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stern and unyielding, at times daring and reckless, too frequently infidel and irreligious? I tried to accept papal infallibility, for the fear of excommunication and eternal punishment constrained me to believe, and still I could not help doubting. I told my confessor of my state of mind, and he merely asked me if I wished to be a Protestant. Other confessors told me that my doubts were but scruples and temptations of the evil one. How could this doctrine of papal infallibility stand the test of the principles, Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus, and Quod universa tenet ecclesia nec conciliis institutum, sed semper retentum est, nonnisi ab apostolica institutione traditum rectissime creditur? Was there not, is there not, a change in the creed? Romanists say no, and that implicit faith in papal infallibility was always essential to salvation. What a number of popes, cardinals, bishops, priests, and people must be damned, then! Those who in ante-Vatican times opposed papal infallibility were not condemned as heretics, nor excommunicated, nor in the way of perdition, while now Rome devotes them all to eternal reprobation. The Greek and Anglican churches have no trace of this infallibility of the Roman bishop. Rome cites them as witnesses in other doctrines; why not cite them here? Past generations were saved without papal infallibility; why cannot future ones be? What a state my mind was in! I might reason, but not reject. The question forced itself upon me: Was it for this my Creator gave me faculties of mind and powers of will, to assent to doctrines my reason rejected on the clearest proofs? I was encompassed by doubts, but I had no idea of separating from Rome; the alternatives were too awful-atheism and eternal ruin.
It was during my first year's divinity course, and while in this state of anxiety, that I read for the first time the "Conférences" of Lacordaire. One of his statements in the opening of his conférence on "The Existence of God" fixed fast my attention. He there says that the constitution of our minds is such, that even if we saw the very hand of God bearing doctrine to them, they would not receive the doctrine willingly without receiving therewith the power and right to sound such doctrine to its depths. Surely, I thought, if this is so regarding truths coming to us so directly from God himself, it must likewise be so in the case of God's
ambassador on earth. This power and right to sound doctrines involves the right to reject the doctrines if unreasonable. Christ told the Jews to convince themselves from the Scriptures of the reality of his mission, and St. Paul praises the Bereans for their diligence in searching the Scriptures for evidences of the truth of his doctrines. Have we not an equal right to test Rome's mission and doctrines? Is she above Christ, or more infallible than the Apostle Paul, whom she believes to have been infallible? She grants the right to search, but not freedom to believe, for she assumes her own absolute and integral identity in doctrines with the Catholic Church of the apostles and of all ages.
Taking the words of Lacordaire to heart, I became more easy in my mind, especially as I met, in the writings of Saints Augustine, Chrysostom, Ambrose, and others, passages that emboldened me to inquire. I determined to proceed, and accept the consequences. Term followed term, and doctrines after doctrines were the subjects of our studies. In the treatise on the Eucharist the real presence was clearly proved; but when it came to the mode of this presence and the Roman doctrine of transubstantiation, there was a yawning gap in the evidences for Roman dogmas. The apostles never preached transubstantiation, and Rome says all the deposit of faith was given in their time. There is no authority in the Scripture nor in the early church for this doctrine. The straining of the sacred and patristic writings to prove it is unwarranted and wrong. What person, what church, knows. what substance is? Can the pope tell? Does the doctrine of substance and accident belong to the deposit of faith? Roman writers say that in transubstantiation we need two positive terms, the thing changed and that which remains after the change; that there should be some third thing common to the two terms; and that the converting or transubstantiating power be able to create what remains after the change, if it had not already existed. Now, in the impossible supposition that the divine person of Jesus Christ did not pre-exist, then the divine power causing the change into Christ's body and blood with his soul and divinity (the complete term after the change, according to Roman teaching), could not create that divine person of the Redeemer, for what is created or creatable cannot be divine. I
believe in Jesus Christ's real presence according to his own "holy institution," and leave quibbles and novelties to others.
Other difficulties presented themselves in the treatise on the Eucharist. Several popes had issued decrees or ring communion in both species, "as the division of one and the same great mystery cannot take place without great sacrilege." The canon law ordered likewise. Where is the authority for communion in one kind? Christ said, "Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." According to Rome the words in the sixth chapter of St. John's Gospel are very plain in ordering communion. Does not Christ, granting the Roman interpretation, speak there of communion in two kinds?
After the treatise on the Eucharist came that on Penance, with its peculiar doctrines of the confessional. The evils and dangers surrounding this development in the Roman Church, and the contradictions involved in it, forced my attention, and urged me to trace the doctrine and its growth back to the beginning. Who does not know that the early Christians did not confess their sins as Roman Catholics do nowadays? Who is ignorant that the apostles and the early bishops and priests did not hear confessions as modern Roman priests do? What trace is there in Scripture or history of the apostolicity and catholicity of the Roman practice of to-day? Often when preparing for confession, and often when as a priest I heard confessions, I wondered if Christ could have instituted such a sacrament. The practice encourages in penitents superficial sorrow that does not reach into the soul, hasty and hurried confessions, and very seldom leads to a permanent change in life. How can a confessor hearing confessions at the rate of ten, fifteen, or twenty an hour, have time for giving the counsel that penitents need? The priest does not forgive the sins; he pronounces a form of absolution, but God alone forgives. Rome says that the ecclesiastical and divine-positive and natural laws enforce the secrecy of the confessional. Not even the pope can dispense in the divine-positive law, and the natural law is immutable. Why, then, violate the seal of the confessional in the canonization of saints? A doctrine without proof, one that would require a very God in the confessional, instead of a weak, ignorant, sinful
man, one that fails the test of ubique, semper, ab omnibus, how could I accept it as Catholic and apostolic?
It was during the year that I studied the tractates on the Eucharist ar Penance that for several weeks my confessor could not prevail on me to receive the blessed sacrament of communion. My mind was in a miserable state. At times how I longed to be an atheist, if such a thing were possible! I could not be an atheist; I could not be an unbeliever. I knew that Christ founded one church, and I wished to find it, to belong to it.
The next doctrine that became a stumbling-block to me was the Immaculate Conception. It certainly was not ubique, semper, ab omnibus. Apart from the truth or falsity, the possibility or impossibility of such a doctrine, it is a striking instance of Roman developments and innovations. The greatest writers in the Christian world, Saints Augustin, Ambrose, and Chrysostom, Eusebius, Venerable Bede, Saints Anselm, Maximus, Remigius, Bernard of Clairvaux, Bonaventure, Thomas of Aquin, as also Potho of Prün, the Abbot de la Celle, Alexander of Hales, Albert the Great, Peter Lombard, and innumerable others, opposed the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception as novel, impossible, and opposed to the Scripture. Add to these the following popes, who also expressly objected to the doctrine: Innocent I., Zosimus, Boniface I., Leo I., Gelasius I., Gregory I., Boniface III., John IV., Innocent II., Innocent III., Honorius III., Innocent V., Clement VI., and Eugene IV. Acquainted with the history of this doctrine and the disputes concerning it, seeing it made a touch-stone of orthodoxy and essential of faith for salvation, knowing that it has never been heard of in the Greek and Anglican churches, seeing that past generations had been saved without it, what wonder that I could not accept it?
Next came the doctrine of indulgences. Where does Christ give authority to the apostles, or to any one, to interfere between himself and departed souls by granting indulgences? This doctrine of indulgences takes for granted that Christ did not apply his own merits, but left them in a treasury for the popes to distribute. It adds the finite merits of the saints to the infinite merits of Christ. Add finity to infinity, and what is the sum?
It assumes that the infinite merits of Christ more than atoned for the infinite insult offered to God by sin. May we not reverse the infinities, I thought, and say, with equal reason, that the infinite majesty of God was too infinite to accept even the infinite merits of Christ as an atonement for an infinite insult? If the souls in purgatory are pardoned any of their punishments by indulgences, then such souls do not pay the last farthing, and if they do pay the last farthing, then they obtain no pardon through indulgences.
Where is the authority for the canonization of saints? Who can tell the things of heaven, or whether such and such departed ones are enjoying the beatific vision there, except the Son of man which is in heaven? Why have the faithful to pay a certain stipend in order to secure mass for themselves or for their intention? Do not the clergy obtain sufficient support without trading on the most excellent of Christ's pledges, the commemoration of himself in the Eucharist? How often Christ's beloved poor have to deprive themselves of the mass and the graces they believe it brings because they are poor! What wonder that men complain that Rome has systematized and changed Christianity until all the divine beauty and charity and meekness of the Lamb are concealed beneath the accumulated perversions and corruptions! What wonder that my mind felt weary and disappointed and my heart sad as I found the Christianity of Rome so far removed from what I had been taught to believe!
Every one knows that Rome teaches that the marriage bond cannot be dissolved except by death. Why, then, does the pope claim the right to dissolve valid marriages within two months after their celebration if they be not consummated, in order to give the husband the right of making solemn vows of religion? Trent teaches this doctrine. The Roman canon of Scripture, and the disputes among the leading divines as to the interpretation of the councils and the rules for interpreting Scripture, prove sore difficulties to an inquisitive mind. I could not help thinking that assertion too frequently passed for proof. Is it not arguing in a circle to take the Scriptures to prove the claims of the Roman councils and popes, and then to take the popes and councils to prove the Scriptures and the canon of them? It