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The visible unity of the Catholic Church maintained against opposite theories (Volume 1) online

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of its rejection. Surely there cannot be any unity
of spirit between two societies which contradict eacli
other on a point of faith, as to the essential con-
stitution of the Church itself. Such contradiction
affects the very essence and ground work of Christian




differences among


the Church.

II. Cor. xii. 9.

faitli, which consists in tlie behef of everything
that God has revealed, because He has revealed it.
Tliis faith, therefore, requkes certainty respecting
the appointed channel of God's revelation, and any
difference respecting the definition of that channel is
incompatible with unity of faith. One who is con-
vinced by his own private judgment of the truth of
all the Pioman Catholic doctrines, save tliat of the
infallibility of the Church in subjection to the Eoman
See, cannot have divine faith in all those truths,
nor be, even so far, one in the faith with those
w^ho beheve them because they have been revealed
by God through His Church.

Superficial writers have professed to discern marks
of a want of unity among Eoman Catliolics, in the pass-
ing; external differences or dissensions which occasion-
ally meet the eye. One might imagine it had escaped
their notice that Catholics do not deny that they are
frail and erring mortals, and liable, like others, to all
the ills this flesh is heir to. We do not profess to
be individually exempt from human w^eakness and
human faults, although we glory in the strength of a
divine presence, whose 'power is made perfect in
infirmity.' We are but men; but ' in the midst of us
is Christ our God ' ! The Churcli is an abiding
miracle. From its very commencement, its whole
life is a testimony to the power of God displayed
tln'ough weak and erring instruments. If her
members were already supernatui-ally ]ierfect, the
miracle would cease. So long as they remain


imperfect, it is impossible that tlieir imperfections
can escape notice. But these imperfections are
individual ; these dissensions or differences between
man and man, or between one section of men and
another within the Church's pale, no more affect
the divine unity of the whole body, than the wind
which ruffles the surface of the ocean affects the
oneness of its universal waters.

I am speaking of differences amongst the good.
The Church on eartli comprises a mixed multitude,
and will do so till the end of all things. Betw«een
good and evil, wherever they are found, there must
always be a contest. Yet even Catholics of bad moral
conduct do not differ from the good as to points of
faith; or as to the rule of life which they know they
ought to follow. So that however inconsistent their
behaviour, they manifest no divergence of doctrine.
Nor can any such divergence be gathered from the dif-
ferences which frequently arise amongst the morally
good. It has happened, indeed, that good men have
been led astray, in opinion, as was the great Fenelon ;
but like Fenelon also they have submitted when their
error was condemned. Any who, in such case,
persist, are manifestly unsoiuid members ; and some,
hke Lammenais, have fallen, and have cut them-
selves off from' unity. But such cases of defection,
however sad, whether of individuals or of multitudes,
do not impair in the slightest the unity of the
Church they have disobeyed. The tree continues
one, though the storm may rend its branches.


It lias happened, too, that matters in themselves
indifTerent, have occasionally assumed an importance
not their own through their connection with parti-
cular interests, and have been argued so warmly on
both sides as to induce authority to interfere and
forbid all further discussion upon the subject. To this
class belong the questions as to whether the prophet
EUas was the founder of the Carmelites ; and as to
the form of the habit worn by St. Francis ; which at
one time were sources of contention.
Inconsistency So loug as men are men, these things will be ;

charges against and OR this subjcct, as ou most otlicrs, the Church
Catholic system, cau adopt the kuguagc of her Master: — 'And
St. Luke the Lord said : Whereunto then shall I liken

vii. 31-35. n 1 • • e\ -I 1 ^

the men of this generation.^ and to wliat are they
like ? They are like to children sitting in the market-
place, and speaking one to another, and saying : We
have piped to you, and you have not danced : we
have mourned, and you have not wept. For John
the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinldiig
wine ; and you say : He hath a devil. The Son of
Man is come eating and' drinking ; and you say :
Behold a man that is a glutton and a drinker of
wine, a friend of publicans and sinners. And wisdom
is justified by all her children.'

If Eoman Catholics point to their world-wide agree-
ment on all essentials, they are charged with the rigid
immobility of enforced dogma ; with a Procrustean
system ready cut and dried. If they exhibit signs
of movement and of tliought, and sliow a con-


sequent difTerence of opinion, they are forthwitli
accused of internal divisions and suicidal discord.
But ' wisdom is justified by all her children.' The
greater the activity of men's thoughts, the more
numerous will be their differences of opinion on
every conceivable subject, — history, science, art,
politics, and even (as regards open questions) on
points of tlieology itself. Hence spring the friendly
controversies on such matters between one school
and another, one religious order and another, one
theologian and another, all equally faithful to the
one true Church — all equally united in her outward
and inward communion. She approves of such dis-
cussions (which, so long as they are conducted in
a spirit of charity and deference to authority,
are most serviceable to truth), whilst, like a
watchful mother she looks on, and keeps them
within due bounds. Men naturally have different
opinions also on matters of taste and feeling, on
external forms and styles of devotion, on the ,
decoration of churches, on architecture, ritual,
and the rest, and even on the line of conduct
to be followed under the circumstances of tlie
day. Differences existed in the apostolic age ;
nay, they sprang up even between apostles.
The dissension which arose between St. Paul and
St. Barnabas was such that ' they departed one Acts xr. 39.
from another.' Yet unity was not impaired, though
the difference was so serious ; for they continued
one in the faith, and in the visible commu-



iiion of the Church. Sucli difTercnccs form one of
the troubles of our lot on eartli ; but if these mise-
ries did not exist in her, the Cliurch would not be
human, and if they penetrated below the surface,

II. Cor. iv. 7. slie could not be divine. She has her ' treasure in
earthen vessels, that the excellency may be of the
power of God, and not of herself.' The very exist-
ence of these occasional external differences amongst
her members is a test of her divine mission. If God
were not within her, man's weakness would have
tm-ned such dissension iiito division long centuries
ago. As it is, thej^ are but on the surface, and only
partial even tliere ; arising often from some local
cause, or peculiar circumstance, and therefore fre-
quently far shorter-lived than are the men them-
selves who take part in them.
Tho The enquirer after truth may search throughout

UnUyof the world; he may travel north, south, east, and

Cathoiie'chuich. wcst ; visit Europc, Asia, Africa, and America;
go through France, Spain, Italy, Germany, England,
Ireland, Scotland, the Arctic regions, and the
Antipodes ; lie may go everywhere, and ask every
Catholic he meets, cleric or layman, religious or
secular, Benedictine, Augustinian, Franciscan, Do-
minican, Jesuit, Carmelite, or any other ; young
or old, learned or unlearned, all who have
been taught the rudiments of their religion, he
may ask tliem respecting their faith, respecting
tlieir practice, respecting tlie sacraments and all
tnat concerns religion, and, from one and all, the
answer will be the same. Everywhere on the face


of the globe, amongst good and pious Roman
Catholics, though they may be utter strangers to
each otlicr in the flesh, and divided in temporal
position as far as men can be divided from their
fellow-men, there will be found one and the self-
same faith, one and the self-same rule of morals, the
self-same sacraments, and the self-same belief respect-
ing those sacraments ; there will be found but one
mind, one heart, and one voice, as regards all the;
doctrines and commandments of the Church. Tliis
is unity, and it is divine ; it is no mere human coin-
cidence or contrivance. The finger of God is here,
reversing the confusion of Babel. It is the unity of
God's one Church throughout the universal globe ;
and it has been her unity through more than eighteen
centuries and a half. It is a matter to be looked to,
and a test to be applied, for the absence of such
unity denotes the absence of God. He cannot speak
with a divided tongue ; He dwells not amid contra-
dictions ; He is everywhere one and the same. —
' His place is in peace : and His abode in Sion : ' in rs. ixxv. 2.
the city He has constituted as the one fold under one
shepherd: — Jerusalem, quce ccdijicatur ut civitas ; Ps. cxxi. 3.
ciijus participatio ejus in idipsum.

God's Church is holy : holy with the lioliness f^anctiiy.
of supernatural grace. This clothes her with a
brightness that wholly covers the short-comings of
too many of her children, who, though in her,
unhappily testify by their lives, that they are not



of her. Our Lord lias warned us of this scandal.
But in spite of it she is pre-eminently holy, and
manifestly so to the whole world. Natural goodness
may be found elsewhere ; but that superhuman
lustre that shines like the stars of heaven, can
ghsten in her firmament alone. Who can count
that royal list of saints, nobler than earth's noblest,
who glory in her as a mother ? Derived from every
rank and every calling, from every chme and every
language ; from the fisherman at his nets, and the
publican at his ofiice, to the monarch on the throne,
and the philosopher in the schools. Now a simple
shepherdess, now a noble matron, or high-exalted
queen, now a converted sinner ; it would be endless
to recount the varieties or to tell the names of all the
heroes and heroines of sanctity, whose acts adorn the
robes of that one holy Church still ruled over and fed
by Peter in his successors. To pass by the early ages,
where else will be found a St. Elizabeth of Hungary,
a St. Louis of France, a St. Clare, a St. Mary
Magdalen of Pazzi, a St. Margaret of Cortona, a
St. Ignatius of Loyola, a St. Francis Xavier, a St.
Edward Confessor, a St. Thomas of Canterbury, a
St. Theresa, a St. Eose of Lima, and countless
others? Wliere else can be found the bri2;ht-robed
army of martyrs down cveh to tlie present age ?
All the miraculous creations of God's grace belong
exclusively to the Eoman communion.
Kxternai tf.stiiiiony. Nay, Auglicaus thcmselvcs being witnesses, — to
what source do they turn when endeavouring to revive


former holiness of life ? To wliom do they look for u
pattern but to the holy Eoman Chureh ? It is her ritual,
lier forms, her sacraments, her doctrine (save on the
few essential points which they reject), her religious
orders, her works of mercy, her devotions to a great
extent, that they seek to adapt to their own use. For
this they gladly bear reproach, for this they toil. They
fly to Eome for well nigh everything but the sweet
protection and shadowing tender care of her maternal
authority. This holds true, though not in the same
measure, of every school which has yearned after
greater holiness, — of every effort after a higher stan-
dard of reliQ;ious Hfe. It holds true of the so-called
evangelicals ; for though they thought not of it, yet
in their teaching on the necessity of prayer and medi-
tation ; on the passion of our blessed Lord, and on the
great mysteries of man's redemption ; in their zeal for
maintaining; the essential doctrines of the incarnation
and divinity of Christ ; in the spirituality of their reli-
gion ; in their pious lives and active labours ; in all
these respects they followed in the track of that very
Eome, whom in their blindness they looked upon as
anti-christian. This holds true of all earnest Christian
teaching and practice. The Church of Eome has
throughout been the guardian of the saving truths of
Christianity. History has recorded the fact in pages
which can never be efiaced. The Church of Eome
kept alive, through ages of iron, the sacred fire of
the true religion of the heart ; the adoration of God
in spirit and in truth ; earnestness and piety of life ;

33 tiil: ciiuiicii is universal,

tlie burning love of Jesus ; an apostolic zeal rendered
the more sure and efficacious by discipline, and by
tlie superhuman prudence and discretion which regu-
lates and dhx'cts it. The source of every really
religious movement may be traced to the fostering
care of Eome. If Eome could be abstracted from
C'hristendom, and from Christendom's history, how
mucli of Christendom would be left? If Eome's
teaching and Eome's practices were to be abstracted
I'rom Christianity ; in other words, if from every
communion of Christians there w^ere to be taken away
all that is there held in common with Eome, what
then would be found remaininsj ? A mere negation !
All that is positive would be gone ; there would be
left mere human nothingness. On the other hand,
if all be supposed to be taken away from Eome
wliich others hold in common with her, tlie truths
and the virtues she woidd retain must be recognised
as fragments of a complete and divine system ; and
what Avas left woidd prove her title to what was
gone, from the evident connection between the two.
Intrinsic^ not imported^ holiness is an essential note
of the Church of Christ. She is the channel of holi-
I's. xiv. .). (;. ness and she is holy : — ' The Most High hath sanctijied
His own tabernacle. God is in the midst thereof.'

Catholicity. The Churcli of Christ is Catholic in time, and

A.iv. iiaies. i. 1, 5. in spacc also. She is coeval with the world. ' The

l)Cginning of all things,' says St. E})iphanius, ' is the

Catholic and IIolv Church.' She is to endure for all


ages. ' Behold,' said our Lord, ' I am with you St. Matt. x.\viii. 20.

all days, even to the consummation of the world.' In

extent she knows no limits, save the orbis terrarum.

' Go ye into the whole w^orld and preach the gos- St. Mark xvi. 15.

pel to every creature.' Such is her charter from

Christ. Her realm reaches on beyond the grave,

and death does not sever her children from her. Her

mission is to the whole liimian race, irrespective of

human nationalities. Her empire is universal ; it

comprises all mankind. She is neither French,

English, German, nor Spanish ; nor is she Asiatic or

European, African or American ; but still she includes

them all : and if she glories in the name of Eoman,

it is only because Eome is the seat of Peter, and, as

St. Ambrose testifies, — Ubi Petrus, ibi Ecdesia. in v^. xi. u. yo.

Peter is everywhere, and the Church is every- Romo

where ; her kingdom is not of this world, but it ab- of

sorbs all earthly kingdoms in its spiritual dominion, '' i'^'ci>.
which is extended over the whole globe. Besides the
many countries in professed communion with Eome,
in every nation and in every clime the faith of Peter
is proclaimed, the authority of Peter has its willing
subjects, and the bark of Peter is present to rescue
and to save. Even in lands wdiere schism and
heresy prevail, the Cliurch under Peter's rule ceases
not to seek the w^anderers ; to comfort, and support,
and cheer the weak. Her children, scattered far and
wide over the earth, may not even know each other
in the flesh, yet are they one in that omnipresent
fold, and known, each one, to that true and cnreful


mother, who is hterally xara ro oXov, for she over-
spreads and interpenetrates the universe.

The cross which was erected on Calvary by our
Divine Master, was to be planted by His command
in the centre of the world — in imperial Eome — by
the Apostle whose humility obtained that its posi-
tion sliould be reversed ; for his high exaltation
demanded a corresponding self-abasement. It is in
the soil of Rome that the grain of mustard-seed has
grown up into the goodly tree, whose roots are
nourished by the most precious blood of Jesus, and
whose branches have filled the whole earth, so that
the birds of the air, even the Saints of God in all
lands, find shelter and fruit amongst them.
Title What claim has any religious communion save the

Catholic. Eoman to the title of Catholic? As a matter of fact,
on what ground can that title be maintained by any
other ? St. Augustine's and St. Cyril's test will hold
good still ; for, though it may occasionally happen to
an enquirer after a Catholic Church, to fall in with
one who makes as if he did not understand him
to mean the Eoman, such ignorance does not actually
exist ; it will be a mere pretence. If a Eoman Catholic
speaks of the Catholic Church, there are those who
will make haste to tell him to add Euman, thereby
proving how well they understand him : yet the
world lias not room for two Catholic Churches, if the
term Catholic really means universal. It is, how-
ever, maintained by Anglicans that the Christians
in cummunion with Eome are only a part of the

THE CHURCH is apostolic.


Church, and liave no riglit to claim to be the wliole.
This argument may be answered in the self-same
words made use of by St. Augustine to the Donati&t
Bishop, Petilian : —

' You, with closed eyes, so stumble against that moun-
tain, which, from a small stone, according to the prophecy
of Daniel, has increased and has filled the whole earth, as
to say to us that we have sunk into a part and are not in
the whole ; to us whose communion is spread abroad over
the universal globe. But, in like manner, as if you were
to say to me that I am Petilian, I could not tell how to
answer you, except by laughing as if you were in joke, or
else pitying you as if you were insane, so now, this is all
I find to be done. Since, however, I do not believe you
are in joke, you see the alternative.'

God Himself, Who is the model and the maintainer
of the Church's unity, is also the Author of her
universality. He has made her as necessary to the
spiritual hfe of man as the sun is to his physical, and,
like God's glorious sun, she shines for all. Of her
preachers it is written : — ' Their sound is gone forth
into all the earthy and their words unto the ends of the
whole world.'

But ' how shall they preach unless they be sent ? '
The word Apostle means Ambassador. No Churcli
can be Apostolic which is not sent by Christ througli
His ambassadors, the Apostles. Many of those who
admit the necessity of the Apostolical succession as
regards orders, appear to make very light of it as
regards mission and jurisdiction. It would lead me
too far if I were to enter upon the (piestion of the



lib. ii. No. 91.

lioiiiaus X. IS.

Kom. X. 15.




do not give


nor confer


validity of tlie Cliurch of England orders. Suifice it
to say, that Eome's disbelief in them must be very
certain, otherwise she would not unconditionally
ordain those Anglican clergymen who, being recon-
ciled to her, are called to her priesthood ; for she
accounts it sacrilege to repeat the sacrament of orders.
But orders do not in themselves contain the Apos-
tolic mission, though they are indispensable in order
to render the recipients capable of exercising it
when bestowed upon them. Still less do they con-
vey jurisdiction, or confer power upon a priest to ad-
minister the sacrament of penance where he does not
possess jurisdiction. The confessional is a tribunal,
the priest a judge ; and this of necessity requires the
right of judging in the particular case before him ;
in other words, of jurisdiction over the penitent.
Now, ordination does not convey this jurisdiction,
though it confers the power of exercising it wdien
given. No priest can validly exercise the power
of the keys, excepting under those circumstances for
which he has received jurisdiction from competent
ecclesiastical authority. This has always been held
in the Church, and both Greeks and Latins are per-
fectly agreed upon it.^ Absence of the necessary
JLU'isdiction would invalidate the priestly absolution.
Nor can Bishops themselves exercise jurisdiction
beyond the limits assigned to them by Apostolic

' Elementa Thcol. Dngmat. op. F. X. Schoiippc, S.J. — Bruxelles,
1803 — a most useful and accui'ate compendium, pos.sessing high
recommendations oi' authority. T. ii. pp 350-7.


authority, wliicli is vested in tlie Eoman PontilT. If
in any case they seem to have done so, it must be
presumed that they were authorised, tacitly at tlie
least, by the Apostohc See of Eome ; to wliose
decision, as it is well known, all disputes upon such
questions have always been referred.

It is most important to bear in mind that the Definition
special privilege and authority divinely conferred on Primaey
the Apostolic See of St. Peter is one of dignity, and of Roman Poutiff.
jurisdiction; not of order. Every Bishop is as nuich a
Bishop as the Pope, as regards the Episcopal order ;
but no other Bishop possesses the dignity or the uni-
versal jurisdiction of tlie Pope, who has succeeded to
the plenitude of the Apostolic power and mission
conferred by Christ Himself upon St. Peter. The
Primacy has been defined by Fr. Schouppe, as — Eicm. Tiieoi. Dogm.

* The pre-eminence by which the Roman Pontif oh-
tairis, by divine right, not only honour and dignity, but
also jurisdiction aiid poiver, throughout the Universal
Church. — It is said: by which he obtains honour and
dignity, such, for instance, as that which an Emperor
enjoys among Kings who are not his subjects ; a man of no-
bility among commoners ; the president of a college among
his fellow-colleagues. — It is said : he obtains jurisdiction
andpoiver, such, indeed, as any Prince or magistrate enjoys
towards subordinate officers : thus, a King holds the pri-
macy among all the Princes who are subject to him.'

It needs but a slight acquaintance with the maxims, Necessity
rules, and practices of the universal Church, to riaiitfuijuri.sdieii,.M.
be aware that rightful jurisdiction was ahvays con-
sidered essential for the due exercise of the Episcopal





Apostolic Doctrine.

functions ; and tliat such jurisdiction might be for-
feited, or witlidrawn by competent authority,
though the sacred orders must always remain. Since
tliis is a fact wliich cannot be contradicted, it surely
becomes a matter of supremest moment for English
Cliurchmen to examine and to resolve, not merely the
question of the validity of tlieir orders, but that also
of the authority and validity of the mission and juris-
diction exercised by their Bishops and clergy at the
present time. If they heed the voice of the Universal
Church at all, they must be convinced that this is a
vital point.^ The pages of history render it evident
beyond a doubt, that the two rival claimants between
whom they have to choose, as the respective channels
of Divine mission and of spiritual jmisdiction, are ; on
the one hand, — the Apostolic throne of Peter; and on
the other, — tlie Eoyal throne of Elizabeth. This is
not a rhetorical figure ; it is a manifest fact.

There is a necessary succession of doctrine as well
as of orders, and apart from the Apostolic communion
we have no guarantee for the Apostolic faith. The
Apostles alone received from Christ that great deposi-
tU7u, with the assistance of His Spirit to keep it uncor-
rupt for all time. Now, the Apostolic College is repre-
sented to us by its head, and it is to the successors of

1 This might be urged, on lower ecclesiastical grounds, even
apart from the divinely constitiited Primacy of St. Peter ; as is
clearly shown, in an essay deserving of closest attention, by the late

Online LibraryM. J RhodesThe visible unity of the Catholic Church maintained against opposite theories (Volume 1) → online text (page 4 of 25)