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formation and testimony of man; and here he seems to refer to some of tlie proceedings in the Lateran Council, -against the Albigenses and the insurgents of Toulouse, which were instituted upon facts alleged against them, which of course depended upon human testimony. These decrees bear something of a political as well as spiritual complexion ; and in fact, it should be recollected that amongst all the decrees of councils, while the Pope was possessed of extensive temporal sovereignty, many political regulations have crept in, suggested by the ambassadors of temporal princes, or by the ambition of the reigning Pontiff; but these were never admitted as decrees of faith or morals, or as binding upon the whole Church.* And a host of Catholic authorities might be cited, which state in the strongest terms, that it is only within those limits that the councils either claim or possess infallibility. Mr. Thorp has, therefore, to prove two points, 1st, That these decrees were really passed, and secondly, that they are received as points of faith; a failure in either is fatal to his argument.
“The great Lateran Council(says Mr.T.) hath decreed, and the decrees have been confirmed by the succeeding general Councils of Basil, Constance, and Trent, “ that all engagements “ entered into with Heretics, though sanctioned by an Oath, « are nullities in themselves, and that the Pope may depose " Kings, absolve their subjects from their Oath of Allegiance, " and give away their Kingdoms." This Decree, stamped with infallibility, must remain in-full force so long as there is a Protestant Prince in Europe ; yea, so long as there is a Mo. narch in the world, whose Religion and Government are hostile to the arrogant assumption of the Romish Hierarchy."
This is indeed a heavy charge for a Christian Minister to bring against a body of men who profess the Christian name.
* This distinction in the obligation of the decrees of Councils is illustrated by a Catholic writer, by a reference to the apostolic council mentioned in the Acts, chap. XV. Here a sin acknowledged by all sects of deep moral enormity, is prohibited in the same sentence, with eating blood, or things strangled. The first is an universal rules the latter having originated from temporary circumstances, has been considered as of temporary obligation. The force of the argument however must depend upon the meaning in this passage of cha word İl opvail,
Nor can I think it perfectly justifiable to do so, unless it were as generally recognised by the accused as the belief of transubstantiation, or any other of their peculiar doctrines. I have at least brought forward in my letter, ample proof that the Catholics deny the charge, and I could swell this appendix to a volume of no inconsiderable size, by quoting the various modes in which it has been repelled. But the Reverend Gentleman is mistaken in the historical fact. The history of the two decrees upon which this heavy accusation is founded, is I believe, correctly stated at p. 33 and 48 of this pamphlet. Upon seeing the above assertion made by Mr. Thorp (which I am sure that he believes to be correct, or he would not have advanced it) I solicited the assistance of a friend, who had access to the Acts of the Councils; and a search has been made. The result of the charge has only confirmed the statement above alluded to. The 4th Council of Lateran, certainly exercised a deposing power without ceremony; but exercising the power and decreeing the right, are two very different things'; and it has been already stated, p. 3. that the authenticity of the deposing decree is suspected. But the 4th Lateran Council says nothing about keeping faith with Heretics. The decree which has been construed to maintain this doctrine, the drift of which has been already spoken of in this letter, p. 48, was not passed till the nineteenth Session of the Council of Constance, about two hundred years later than the Lateran Council ; and in this Council the King-Killing doctrine is condemned in the strongest terms that language can furnish. In the mean time it may be observed, ithat Bellarmine (the authority quoted by Mr. Thorp) observes, that the authority of all the earlier sessions of this council is rejected, because no lawful Pope presided at it, either in person or by his Jegates. The Council of Basil is not recognised by Catholics as a general Council, nor included in their list of Councils, for the same reason ; Bellarmine classes it anong the Councils partly confirmed and partly rejected; and declares that the whole of its decrees are reprobated, except some concerning certain changes in ecclesiastical benefices, which were confirmed by the Pope on account of the peace of of the Church. It would not therefore bear on this question, whether the Council approved these decrees or not, since Ca. tholics do not receive it; but I understand that it passes
them over entirely. Mr. Thorp also informs us, that the Council of Trent confirms them. I understand that the Council of Trent does not notice them. On these two pillars the deposing and dispensing powers, almost the whole of Mr. Thorp's arguments rest. If therefore these have such a sandy foundation, it does not require the strength of a Samson to bring down the whole fabric altogether.
If Mr. Thorp will admit an account of the sentiments of the Roman Church on these points, upon the authority of Pope, I can refer him to a rescript of the late Pius 6th, addressed to the Irish Prelates. In that rescript the Pontiff declares that “the Sce of Rome never taught that faith is not to be kept with the Heterodox; or that an oath to Kings separated from the Catholic communion can be violated ; or that
it is lawful for the Bishop of Rome to invade their temporal rights and dominions. We consider too"
says an attempt or design against the life of Kings and Princes, even under the pretext of religion, as a horrid and detestable crime."
Mr. Thorp declares that the decrees which are supposed to sanction these doctrines are infallible, and insists that they are a part of the Catholic faith. Pope Pius 6th, insists that they are not, and never were. The late Pope therefore, according to the Rev. Gentleman's argument, p., 12 and 20, was a Protestant , a point of information which will prove very agreeable to many worthy persons, but which, for my own part, I feel a great difficulty in admitting.
I cannot forbear asking here, why Mr. Thorp will not permit Catholics to describe their own faith. They would tell him that the dogmas to which he alludes are not theirs, that they exist only in the writings of Protestants. Would Mr. Thorp be contented to have his own faith thus caricatured by the pen
of its enemies? Would he calmly endure that every wild excess of Antinomianism, every tremendous deduction from the doctrines of predestination and reprobation, should be first aggravated by a highly wrought imagination, and then charged upon him as his belief; and if he indignantly repelled the charge, would he consider it as just, to be told that these were the necessary consequences of the doctrines which he admitted, and that unless he recognised them to this extent, he must be insincere.
In general, those who have paid the most attention to the Catholic Question, are the least disposed to charge the Catholics with these tenets. The liberal Dr. Butler, whom I have a pleasure in quoting, says, “ I protest that I do not bea lieve that any one Catholic of sane mind, in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, at present maintains these positions." And the Earl of Liverpool, in the debate on the Catholic Petition, in the year 1810, thus expressed himself: 6 I have heard allusions made this night, to doctrines which I do hope no man now believes the Catholics to entertain : nor is there any ground for an opinion that the question is opposed under any such pretence. The explanations which have been given on this head, so far as I know, are completely satisfactory; and the question, as it now stands, is much more narrowed than it was on a former discussion." This language does honour to the candour and liberality of the noble Earl ; but I cannot but lament that in these qualities, he should go so far beyond a Protestant Dissenter.
At p. 17, Mr, Thorp objects to the Catholic belief, that a Priest hath full power to absolve sins. I am not called on to vindicate a doctrine, which I no more admit than Mr. Thorp, but I cannot see its dangerous political bearing, when explained as it is in the following terms, by an eminent Catholic Prelate. - You know,” says this learned person,
" from the catechism you have learnt, and the books of Catholic instructions you have read, that the absolution of a Priest can be of no benefit to you, unless you be duly disposed to a reconciliation with your offended God, by true faith, by a sincere sorrow of all your sins, by a firm resolution never to commit them again, and by a willingness to satisfy God, and your neighbour also, as far as justice requires. Without these dispositions on your part, the act of the Priest would scot be retifed in heaven ; you would be guilty of the profanation of the sacrament of penance, and provoke the indignation of the Almighty, instead of obtaining his mercy." Nor do I see any political danger in auricular confession. If a bad and ambitious Priest might easily pervert it to an evil political purpose, a good and pious one, might make it subservient to a good one.
At p. 13, of his pamphlet, Mr. Thorp enquires whether the conscientious Catholic does not believe the doctrine of exclusive salvation ; and he answers it in the affirmative, in the most absolute terms. I shall not again go over the ground I have already trodden in p. 6 and 7. The deduction however that Mr. T. draws from it requires some attention. He contends that persecution is the natural, the necessary conse. quence of this capital article of the Catholic faith ; that zeal for their religion, and even compassion for their fellowcreatures, must urge them“ by all the means in their power to extirpate heresy and schism; and to allure or force men into that communion, where alone salvation is to be obtained."' Perhaps this deduction will extend farther than the Rev. Gentleman is himself aware of. If there be any sect that believes that certain points of their own faith are of such vital importance, that a conscientious inquirer who may think the evidence for them insufficient, if he die in the rejection of them, must fall short of salvation; that sect claims in the just and philosophical sense of the word, infallibility ; and, upon Mr. Thorp's principles, is as much bound to persecute such a person for the sake of his soul, or at any rate, to prevent him from publishing or preaching his opinions, as any Catholic whatever. Can there indeed be a more manifest obligation, than the prevention of the diffusion of opinions, fraught with such infinite danger to the immortal welfare of mankind : The truth is, however, that the principle of genuine piety disarms persecution in every sect. The ambitions, the cruel, the worldly-minded, are best calculated to sustain the character of persecutors; and these principles will engender persecution, even where the very name and pretext of religious principle are disavowed. I think that it is Paley who observes that amid the awful lessons exhibited by France during her revolutionary career, one, not the least important, was this, that in a ferocious and exterminating spirit of persecution fanaticism itself could be outdone by infidelity. The radical remedy for this spirit is to be found in the conviction, that the man who doeth righteousness is righteous, and that He who trieth the thoughts of the heart will never condemn a conscientious inquirer for involuntary error. The palliative one, and there is great reason for thankfulness that it is so efficacious as it proves to be, is to be found in the encreasing light and humanity of the age.