Lecture 9. Duties of Catholics Towards the Protestant View

Review of Previous Lectures
    Object is Self-Defence
    Survey of Foes' Position
Foes' Strength and Catholics' Duties
    Ignorance Their Strength
    Make Yourselves Known
    Enemy Has Done Its Worst
    Centres of Influence
    Cultivate Local Opinion
    Your Source of Strength
    Desires for Laity
    Cultivation of Mind
Parting Desire, Prayer


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{363} [Note 1] IN this concluding Lecture, my Brothers of the Oratory, I shall attempt, in as few words as possible, to sum up what I have been showing in those which preceded it, and to set before you what I have proposed to myself in the investigation.

You know, then, that at this time we are all in considerable anxiety, and some risk, as regards the future prospects of Catholicism in England. Open threats in the most influential quarters are put forward, as if we might even lose the rights of British subjects, and be deprived of the free exercise of our religion. There has been an attempt to put our convents, in the eye of the law, on a level with madhouses; and one of the Anglican Prelates in Parliament has constituted himself judge whether the dimensions of our churches were sufficient or too large for the "accommodation," to use the Protestant word, of our people. A bill, too, has been passed, about which all of us know enough, without my having the trouble to give it any designation.

The duty of the Catholic Church is to preach to the {364} world; and her promise and prerogative is success in preaching; but this is a subject which has not come into the scope of our discussions in this place. What I have been saying has no direct reference to any such end. I have not urged it on you, as I well might, in the case of those who, like you, love their religion so well that they wish others to enjoy the benefit of it with them. What I have said, however, does not presuppose this; it has not sprung out of any duty that we have of extending the limits of the Catholic pale; it would not have been superseded, if we had no such duty. I have not been aiming at the conversion of any persons, who are not Catholics, who have heard me: I have not been defending Catholic, or attacking Protestant doctrines, except indirectly and incidentally. The condition or hypothesis with which I have been entering into the discussion has been the present anti-Catholic agitation; and my object has been that of self-defence with reference to it. In the present state of things Catholics must, from the mere instinct of self-preservation, look about them; they are assailed by a very formidable party, or power, as I should rather call it, in this country, by its Protestantism. In the Protestantism of the country I do not include, of course, all who are not Catholics. By Protestants I mean the heirs of the Traditions of Elizabeth; I mean the country gentlemen, the Whig political party, the Church Establishment, and the Wesleyan Conference. I cannot over-estimate their power: they and their principles are established: yet I should be unjust, on the other hand, to all classes in the community if I made this Elizabethan Protestantism synonymous with the mind and the philosophy of the whole country. However, it is a {365} tremendous power, and we are menaced by it; this is the condition of things; what must we do? put ourselves on the defensive; this, then, has been my scope. I have not been aggressive, but on the defensive; and what is the first step of those who are getting ready for their defence against a foe? to reconnoitre him. It is simply this that I have been engaged upon in these Lectures.

This, I say, has been my object, a reconnoitring or survey of a strong and furious enemy, undertaken with a view to self-defence. And I report as follows:—


I find he is in a very strong position, but that he takes a very incorrect view of us, and that this is his strength and our danger. Different from the case of actual warfare, in which ignorance is weakness, here ignorance is power; and in truth he does know as little about us as well can be conceived. He has got old pictures and old maps made years and years ago, which have come down to him from his fathers; and instead of deigning to look at us, and learn anything about us, he adheres to them as if it were a point of faith to do so. This was the subject of my first Lecture; I showed that the English Elizabethan Protestant had a view of our monks, Jesuits, and Church, quite his own, unlike that of his more learned brethren abroad: and moreover, that he was apparently ignorant of the existence of any view besides it, or that it was possible for any sane man to doubt it, or any honest man to deny it. Next came the cause of this phenomenon, and it was this—Protestantism is established in the widest sense of the word; its doctrine, religious, political, ecclesiastical, moral, is {366} placed in exclusive possession of all the high places of the land. It is forced upon all persons in station and office, or almost all, under sanction of an oath; it is endowed with the amplest estates, and with revenues supplied by Government and by chartered and other bodies. It has innumerable fine churches, planted up and down in every town, and village, and hamlet in the land. In consequence, everyone speaks Protestantism, even those who do not in their hearts love it; it is the current coin of the realm. As English is the natural tongue, so Protestantism is the intellectual and moral language of the body politic. The Queen ex officio speaks Protestantism; so does the court, so do her ministers. All but a small portion of the two Houses of Parliament; and those who do not are forced to apologize for not speaking it, and to speak as much of it as they conscientiously can. The Law speaks Protestantism, and the Lawyers; and the State Bishops and clergy of course. All the great authors of the nation, the multitudinous literature of the day, the public press, speak Protestantism. Protestantism the Universities; Protestantism the schools, high, and low, and middle. Thus there is an incessant, unwearied circulation of Protestantism all over the whole country, for 365 days in the year from morning till night; and this, for nearly three centuries, has been almost one of the functions of national life. As the pulse, the lungs, the absorbents, the nerves, the pores of the animal body, are ever at their work, as that motion is its life, so in the political structure of the country there is an action of the life of Protestantism, constant and regular. It is a vocal life; and in this consists its perpetuation, its reproduction. What it utters, it teaches, it propagates {367} by uttering; it is ever impressing itself, diffusing itself all around; it is ever transmitting itself to the rising generation; it is ever keeping itself fresh, and young, and vigorous, by the process of a restless agitation. This, then, is the elementary cause of the view which Englishmen are accustomed to take of Catholicism and its professors. They survey us in the light of their Tradition; and this was the subject of my second Lecture.

Well, but you will ask, Have Catholics nothing to say for themselves? yes, a great deal, but we have no opportunity of saying it. The public will not recognize us; it interrupts and puts us down. Men close their ears and throw up dust in the air when we begin to speak: they close their eyes when we come forward, and begin pelting us at random. Far less will they come near us, and ask us questions, and listen to our answers. This was the subject of my foregoing or eighth Lecture, in which I had not time to say nearly as much as I had intended. I could have shown you, how first, Protestants got rid of Catholicism from the kingdom as a worship; how next the Catholics who remained they put under crushing laws; how every priest who said mass or exercised any function on English ground was liable to perpetual imprisonment, and any foreign priest, who was subject to the crown of England, coming into England, was guilty of high treason, and all who harboured him, of felony. I could have told you how that converting or being converted to Catholicism was high treason; how no Catholic was allowed to inherit or purchase land; no Catholic could hear mass without fine and imprisonment; no Catholic might keep school under pain of imprisonment {368} for life; nor might, in default of schools at home, send a child abroad for education, without forfeiting all his estates, goods, and chattels, and incurring a civil outlawry; moreover, how, if a Catholic did not attend the established worship, he was not allowed to come within ten miles of London, nor could travel five miles from home, or bring any action at law; and how he might not be married or buried, or have his children baptized, by any but ministers of the Established Church. I am not quoting these laws with a view to expose their wholesale cruelty and tyranny, though I might well do so; but in order to show you how impossible it was for Catholics to defend themselves, when they were denied even to speak. You see, the Protestant Tradition had it all its own way; Elizabeth, and her great men, and her preachers, killed and drove away all the Catholics they could; knocked down the remainder, and then at their leisure proved unanswerably and triumphantly the absurdity of Popery, and the heavenly beauty and perfection of Protestantism. Never did we undergo so utter and complete a refutation; we had not one word to utter in our defence. When she had thus beaten the breath out of us, and made us simply ridiculous, she put us on our feet again, thrust us into a chair, hoisted us up aloft, and carried us about as a sort of Guy Faux, to show to all the boys and riff-raff of the towns what a Papist was like. Then, as if this were not enough, lest anyone should come and ask us anything about our religion, she and her preachers put it about that we had the plague, so that, for fear of a moral infection, scarce a soul had the courage to look at us, or breathe the same air with us.

This was a fair beginning for the Protestantizing {369} of the people, and everything else that was needed followed in due time, as a matter of course. Protestantism being taught everywhere, Protestant principles were taught with it, which are necessarily the very reverse of Catholic principles. The consequence was plain—viz., that even before the people heard a Catholic open his mouth, they were forearmed against what he would say, for they had been taught this or that as if a precious truth, belief in which was ipso facto the disbelief and condemnation of some Catholic doctrine or other. When a person goes to a fever ward, he takes some essence with him to prevent his catching the disorder; and of this kind are the anti-Catholic principles in which Protestants are instructed from the cradle. For instance, they are taught to get by heart without any sort of proof, as a kind of alphabet or spelling lesson, such propositions as these:—"miracles have ceased long ago;" "all truth is in the Bible;" "any one can understand the Bible;" "all penance is absurd;" "a priesthood is pagan, not Christian," and a multitude of others. These are universally taught and accepted, as if equally true and equally important, just as are the principles "it is wrong to murder or thieve," or "there is a judgment to come." When then a person sets out in life with these maxims as a sort of stock in trade in all religious speculations, and encounters Catholics, whose opinions hitherto he had known nothing at all about, you see he has been made quite proof against them, and unsusceptible of their doctrines, their worship, and their reasoning, by the preparation to which he has been subjected. He feels an instinctive repugnance to everything Catholic, by reason of these arbitrary principles, which he has been {370} taught to hold, and which he thinks identical with reason. "What? you have priests in your religion," he says; "but do you not know, are you so behind the world as not to know, that priests are pagan, not Christian?" And sometimes he thinks that, directly he has uttered some such great maxim, the Catholic will turn Protestant at once, or, at least, ought to do so, and if he does not, is either dull or hypocritical. And so again, "You hold saints are to be invoked, but the practice is not in the Bible, and nothing is true that is not there." And again, "They say that in Ireland and elsewhere the priests impose heavy penances; but this is against common sense, for all penances are absurd." Thus the Protestant takes the whole question for granted on starting;—and this was the subject of my seventh Lecture.

This fault of mind I called Assumption or Theorizing; and another quite as great, and far more odious, is Prejudice; and this came into discussion in the sixth Lecture. The perpetual talk against Catholicism, which goes on everywhere, in the higher classes, in literary circles, in the public press, and in the Protestant Church and its various dependencies, makes an impression, or fixes a stain, which it is continually deepening, on the minds which are exposed to its influence; and thus, quite independent of any distinct reasons and facts for thinking so, the multitude of men are quite certain that something very horrible is going on among Catholics. They are convinced that we are all but fiends, so that there is no doubt at all, even before going into the matter, that all that is said against us is true, and all that is said for us is false.

These, then, are the two special daughters, as they {371} may be called, of the Protestant Tradition, Theory or Assumption on the one hand, and Prejudice on the other,—Theory which scorns us, and Prejudice which hates us; yet, though coming of one stock, they are very different in their constitution, for Theory is of so ethereal a nature, that it needs nothing to feed upon; it lives on its own thoughts, and in a world of its own, whereas Prejudice is ever craving for food, victuals are in constant request for its consumption every day; and accordingly they are served up in unceasing succession, Titus Oates, Maria Monk, and Jeffreys, being the purveyors, and platform and pulpit speakers being the cooks. And this formed the subject of the third, fourth, and fifth Lectures.

Such, then, is Popular Protestantism, considered in its opposition to Catholics. Its truth is Establishment by law; its philosophy is Theory; its faith is Prejudice; its facts are Fictions; its reasonings Fallacies; and its security is Ignorance about those whom it is opposing. The Law says that white is black; Ignorance says, why not? Theory says it ought to be, Fallacy says it must be, Fiction says it is, and Prejudice says it shall be.


And now, what are our duties at this moment towards this enemy of ours? How are we to bear ourselves towards it? what are we to do with it? what is to come of the survey we have taken of it? with what practical remark and seasonable advice am I to conclude this attempt to determine our relation to it? The lesson we gain is obvious and simple, but as difficult, you will say, as it is simple; for the means {372} and the end are almost identical, and in executing the one we have already reached the other. Protestantism is fierce, because it does not know you; ignorance is its strength; error is its life. Therefore bring yourselves before it, press yourselves upon it, force yourselves into notice against its will. Oblige men to know you; persuade them, importune them, shame them into knowing you. Make it so clear what you are, that they cannot affect not to see you, nor refuse to justify you. Do not even let them off with silence, but give them no escape from confessing that you are not what they have thought you were. They will look down, they will look aside, they will look in the air, they will shut their eyes, they will keep them shut. They will do all in their power not to see you; the nearer you come, they will close their eyelids all the tighter; they will be very angry and frightened, and give the alarm as if you were going to murder them. They will do anything but look at you. They are, many of them, half conscious they have been wrong, but fear the consequences of becoming sure of it; they will think it best to let things alone, and to persist in injustice for good and all, since they have been for so long a time committed to it; they will be too proud to confess themselves mistaken; they prefer a safe cruelty to an inconvenient candour. I know it is a most grave problem how to touch so intense an obstinacy, but, observe, if you once touch it, you have done your work. There is but one step between you and success. It is a steep step, but it is one. It is a great thing to know your aim, to be saved from wasting your energies in wrong quarters, to be able to concentrate them on a point. You have but to aim at making men look steadily at you; {373} when they do this, I do not say they will become Catholics, but they will cease to have the means of making you a by-word and a reproach, of inflicting on you the cross of unpopularity. Wherever Catholicism is known, it is respected, or at least endured, by the people. Politicians and philosophers, and the established clergy, would be against you, but not the people, if it knew you. A religion which comes from God approves itself to the conscience of the people, wherever it is really known.

I am not advocating, as you will see presently, anything rude in your bearing, or turbulent, or offensive; but first I would impress upon you the end you have to aim at. Your one and almost sole object, I say, must be, to make yourselves known. This is what will do everything for you: it is what your enemies will try by might and main to hinder. They begin to have a suspicion that Catholicism, known to be what it really is, will be their overthrow. They have hitherto cherished a most monstrous idea about you. They have thought, not only that you were the vilest and basest of men, but that you were fully conscious of it yourselves, and conscious, too, that they knew it. They have fancied that you, or at least your priests, indulged in the lowest sensuality, and practised the most impudent hypocrisy, and were parties to the most stupid and brutish of frauds; and that they dared not look a Protestant in the face. Accordingly, they have considered, and have thought us quite aware ourselves, that we were in the country only on sufferance; that we were like reputed thieves and other bad characters, who, for one reason or another, are not molested in their dens of wickedness, and enjoy a contemptuous toleration, {374} if they keep within bounds. And so, in like manner, they have thought that there was evidence enough at any moment to convict us, if they were provoked to it. What would be their astonishment, if one of the infamous persons I have supposed stood upon his rights, or obtruded himself into the haunts of fashion and good breeding? Fancy, then, how great has been their indignation, that we Catholics should pretend to be Britons; should affect to be their equals; should dare to preach, nay, to controvert; should actually make converts, nay, worse and worse, not only should point out their mistakes, but, prodigious insolence! should absolutely laugh at the absurdity of their assertions, and the imbecility of their arguments. They are at first unable to believe their ears, when they are made sensible that we, who know so well our own worthlessness, and know that they know it, who deserve at the least the hulks or transportation, talk as loudly as we do, refuse to be still, and say that the more we are known, the more we shall be esteemed. We, who ought to go sneaking about, to crouch at their feet, and to keep our eyes on the ground, from the consciousness of their hold upon us,—is it madness, is it plot, what is it, which inspires us with such unutterable presumption? They have the might and the right on their side. They could confiscate our property, they could pack us all out of the kingdom, they could bombard Rome, they could fire St. Peter's, they could batter down the Coliseum, they could abolish the Papacy, if they pleased. Passion succeeds, and then a sort of fear, such as a brutal master might feel, who breaks into fury at the first signs of spirit in the apprentice he has long ill-treated, and then quails before him as he gets older. {375} And then how white becomes their wrath, when men of their own rank, men of intelligence, men of good connexions, their relations or their friends, leave them to join the despised and dishonoured company! And when, as time goes on, more and more such instances occur, and others are unsettled, and the old landmarks are removed, and all is in confusion, and new questions and parties appear in the distance, and a new world is coming in,—when what they in their ignorance thought to be nothing turns out to be something, they know not what, and the theodolite of Laputa has utterly failed, they quake with apprehension at so mysterious a visitation, and they are mad with themselves for having ever qualified their habitual contempt with some haughty generosity towards us. A proud jealousy, a wild hate, and a perplexed dismay, almost choke them with emotion.

All this because they have not taken the trouble to know us as we are in fact:—however, you would think that they had at last gained an opening for information, when those whom they have known become the witnesses of what we are. Never so little; the friends who have left them are an embarrassment to them, not an illumination; an embarrassment, because they do but interfere with their received rule and practice of dealing with us. It is an easy thing to slander those who come of the old Catholic stock, because such persons are unknown to the world. They have lived all their days in tranquil fidelity to the creed of their forefathers, in their secluded estate, or their obscure mission, or their happy convent; they have cultivated no relations with the affairs or the interests of the day, and have never entered into the public throng of men {376} to gain a character. They are known, in their simplicity and innocence and purity of heart, and in their conscientiousness of life, to their God, to their neighbour and to themselves, not to the world at large. If any one would defame them, he may do it with impunity; their name is not known till it is slandered, and they have no antecedents to serve as a matter for an appeal. Here, then, is the fit work for those prudent slanderers, who would secure themselves from exposure, while they deal a blow in defence of the old Protestant Tradition. Were a recent convert, whose name is before the world, accused of some definite act of tyranny or baseness, he knows how to write and act in his defence, and he has a known reputation to protect him; therefore, ye Protestant champions, if there be an urgent need at the moment for some instance of Catholic duplicity or meanness, be sure to shoot your game sitting; keep yourselves under cover, choose some one who can be struck without striking, whom it is easy to overbear, with whom it is safe to play the bully. Let it be a prelate of advanced age and of retired habits, or some gentle nun, whose profession and habits are pledges that she cannot retaliate. Triumph over the old man and the woman. Open your wide mouth, and collect your rumbling epithets, and round your pretentious sentences, and discharge your concentrated malignity, on the defenceless. Let it come down heavily on them to their confusion; and a host of writers, in print and by the post, will follow up the outrage you have commenced. But beware of the converts, for they are known; and to them you will not be safe in imputing more than the ordinary infirmities of humanity. With them you must deal in the contrary way. Men of {377} rank, men of station, men of ability, in short, men of name, what are we to do with them! Cover them up, bury them; never mention them in print, unless a chance hint can be dropped to their disadvantage. Shake your heads, whisper about in society, and detail in private letters the great change which has come over them. They are not the same persons; they have lost their fine sense of honour, and so suddenly, too; they are under the dominion of new and bad masters. Drop their acquaintance; meet them and pass them by, and tell your friends you were so pained you could not speak to them; be sure you do nothing whatever to learn from them anything about the Catholic faith; know nothing at all about their movements, their objects, or their life. Read none of their books; let no one read them who is under your influence; however, you may usefully insert in your newspapers half sentences from their writings, or any passing report, which can be improved to their disadvantage. Not a word more; let not even their works be advertised. Ignore those who never can be ignored, never can be forgotten; and all for this,—that by the violation of every natural feeling, and every sacred tie, you may keep up that profound ignorance of the Catholic Religion which the ascendency of Protestantism requires.


These are but snatches and glimpses, my Brothers of the Oratory, of the actual state of the case; of the intense determination of Protestants to have nothing to do with us, and nothing true to say of us; and of the extreme arduousness of that task to which I think {378} we should all direct our exertions. The post must be carried; in it lies the fortune of the day. Our opponents are secretly conscious of it too; else why should they so strenuously contest it? They must be made to know us as we are; they must be made to know our religion as it is, not as they fancy it; they must be made to look at us, and they are overcome. This is the work which lies before you in your place and in your measure, and I would advise you about it thus:—

Bear in mind, then, that, as far as defamation and railing go, your enemies have done their worst. There is nothing which they have not said, which they do not daily say, against your religion, your priests, and yourselves. They have exhausted all their weapons and you have nothing to fear, for you have nothing to lose. They call your priests distinctly liars: they can but cry the old fables over and over again, though they are sadly worse for wear. They have put you beyond the pale of civilized society; they have made you the outlaws of public opinion; they treat you, in the way of reproach and slander, worse than they treat the convict or the savage. You cannot in any way move them by smiles, or by tears, or by remonstrance. You can show them no attention; you can give them no scandal. Court them, they are not milder; be rude to them, they cannot be more violent. You cannot make them think better of you, or worse. They hold no terms with you; you have not even the temptation to concede to them. You have not the temptation to give and take; you have not the temptation to disguise or to palter. You have the strength of desperation, and desperation does great things. They have {379} made you turn to bay. Whatever occurs, if there be a change at all, it must be a change for the better: you cannot be disadvantaged by the most atrocious charges, for you are sure to be the objects of such, whatever you do. You are set loose from the fear of man: it is of no use to say to yourselves, "What will people say?" No, the Supreme Being must be your only Fear, as He is your only Reward.

Next, look at the matter more closely; it is not so bad as it seems. Who are these who obstinately refuse to know you? When I say, "They have done their worst," what is their "worst," and who are "they?" This is an all-important question; perhaps I shall have some difficulty in bringing out what I mean, but when you once get into my idea, there will be no degrees in your understanding it. Consider, then, that "they" means, in the main, certain centres of influence in the metropolis; first, a great proportion of members of both Houses of Parliament; next, the press; thirdly, the Societies whose haunt or home is Exeter Hall; fourthly, the pulpits of the Establishment, and of a good part of the Dissenters. These are our accusers; these spread abroad their calumnies; these are meant by "they." Next, what is their "worst?" whom do they influence? They influence the population of the whole of Great Britain, and the British Empire, so far as it is British and not Catholic; and they influence it so as to make it believe that Catholicism and all Catholics are professed and habitual violators of the moral law, of the precepts of truth, honesty, purity and humanity. If this be so, you may ask me what I can mean by saying that the "worst" is not so bad as it looks? but after all, things might be much worse. {380}

Think a moment: what is it to me what people think of me a hundred miles off, compared with what they think of me at home? It is nothing to me what the four ends of the world think of me; I care nought for the British Empire more than for the Celestial in this matter, provided I can be sure what Birmingham thinks of me. The question, I say, is, What does Birmingham think of me? and if I have a satisfactory answer to that, I can bear to be without a satisfactory answer about any other town or district in England. This is a great principle to keep in view.

And now I am coming to a second. I grant the whole power of the Metropolis is against us, and I grant it is quite out of the question to attempt to gain it over on our side. It is true, there are various individual members of Parliament who are our co-religionists or our friends, but they are few among many; there are newspapers which act generously towards us, but they form a small minority; there are a few Protestant clergy who would be not quite carried away by the stream, if left to themselves. Granted: but still, I am forced to allow that the great metropolitan intellect cannot be reached by us, and for this simple reason, because you cannot confront it, you cannot make it know you. I said your victory was to be in forcing upon others a personal knowledge of you, by your standing before your enemies face to face. But what face has a metropolitan journal? How are you to get at it? how are you to look into it? whom are you to look at? who is to look at you? No one is known in London; it is the realm of the incognito and the anonymous; it {381} is not a place, it is a region or a state. There is no such thing as local opinion in the metropolis; mutual personal knowledge, there is none; neighbourhood, good fame, bad repute, there is none; no house knows the next door. You cannot make an impression on such an ocean of units; it has no disposition, no connexion of parts. The great instrument of propagating moral truth is personal knowledge. A man finds himself in a definite place; he grows up in it and into it; he draws persons around him; they know him, he knows them; thus it is that ideas are born which are to live, that works begin which are to last [Note 2]. It is this personal knowledge of each other which is true public opinion; local opinion is real public opinion; but there is not, there cannot be, such in London. How is a man to show what he is, when he is but a grain of sand out of a mass, without relations to others, without a place, without antecedents, without individuality? Crowds pour along the streets, and though each has his own character written on high, they are one and all the same to men below. And this impersonality, as it may be called, pervades the whole metropolitan system. A man, not known, writes a leading article against what?—things? no; but ideas. He writes against Catholicism: what is Catholicism? can you touch it? point at it? no; it is an idea before his mind. He clothes it with certain attributes, and forthwith it goes all over the country that a certain idea or vision, called Catholicism, has certain other ideas, bad ones, connected with it. You see, it is all a matter of ideas, and abstractions, and {382} conceptions. Well, this leading article goes on to speak of certain individual Catholic priests; still, does it see them? point at them? no, it does but give their names; it is a matter, not of persons, but of names; and those names, sure enough, go over the whole country and empire as the names of rogues, or of liars, or of tyrants, as the case may be; while they themselves, the owners of them, in their own persons are not at all the worse for it, but eat, sleep, pray, and do their work, as freely and as easily as before. London cannot touch them, for words hurt no one; words cannot hurt us till—till when? till they are taken up, believed, in the very place where we individually dwell. Ah! this is a very different kind of public opinion; it is local opinion; I spoke of it just now, and it concerns us very nearly.

I say, it is quite another thing when the statements which a metropolitan paper makes about me, and the empire believes, are actually taken up in the place where I live. It is a very different thing, and a very serious matter; but, observe the great principle we have arrived at; it is this:—that popular opinion only acts through local opinion. The opinion of London can only act on an individual through the opinion of his own place; metropolitan opinion can only act on me through Birmingham opinion. London abuses Catholics. "Catholic" is a word; where is the thing? in Liverpool, in Manchester, in Birmingham, in Leeds, in Sheffield, in Nottingham. Did all the London papers prove that all Catholics were traitors, where must this opinion be carried out? Not in the air, not in leading articles, not in an editor's room; but in Liverpool, in Manchester, in Birmingham, in Leeds, in Sheffield, in Nottingham. So, in order to carry out your London {383} manifesto, you must get the people of Birmingham, Manchester, and the rest, to write their names after it; else, nothing comes of its being a metropolitan opinion, or an imperial opinion, or its being any other great idea whatever:—you must get Birmingham to believe it of Birmingham Catholics, and Manchester to believe it of Manchester Catholics. So, you see, these great London leading articles have only done half their work, or rather, have not begun it, by proving to the world that all Catholics are traitors, till they come out of their abstractions and generalities, and for the "world," are able to substitute Birmingham, Manchester, and Liverpool; and for "all Catholics," to substitute Catholics of Birmingham, Manchester, and Liverpool; and to get each place in particular to accept what the great Metropolis says, and the Empire believes, in the general.

And now comes another important consideration: it is not at all easy to get a particular place, at the word of London, to accept about its own neighbourhood in particular what London says of all places in the general. Did London profess to tell us about the price of iron generally, if it gained its information from Birmingham, and other iron markets in particular, well and good; but if it came forward with great general views of its own, I suspect that Birmingham would think it had a prior voice in the question, and would not give up its views at the bidding of any metropolitan journal. And the case is the same as regards Catholicism; London may declaim about Catholics in general, but Birmingham will put in a claim to judge of them in particular; and when Birmingham becomes the judge, London falls into the mere office of accuser, and the accused may be heard {384} in his defence. Thus, a Catholic of Birmingham can act on Birmingham, though he cannot act on London, and this is the important practical point to which I have been coming all along. I wish you to turn your eyes upon that local opinion, which is so much more healthy, English, and Christian than popular or metropolitan opinion; for it is an opinion, not of ideas, but of things; not of words, but of facts; not of names, but of persons; it is perspicuous, real and sure. It is little to me, as far as my personal well-being is concerned, what is thought of Catholicism through the empire, or what is thought of me by the metropolis, if I know what is thought of me in Birmingham. London cannot act on me except through Birmingham, and Birmingham indeed can act on me, but I can act on Birmingham. Birmingham can look on me, and I can look on Birmingham. This is a place of persons, and a place of facts; there is far more fairness in a place like this than in a metropolis, or at least fairness is uppermost. Newspapers are from the nature of the case, and almost in spite of themselves, conducted here on a system more open and fairer than the metropolitan system. A Member of Parliament in London might say that I had two heads, and refuse to retract it, though I solemnly denied it; it would not be believed in Birmingham. All the world might believe it; it might be the theme of country meetings; the Prime Minister might introduce it into the Queen's speech; it might be the subject of most eloquent debates, and most exciting divisions; it might be formally communicated to all the European courts; the stocks might fall, a stream of visitors set in from Russia, Egypt, and the United {385} States, at the news; it would not be believed in Birmingham; local opinion would carry it hollow against popular opinion.

You see, then, Brothers of the Oratory, where your success lies, and how you are to secure it. Never mind the London press; never mind Exeter Hall; never mind perambulating orators or solemn meetings: let them alone, they do not affect local opinion. They are a blaze amid the stubble; they glare, and they expire. Do not dream of converting the public opinion of London; you cannot, and you need not. Look at home, there lies your work; what you have to do, and what you can do, are one and the same. Prove to the people of Birmingham, as you can prove to them, that your priests and yourselves are not without conscience, or honour, or morality; prove it to them, and it matters not though every man, woman, and child, within the London bills of mortality were of a different opinion. That metropolitan opinion would in that case be powerless, when it attempted to bear upon Birmingham; it would not work; there would be a hitch and a block; you would be a match where you were seen, for a whole world where you were not seen. I do not undervalue the influence of London; many things its press can do; some things it cannot do; it is imprudent when it impinges on facts. If, then, a battle is coming on, stand on your own ground, not on that of others; take care of yourselves; be found where you are known; make yourselves and your religion known more and more, for in that knowledge is your victory. Truth will out; truth is mighty and will prevail. We have an instance of it before our eyes; why is it that some persons {386} here have the hardihood to be maintaining Maria Monk's calumnies? because those calumnies bear upon a place over the ocean; why did they give up Jeffreys? because he spoke of a place close at hand. You cannot go to Montreal; you can go to Whitwick; therefore, as regards Whitwick, the father of lies eats his words and gives up Jeffreys, to get some credit for candour, when he can get nothing else. Who can doubt, that, if that same personage went over to Canada, he would give up Maria Monk as false and take up Jeffreys as true? Yes, depend on it, when he next ships off to New York, he will take the veritable account of the persecuted Jeffreys in his pocket, with an interesting engraving of his face as a frontispiece. So certain, so necessary is all this, my Brothers, that I do not mind giving you this advice in public. An enemy might say in his heart, "Here is a priest fool enough to show his game!" I have no game; I have nothing to conceal; I do not mind who knows what I mark out for you, for nothing can frustrate it. I have an intense feeling in me as to the power and victoriousness of truth. It has a blessing from God upon it. Satan himself can but retard its ascendancy, he cannot prevent it.


This, I would say, Brothers of the Oratory, not only to you, but, if I had a right to do so, to the Catholics of England generally. Let each stand on his own ground; let each approve himself in his own neighbourhood; if each portion is defended, the whole is secured. Take care of the pence, and the pounds will take care of themselves. Let the London press {387} alone; do not appeal to it; do not expostulate with it, do not flatter it; care not for popular opinion, cultivate local. And then if troubled times come on, and the enemy rages, and his many voices go forth from one centre all through England, threatening and reviling us, and muttering, in his cowardly way, about brickbats, bludgeons, and lighted brands, why in that case the Birmingham people will say, "Catholics are, doubtless, an infamous set, and not to be trusted, for the Times says so, and Exeter Hall, and the Prime Minister, and the Bishops of the Establishment; and such good authorities cannot be wrong; but somehow an exception must certainly be made for the Catholics of Birmingham. They are not like the rest: they are indeed a shocking set at Manchester, Preston, Blackburn, and Liverpool; but, however you account for it, they are respectable men here. Priests in general are perfect monsters; but here they are certainly unblemished in their lives, and take great pains with their people. Bishops are tyrants, and, as Maria Monk says, cut-throats, always excepting the Bishop of Birmingham, who affects no state or pomp, is simple and unassuming, and always in his work." And in like manner, the Manchester people will say, "Oh, certainly, Popery is horrible, and must be kept down. Still, let us give the devil his due, they are a remarkably excellent body of men here, and we will take care no one does them any harm. It is very different at Birmingham; there they have a Bishop, and that makes all the difference; he is a Wolsey all over; and the priests, too, in Birmingham are at least one in twelve infidels. We do not recollect who ascertained this, but it was some {388} most respectable man, who was far too conscientious and too charitable to slander any one." And thus, my Brothers, the charges against Catholics will become a sort of Hunt-the-slipper, everywhere and nowhere, and will end in "sound and fury, signifying nothing."

Such is that defensive system, which I think is especially the duty of Catholics at this moment. You are attacked on many sides; do not look about for friends on the right hand or on the left. Trust neither Assyria nor Egypt; trust no body of men. Fall back on yourselves, and trust none but yourselves. I do not mean you must not be grateful to individuals who are generous to you, but beware of parties; all parties are your enemies; beware of alliances. You are your own best, and sure, and sufficient friends; no one can really hurt you but yourselves; no one can succour you but yourselves. Be content to have your conscience clear, and your God on your side.

Your strength lies in your God and your conscience; therefore it lies not in your number. It lies not in your number any more than in intrigue, or combination, or worldly wisdom. God saves whether by many or by few; you are to aim at showing forth His light, at diffusing "the sweet odour of His knowledge in every place:" numbers would not secure this. On the contrary, the more you grew, the more you might be thrown back into yourselves, by the increased animosity and jealousy of your enemies. You are enabled in some measure to mix with them while you are few; you might be thrown back upon yourselves, when you became many. The line of demarcation might be more {389} strictly observed; there might be less intercourse and less knowledge. It would be a terrible state of things to be growing in material power, and growing too in a compulsory exclusiveness. Grow you must; I know it; you cannot help it; it is your destiny; it is the necessity of the Catholic name, it is the prerogative of the Apostolic heritage; but a material extension without a corresponding moral manifestation, it is almost awful to anticipate; awful, if there should be the sun of justice within you, with so little power to cast the illumination of its rays upon the multitudes without. On the other hand, even if you did not grow, you might be able to dispense on all sides of you the royal light of Truth, and exert an august moral influence upon the world. This is what I want; I do not want growth, except of course for the sake of the souls of those who are the increment; but I want you to rouse yourselves to understand where you are, to know yourselves. I would aim primarily at organization, edification, cultivation of mind, growth of the reason. It is a moral force, not a material, which will vindicate your profession, and will secure your triumph. It is not giants who do most. How small was the Holy Land! yet it subdued the world. How poor a spot was Attica! yet it has formed the intellect. Moses was one, Elias was one, David was one, Paul was one, Athanasius was one, Leo was one. Grace ever works by few; it is the keen vision, the intense conviction, the indomitable resolve of the few, it is the blood of the martyr, it is the prayer of the saint, it is the heroic deed, it is the momentary crisis, it is the concentrated energy of a word or a look, which is the instrument of {390} heaven. Fear not, little flock, for He is mighty who is in the midst of you, and will do for you great things.

As troubles and trials circle round you, He will give you what you want at present—"a mouth, and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to resist and gainsay." "There is a time for silence, and a time to speak;" the time for speaking is come. What I desiderate in Catholics is the gift of bringing out what their religion is; it is one of those "better gifts," of which the Apostle bids you be "zealous." You must not hide your talent in a napkin, or your light under a bushel. I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold, and what they do not, who know their creed so well, that they can give an account of it, who know so much of history that they can defend it. I want an intelligent, well-instructed laity; I am not denying you are such already: but I mean to be severe, and, as some would say, exorbitant in my demands, I wish you to enlarge your knowledge, to cultivate your reason, to get an insight into the relation of truth to truth, to learn to view things as they are, to understand how faith and reason stand to each other, what are the bases and principles of Catholicism, and where lie the main inconsistences and absurdities of the Protestant theory. I have no apprehension you will be the worse Catholics for familiarity with these subjects, provided you cherish a vivid sense of God above, and keep in mind that you have souls to be judged and to be saved. In all times the laity have been the measure of the Catholic spirit; they saved the Irish Church three centuries ago, and they betrayed the {391} Church in England. Our rulers were true, our people were cowards. You ought to be able to bring out what you feel and what you mean, as well as to feel and mean it; to expose to the comprehension of others the fictions and fallacies of your opponents; and to explain the charges brought against the Church, to the satisfaction, not, indeed, of bigots, but of men of sense, of whatever cast of opinion. And one immediate effect of your being able to do all this will be your gaining that proper confidence in self which is so necessary for you. You will then not even have the temptation to rely on others, to court political parties or particular men; they will rather have to court you. You will no longer be dispirited or irritated (if such is at present the case), at finding difficulties in your way, in being called names, in not being believed, in being treated with injustice. You will fall back upon yourselves; you will be calm, you will be patient. Ignorance is the root of all littleness; he who can realise the law of moral conflicts, and the incoherence of falsehood, and the issue of perplexities, and the end of all things, and the Presence of the Judge, becomes, from the very necessity of the case, philosophical, long-suffering, and magnanimous.


Cultivation of mind, I know well, is not the same thing as religious principle, but it contributes much to remove from our path the temptation to many lesser forms of moral obliquity. Human nature, left to itself, is susceptible of innumerable feelings, more or less unbecoming, indecorous, petty, and miserable. It is, in no long time, clad and covered by a host of little vices {392} and disgraceful infirmities, jealousies, slynesses, cowardices, frettings, resentments, obstinacies, crookedness in viewing things, vulgar conceit, impertinence, and selfishness. Mental cultivation, though it does not of itself touch the greater wounds of human nature, does a good deal for these lesser defects. In proportion as our intellectual horizon recedes, and we mount up in the knowledge of men and things, so do we make progress in those qualities and that character of mind which we denote by the word "gentleman;" and, if this applies in its measure to the case of all men, whatever their religious principles, much more is it true of a Catholic. Your opponents, my Brothers, are too often emphatically not gentlemen: but it will be for you, in spite of whatever provocations you may meet with, to be manly and noble in your bearing towards them; to be straightforward in your dealings with them; to show candour, generosity, honourable feeling, good sense, and forbearance, in spite of provocation; to refrain from taking unfair or small advantages over them; to meet them half way, if they show relentings; not to fret at insults, to bear imputations, and to interpret the actions of all in the best sense you possibly can. It is not only more religious, not only more becoming, not only happier, to have these excellent dispositions of mind, but it is far the most likely way, in the long run, to persuade and succeed. You see I am speaking to you almost in a worldly way; I do not speak to you of Christian charity, lest I should adopt a tone too high for the occasion.

When men see this, they may attempt other weapons; and the more serious you are, they may make the greater efforts to pour contempt and ridicule upon {393} you. But ridicule will not hurt you, as it hurts other religious bodies; they hate and fear Catholicism—they cannot really laugh at it. They may laugh at individuals or at details connected with it, but not at Catholicism itself. Indeed, I am disposed, in one sense, to allow the maxim of the unbeliever, which has before now given rise to so much discussion—viz., that ridicule is the test of truth. Methodism is ridiculous, so is Puritanism; it is not so with the Catholic Religion; it may be, and is, maligned and defamed; ridiculed it cannot be. It is too real, too earnest, too vigorous, to have aught to fear from the most brilliant efforts of the satirist or the wit. You will not be able to silence your opponents; do not be surprised at it; that will not show that they do not secretly respect you. Men move in parties; what shows on the surface is no index of what is felt within. When they have made assertions, they cannot withdraw them, the shame is so great; so they go on blustering, and wishing themselves out of the awkward position in which they stand. Truth is great: a blow is struck within them: they are unnerved by the secret consciousness of failure; they are angry with themselves; and, though they do not like you at all the better for it, they will be more cautious another time. They speak less confidently henceforth; or, even if they harden themselves, and are as bold as before, others do not go with them; public opinion does not respond to them; and a calumny, which at first was formidable, falls on closed hearts and unwilling ears, and takes no root in the community at large.

This is what I think probable; I will not anticipate it can be otherwise; but still, supposing there is that {394} prejudice existing, which, like a deep soil is able to receive any amount of false witness, of scurrility, of buffoonery, of sophistry, when directed against the Catholic Religion, and that the contempt and hatred at present felt against its adherents is kindled, by their increasing strength and intelligence, into a fiercer, prouder feeling,—what then? noli śmulari, be not jealous, fret not. You are not as others; you have that in you which others have not. You have in you an unearthly gift; the gift, not only of contending boldly, but of suffering well. It will not happen, it must not be expected; and yet I confess I have not that confidence on the subject which I had a year since, when I said that Catholics never could be persecuted again in England. It will not be so: yet late events have shown, that though I have never underrated the intense prejudice which prevails against us, I did overrate that Anglo-Saxon love of justice and fair dealing which I thought would be its match. Alas! that I should have to say so, but it is no matter to the Catholic, though much matter to the Englishman. It is no matter to us, because, as I have said, "Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world." I do not, cannot think a time of serious trial is at hand: I would not willingly use big words, or provoke what is so dreadful, or seem to accomplish it by suggesting it. And for myself, I confess I have no love of suffering at all; nor am I at a time of life when a man commonly loves to risk it. To be quiet and to be undisturbed, to be at peace with all, to live in the sight of my Brethren, to meditate on the future, and to die,—such is the prospect, which is rather suitable to such as me. Yet, my Brothers, I {395} have no doubt at all, either about myself or about Catholics generally, if trial came. I doubt not we should suffer any trial well, not from nature, but from grace; not from what we are in ourselves, but from the wonder-working power which is amongst us, and which fills us as vessels, according to our various dimensions.


Not every age is the age of Saints, but no age is not the age of Martyrs. Look into the history of the Church; you find many instances of men trained up by laborious courses of discipline through a long life, or a period of many years. Slowly, silently, perseveringly, often opposed by their own people, for a while looked on with suspicion even by good Catholics, lest they should be extravagant or intemperate, or self-willed (for time is necessary, as the proof of things), setting about heroic works, acting, suffering with superhuman faith, with superhuman patience, with superhuman love, and then at length dying, not by violence, but in peace,—these are what I have called by pre-eminence Saints, being the great specimens of their kind as contrasted with Martyrs. They are the produce, generally speaking, of the prosperous times of the Church, I mean when the Church is in favour of the world, and is in possession of riches, learning, power, and name. The first in history of these great creations of God, is that glorious name, St. Athanasius; then they follow so thick, that I cannot enumerate them: St. Chrysostom, almost a martyr too, St. Basil, St. Gregory of Nazianzus, St. Augustin, St. Ambrose, St. Jerome; in very distinct spheres of religious duty, but all of them heroes. Such, too, was St. Benedict, such St. Leo, such St. Gregory the First, St. Romuald, {396} St. Gregory the Seventh, St. Bernard, St. Francis, St. Thomas of Aquinum, St. Ignatius, St. Vincent of Paul. As far as human eyes can see, we have none such on earth at present; nor again, is our age like their age. Ours is not an age of temporal glory, of dutiful princes, of loyal governments, of large possessions, of ample leisure, of famous schools, of learned foundations, of well-stored libraries, of honoured sanctuaries. Rather, it is like the first age of the Church, when there was little of station, of nobility, of learning, of wealth, in the holy heritage; when Christians were chiefly of the lower orders; when we were poor and ignorant, when we were despised and hated by the great and philosophical as a low rabble, or a stupid and obstinate association, or a foul and unprincipled conspiracy. It is like that first age, in which no saint is recorded in history who fills the mind as a great idea, as St. Thomas Aquinas or St. Ignatius fills it, and when the ablest of so-called Christian writers belonged to heretical schools. We certainly have little to show for ourselves; and the words of the Psalm are fulfilled in us,—"They have set fire to Thy sanctuary; they have defiled the dwelling-place of Thy name on the earth. Our signs we have not seen; there is no Prophet, and He will know us no more. How long shall the enemy reproach? is the adversary to provoke Thy name for ever?" So was it in the first age too: they were scorned and hated as we are; they were without the effulgence and the celebrity of later times. Yet had they nothing at all to show? were they without their glory? it was emphatically the age of Martyrs. The most horrible tortures which imagination can fancy, the most appalling kinds of death, were the lot, the {397} accepted portion, the boast and joy, of those abject multitudes. Not a few merely, but by thousands, and of every condition of life, men, women, boys, girls, children, slaves, domestics, they willingly offered their life's blood, their limbs, their senses, their nerves, to the persecutor, rather than soil their faith and their profession with the slightest act which implied the denial of their Lord.

Such was the prowess of the Mother of Saints in her valley of humiliation, when she seemed to have hardly any great thought to show, or spirit, or intellect, or cultivation of mind. And who were these her children who made this sacrifice of blood so freely? what had been their previous lives? how had they been trained? were they special men of fasting, of prayer, and of self-control? No, I repeat it, no; they were for the most part common men; it was not they who did the deed, it was not what was matured in them, it was that unfathomable ocean of faith and sanctity which flowed into, and through, and out of them, unto those tremendous manifestations of divine power. It was the narrow-minded slave, the untaught boy, the gentle maid, as well as the Bishop or the Evangelist, who took on them their cross, and smiled as they entered on their bloody way. It was the soldier of the ranks, it was the jailer or hangman suddenly converted, it was the spectator of a previous martyrdom, nay, it was even the unbaptized heathen, who with a joyful song rose up and washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Nay, strange to say, in the case of such of them as had been Christians before the persecution, good and religious as they were, yet still we read of disorder and extravagance, {398} and other lesser offences, even while in prison and in expectation of their doom, clearly showing that all of them had not that subdued and disciplined spirit which has distinguished those great lights of after times of whom I was just now speaking. Or take particular instances of martyrdom, or what resembles it, from the first age to the present time;—what was St. Justin? a philosopher, with great secular accomplishments, but assuredly not better grounded in Christian truth than the bulk of our own laity. What was our own St. Alban, again, but a Roman officer, who did a generous action, sheltered a priest, was converted by him, made confession of his faith, and went out to die? And then again, St. Hermenegild, several centuries later; a brave youth, who, by his glorious death, not only gained the crown of martyrdom, but wiped out some rash acts which history imputes to him in the course of the trial which led to it. Who was our own St. Thomas? one who with a true heart had served his Lord and led an ascetic life even when he lived in the world, but who, before his elevation to the Primacy, had indulged in a pomp and magnificence unsuitable to the condition, not only of a priest, which he then was not, but of the inferior orders of the sacred ministry. And so, again in recent times, contemplate the heroic deaths of the martyr-priests of France during the excess of the first bloody Revolution; yet they, although men of clear conscience and good life before, seem to have had no special notes of sanctity on their characters and histories. And so again, the most recent martyr, as he may be called, of the French Church, the late Archbishop of Paris; he, indeed, had in every way adorned and sustained his high dignity, {399} by holiness of conversation and a reputation beyond reproach; and the last glorious act of his life was but in keeping with all which had gone before it. True; but it is to my point to observe that this bright example of self-devotion, and paternal tenderness for his flock, is commonly said to have shrunk in anticipation, by reason of the very gentleness and sweetness of his natural disposition, from such rough contests as that to which he was ultimately called; yet, when his Lord's word came, he calmly went forth into the ranks of his infuriated people, stood between the mortal combatants, with the hope of separating them, and received the wound which suddenly took him off to his eternal reward. This, then, may be said, as a general rule, of the individual members of the "white-robed army;" they have been, for the most part, men of noble zeal and chivalrous prowess, who startled the world, startled their friends, startled themselves by what the grace that is in the Church enabled them to do. They shot up at once to their high stature, and "being perfected in a short space," as the Wise man says, "they fulfilled a long time." Thus they shone forth, and "ran to and fro like sparks among the reeds," like those keen and sudden fires which dart forth from some electric mass, on due provocation, and intimate to us the power and intensity of the awful elements which lie concealed within it.

The Church of God cannot change; what she was that she is. What our forefathers were, such are we; we look like other men, but we have that in us which none others have,—the latent element of an indomitable fortitude. This may not be the age of Saints, but all times are the age of Martyrs. The arrow is on the {400} string, and the arm is drawn back, and, "if the Lord give the word," great will be the multitude of His champions. O my Brothers, it is difficult for you and me to realize this; it is difficult for us to believe that we have it in us, being what we are,—but we have. And it is difficult for us to believe that this can be a time for testing it, nor do I say it is; I think it cannot be; I only say, that if it were to be a time for calling out the Martyr's spirit, you and I, through God's grace, have it in us. I only mean that it is profitable, in such lesser trials as may easily come upon us, to be reminded that we may humbly trust we have that in us which can sustain the greatest. And it would be profitable also for our opponents, high and low, if they too would lay this to heart. It would be well for them to recollect, that there is a certain principle, which we call zeal, and they call fanaticism. Let them beware of awaking what they would, in scoffing, call the fanatical spirit of the Catholic. For years and years the Catholics of England have borne personal slander, and insult, and injustice. In their own persons, and not merely in their religious profession, have they been treated as the adherents of no other creed have been treated, with scorn, hatred, and cruelty. Men have shrunk from coming near them, and have almost discarded from their society those who did; as if inflicting on them the greater excommunication, as upon those who were the extremest reprobates and blasphemers on the face of the earth. They have borne, and they bear, an ill-usage, which, in its mildest and most amiable form, has never risen higher than pity and condescension. They have borne, and they bear, to be "the heathen's {401} jest," waiting till the morning breaks, and a happier day begins.

So has it been with us up to this hour; but let our enemies remember that, while they have their point of honour, we have ours. They have stripped us of power, wealth, name, and station; they have left us nothing but our Apostolical inheritance. And now they wish to take from us the "little ewe-lamb," which is our only treasure. There was a saying of old, "Let alone Camarina, for 'tis best let alone." Let them, as sensible men,—I do not say, accept Catholicism as true, but admit it into their imagination as a fact. A story goes about of a sagacious statesman and monarch of our own time, who, when urged by some of his advisers to come to an open rupture with the Holy See, made answer, "If you can put your finger upon the page of history, and point out any one instance in which any civil power quarrelled with Rome with honour and success in the event, I will accede to your wishes." And it has lately been given to the world, how that sagacious politician, apostate priest as he was, Prince Talleyrand, noted it as one of Napoleon's three great political mistakes, that he quarrelled with the Pope. There is only one way of success over us, possible even in idea,—a wholesale massacre. Let them exterminate us, as they have done before, kill the priests, decimate the laity; and they have for a while defeated the Pope. They have no other way; they may gain a material victory, never a moral one.


These are thoughts to comfort and sustain us, whatever trial lies before us. I might pursue them farther, {402} but it is enough to have suggested them. Nothing more remains for me to do, but, in commending myself to your good thoughts, my Brothers, to thank those also, who, though not of our communion, have honoured me with their attendance. If I might take the liberty of addressing them directly, I would anxiously entreat them to think over what I have said, even though they have not been altogether pleased at my manner of saying it. Minds, and judgments, and tastes, are so very different, that I cannot hope to have approved myself to all, even though they be well disposed towards me, nay, to any one at all so fully, but that he may have thought that some things might have been said better, and some things were better omitted altogether. Yet I entreat them to believe that I have uttered nothing at random, but have had reasons, both for what I said and my manner of saying it. It is easy to fancy a best way of doing things, but very difficult to find it: and often what is called the best way is, in the very nature of things, not positively good, but only better than other ways. And really in the present state of things, it is difficult to say anything in behalf of Catholicism, if it is to make any impression, without incurring grave criticism of one kind or another; and quite impossible so to say it, as not grievously to offend those whom one is opposing. But, after all, in spite of all imperfections, which are incident to the doings of every mortal man, and in spite of the differences of judgments, which will make those imperfections greater than they are, I do trust there is a substance of truth in what I have said, which will last, and produce its effect somewhere or other. Good {403} is never done except at the expense of those who do it: truth is never enforced except at the sacrifice of its propounders. At least they expose their inherent imperfections, if they incur no other penalty; for nothing would be done at all, if a man waited till he could do it so well that no one could find fault with it.

Under these circumstances, then, what can I desire and pray for but this?—that what I have said well may be blest to those who have heard it, and that what I might have said better, may be blest to me by increasing my dissatisfaction with myself: that I may cheerfully resign myself to such trouble or anxiety as necessarily befalls anyone who has spoken boldly on an unpopular subject in a difficult time, with the confidence that no trouble or anxiety but will bring some real good with it in the event, to those who have acted in sincerity, and by no unworthy methods, and with no selfish aim.

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1. Written in 1851 apropos of the events of that year.
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2. Vide the author's Oxford University Sermons, No. V.
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Newman Reader — Works of John Henry Newman
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