Lecture 3. Fable the Basis of the Protestant View

Review Role of Tradition
Response to an Objection
Difficulty of Answering False Charges
    Accusation of Stealing a Pocket-Book
    Don Felix Malatesta de Guadaloupe
Examples of Anti-Catholic Calumnies
    Prelininary anecdote: "Mumpsimus" - Resistance to Correction
    St. Eligius' View of Religion
    Catholics Sell Sin for Money
    Murder at Edgebaston Monastery
Slander the Chief Basis of Anti-Catholic Feeling


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{83} IT was my aim, Brothers of the Oratory, in my preceding Lecture, to investigate, as far as time and place allowed, how it was that the one-sided view of the great religious controversy, which commenced between Rome and England three centuries since, has been so successfully maintained in this country. Many things have changed among us during that long period; but the hatred and the jealousy entertained by the population towards the Catholic Faith, and the scorn and pity which are felt at the sight of its adherents, have not passed away, have not been mitigated. In that long period, society has undergone various alterations; public opinion has received a development new in the history of the world, and many remarkable revolutions in national principle have followed. The received views on the causes and the punishment of crime, on the end of government, on the mutual relations of town and country, on international interests, and on many other great political questions, have sustained, to say the least, great modifications; sciences, unknown before, bearing upon the economy of social life, have come into being; medicine has been the subject of new doctrines, which {84} have had their influence on various civil and municipal arrangements; how is it, then, that the feeling against Catholicism has remained substantially what it was in the days of Charles the Second or of George the Third? How is it that Protestantism has retained its ascendancy, and that Catholic arguments and Catholic principles are at once misconstrued and ignored? And what increases the wonder is, that externally to our own island it has happened otherwise; there is scarcely a country besides ours where Catholicism is not at least respected, even if it is not studied; and what is more observable still, scarcely a country besides ours, originally Protestant, in which Protestantism even exists at present,—if by Protestantism is understood the religion of Luther and Calvin. The phenomenon, great in itself, becomes greater by its thus seeming to be all but peculiar to the British population.

And this latter consideration is important also, as it anticipates a solution of the difficulty which the Protestant, were he able, would eagerly adopt. He would be eager to reply, if he could, that the Protestant spirit has survived in the land amid so many changes in political and social science, because certain political theories were false, but Protestantism is true; but if this is the case, why has it not kept its ground and made its way in other countries also? What cause can be assigned for its decay and almost extinction in those other countries, in Germany, Holland, Switzerland and New England, diverse from each other in situation, in government, in language, and in character, where once it flourished? Evidently it must be a cause peculiar to England; those foreign countries must have something in common with each other {85} which they have not in common with us. Now what is peculiar to our country is an established Tradition of Protestantism; what those other countries have in common with each other is the absence of such Tradition. Fact and argument have had fair play in other countries; they have not had fair play here; the religious establishment has forbidden them fair play. But fact and argument are the tests of truth and error; Protestantism, then, has had an adventitious advantage in this country, in consequence of which it has not been tried,—as, in the course of years, otherwise it would have been tried, and as it has been tried elsewhere—on its own merits. Instead, then, of concluding that it is true, because it has remained here during three centuries substantially the same, I should rather conclude that it is false because it has not been able during that period to remain the same abroad. To the standing, compulsory Tradition existing here, I ascribe its continuance here; to fact and reason operating freely elsewhere, I ascribe its disappearance elsewhere.

This view of the subject is confirmed to us, when we consider, on the one hand, the character of our countrymen, and on the other, the character of those instruments and methods by which the Tradition of Protestantism is perpetuated among them. It has been perpetuated, directly or indirectly, by the sanction of an oath, imposed on all those several sources of authority and influence, from which principles, doctrines, and opinions are accustomed to flow. There is an established Tradition of law, and of the clergy, and of the court, and of the universities, and of literature, and of good society; and all these act upon a people peculiarly susceptible of the claims of personal {86} merit, of embodied authority, of constituted order, of rank, and of reputation in the world, and little sensitive in comparison of abstract argument, logical sequence, moral fitness, historical results, or foreign transactions.

This was the point at which I stopped last week; now I shall continue my investigation, and I shall introduce what I have to say by means of an objection.


It may be objected, then, to the conclusions at which I have arrived, that I on my part have simply ignored the fact of the innumerable multitude of independent testimonies which every one of the divines, the scholars, the lawyers, the men of letters, the statesmen, the men of the world, who have made the last three centuries glorious in Britain, has borne in his turn, in favour of Protestantism and to the disadvantage of the Catholic religion.

Bacon and Hooker, Taylor and Chillingworth, Hampden, Clarendon, and Falkland, Russell, Somers and Walpole, Hobbes and Locke, Swift and Addison, Hume and Robertson, Warburton and Horsley, Pitt and Fox, Walter Scott and Hallam, and a multitude of other illustrious names, nay, the whole host of educated men, are all separate authorities; each speaks for himself; they do not copy, the one from the other: there are among them men of extensive reading, profound philosophy, intimate knowledge of the world; they are all men of intelligence, and at least able to give an opinion. It is absurd to say otherwise. This simple consideration, it may be said, overthrows from its very foundation the argument drawn out in my last week's Lecture, about the traditional character of Protestantism {87} in England. Indeed, my argument turns against myself; for I incidentally allowed on that occasion that a number of distinct testimonies, conspiring together into one view or representation, was a real and sound reason, nay, among the strongest of conceivable reasons, in its behalf; now, this is just the state of the case as regards the argument for Protestantism, as drawn from the common consent of the English court, clergy, bar, literature, and general society.

This is what will be said; and I reply as follows:—I do not deny that there are great names on the side of Protestantism, which require to be considered by themselves;—minds, which certainly are superior to the influences of party, the prejudices of education, the suggestions of self-interest, the seductions of place and position, and the tyranny of public opinion. And again, there are Protestant arguments, clear and broad, which remain, whether Protestantism is received, or whether it is not. I allow all this: but now I am considering, not the Protestantism of the few, but of the many: those great men, and those philosophical arguments, whatever be their weight, have no influence with the many. Crowds do not assemble in Exeter Hall, mobs do not burn the Pope, from reverence for Lord Bacon, Locke, or Butler, or for anything those gifted men have recorded. I am treating of the unpopularity of Catholicism, now and here, as it exists in the year 1851, and in London, or in Edinburgh, or in Birmingham, or in Bristol, or in Manchester, or in Glasgow; among the gentlemen and yeomen of Yorkshire, Devonshire, and Kent; in the Inns of Court, and in the schools and colleges of the land; and I say {88} this Tradition does not flow from the mouth of the half-dozen wise, or philosophic, or learned men who can be summoned in its support, but is a tradition of nursery stories, school stories, public-house stories, club-house stories, drawing-room stories, platform stories, pulpit stories;—a tradition of newspapers, magazines, reviews, pamphlets, romances, novels, poems, and light literature of all kind, literature of the day;—a tradition of selections from the English classics, bits of poetry, passages of history, sermons, chance essays, extracts from books of travel, anonymous anecdotes, lectures on prophecy, statements and arguments of polemical writers, made up into small octavos for class-books, and into pretty miniatures for presents;—a tradition floating in the air; which we found in being when we first came to years of reason; which has been borne in upon us by all we saw, heard, or read, in high life, in parliament, in law courts, in general society; which our fathers told us had ever been in their day; a tradition, therefore, truly universal and immemorial, and good as far as a tradition can be good, but after all, not more than a tradition is worth: I mean, requiring some ultimate authority to make it trustworthy. Trace up, then, the tradition to its very first startings, its roots and its sources, if you are to form a judgment whether it is more than a tradition. It may be a good tradition, and yet after all good for nothing. What profit, though ninety-nine links of a chain be sound, if the topmost is broken? Now I do not hesitate to assert, that this Protestant Tradition, on which English faith hangs, is wanting just in the first link. Fierce as are its advocates, and high as is its sanction, yet, whenever we can {89} pursue it through the mist of immemorial reception in which it commonly vanishes, and can arrive at its beginnings, forthwith we find a flaw in the argument. Either facts are not forthcoming, or they are not sufficient for the purpose: sometimes they turn out to be imaginations or inventions, sometimes exaggerations, sometimes misconceptions; something or other comes to light which blunts their efficiency, and throws suspicion on the rest. Testimonies which were quoted as independent turn out to be the same, or to be contradictory of each other, or to be too improbable to be true, or to have no good authority at all: so that our enemies find they cannot do better, after all, than fall back on the general reception of the Tradition itself, as a reason for receiving the Tradition; and they find it prudent to convict us of all manner of crimes, on the simple ground of our being notoriously accused of them.

Hard measure, scanty justice! It is a principle of English law, that no one should bring a charge against another without being under the obligation of supporting it. Where should we be, any one of us—who would be safe—if any person who chose might, at any moment he would, impute to us what he pleased, bring us into court, call no witnesses, and obtain our conviction on his simple assertion? Why, at very least, an accuser is bound to make oath of the truth of what he says; and that is but the first step of an investigation, not the termination of the process. And he must swear to a fact, not to an opinion, not to a surmise, not to what he has heard others say, but to what he has witnessed or knows. Nay, even though there be reasons for being sure of the guilt of the accused, it is {90} a maxim of our law not to make him criminate himself, but to aim at convicting him by other means and by other men. It seems a plain dictate of common equity, that an accuser should have something to say for himself, before he can put the accused on his defence.

This righteous rule is simply set aside in the treatment of Catholics and their religion. Instead of the onus probandi, as it is called, the burden of proof, lying with the accuser, it is simply thrown upon the accused. Any one may get up of a sudden, and may say what he will to our prejudice, without producing any warrant at all for the truth of his charge. He is not called upon to establish his respectability, or to state his opportunities or methods of knowing; he need not give presumptive proof of his allegation; he need not give his authorities; he need only accuse; and upon this the Protestant public turns round to the poor Catholic, and asks what he has to say in his defence, as if he had yet anything to defend. There is a saying, that "a fool can ask more questions than a hundred wise men can answer;" and a bigot or a fanatic may be quite as successful. If a man presented himself this moment and said to me, "You robbed a person in the street of his pocket-book some ten years ago," what could I possibly say, except simply, "I did not"? How could I prove it was false, even if I took on myself to do so till I was informed of the town, or the year, or the occasion, or the person on whom the pretended offence was committed? Well, supposing my accuser went on to particulars, and said that I committed the crime in Birmingham, in the month of June, in the year 1840, and in the instance {91} of a person of the name of Smith. This, of course would be something, but no one would say even then that it was enough; that is, supposing I had to reply to him on the spot. At the very moment I might not be able to say where I was on the specified day, and so I could only repeat as emphatically as I was able, that the charge was utterly untrue.

Next, supposing me to ask his reasons for advancing it;—how he knew it was I? did he see me? or was he told by an eye-witness? and supposing he were to decline to give me any information whatever, but contented himself with saying "that I was shuffling and evasive, for the thing was quite notorious." And next, supposing I suddenly recollected that, up to the year 1845, I had never once been in Birmingham in the course of my life; yet, on my stating this, the accuser were to cry out that I should not escape, in spite of my attempt to throw dust in his eyes; for he had a score of witnesses to prove the fact, and that, as to the exact year it was a mere point of detail, on which any one might be mistaken. And supposing, on this unsupported allegation, a magistrate, without witness brought, or oath administered, or plausibility in the narrative, in spite of the accuser's character, which was none of the best, in spite of the vagueness of his testimony, were to send me to prison,—I conceive public opinion would say I was shamefully treated.

But further, supposing when I was safely lodged in prison, some anonymous writer, in some third-rate newspaper, were boldly to assert that all priests were in the practice of stealing pocket-books from passengers in the streets; and in proof thereof were to {92} appeal first to the notorious case of a priest in Birmingham who had been convicted of the offence, and then to the case of a second priest which was given in detail in some manuscript or other, contained somewhere or other in the royal library of Munich, and occurring some time or other between the seventh and the seventeenth centuries; and, supposing upon this anonymous article or letter, petitions were got up and signed numerously, and despatched to the Imperial Parliament, with the object of sending all priests to the treadmill for a period not exceeding six months, as reputed thieves, whenever they were found walking in the public thoroughfares;—would this answer an Englishman's ideas of fairness or of humanity?

Now I put it to the experience—I put it to the conscience of the Protestant world,—whether such is not the justice which it deals out to Catholics as a matter of course. No evidence against us is too little; no infliction too great. Statement without proof, though inadmissible in every other case, is all fair when we are concerned. A Protestant is at liberty to bring a charge against us, and challenge us to refute, not any proof he brings, for he brings none, but his simple assumption or assertion. And perhaps we accept his challenge, and then we find we have to deal with matters so vague or so minute, so general or so particular, that we are at our wit's end to know how to grapple with them. For instance, "Every twentieth man you meet is a Jesuit in disguise;" or, "Nunneries are, for the most part, prisons." How is it possible to meet such sweeping charges? The utmost we can do, in the nature of things, is to show that this particular man, or that, is not a Jesuit; or {93} that this or that particular nunnery is not a prison; but who said he was?—who said it was? What our Protestant accuser asserted was, that every twentieth man was a Jesuit, and most nunneries were prisons. How is this refuted by clearing this or that person or nunnery of the charge? Thus, if the accuser is not to be called on to give proofs of what he says, we are simply helpless, and must sit down meekly under the imputation.

At another time, however, a definite fact is stated, and we are referred to the authority on which it is put forward. What is the authority? Albertus Magnus, perhaps, or Gerson, or Baronius, with a silence about volume and page: their works consisting of five, ten, fifteen, twenty, or thirty folios, printed in double columns. How are we possibly to find the needle in this stack of hay? Or, by a refinement of unfairness, perhaps a wrong volume or page is carelessly given; and when we cannot find there the statement which our opponent has made, we are left in an unpleasant doubt whether our ill success is to be ascribed to our eyes or to his pen.

Sometimes, again, the crime charged on us is brought out with such startling vividness and circumstantial finish as to seem to carry its own evidence with it, and to dispense, in the eyes of the public, with the references which in fairness should attend it. The scene is laid in some fortress of the savage Apennine, or in secluded Languedoc, or in remote Poland, or the high table-land of Mexico; or it is a legend about some priest of a small village of Calabria, called Buonavalle, in the fourteenth century; or about a monk of the monastery of S. Spirito, in S. Fillippo d'Argiro, in the {94} time of Charlemagne. Or the story runs, that Don Felix Malatesta de Guadalope, a Benedictine monk of Andalusia, and father confessor to the Prince of the Asturias, who died in 1821, left behind him his confessions in manuscript, which were carried off by the French, with other valuable documents, from his convent, which they pillaged in their retreat from the field of Salamanca; and that, in these confessions, he frankly avows that he had killed three of his monastic brothers of whom he was jealous, had poisoned half-a-dozen women, and sent off in boxes and hampers to Cadiz and Barcelona thirty-five infants; moreover, that he felt no misgivings about these abominable deeds, because, as he observes with great naiveté, he had every day, for many years, burnt a candle to the Blessed Virgin; had cursed periodically all heretics, especially the royal family of England; had burnt a student of Coimbra for asserting the earth went round the sun; had worn about him, day and night, a relic of St. Diego; and had provided that five hundred masses should be said for the repose of his soul within eight days after his decease.

Tales such as this, the like of which it is very easy to point out in print, are suitably contrived to answer the purpose which brings them into being. A Catholic who, in default of testimony offered in their behalf, volunteers to refute them on their internal evidence, and sets about (so to say) cross-examining them, finds himself at once in an untold labyrinth of embarrassments. First he inquires, is there a village in Calabria of the name of Buonavalle? is there a convent of S. Spirito in the Sicilian town specified? did it exist in the time of Charlemagne? who were the successive {95} confessors of the Prince of the Asturias during the first twenty years of this century? what has Andalusia to do with Salamanca? when was the last Auto da fé in Spain? did the French pillage any convent whatever in the neighbourhood of Salamanca about the year 1812?—questions sufficient for a school examination. He goes to his maps, gazetteers, guidebooks, travels, histories;—soon a perplexity arises about the dates: are his editions recent enough for his purpose? do their historical notices go far enough back? Well, after a great deal of trouble, after writing about to friends, consulting libraries, and comparing statements, let us suppose him to prove most conclusively the utter absurdity of the slanderous story, and to bring out a lucid, powerful, and unanswerable reply; who cares for it by that time? who cares for the story itself? it has done its work; time stops for no man; it has created or deepened the impression in the minds of its hearers that a monk commits murder or adultery as readily as he eats his dinner. Men forget the process by which they receive it, but there it is, clear and indelible. Or supposing they recollect the particular slander ever so well, still they have no taste or stomach for entering into a long controversy about it; their mind is already made up; they have formed their views; the author they have trusted may, indeed, have been inaccurate in some of his details; it can be nothing more. Who can fairly impose on them the perplexity and whirl of going through a bout of controversy, where "one says," and "the other says," and "he says that he says that he does not say or ought not to say what he does say or ought to say?" It demands an effort and strain of attention {96} which they have no sort of purpose of bestowing. The Catholic cannot get a fair hearing; his book remains awhile in the shop windows, and then is taken down again. So true is this, from the nature of the human mind, that even though my present audience is well disposed, not hostile, to Catholicism, I should scarcely venture, in these Lectures, to enter into any minute investigation of this or that popular calumny, from my conviction that I should be detailing matters which, except in the case of the very few, would engross without interesting, and weary without making an impression.

Yet I think I may be able still, or at least I will try, without taxing your patience to the utmost, to bring before you two or three actual specimens of the mode in which the accusation against Catholics is conducted; which may serve to give you some insight into the value of the Tradition which king, lords and commons, are so zealous in upholding. The mighty Tradition flows on, replenished and refreshed continually by rivulets which, issuing from new fountain-heads, make their way, in faithful and unfailing succession, into the main stream. I am going to put my finger on three of these small fountain-heads of the Tradition,—which, as I have already complained, are not commonly accessible;—they shall not be springs of a vulgar quality, but they shall represent the intelligence, the respectability, and the strong sense of English society. The first shall be a specimen of the Tradition of Literature, the second of the Tradition of Wealth, and the third of the Tradition of Gentlemen. {97}


The first, which has to do with names well known in the aristocracy of talent and learning, will be somewhat tedious, do what I will; and I shall introduce it with a story. It is related by the learned Dr. Bentley, in his controversy with Boyle, about a century and a half ago, on some point of historical criticism. In the course of that controversy, his opponent happened to spell wrongly the name of a Greek town; and when he was set right, he made answer that it was the custom of our English writers so to spell it, and he proceeded to quote as many as five of them in proof of his assertion. On this Bentley observes, "An admirable reason, and worthy to be his own; as if the most palpable error, that shall happen to obtain and meet with reception, must therefore never be mended." After this, the "slashing" critic goes on to allude to the instance of an unlearned English priest, truly or not I know not, "who for thirty years together" (perhaps it was on taking the first ablution in the Mass) "had always said, 'Quod ore mumpsimus,' instead of 'Quod ore sumpsimus,'" and when, says Bentley, "a learned man told him of his blunder, 'I'll not change,' says he, 'my old Mumpsimus for your new Sumpsimus.'" Now, this happily applies to the subject which I am going to illustrate, as you will presently see.

I need not remind you how much is said among Protestants of the gross ignorance and superstition of the middle age: indeed, we Catholics of the present date are considered its legitimate and veritable heirs. On this subject, one of the best read, most dispassionate {98} and deservedly esteemed writers of the present day, who, if any one, might be supposed in historical matters an original authority, in his "View of the State of Europe during the Middle Ages," writes as follows:—

"In the very best view that can be taken of monasteries," he says, after allowing that many might be above reproach, "their existence is deeply injurious to the general morals of a nation. They withdraw men of pure conduct and conscientious principle from the exercise of social duties, and leave the common mass of human vice more unmixed. Such men are always inclined to form schemes of ascetic perfection, which can only be fulfilled in retirement; but, in the strict rules of monastic life, and under the influence of a grovelling superstition, their virtue lost all its usefulness. They fell implicitly into the snares of crafty priests, who made submission to the Church, not only the condition, but the measure of all praise." Now comes the passage to which I am directing your attention. Observe, he is going on to his proof of what he has asserted. "He is a good Christian, says Eligius, a saint of the seventh century, who comes frequently to church, who presents an oblation that it may be offered to God on the altar; who does not taste the fruits of his land till he has consecrated a part of them to God; who can repeat the Creed or the Lord's Prayer. Redeem your souls from punishment, while it is in your power; offer presents and tithes to churches, light candles in holy places, as much as you can afford, come more frequently to church, implore the protection of the saints; for, if you observe these things, you may come with security {99} at the day of judgment to say, 'Give unto us, O Lord, for we have given unto Thee!'" The author then continues, "With such a definition of the Christian character, it is not surprising that any fraud and injustice became honourable, when it contributed to the riches of the clergy and the glory of their order." [Note 1]

Now, observe first, he quotes St. Eligius, or Eloi, in order to show that Catholics were at that time taught that true Christianity consisted, not in the absence of fraud and injustice, or again, of immorality, hatred, or strife—but in merely coming to church, paying tithes, burning candles, and praying to the saints. But, observe next, he does not quote from St. Eligius' own work, or refer to it on his own authority, but, well-read man as he is, notwithstanding, he is content to rely on the authority of two other writers, and (what many well-read men would have omitted to do) he candidly confesses it. He refers to Dr. Robertson, the Scotch historian, and the celebrated German historian and critic, Mosheim. I do not see, then, that much blame attaches to this writer for publishing what you will see presently is a most slanderous representation, beyond, indeed, his taking for granted the Protestant Tradition, his exercising faith in it as true, his not doubting the fidelity of the two authors in question, and, therefore, in a word, his saying "Mumpsimus" and passing it on.

Next we come to Dr. Robertson, the historian of Scotland, Charles the Fifth, and America, the friend of Hume, Adam Smith, Gibbon, and a host of literati of the latter part of last century. In his history of the reign of the Emperor Charles the Fifth, who lived at {100} the time of the Reformation, after observing that "the Christian religion degenerated, during those ages of darkness, into an illiberal superstition;" that "the barbarous nations, instead of aspiring to sanctity and virtue, imagined that they satisfied every obligation of duty by a scrupulous observance of external ceremonies,"—Dr. Robertson annotates as follows:—"All the religious maxims and practices of the dark ages are a proof of this. I shall produce one remarkable testimony in confirmation of it, from an author canonised by the Church of Rome, St. Eloy, or Eligius." And then he proceeds to quote, nearly in the same words as Mr. Hallam, though omitting some clauses and adding others, a translation from the passage which Mosheim sets down in his history, as if the original text of the saint's. And then he adds the remark of Dr. Maclaine, Mosheim's English translator, whom he is pleased to call "learned and judicious," and whose remark he calls a "very proper reflection." This remark is as follows:—"We see here," says Maclaine, "a large and ample description of the character of a good Christian, in which there is not the least mention of the love of God, resignation to His will, obedience to His laws, or of justice, benevolence, and charity towards men." Here, then, we trace our "Mumpsimus" a step higher, from Hallam, to Robertson, from Robertson to the "learned and judicious" Maclaine.

Robertson and Maclaine were Scotchmen; but the Tradition was not idle the while in the south either. There was a certain learned Mr. White, well known, somewhat later than Robertson, in the University of Oxford. He was Professor of Arabic in that seat of {101} learning, and happened one year to preach a set of lectures, which added most considerably to his reputation. I should not have noticed the circumstances attending them, did they not throw light on the measure of authority due to the divines, scholars, historians, statesmen, lawyers, and polite writers, who are the doctors of the Protestant Tradition. The lectures in question, which are delivered at Oxford yearly, on some theological subject, are in the appointment of the governors of the place; who, feeling the responsibility attached to this exercise of patronage, anxiously look about for the safest, or the most brilliant, or the most rising, or the most distinguished of their members, to whom to commit the guardianship of Protestantism, and the fair fame of the University. Some such person Mr. White was considered; and, on his appointment, he selected for his lectures a subject of great interest—the rise and genius of Mahomet and his religion. Of learning he had enough; eloquence, perhaps, he wanted; yet what must have surprised his audience, when the time came for his exhibition, was the special elegance, splendour, and vivacity, which showed themselves in his style. His periods, far from savouring of the austereness of an oriental linguist, displayed the imagery, the antithesis, the flow and the harmony of a finished rhetorician. The historian Gibbon, no mean judge of composition, goes out of his way, to speak of his lectures as "a volume of controversy" more "elegant and ingenious " than any Mohammedan pulpit was likely to have produced, had Oxford become Mohammedan, instead of Protestant; and is pleased to observe that the writer "sustains the part of a lively and eloquent advocate" while he "sometimes {102} rises to the merit of an historian and a philosopher." Such were the lectures delivered, and such was the reputation in consequence obtained by the Arabic Professor: however, after a time, it came to light that a great portion of the volume, at least many of its finest passages, were the writing of another. Indeed he was obliged to confess that he employed in the work, and actually paid for it, a country curate in Devonshire (who, I think, had once been a dissenting preacher), whom he supplied with the raw material of thought, and who returned it back to him in a dress suitable to the audience to whom it was to be presented. This was the man, who was getting credit for what was not his own, who, in treating of Mahomet, must make a diversion from his course—which never comes amiss in a Protestant volume—in order to bring a charge of incapability and pretence against the Catholic Church; and what should he unluckily choose for the instrument of his attack but the identical passage of St. Eligius, and on that same authority of Mosheim, which we have already seen used by Hallam, Robertson, and Maclaine. Mr. White writes thus:—

"No representation can convey stronger ideas of the melancholy state of religion in the seventh century, than the description of the character of a good Christian, as drawn at that period by St. Eligius, or Eloi, Bishop of Noyon." And then he quotes the extract already cited, from the pages of Mosheim.

And now we are approaching the fountain-head of the Tradition, but first I must just allude to one other author of name, who bears the same testimony to "Mumpsimus," and simply on the same authority. {103} This is an elegant writer, a divine and an Archdeacon of the Established Church, Jortin, who in the year 1773, published "Remarks on Ecclesiastical History." In the table of contents prefixed to the third volume, we are referred to "Eligius' system of Religion:" and turning to the page set against that descriptive title, we are told, "In this seventh century, ... monkery flourished prodigiously, and the monks and Popes were in the firmest union. As to true religion, here is the sum and substance of it, as it is drawn up for us by Eligius, one of the principal saints of that age." And then follows the cut and dried passage as given by Mosheim.

Now, at last, let us proceed to the first father of Mumpsimus, the Lutheran Mosheim himself. His words run thus in his Ecclesiastical History: "During this century (the seventh) true religion lay buried under a senseless mass of superstitions, and was unable to raise her head. The earlier Christians ... taught that Christ had made expiation for the sins of men by His death and His blood; the latter" (those of the seventh century) "seemed to inculcate that the gates of heaven would be closed against none who should enrich the clergy or the Church with their donations. The former were studious to maintain a holy simplicity, and to follow a pure and chaste piety, the latter place the substance of religion in external rites and bodily exercises." And then, in order to illustrate this contrast, which he has drawn out, between the spirituality of the first Christians and the formality of the Papists, he quotes the famous passage which has been the matter of our investigation.

Brothers of the Oratory, take your last look at {104} the Protestant Tradition, ere it melts away into thin air from before your eyes. It carries with it a goodly succession of names, Mosheim, Jortin, Maclaine, Robertson, White, and Hallam. It extends from 1755 to the year 1833. But in this latter year, when it was now seventy-eight years old, it met with an accident, attended with fatal consequences. Some one for the first time, instead of blindly following the traditional statement, thought it worth while first to consult St. Eligius himself. His work is in every good library; but to no one had it occurred to take it down from the shelf, till the present Protestant Dean of Durham, Dr. Waddington, who was engaged in publishing an Ecclesiastical History at the date I have named. At first, indeed, he relied on his Protestant masters; and taking Mosheim for his guide, and quoting St. Eligius from Mosheim's volume, he observes that, as a saint was "a person of influence in his day, we may venture to record what, in his opinion, was the sum and substance of true religion." Then follows the old extract. This is at the 153rd page of Dr. Waddington's work; but, by the time he got to page 298, he had turned to the original, and the truth came out. He found that the received Protestant extract was only a small portion, nay, only sentences picked out here and there, of a very long sermon,—other sentences, of which, close by, and in the very midst of those actually quoted, contained all those very matters, the supposed absence of which was the very charge brought against St. Eligius, by Mosheim, Maclaine, Robertson, Jortin, White, and Hallam. They, forsooth, pure Protestants, had been so shocked and scandalized, that {105} there was nothing of moral virtue in the saint's idea of a Christian, nothing of love of God or of man; nothing of justice, of truth, of knowledge, of honesty; whereas, in matter of fact, there turned out to be an abundance of these good things, drawn out in sentences of their own, though certainly not in the other sentences which those authors had extracted. I will quote what Dr. Waddington says, on his discovery of his mistake:—

He says that "the sense, and even the words" of the passage which he had cited, "had been previously retailed both by Robertson and Jortin, and the original quoted by Mosheim;" but that he had since "been led to look more particularly into the life of Eligius, as it is published in the 'Spicilegium Dacherii?'" Then he continues, "he"—that is himself, the Author—"was pleased to discover many excellent precepts and pious exhortations scattered among the strange matter"—so he speaks as a Protestant—"with which it abounds. But at the same time it was with great sorrow and some shame, that he ascertained the treachery of his historical conductor," that is, Mosheim. "The expressions cited by Mosheim," he continues, "and cited, too, with a direct reference to the 'Spicilegium,'" in which the Sermon is contained, "were forcibly brought together by a very unpardonable mutilation of his authority. They are to be found, indeed, in a Sermon preached by the Bishop, but found in the society of so many good and Christian maxims, that it had been charitable entirely to overlook them, as it was certainly unfair to weed them out and heap them together, without notice of the rich harvest that surrounds them." {106}

He then proceeds to quote some of those exhortations of the Saint to which he alludes, and which Mosheim had omitted. For instance:—"Wherefore, my brethren, love your friends in God, and love your enemies for God, for he who loveth his neighbour hath fulfilled the law ... He is a good Christian who believes not in charms or inventions of the devil, but places the whole of his hope in Christ alone; who receives the stranger with joy, as though he were receiving Christ himself, ... who gives alms to the poor in proportion to his possessions, ... who has no deceitful balances or deceitful measures, ... who both lives chastely himself, and teaches his neighbours and his children to live chastely, and in the fear of God ... Behold, ye have heard, my brethren, what sort of people good Christians are ... to the end that ye be true Christians, always ponder the precepts of Christ in your mind, and also fulfil them in your practice ... Keep peace and charity, recall the contentious to concord, avoid lies, tremble at perjury, bear no false witness, commit no theft, ... observe the Lord's day, ... do as you would be done by, ... visit the infirm, ... seek out those who are in prison." So the holy Bishop proceeds; and then he adds, "If you observe these things, you may appear boldly at God's tribunal in the day of judgment, and say, Give, Lord, as we have given." Scattered about in the midst of these exhortations, are the few sentences, excellent also, in spite of Dr. Waddington, though they are not the whole of Christianity, which the Protestant writers have actually quoted.

Such is the Sermon upon which Dr. Maclaine {107} makes this (as Dr. Robertson thinks) "very proper reflection:" "We see here a large and ample description of the character of a good Christian, in which there is not the least mention of the love of God, resignation to His will, obedience to His laws, or justice, benevolence, or charity towards men." But as Mosheim and his followers have their opinion of St. Eligius, so, in turn, has Dr. Waddington his opinion of Mosheim. "The impression," he says, "which" Mosheim, by "stringing together" certain sentences "without any notice of the context, conveys to his readers, is wholly false; and the calumny thus indirectly cast upon his author is not the less reprehensible, because it falls on one of the obscurest saints in the Roman calendar. If the very essence of history be truth, and if any deliberate violation of that be sinful in the profane annalist, still less can it deserve pardon or mercy in the historian of the Church of Christ."

This, as I have said, took place in 1833: two years later the exposure was repeated, in a brilliant paper inserted by Dr. Maitland in an Ecclesiastical Magazine; the Editor, moreover, drawing the special attention of his readers to his correspondent's remarks [Note 2].

However, after all—after surveying the whole course of the exposure—I could not help expressing to myself my intense misgivings that the efforts of Dr. Waddington and Dr. Maitland to do justice to the saint would be in vain. I knew enough of the Protestant mind, to be aware how little the falsehood of any one of its traditions is an effectual reason for {108} its relinquishing it; and I find too truly that I was not mistaken in my anticipation. Mumpsimus still reigns. In a new edition of Mosheim's history, published in 1841, the editor, a recent successor of Mr. White in the Oxford lectures, reprints those precious legacies, the text of Mosheim, the "very proper reflection" of Maclaine, and the garbled quotation from St. Eligius, for the benefit of the rising generation of divines, without a word of remark, or anything whatever to show that a falsehood had been recklessly uttered, a falsehood blindly perpetuated, a falsehood luminously exposed.


I have given you, my Brothers, a specimen of the Tradition of Literature; now I proceed to the Tradition of Wealth, Respectability, Virtue, and Enlightened Religion; for all these, in a country like ours, are supposed to go together, the Tradition of our merchants, traders, and men of business, and of all who have anything to lose, and are, therefore, conscientiously attached to the Constitution. And I shall select, as the organ of their Tradition, a writer whom they will at once acknowledge to be an unexceptionable representative of their ideas. If there be a periodical of the day which lays claim to knowledge of this globe, and of all that is in it, which is catholic in its range of subjects, its minute curiosity, and its world-wide correspondence, which has dealings with all the religions of the earth, and ought to have the largeness and liberality of view which such manifold intercourse is calculated to create, {109} it is the Times newspaper. No men avow so steady a devotion to the great moral precepts embodied in the Decalogue, as its conductors, or profess so fine a sense of honour and duty, or are so deeply conscious of their own influence on the community, and of the responsibilities which it involves, or are so alive to the truth of the maxim, that, in the general run of things, honesty is the best policy. What noble, manly, disinterested sentiments do they utter! what upright intention, strong sense, and sturdy resolution, are the staple of their compositions! what indignation do they manifest at the sight of vice or baseness! what detestation of trickery! what solemn resolve to uphold the oppressed! what generous sympathy with innocence calumniated! what rising of heart against tyranny! what gravity of reprobation! how, when Catholic and Protestant are in fierce political antagonism, they can mourn over breaches of charity in which they protest the while they had no share! with what lively sensibility and withering scorn do they encounter the accusation, made against them by rivals every half-dozen years, of venality or tergiversation! If anywhere is to be found the sternness of those who are severe because they are pure—who may securely cast stones, for none can cast at them—who, like the Cherub in the poem, are "faithful found among the faithless"—you would say that here at length you had found the incorruptible and infallible, the guides in a bad world, who, amid the illusions of reason and the sophistries of passion, see the path of duty on all questions whatever, with a luminousness, a keenness, and a certainty special to themselves. When, then, I would illustrate the value {110} of the Anti-Catholic Tradition, as existing among the money-making classes of the community, I cannot fix upon a more suitable sample than the statements of these accomplished writers. Accordingly I refer to their columns; and towards the end of a leading article, in the course of the last month or six weeks, I find the following sentence:—"It is the practice, as our readers are aware, in Roman Catholic countries, for the clergy to post up a list of all the crimes to which human frailty can be tempted, placing opposite to them the exact sum of money for which their perpetration will be indulged." [Note 3] And what makes this statement the more emphatic, is the circumstance that, within two or three sentences afterwards,—ever mindful, as I have said, of the Tables of the Law,—the writer takes occasion to refer to the divine prohibition, "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour."

Such is a specimen of the Tradition, marvellous to say, as it exists among the classes who are well-to-do in the world. You see, they are so clear on the point, that, for all their mercantile sense of the value of character, their disgust at false intelligence, their severity with fraud, and their sensitiveness at libel, they have no hesitation in handing down to the next generation this atrocious imputation, that the Catholic Church proclaims that she is commissioned by the Moral Governor of the world to bestow on her children permission to perpetrate any sin whatever, for which they have a fancy, on condition of their paying her a price in money for that perpetration, in proportion to the heinousness of the offence. {111}

Now this accusation is not only so grave in itself, but, miserable to say, is so industriously circulated, that, before using it for the purpose for which I have introduced it, in order to remove all suspicion against us, I am induced to go out of my way to enunciate, as briefly and as clearly as I can, what the Catholic Church really does teach upon the subject [Note 4]. The charge in question then rests on a confusion between the forgiveness of sins and admission to Church communion, two ideas perfectly distinct from each other, both in themselves and in Catholic theology. Every scandalous sin contains in it, as we consider, two separate offences, the offence against God, and the offence against the Church; just as Protestants would allow that murder is at once a sin against God and our neighbour, a sin in the eyes of God, and a crime in the eyes of the law. And, as human society has the arbitrary power of assigning punishments to offences against itself, heavy or light, or of overlooking the offence altogether, or of remitting the penalty when imposed, so has the Church. And as the magistrate often inflicts a fine, under sanction of the law, instead of committing to prison, so does the Church allow of the commutation of her own punishments, which are called censures, into alms to the poor, into offerings for some religious object, or even into the mere paying the expenses of the process, that is, the costs of the suit. And as the connivance or free pardon of the magistrate is no pardon in the sight of Heaven of the adulterer or the burglar, nor is {112} supposed to be such, so neither does the offender receive, nor is he promised, any forgiveness of his sin, either by the Church's taking off the censure (whether in consequence of an almsgiving or otherwise), or by her forbearing, which is the common case, to inflict censure altogether. It is true, the Church has the power of forgiving sins also, which I shall speak of directly; but this is by a different instrument, and by a totally different process, as every Catholic knows.

I repeat, the Catholic who perpetrates any great and public sin offends his Maker, and offends his ecclesiastical Society; the injury against his Maker is punished by an ipso facto separation from His favour; the injury against his Society, when it is visited at all, is visited by excommunication or other spiritual infliction. The successor of St. Peter has the power committed to him of pardoning both offences, the offence against God and the offence against the Church; he is the ultimate source of all jurisdiction whether external or internal, but he commonly restores such a sinner to the visible society of Christians, by an act of his own or of the metropolitan or ordinary, and he reconciles him to God by the agency of the priesthood. Repentance is required on the part of the offender for both restorations; but the sin is forgiven, and its punishment remitted only in one of them,—viz., in the Sacrament of Penance; and in this Sacrament, in which is the only real pardon, no money is, or ever can be paid. The Sacrament cannot be bought; such an act would be a horrible crime; you know this, my Brothers, as I know it myself; we witness to each other that such {113} is the received teaching among us. It is utterly false then to assert that it has ever been held in the Catholic Church that "the perpetration of crime could be indulged" for any sum of money. Neither for sins committed, nor sins to come, has money ever been taken as an equivalent, for one no more than for the other. On the other hand, it is quite true that the injury done to the Church, when it happens to have been visited with a censure (which is not a common case), has certainly sometimes been compensated by the performance of some good work and in the number of such works, almsdeeds and religious offerings are included. I repeat, the Church as little dreams of forgiving the sinner by removing the censure and readmitting him to public communion, as the magistrate by letting a culprit out of prison.

And in matter of fact, the two acts, the external reconciliation and the inward absolution, are not necessarily connected together. The Church is composed of bad as well as good, according to the Parable, which prophesied that the net should gather of every kind; a man then may be readmitted to visible fellowship on a general profession of repentance, yet when he proceeds to the Sacrament of Penance, may be unable to satisfy the priest that his repentance is sincere, and thus may fail of absolution. Then he would be in a case, alas! so commonly found in the Church, and ever to be found—viz., allowed to attend mass, to hear sermons, to take part in rites, offices, and processions, and regarded as a Christian, yet debarred from the use of the Sacraments, deprived of Penance and of Holy Eucharist, getting no benefit from Indulgences, {114} meriting nothing for his salvation, but on the contrary being separate from his God, and lying under His wrath, and a dead branch, though he has offered his alms, and is visibly connected with the trunk. On the other hand, it is quite conceivable in idea, that the spiritual reconciliation, that is, the forgiveness of sin, might be bestowed without the external or ecclesiastical restoration. Something like this took place, I think, in the case of the Emperor Napoleon, who up to the time of his death, lay under the censures of the Church, and was excommunicate, yet in his last days expressed a desire to be reconciled to God. To the ecclesiastical society whom he had offended, he was not publicly reconciled; but it is never too late to be saved; he confessed, he received the priest's reconciliation to the Church and to God; and if his repentance was true, he departed with an absolute certainty of Heaven, though he had not received that pontifical restoration to the visible body to which offerings and alms have sometimes been attached [Note 5].

However, in spite of the clear and broad distinction I have been laying down, it is the Tradition of Protestantism, immutable and precise, as expressed in the words of its eminent Teacher and Doctor I have quoted, that the Catholic Church professes to forgive sins past and to come, on the payment of a price. So it has come down to us, so it will flow on; and the mighty flood of falsehood is continually fed and {115} kept to the full by fresh and fresh testimonies, separate and independent, till scepticism is overcome and opposition is hopeless. And now I am going to give you an account of one of these original authorities, as they are considered, who has lately presented himself to the world in the person of a zealous Protestant clergyman, who once visited Belgium, and on occasion of the late outcry about "Popish Aggression" was moved to give his brethren the benefit of his ocular testimony in behalf of one of the most flagrant abuses and abominations of "that corrupt Church."

His account, given at a public meeting, was to the following effect:—That in the year 1835, when on a visit to Brussels, he was led to inspect the door of the Cathedral, St. Gudule's; and that there he saw fastened up a catalogue of sins, with a specification of the prices of which remission of each might severally be obtained. No circumstance, it would appear, called for his giving this information to the world for the long space of sixteen years; and it is a pity, for the Protestant cause, that another sixteen did not pass before circumstances suggested his doing so. Why did he not consign it to some safe volume of controversy, weighty enough for England, too heavy for the Channel, instead of committing it to the wings of the wind and the mercy of reporters? Then tranquilly and leisurely would the solemn tale have ventured out upon platforms and into pulpits, when contemporaries were gone, and would have taken its place beside my own Don Felix of Andalusia and similar worthies of Exeter Hall. But the fates willed otherwise; the accessory was to join the main stream at once, and to its surprise to be tumbled violently {116} into its bed. The noise drew attention; curiosity was excited; the windings of the infant rill were prematurely tracked to its source; so we can now put our finger on the first welling of its waters, and we can ascertain the composition of a Protestant tradition.

On the news of this portentous statement getting to Brussels, it excited a commotion which it could not rouse among the Catholics of England. We are familiarised to calumny, and have learned resignation; the good Belgians were surprised and indignant at what they had thought no sane man would have ventured to advance. Forthwith a declaration was put forth by the persons especially interested in the Cathedral, categorically denying the charge. It is signed by the Dean of Brussels, who is also curé of the Cathedral, by his four assistant clergymen, by the churchwardens, by the judge of the high court of justice, and two other judges, and by others. They observe that they had privately asked the accuser to withdraw his statement, and on his refusal they made the following terse Declaration:—

"The undersigned look upon it as a duty to come forward and protest against the allegations of the" clergyman in question. "They declare, upon their honour, that such a notice as the one spoken of by the said clergyman has never disgraced the entrance, either of the church of St. Gudule, or of any other church of Brussels, or of the whole country. They further declare, that they have never even suspected for one instant that permission to sin could, for any possible motive, be granted, nor that any one could ever obtain remission of his sins for money. Such a {117} doctrine they repudiate with indignation, as it is, and always has been, repudiated by the whole of the Catholic Church." This declaration is dated, "Brussels, April 2, 1851."

One thing alone was wanting to complete refutation of the slander; and that was, to account how its author was betrayed into so extraordinary a misrepresentation. No one will accuse a respectable person of wilful and deliberate falsehood; did his eyes or his memory deceive him? or did he really see something on the door, which he wrongly translated and interpreted by his prejudices? That the latter is the true explanation of the phenomenon, is probable from a piece of information with which a Brussels journal supplies us. I dare say you know that in cathedrals and large churches abroad chairs are used for worship instead of benches; and they are generally farmed by the beadles or others attached to the church, who let them out to all comers at the price of a small copper coin every time they are used. Now, it so happens that on the right-hand door of the transept of this church of St. Gudule there really is affixed a black board, on which there is a catalogue in the French language of the price to be paid, not for sins, but for the use of these chairs. The inscription translated runs as follows:—"A chair without cushion, one cent (about a farthing); a chair with cushions, two cents. On great festival days; a chair without cushion, two cents; a chair with cushion, four cents." This board, it may be supposed, our anti-Catholic witness mistook for that abominable sin-table, the description of which so deservedly shocked the zealous Protestants of Faversham. {118}

Such is the ultimate resolution, as detected in a particular instance, of that uniform and incontestable Protestant Tradition, that we sell sin for money. The exposure happened in March and April; but Protestantism is infallible, and the judgment of its doctors irreversible; accordingly, in the following June, the newspaper I have mentioned thought it necessary to show that the Tradition was not injured by the blow; so out came the Tradition again, "though brayed in a mortar," not at all the worse for the accident, in that emphatic statement which I quoted when I opened the subject, and which I now quote again that I am closing it. "It is the practice," the writer pronounces ex cathedrâ, "as our readers are aware, in Roman Catholic countries to post up a list of all the crimes to which human frailty can be tempted, placing opposite to them the exact sum of money for which their perpetration will be indulged."

Two of my instances are despatched, and now I come to my third. There is something so tiresome in passing abruptly from one subject to another, that I need your indulgence, my Brothers, in making this third beginning; yet it has been difficult to avoid it, when my very object is to show what extensive subject-matters and what different classes of the community are acted on by the Protestant Tradition. Now I am proceeding to the Legislature of the Nation, and will give an instance of its operation in a respectable political party.

In this case, its fountain springs up, as it were, under our very feet, and we shall have no difficulty at all in judging of its quality. Its history is as follows:— {119}

Coaches, omnibuses, carriages, and cars, day after day drive up and down the Hagley Road; passengers lounge to and fro on the foot-path; and close alongside of it are discovered one day the nascent foundations and rudiments of a considerable building. On inquiring, it is found to be intended for a Catholic, nay, even for a monastic establishment. This leads to a good deal of talk, especially when the bricks begin to show above the surface. Meantime the unsuspecting architect is taking his measurements, and ascertains that the ground is far from lying level; and then, since there is a prejudice among Catholics in favour of horizontal floors, he comes to the conclusion that the bricks of the basement must rise above the surface higher at one end of the building than at the other; in fact, that whether he will or no, there must be some construction of the nature of a vault or cellar at the extremity in question, a circumstance not at all inconvenient, considering it also happens to be the kitchen end of the building. Accordingly, he turns his necessity into a gain, and by the excavation of a few feet of earth, he forms a number of chambers convenient for various purposes, partly beneath, partly above the line of the ground. While he is thus intent on his work, loungers, gossipers, alarmists are busy at theirs too. They go round the building, they peep into the underground brickwork, and are curious about the drains [Note 6]; they moralise {120} about Popery and its spread; at length they trespass upon the enclosure, they dive into the half-finished shell, and they take their fill of seeing what is to be seen, and imagining what is not. Every house is built on an idea; you do not build a mansion like a public office, or a palace like a prison, or a factory like a shooting box, or a church like a barn. Religious houses, in like manner, have their own idea; they have certain indispensable peculiarities of form and internal arrangement. Doubtless, there was much in the very idea of an Oratory perplexing to the Protestant intellect, and inconsistent with Protestant notions of comfort and utility. Why should so large a room be here? why so small a room there? why a passage so long and wide? and why so long a wall without a window? the very size of the house needs explanation. Judgments which had employed themselves on the high subject of a Catholic hierarchy and its need, found no difficulty in dogmatising on bedrooms and closets. There was much to suggest matter of suspicion, and to predispose the trespasser to doubt whether he had yet got to the bottom of the subject. At length one question flashed upon his {121} mind: what can such a house have to do with cellars? cellars and monks, what can be their mutual relation? monks—to what possible use can they put pits, and holes, and corners, and outhouses, and sheds? A sensation was created; it brought other visitors; it spread; it became an impression, a belief; the truth lay bare; a tradition was born; a fact was elicited which henceforth had many witnesses. Those cellars were cells. How obvious when once stated! and every one who entered the building, every one who passed by, became, I say, in some sort, ocular vouchers for what had often been read of in books, but for many generations had happily been unknown to England, for the incarcerations, the torturings, the starvings, the immurings, the murderings proper to a monastic establishment.

Now I am tempted to stop for a while in order to improve (as the evangelical pulpits call it) this most memorable discovery. I will therefore briefly consider it under the heads of—1. THE ACCUSATION; 2. ITS GROUNDS; 3. THE ACCUSERS; and, 4. THE ACCUSED.

First—THE ACCUSATION.—It is this,—that the Catholics, building the house in question, were in the practice of committing murder. This was so strictly the charge, that, had the platform selected for making it been other than we know it to have been, I suppose the speaker might have been indicted for libel. His words were these:—"It was not usual for a coroner to hold an inquest unless where a rumour had got abroad that there was a necessity for one; and how was a rumour to come from the underground cells of the convents? Yes, he repeated, underground cells: and he would tell them something about such places. {122} At this moment, in the parish of Edgbaston, within the borough of Birmingham, there was a large convent, of some kind or other, being erected, and the whole of the underground was fitted up with cells; and what were those cells for?"

Secondly.—THE GROUNDS OF THE ACCUSATION.—they are simple; behold them: 1. That the house is built level; 2. and that the plot of earth on which it is built is higher at one end than at the other.

Thirdly.—THE ACCUSERS.—This, too, throws light upon the character of Protestant traditions. Not weak and ignorant people only, not people at a distance—but educated men, gentlemen well connected, high in position, men of business, men of character, members of the legislature, men familiar with the locality, men who know the accused by name,—such are the men who deliberately, reiteratedly, in spite of being set right, charge certain persons with pitiless, savage practices; with beating and imprisoning, with starving, with murdering their dependents.

Fourthly.—THE ACCUSED.—I feel ashamed, my Brothers, of bringing my own matters before you, when far better persons have suffered worse imputations; but bear with me. I then am the accused. A gentleman of blameless character, a county member, with whose near relatives I have been on terms of almost fraternal intimacy for a quarter of a century, who knows me by repute far more familiarly (I suppose) than anyone in this room knows me, putting aside my personal friends; he it is who charges me, and others like me, with delighting in blood, with enjoying the shrieks and groans of agony and despair, with presiding at a banquet of dislocated limbs, {123} quivering muscles, and wild countenances. Oh, what a world is this! Could he look into our eyes and say it? Would he have the heart to say it, if he recollected of whom he said it? For who are we? Have we lived in a corner? have we come to light suddenly out of the earth? We have been nourished, for the greater part of our lives, in the bosom of the great schools and universities of Protestant England: we have been the foster sons of the Edwards and Henries, the Wykehams and Wolseys, of whom Englishmen are wont to make much; we have grown up amid hundreds of contemporaries, scattered at present all over the country, in those special ranks of society which are the very walk of a member of the legislature. Our names are better known to the educated classes of the country than those of any others who are not public men. Moreover, if there be men in the whole world who may be said to live in publico, it is the members of a College at one of our Universities; living, not in private houses, not in families, but in one or two apartments which are open to all the world, at all hours, with nothing, I may say, their own; with college servants, a common table,—nay, their chairs and their bedding, and their cups and saucers, down to their coal-scuttle and their carpet brooms,—a sort of common property, and the right of their neighbours. Such is that manner of life,—in which nothing, I may say, can be hid; where no trait of character or peculiarity of conduct but comes to broad day—such is the life I myself led for above a quarter of a century, under the eyes of numbers who are familiarly known to my accusers; such is almost the life which we all have led ever since we have been {124} in Birmingham, with our house open to all comers, and ourselves accessible, I may almost say at any hour; and this being so, considering the charge, and the evidence, and the accuser, and the accused, could we Catholics desire a more apposite illustration of the formation and the value of a Protestant Tradition?

I set it down for the benefit of time to come; "though for no other cause," as a great author says, "yet for this: that posterity may know we have not loosely, through silence, permitted things to pass away as in a dream, there shall be for men's information extant thus much." One commonly forgets such things, from the trouble and inconvenience of having to remember them; let one specimen last, of many which have been suffered to perish, of the birth of an anti-Catholic tradition. The nascent fable has indeed failed, as the tale about the Belgian sin-table has failed, but it might have thriven: it has been lost by bad nursing; it ought to have been cherished awhile in those underground receptacles where first it drew breath, till it could comfortably bear the light; till its limbs were grown, and its voice was strong, and we on whom it bore had run our course, and gone to our account; and then it might have raised its head without fear and without reproach, and might have magisterially asserted what there was none to deny. But men are all the creatures of circumstances; they are hurried on to a ruin which they may see, but cannot evade: so has it been with the Edgbaston Tradition. It was spoken on the house-tops when it should have been whispered in closets, and it expired in the effort. Yet it might have been allotted, let us never forget, a happier destiny. It might have smouldered {125} and spread through a portion of our Birmingham population; it might have rested obscurely on their memories, and now and then risen upon their tongues; there might have been flitting notions, misgivings, rumours, voices, that the horrors of the Inquisition were from time to time renewed in our subterranean chambers; and fifty years hence, if some sudden frenzy of the hour roused the Anti-Catholic jealousy still lingering in the town, a mob might have swarmed about our innocent dwelling, to rescue certain legs of mutton and pats of butter from imprisonment, and to hold an inquest over a dozen packing-cases, some old hampers, a knife-board, and a range of empty blacking bottles.

Thus I close my third instance of the sort of evidence commonly adducible for the great Protestant Tradition; not the least significant circumstance about them all being this, that though in the case of all three that evidence is utterly disproved, yet in not one of the three is the charge founded on it withdrawn. In spite of Dr. Waddington, Dr. Maitland, and Mr. Rose, the editors of Mosheim still print and publish his slander on St. Eligius; in defiance of the Brussels protest, and the chair tariff of St. Gudule, the Kent clergyman and the Times still bravely maintain our traffic in sins; in violence to the common sense of mankind, the rack and the pulley are still affirmed to be busy in the dungeons of Edgbaston;—for Protestantism must be maintained as the Religion of Englishmen, and part and parcel of the Law of the land.

And now, in conclusion, I will but state my conviction, {126} which I am sure to have confirmed by every intelligent person who takes the trouble to examine the subject, that such slanders as I have instanced are the real foundation on which the anti-Catholic feeling mainly rests in England, and without which it could not long be maintained. Doubtless there are arguments of a different calibre, whatever their worth, which weigh against Catholics with half-a-dozen members of a University, with the speculative Church-restorer, with the dilettante divine, with the fastidious scholar, and with some others of a higher character of mind; whether St. Justin Martyr said this or that; whether images should be dressed in muslin, or hewn out of stone; what is the result of criticism on passages in the prophets;—questions such as these, and others of a more serious cast, may be conclusive for or against the Church in the study or in the lecture-room, but they have no influence with the many. As to those charges which do weigh with the people at large, the more they can be examined, the more, I am convinced, will they be found to be untrue. It is by wholesale, retail, systematic, unscrupulous lying, for I can use no gentler term, that the many rivulets are made to flow for the feeding the great Protestant Tradition,—the Tradition of the Court, the Tradition of the Law, the Tradition of the Legislature, the Tradition of the Establishment, the Tradition of Literature, the Tradition of Domestic Circles, the Tradition of the Populace.

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1. Hallam's Middle Ages, vol. iii. p. 353.
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2. I do not add Dr. Lingard, as being a Catholic authority.
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3. June, 1851.
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4. The subject of indulgences does not enter into the charge as contained in the extract from the Times; but I purpose to add a word about it before the end of the Volume.
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5. I think I recollect an absolutio post mortem, when La Belle Poule was sent out for his remains. I do not forget the passage in the Council, Pie admodum, ne hac ipsâ occasione quis pereat, &c. Sess. 14, de Pœn. c. 7, Vide Ferrari's Biblioth. v. Absol. art. i. 55-57.
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6. It is undeniable, though the gentleman who has brought the matter before the public has accidentally omitted to mention it, that the Protestant feeling has also been excited by the breadth of the drain, which is considered excessive, and moreover crosses the road. There exists some nervousness on the subject in the neighbourhood, as I have been seriously given to understand. There is a remarkable passage, too, in the scientific report, which our accuser brings forward, and which has never been answered or perhaps construed: "One of the compartments was larger than the rest, and was evidently to be covered in without the building over it." This is not the first time a dwelling of mine has been the object of a mysterious interest. When our cottages at Littlemore were in course of preparation, they were visited on horseback and on foot by many of the most distinguished residents of the University of Oxford. Heads of houses and canons did not scruple to investigate the building within and without, and some of them went so far as to inspect and theorise upon the most retired portions of the premises. Perhaps some thirty years hence, in some "History of my own Times," speculations may be found on the subject, in aid of the Protestant Tradition.
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Newman Reader — Works of John Henry Newman
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