety, and with three others was beheaded."

Popes, then, though they are infallible in their office, as Prophets and Vicars of the Most High, and though they have generally been men of holy life, and many of them actually saints, have the trials, and incur the risks of other men. Our doctrine of infallibility means something very different from what Protestants think it means. And so again, all the inconsistencies which they think they find in what we teach of the sanctity of the Priesthood compared with the actual conduct of a portion of the members of it, would vanish, if they understood that a priest, in a Catholic sense, as in St. Paul's sense, is one "who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that err, for that he himself also {339} is encompassed with infirmity." Yet, strange to say, so little are they aware of our real doctrine on the subject, that even since these Lectures began, it has been said to me in reference to them in print, "A vulgar error in your Church is, that the Priests are so divinely protected that one of them can hardly err, can hardly sin. This notion is now at an end, as far as you are concerned." Most marvellous! This writer's idea, and the idea of most Protestants is, that we profess that all Priests are angels, but that really they are all devils. No, neither the one nor the other; if these Protestants came to us and asked, they would find that we taught a far different doctrine—viz., that Priests were mortal men, who were intrusted with high gifts for the good of the people, that they might err as other men, that they would fall if they were not watchful, that in various times and places large numbers had fallen, so much so, that the Priesthood of whole countries had before now apostatized, as happened in great measure in England three centuries ago, and that at all times there was a certain remnant scattered about of priests who did not live up to their faith and their profession; still that, on the whole, they had been, as a body, the salt of the earth and the light of the world, through the power of divine grace, and that thus, in spite of the frailty of human nature, they had fulfilled the blessed purposes of their institution.

But not in one or two points merely, but in everything we think and say and do, as Catholics, were we but known, what a reformation would there not at once follow in the national mind in respect to us! British fair dealing and good sense would then recover their supremacy; and Maria Monks and Teodores would find {340} their occupation gone. We should hear no more of the laity being led blindfold, of their being forced to digest impossibilities under menace of perdition, of their struggles to get loose continually overmastered by their superstition, and of their heart having no part in their profession. The spectres of tyranny, hypocrisy, and fraud would flit away with the morning light. There would be no more dread of being burned alive by Papists, or of the gutters overflowing with Protestant blood. Dungeons, racks, pulleys, and quick-lime would be like the leavings of a yesterday's revel. Nor would the political aims and plots and intrigues, so readily imputed to us, seem more substantial; and though I suppose, there is lying, and littleness, and overreaching, and rivalry, to be found among us as among other sons of Adam, yet the notion that we monopolized these vile qualities, or had more than our share of them, would be an exploded superstition. This indeed would be a short and easy way, not of making Protestants Catholics, but of reversing their ridiculous dreams about us,—I mean, if they actually saw what they so interminably argue about. But it is not to be:—first comes in the way that very love of arguing and of having an opinion, to which my last words have alluded. Men would be sorry indeed that the controversy should be taken from the region of argument and transferred to that of fact. They like to think as they please; and as they would by no means welcome St. Paul, did he come from heaven to instruct them in the actual meaning of his "texts" in Romans iii. or Galatians ii., so they would think it a hardship to be told that they must not go on maintaining and proving, that we were really what their eyes then would testify we were not. And then, too, dear {341} scandal and romancing put in their claim; how would the world go on, and whence would come its staple food and its cheap luxuries, if Catholicism were taken from the market? Why it would be like the cotton crop failing, or a new tax put upon tea. And then, too, comes prejudice, "like the horseleech, crying, Give, give:" how is prejudice to exist without Catholic iniquities and enormities? prejudice, which could not fast for a day, which would be in torment inexpressible, and call it Popish persecution, to be kept on this sort of meagre for a Lent, and would shake down Queen and Parliament with the violence of its convulsions, rather than it should never suck a Catholic's sweet bones and drink his blood any more.

Prejudice and hatred, political party, animosities of race and country, love of gossip and scandal, private judgments, resentments, sensitive jealousies, these, and a number of bad principles besides, extending through the country, present an almost insuperable obstacle to our obtaining a fair hearing and receiving a careful examination. There are other feelings, too, not wrong, as I would trust, in which before now I have participated myself, but equally drawing a cordon between Catholics and the rest of the population. One, for instance, is the motive frequently influencing those who really feel a great drawing towards the Catholic Church, though they are unable to accept her doctrines; and who, wishing to act, not by affection or liking or fancy, but by reason, are led to dread lest the impulses of love, gratitude, admiration, and devotion which they feel within them, should overcome in their hearts the claims of truth and justice, and decide the matter peremptorily for them, if they subjected themselves to an intercourse {342} with Catholics. And another consideration weighs with such Protestants as are in a responsible situation in their own communion, or are its ministers and functionaries. These persons feel that while they hold office in a body which is at war with Catholics, they are as little at liberty to hold friendly intercourse with them, even with the open avowal of their differing from them in serious matters, as an English officer or a member of Parliament may lawfully correspond with the French Government during a time of hostilities. These various motives, and others besides, better and worse, are, I repeat, almost an insuperable barrier in the way of any real and familiar intercourse between Protestants and ourselves: and they act, in consequence, as the means of perpetuating what may be considered the chief negative cause, and the simplest explanation of the absurdities so commonly entertained about us by all classes of society. Personal intercourse, then, being practically just as much out of the question with us, as with the Apostles themselves or the Jewish prophets, Protestantism has nothing left for it, when it would argue about us, but to have recourse, as in the case of Scripture, to its "texts," its chips, shavings, brickbats, potsherds, and other odds and ends of the Heavenly City, which form the authenticated and ticketed specimens of what the Catholic Religion is in its great national Museum.


I am complaining of nothing which I do not myself wish to avoid in dealing with my opponents. I wish them to be judged by their traditions; and in these Lectures I have steadily kept in view the Elizabethan Tradition, and wished to consider it the centre and the {343} life of all they say and do. If I select their words or their acts, I wish to throw myself into them, and determine what they mean by the light of this informing principle. And I have means of doing so which many others have not, having been a Protestant myself. I have stood on their ground; and would always aim at handling their arguments, not as so many dead words, but as the words of a speaker in a particular state of mind, which must be experienced, or witnessed, or explored, if it is to be understood. Calvin, for instance, somewhere calls his own doctrine, that souls are lost without their own free will by the necessity of divine predestination, horrible; at least, so he is said to do, for I do not know his writings myself. Now I conceive he never can really say this; I conceive he uses the Latin word in the sense of fearful or awful, and that to make him say "horrible" is the mere unfairness of some Lutheran adversary, who will not enter into his meaning. This is to go by the letter, not by the spirit; by the text, not by the tradition. The lawyers, again, as I noticed in my first Lecture, speak of the "Omnipotence of Parliament;" I never will be so unjust to them as to take them literally. I am perfectly sure that it never entered into the head of any Speaker, or Prime Minister, or Serjeant-at-arms, to claim any superhuman prerogative for the Two Houses. Those officials all feel intensely, I am sure, that they are but feeble and fallible creatures, and would laugh at any one who shuddered at their use of a phrase which has a parliamentary sense as well as a theological. Now I only claim to be heard in turn with the same candour which I exemplify so fully, when I speak myself of the omnipotence of the Blessed Virgin. When such an {344} expression is used by a Catholic, he would be as indignant as a member of Parliament to find it perverted by an enemy from the innocent sense in which he used it. Parliament is omnipotent, as having the power to do what it will, not in France, or in Germany, or in Russia, much less all over the earth, much less in heaven, but within the United Kingdom; and in like manner the Blessed Virgin is called omnipotent, as being able to gain from God what she desires by the medium of prayer. Prayer is regarded as omnipotent in Scripture, and she in consequence, as being the chief intercessor among creatures, is considered omnipotent too. And the same remark applies to a great number of other words in Catholic theology. When the Church is called "holy," it is not meant that her authorities are always good men, though nothing is more common with Protestants than so to suppose. "Worship," again, is another term which is commonly misunderstood; "indulgence" is another; "merit," "intention," "scandal," "religion," "obedience," all have their own senses, which our opponents must learn from Catholics, and cannot well find out for themselves.

I have a good old woman in my eye, who, to the great amusement of all hearers, goes about saying that her priest has given her "absolution for a week;" what a horrid story for Exeter Hall! Here is a poor creature, with one foot in the grave, who is actually assured by her confessor, doubtless for some due pecuniary consideration, that for a week to come she may commit any sort of enormity to which she is inclined with impunity. Absolution for a week! then it seems, she has discounted, if I may so speak, her prospective confessions, and may lie, thieve, drink, and {345} swear for a whole seven days with a clear conscience! But now what does she really mean? I defy a Protestant to get the meaning out of the words, even if he wished to be fair; he must come to us for it. She means, then, that she has leave to communicate for a week to come, on her usual days of communion, whatever be their number, without coming to confession before each day. But how can her words have this meaning? in this way, as you know, my Brothers, well. Catholics are not bound to come to confession before communion, unless they have committed some greater sin; nor are they commonly advised by their priests to come every time, though they often do so. When, then, she said she had got absolution for a week, she meant to express, that the priest had told her that her once going to confession would be often enough, for all her days of communion, during a week to come, supposing (which was not to be expected in so pious a woman) she fell into no great sin. You see how many words it takes duly to unfold the meaning of one familiar expression.

This instance of Popish profligacy has not yet got into the Protestant prints; but there are others, not unlike it, which before now have made a great noise in the world. I will give you an instance of a mistake, not, indeed, as to a colloquialism, but as to the force of a technical phrase. When forms are often repeated, at length they are shortened; every schoolboy knows this in learning geometry, where at first every word of the process of proof is supplied with formal exactness, and then, as the treatise advances, the modes of expressions are abbreviated. Many of our familiar words are abbreviations of this sort; such is an "omnibus;" again, a {346} "stage," in the sense of a stage-coach; we talk of the "rail," when we mean the "rail-road;" we speak of "laying the table" for dinner, when we mean "laying the cloth on the table;" and a king's levy properly means his "rising in the morning," but is taken to mean his showing himself to his nobles and others who come to pay him their respects. So again, innkeepers paint up, "Entertainment for man and horse;" they do not add the important words, "to those who can pay for it." Every other private house in our streets has "Ring the bell" upon its door; that is, "if you have business within." And so, again, in Catholicism the word "penance," which properly means repentance, often stands for the punishment annexed to the repentance, as when we talk of the imposition of "penances." Now, in like manner, as to Indulgences, "to absolve from sin" sometimes means one of two things quite distinct from real absolution. First, it may mean nothing else but to remit the punishment of sin; and next, it may mean to absolve externally or to reconcile to the Church, in the sense in which I explained the phrase in a previous Lecture [Note 8]. Here, however, I am going to speak of the phrase in the former of these two senses—viz., as the remission of the punishment remaining after pardon of the sin. This is an indulgence; indulgence never is absolution or pardon itself. At the same time it is quite certain that, as far as words go, Indulgences have sometimes been drawn up in such a form as conveys to a Protestant reader the idea of real absolution, which they always presuppose and never convey. To a person who is not pardoned {347} (and pardoned he cannot be without repentance), an Indulgence does no good whatever; an indulgence supposes the person receiving it to be already absolved and in a state of grace, and then it remits to him the punishment which remains due to his past sins, whatever they are; but that this is really the meaning, a Protestant will as little gather from the form of words in which it has been sometimes drawn up, as he would gather from the good old soul's words cited just now, that "absolution" means "leave to go to communion." If Protestants will not take their information from Catholics on points such as this, but are determined to judge for themselves and to insist on the letter, there is no help for it.

And the same remark in a measure applies to another expression to be found in Indulgences. In Tetzel's famous form at the beginning of the Reformation, we read as follows:—"Shouldest thou not presently die, let this grace remain in full force, and avail thee at the point of death." On this Dr. Waddington, ordinarily a cautious as well as candid writer, observes, "[It cannot] be disputed that it conferred an entire absolution, not only from all past, but also from all future sins. It is impossible with any shadow of reason to affix any other meaning to the concluding paragraph," [Note 9]—which is the one I have quoted. Reason; how can reason help you here? could you have found out that "absolution" meant "leave for communion" by reason? Some things are determined by reason, others by sense, and others by testimony. We go to dictionaries for information of one kind, and to gazetteers for information of another {348} kind. No one discovers the price of stocks, ministerial measures, or the fashions of the new year, by reason. Whatever is spontaneous, accidental, variable, self-dependent, whatever is objective, we must go out of ourselves to determine. And such, among other instances, is the force of language, such the use of formulas, such the value of theological terms. You learn pure English by reading classical authors and mixing in good society. Go then to those with whom such terms are familiar, who are masters of the science of them, and they will read the above sentence for you, not by reason, but by the usage of the Church; and they will read it thus:—"If thou diest not now, but time hence, this Indulgence will then avail thee, in the hour of death, that is, provided thou art then in a state of grace."

There is no prospective pardon in these words so explained; an Indulgence has nothing to do with pardon; it presupposes pardon; it is an additional remission upon and after pardon, being the remission of the arrears of suffering due from those who are already pardoned. If on receipt of this Indulgence the recipient rushed into sin, the benefit of the Indulgence would be at least suspended, till he repented, went to confession, gained a new spirit, and was restored to God's favour. If he was found in this state of pardon and grace at the point of death, then it would avail him at the point of death. Then, that pardon which his true repentance would gain him in the sacrament of penance, would be crowned by the further remission of punishment through the Indulgence, certainly not otherwise. If, however, a controversialist says that an ordinary Catholic cannot {349} possibly understand all this, that is a question of fact, not of reason; it does not stand to reason that he cannot: reason does not come in here. I do not say that an ordinary layman will express himself with theological accuracy, but he knows perfectly well that an Indulgence is no pardon for prospective sin, that it is no standing pardon for a state of sin. If you think he does not, come and see. That is my keynote from first to last; come and see, instead of remaining afar off, and judging by reason.


There are Protestant books explaining difficult passages of the Old Testament by means of present manners and customs among the Orientals; a very sensible proceeding, and well deserving of imitation by Protestants in the case before us: let our obscure words and forms be interpreted by the understandings and habits of the Catholic people. On the other hand, in Dean Swift's well-known tale, you have an account of certain philosophers of Laputa, who carried their head under their arm. These sagacious persons seldom made direct use of their senses, but acted by reason; a tailor for instance, who has to measure for a suit of clothes, I think, is described, not as taking out his measures, but his instruments, quadrant, telescope, and the like. He measured a man as he would measure a mountain or a bog; and he ascertained his build and his carriage as he might determine the right ascension of Sirius or the revolution of a comet. It is but a vulgar way to handle and turn about the living subject who was before him; so our Laputan retreated, pulled out his theodolite instead {350} of his slips of parchment, and made an observation from a distance. It was a grand idea to make a coat by private judgment and a theodolite; and depend upon it, when it came home it did not fit. Our Protestants wield the theodolite too; they keep at a convenient distance from us, take the angles, calculate the sines and cosines, and work out an algebraic process, when common sense would bid them ask us a few questions. They observe latitude and longitude, the dip of the needle, the state of the atmosphere; our path is an orbit, and our locus is expressed by an equation. They communicate with us by gestures, as you talk to the deaf and dumb; and they are more proud of doing something, right or wrong, by a ceremony of this kind which is their own doing, than of having the learning of the Benedictines or the Bollandists, if they are to go to school for it.

Open their tracts or pamphlets at random, and you will not have long to look for instances;—a priest is told one afternoon that a parishioner wishes to go to confession. He breaks off what he is doing, disappointed, perhaps, at the interruption, rushes into church, takes up his stole, and turns his ear towards his penitent. It is altogether a matter of routine work with him, with a lifting up indeed of the heart to his Maker and Lord, but still a matter too familiar to make any great impression on him, beyond that of his knowing he is called to a serious duty, which he must discharge to the best of his ability. A Scripture reader, or some such personage, opens the door, and peeps in; he perceives what is going on, and stands gazing. What is his comment? I wish I had {351} kept the paragraph, as I read it; but it was to this effect,—"I saw a priest with a poor wretch at his feet—how like a god he looked!" Can anything, my Brothers, be more unreal, more fantastic? Yet all this comes of standing gazing at the door.

How many are the souls, in distress, anxiety or loneliness, whose one need is to find a being to whom they can pour out their feelings unheard by the world? Tell them out they must; they cannot tell them out to those whom they see every hour. They want to tell them and not to tell them; and they want to tell them out, yet be as if they be not told; they wish to tell them to one who is strong enough to bear them, yet not too strong to despise them; they wish to tell them to one who can at once advise and can sympathize with them; they wish to relieve themselves of a load, to gain a solace, to receive the assurance that there is one who thinks of them, and one to whom in thought they can recur, to whom they can betake themselves, if necessary, from time to time, while they are in the world. How many a Protestant's heart would leap at the news of such a benefit, putting aside all distinct ideas of a sacramental ordinance, or of a grant of pardon and the conveyance of grace! If there is a heavenly idea in the Catholic Church, looking at it simply as an idea, surely, next after the Blessed Sacrament, Confession is such. And such is it ever found in fact,—the very act of kneeling, the low and contrite voice, the sign of the cross hanging, so to say, over the head bowed low, and the words of peace and blessing. Oh what a soothing charm is there, which the world can neither give nor take away! Oh what piercing, heart-subduing tranquillity, provoking {352} tears of joy, is poured, almost substantially and physically upon the soul, the oil of gladness, as Scripture calls it, when the penitent at length rises, his God reconciled to him, his sins rolled away for ever! This is confession as it is in fact; as those bear witness to it who know it by experience; what is it in the language of the Protestant? His language is, I may say, maniacal; listen to his ravings, as far as I dare quote them, about what he knows just as much of as the blind know of colours: "If I could follow my heart wherever it would go," he cries about the priest, "I would go into his dark and damnable confessional, where my poor Roman Catholic countrymen intrust their wives and daughters to him, under the awful delusion of false religion; and, while the tyrant is pressing his ... infernal investigation, putting the heart and feeling of the helpless creature on the moral rack, till she sink enslaved and powerless at his feet, I would drag the victim forth in triumph from his grasp, and ring in the monster's ear, No Popery!"

These are the words of a fanatic; but grave, sober men can in their own way say things quite as absurd, quite as opprobrious. There is a gentleman [Note 10], who, since these Lectures began, has opened a public correspondence with me; I quoted from him just now [Note 11]. One of his principal points, to which he gave his confident adhesion, was this, that at least one in twelve of our Priests in large towns doubts or disbelieves. How did he prove it? A conscientious person does {353} not advance grave charges against others, much less the gravest possible, without the best of reasons. Even to think ill of others, without sufficient cause, is in a Catholic's estimation, an offence: but to speak out to the world a proposition such as this, distinctly to accuse his neighbour of the worst of crimes, is either a great duty or a great sin. The proof, too, should be proportionate to the imputation. And that the more, because he went further than I have yet said: he actually singled out a place; he named Birmingham, and he insinuated that such infidels or sceptics were found among the priests of this very town. Well, then, we must suppose he speaks on the best authority; he has come to Birmingham, he knows the priests, he has some distinct evidence. He accuses us of a sin which includes blasphemy, sacrilege, hypocrisy, fraud, and virtually immorality, besides its own proper heinousness, which is of the first order, and he must have, of course, reason for what he says. What then is his method of proof? simply the Laputan. He brandishes his theodolite, he proves us to be proud rebels against our God, and odious impostors toward men, by mathematics; he draws out a rule of three sum on paper, and leaves us to settle with it as we may. He argues, that, because France had a body of infidel priests in last century, who did not disguise themselves, because Spain had a knot of infidels who, for fear of the Inquisition, did, therefore now in England, where nothing is heard of infidelity, and where there is nothing to frighten it into silence, it exists in every large town. Moreover, because there were infidel priests in the special 18th century, therefore there are infidel priests in the 19th. {354} Further, because there were in France fifty or sixty or a hundred infidels among 380,000 ecclesiastics, and a sprinkling in Spain among 125,000, that there are in England infidels now in the proportion of one to twelve. To this antecedent proof he added a few cases true or false, at home or abroad, which it was impossible to examine or refute, of a professedly recent date; and on these grounds he ventured forth with his definite assertion, simply satisfied of its truth, its equity, and its charitableness.

And now for something, if not more wonderful, at least more observable still. After thus speaking, he was surprised I should consider it a "charge," and a charge against the priests of Birmingham. He complains, that is, that I have given a personal turn to his assertion. Ah, true, I ought to have remembered that Catholic priests, in the judgment of a good Protestant, are not persons at all. I had forgotten what I have already said in the First of these Lectures; we are not men, we have not characters to lose, we have not feelings to be wounded, we have not friends, we have not penitents, we have not congregations; we have nothing personal about us, we are not the fellow-creatures of our accusers, we are not gentlemen, we are not Christians, we are abstractions, we are shadows, we are heraldic emblazonments, we are the griffins and wiverns of the old family picture, we are stage characters with a mask and a dagger, we are mummies from Egypt or antediluvian ornithorhynchi, we are unresisting ninepins, to be set up and knocked down by every mischievous boy; we are the John Doe and Richard Roe of the lawyers, the Titius and Bertha of the canonists, who come forth for every occasion, and {355} are to endure any amount of abuse or misfortune. Did the figures come down from some old piece of tapestry, or were a lion rampant from an inn door suddenly to walk the streets, a Protestant would not be more surprised than at the notion that we have nerves, that we have hearts, that we have sensibilities. For we are but the frogs in the fable; "What is your sport," they said to the truant who was pelting them, "is our destruction;" yes, it is our portion from the beginning, it is our birthright, though not quite our destruction, to be the helots of the pride of the world.


But more remains to be said. It often may happen in matters of research, not indeed when the rule of charity comes in, but in philosophical subjects and the like, that men are obliged to make use of indirect reasonings, in default of testimony and fact. That was not so here. There was evidence, to a considerable extent, the other way. Now observe this, my Brothers. You know how anxious the Protestant world is to get hold of any priest who has left the Catholic body. Why? because he would tell them facts about it; certainly Protestants are not always indifferent about facts: that is, when they hope they will tell against us. Well, they go to this priest or that monk, who has transferred himself to Protestantism, in order to get all the information about us they can. Now are Protestantizing priests and monks the only evidence of the kind which they could obtain on the subject? Frenchmen who come from France are evidence about France; but are not Englishmen who go to France evidence too? If some persons come from Rome, have {356} none gone to Rome? and have not they too something to offer in the way of evidence? Yes, surely, they have much to say about Catholic priests. It was offered by myself to the gentleman of whom I have been speaking; it was offered, and it was not accepted. He who could argue by wholesale from some mere instance of a Catholic priest who had become a Protestant, would learn nothing from the direct avowals of a Protestant who had become a Catholic Priest. The one was the pregnant germ of an arbitrary deduction, the other was no credible testimony to a matter of fact.

Now, my Brothers, I should not insist on all this, if it merely related to any personal matter of mine; but you see, it affords a very observable illustration of the point on which I am insisting—viz., that to know Catholics is the best refutation of what is said against them. You are aware, then, that a number of highly educated Protestants have of late years joined the Catholic Church. If their former co-religionists desired to have some real and good information what Catholics are like, they could not have better than that which these persons had to offer. They had belonged to a system which allowed of the largest private judgment, and they had made use of their liberty. They had made use of it first to reject the Protestantism of the day, and to recur back to another form of Protestantism which was in some repute two hundred years ago. Further, they used their liberty to attack the See of Rome, so firmly were they persuaded that the Popedom was not a divine institution. No one can say they did not enter into the feelings of suspicion and jealousy which Protestants entertain towards Rome. For myself, though I never, as I believe, spoke against {357} individuals, I felt and expressed this deep suspicion about the system; and it would be well indeed for Catholicism in this country, if every Protestant but studied it with a tenth part of the care which I have bestowed on the examination and expression of Protestant arguments and views. Well, the private judgment of these men went on acting, for a Protestant can have no guide but it; and to their surprise, as time proceeded, they found it bringing them nearer to the Catholic Church, and at length it fairly brought them into it. What did Protestants say then? Why, they said that the same private judgment which had led them into the Catholic Church, would, in course of time, lead them out of it. They said, too, that these new Catholics, when they came to see what Catholics were like, would be unable to stop among them. Mind, they put it to this test; this was their issue; they left the decision of the question to the event; they knew that the persons of whom they spoke were honest men; they knew that they had given up a great deal to become Catholics; they were sure that they would not take part in an imposition: and therefore they said, "Let them go, they will soon come back; let them go to Rome itself, they are sure to be disgusted; they will meet at Rome, and in France, and in England, and everywhere, infidel priests by the bushel, and will tire of their new religion. And besides, they will soon begin to doubt about it themselves; their private judgment will not submit to all they will have to believe, and they will go out of Catholicism as they came into it."

You observe, then, my Brothers, that our testimony is not a common one, it has a claim to be heard; it has been {358} appealed to by anticipation, let it then be heard after the event. There is no doubt that the whole Protestant world would have made a great deal of our dropping off from the Catholic body; why, then, ought it not to be struck by the fact of our continuing in it, being dutiful and loyal to it, and finding our rest in it? You know perfectly well Protestants would have listened greedily, if we had left and borne witness against it; why, then, ought they not in consistency to listen seriously when we glory in it, and bear witness for it? Who in the whole world are likely to be more trustworthy witnesses of the fact, whether or not one in twelve of our town priests disbelieves or doubts, than these converts, men of education, of intelligence, of independent minds, who have their eyes about them, who are scattered to and fro through all the country, who are, some of them, priests themselves? Is there anyone who knows us personally who will dare to say we are not to be believed, not to be trusted? no: only those who know us not. But so it is to be; our evidence is to be put aside, and the Laputan method to carry the day. Catholics are to be surveyed from without, not inspected from within: texts and formulas are to prevail over broad and luminous facts. There is a story of a logician at some place of learning, who, as he was walking one evening past the public library, was hailed by an unfortunate person from one of its windows, who told him he had been locked in by mistake when it closed, and begged him to send to his relief the official who kept the keys. Our logician is said to have looked at him attentively, pronounced the following syllogism, and walked away: "No man can be in the library after 4 o'clock P.M. You are a man: therefore you are not in the library." {359}

And thus Catholic priests are left duly locked up by Barbara or Celarent, because, forsooth, one grain of Protestant logic is to weigh more than cartloads of Catholic testimony.


No, if our opponents would decide the matter by testimony, if they would submit their assertions to the ordeal of facts, their cause is lost; so they prefer much to go by prejudices, arbitrary principles, and texts. Evidence they can have to satisfy for the asking; but what boots it to pipe and sing to the deaf, or to convince the self-satisfied heart against its will? One there was who left the Protestant religion under circumstances different from any to which I have hitherto alluded. He never joined in the religious movement which has brought so many to the Church; nay, he wrote against that movement; he wrote, not in bitterness and contempt, as many have done, and do, but as a gentleman and a man of serious principle; he wrote against myself. But, though he started from so different a point, he, too, came near the Church, he, too, entered it. He did so at a great sacrifice; he had devoted a great part of his fortune to the building of a Protestant church. It was all but finished when the call came; he rose and obeyed it, and had to leave his means of subsistence behind him, turned into stone. He came into the Catholic Church, and he remains a layman in it. See, then, here is a witness altogether different: ought not this to content our enemies? or are the boys in the marketplace still to cry to them, "We have piped to you, and you have not danced; we have lamented, and you have not mourned"? Are they suspicious of those who {360} belonged to a certain movement before they became Catholics? here is one who opposed it: are they suspicious of a convert priest? here is a convert layman. Now, he happens, some years after his conversion, to have written an account of his experience of the Catholic Religion; how many of our enemies have had the grace—I can use no lighter term—have had the grace to look into it? Yet what possible reason can they give for having neglected to study and to profit by it? It is the grave testimony of one, in whom, as in that illustrious witness of old in the heathen country, "no cause nor suspicion" can be found, "unless concerning the law of his God."

"I came," he says, and he shall conclude this Lecture for me, "forced by my convictions, and almost against my will, into this mighty community whose embrace I had all my life dreaded as something paralyzing, enslaving, and torturing. No sooner, however, could I look around me, and mark what presented itself to my eyes, than I saw that I was in a world where all was as satisfying as it was new. For the first time I met with a body of men and women who could talk and act as Christians, without cant, without restraint, without formality, without hypocrisy. After years and years of disappointment, in which the more deeply I saw into the hearts and lives of Protestants of every class, the more clearly I perceived that the religion they professed had not become their second nature, but was a thing put on, which did not fit them, which confined their movements, and gave them an outward look, while it was not wrought into the depth of their being,—after years and years of this disappointment, in which the contrast between the Bible, which they praised, and {361} the spirit of their own lives, and the doctrines they preached, struck me more bitterly each succeeding day, at length I found myself in the midst of a race, with whom Christianity was not a rule, but a principle; not a restraint, but a second nature; not a bondage, but a freedom; in which it had precisely that effect which it claims to produce upon man; in which not a few hours, or an occasional day, was set apart for religion, but in which life was religious; in which men spoke at all hours, and in all occupations, of religious things, naturally, as men speak of secular things in which they are deeply interested; in which religious thoughts and short prayers were found not incompatible with the necessary duties and pleasures which fill up the road of existence; and in which, the more deeply I was enabled to penetrate below the surface, the more genuine was the goodness which I found, and the more inexhaustible I perceived to be those treasures of grace, which Divine Goodness places at the disposal (so to say) of every soul that seeks them within this favoured communion.

"And now, when so long a period has elapsed since my first submission to the Church, that everything like a sense of novelty has long passed away, and I have tested experimentally the value of all that she has to offer; now that I can employ her means of grace, and take a part in the working of her system, with all that ease and readiness which long practice alone can bestow; the more profound is my sense of her divine origin, of the divine power which resides in her, and of the boundless variety and perfection of the blessings she has to bestow. The more I know her, the more complete do I perceive to be her correspondence to what she professes to be. She is exactly what the one Church {362} of Christ is proclaimed to be in Scripture, and nothing less, and nothing more ... Truly can I say with the patriarch, 'The Lord is in this place, and I knew it not. This is no other than the house of God, and the gate of heaven.' The Catholic Church can be nothing less than the spiritual body of Jesus Christ. Nothing less than that adorable Presence, before which the Angels veil their faces, can make her what she is to those who are within her fold. Argument is needed no longer. The scoffings of the infidel, the objections of the Protestant, the sneers of the man of the world, pass over their heads, as clouds over a mountain peak, and leave them calm and undisturbed, with their feet resting upon the Rock of ages. They know in whom they have believed. They have passed from speculation to action, and found that all is real, genuine, life-giving, and enduring ... I know only one fear—the fear that my heart may be faithless to Him who has bestowed on me this unspeakable blessing; I know only one mystery, which the more I think upon it, the more incomprehensible does it appear,—the mystery of that calling which brought me into this house of rest, while millions and millions are still driven to and fro in the turbulent ocean of the world, without rudder, and without compass, without helmsman and without anchor, to drift before the gale upon the fatal shore." [Note 12]

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1. Prophetical Office, Lecture I. pp. 38-41.
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2. E.g. By myself, though not in objection, in the work above quoted, Lecture X. p. 293. By Cressy, in Dr. Hammond's Works, vol. ii. p. 635, two centuries ago.
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3. Westminster Review, Jan. 1851.
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4. Head's Pacca, vol i. p. 157.
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5. Ibid. vol. ii. p. 143.
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6. Head's Pacca, vol. i. p. 406.
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7. Head's Pacca, vol. ii. p. 187.
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8. In Lecture III. This sense, however, is unusual; vide Ferraris, Biblioth., art. Indul., App. § 6.
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9. Reformation, vol. i. p. 27.
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10. Mr. Seely, the reputed author of several able works. The wider his name and his charge against us are circulated, the better for the cause of truth. Neither the one nor the other should be hushed up.
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11. P. 339.
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12. Capes's "Four Years' Experience of the Catholic Religion: Burns, London, 1849," pp. 92-95. Mr. Capes returned to the Anglican Church in 1870, on occasion, I believe, of the definition by the Vatican Council of the Pope's Infallibility, but that change does not invalidate his testimony to matters of fact [Ed. 1872]. [Mr. Capes later returned to and remained in the Catholic Church—NR.]
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