« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
Roman Empire, which admitted the worship of all gods in the Pantheon of Agrippa. The proof of this universal homage resides rather in the breadth of views of the spirit of modern philosophy than in the exclusive spirit of true Catholicism.
Struck by the grandeur of this papal jubilee, many eminent writers see in it the proof that the Catholic Church is destined to gather in all nations of the two hemispheres under Rome's authority, and thus to realize the ideal of a universal church; and she can, in truth, be aided by the two powerful movements which are now shaking and transforming the whole world, the democratic movement and the movement for social reform.
The Christian Church, at its origin, was the most democratic of all institutions. All those in authority were directly elected by the totality of members, without any distinction whatever, either as regards electors or elected. She was, in fact, a republic, and an international one. If she will but return to her early origin, and act purely in conformity with her essential principles, her opinions will acquire greater power than any in the universe, and she will in herself realize the most perfect of democracies that could be conceived. All that the kings would lose, the pope, as chosen chief of this democracy, would gain. The boundaries of states would be no limit to the conquests of the church, for is she not essentially cosmopolitan—the famous circle without a center, whose circumference is everywhere? The church need but bear in mind the conduct of her founders and the precepts of her fathers, and be guided solely by these, and the incalculable force of social renovation, now only at its onset, will bear her along with it. Did not the apostles of old go so far as to have all their possessions in common, and do not all the sacred writers defend the rights of the poor of this world? What, indeed, is the gospel save good tidings to the destitute?
Recently several Roman Catholic bishops have called to mind these traditions of Christianity. Leo XIII, while still Bishop of Perugia, wrote as follows in his pastoral letter of 1877:
"In view of so large a portion of humanity prematurely worn out by pitiless cupidity, we may well ask whether the adepts of this godless civilization, instead of aiding our progress, do not rather send us some centuries backward to that period of mourning when slavery crushed so large a portion of the human
race, and when the poet sadly exclaimed, 'humanity lives only for a few privileged beings'—humanum paucis vivit genus.”
In Germany we hear just the same language. The Abbé Winterer, the deputy for Mulhausen, recently expressed himself thus in the Reichstag:
"The social question is very closely connected with the religious; the church has never ignored it. She did not ignore it when it presented itself as the slavery question, nor as the servitude question; and she cannot ignore it now that it presents itself as the wages and agrarian question, or, in other words, as the question of socialism. Were she to forget this, she would have to efface from the gospel the words 'misereor super turbam.”
Let us now listen to Cardinal Manning's language, which certainly would not be disavowed by the most radical socialist:
"The power of capital may be very fairly estimated by the fact that out of a hundred strikes not more than five or six terminate in favor of the workmen. Their dependence is so complete, and the privations of their families, composed of feeble women and children, so intolerable and imperious, that the struggle between living and dead capital is most unequal, and the freedom of contract, so often vaunted by political economy, does not in very truth exist at all. Under these circumstances does it not behoove the church to protect the workers who have accumulated the common riches of humanity?"
In America, Cardinal Gibbons, who recently saved Henry George's works from being placed on the Index, takes the same view as Cardinal Manning. He says:
"As it is a recognized fact that the great questions of the future will not touch upon either wars, trade, or finance, but will concern social life and the amelioration of the condition of the great masses of the population, and especially of the working classes, it is of the utmost importance that the church should firmly sustain the humane side of the question, and yield her support to those who claim justice for the multitude who compose the body of the human family."
Will the Roman Catholic clergy, under the guidance of their bishops, openly follow the course here advocated? Will they, like the early fathers, stand up to defend the working classes? Shall we ever see, as an eminent Roman Catholic predicts, a socialist pope denouncing, like Cardinal Manning, the tyranny of capital? According to some recent interpretations, the woman seated upon a scarlet beast, and arrayed in a robe of purple and scarlet, is the papacy, which, in order to reign over
nations and kings, is taking up socialism; and the beast upon which the woman is seated is the red democracy, which the pope will make use of to overcome all resistance. As the papacy is, at the present time, the most absolute autocracy in the world, it is probable that the same principles of authority will be upheld so long as the support of sovereigns continues to be of service; but, on the day that royalty is no longer of avail to the furthering of the projects of the Vatican, the people and democracy and socialism will be at once had recourse to.
It is not, however, my opinion that Roman Catholicism will ever become the universal religion. This high destiny can be reserved only for the primitive Christianity of the gospel. On the day that Christ said to the woman of Samaria, "the hour cometh when ye shall neither in this mountain nor yet at Jerusalem worship the Father, but when true worshipers shall worship him in spirit and in truth," was founded the true religion of humanity, the eternal and universal religion, irrespective of nationalities, doctrines, and dogmas. The Sermon on the Mount can never be surpassed. In Christ's teachings, worship and dogmas have very little place. The love of God as the type of all that is perfect, love for fellow-men, and charity to all, this sums up the doctrine. "Be ye therefore perfect, as my Father which is in heaven is perfect," and "Love thy neighbor as thyself;" on these commandments, are we not told, hang the law and the prophets? The poorer classes who have abandoned Christianity will return to it again when they have once been made to understand that it brings them equality and freedom; whereas atheism and materialism simply sanction their slavery, sacrificing them to certain pretended natural laws. The gospel of Christ, the "good tidings" for the poor, would put an end to all our economic difficulties, if the spirit of brotherhood and charity therein taught were generally understood and practiced.
In spite of Macaulay's opinion and of the apparent spread of Roman Catholicism, the future does not belong to it. The two great countries which appear destined to acquire an almost limitless development are Russia, with Siberia and Central Asia, and the United States. The billion of inhabitants that these will count by the close of the next two centuries will be chiefly
Protestants or of the Greek Church. Is it likely, then, that they will be willing to recognize the authority of the Vatican and of a few old Italian prelates of whose existence even they are scarcely aware? Roman Catholicism cannot satisfy cultivated minds. Since the proclamation of the infallibility of the pope, which Bossuet rejected as blasphemy, it is in direct opposition to the most fundamental notions of what constitutes a state, and absolutely at war with all the aspirations of the modern man. It has become overloaded with dogmas which can neither be explained nor denied. They must be enveloped in mysticism, as they cannot bear the light of scientific discussion. Benjamin Constant proves that religion has always become transformed simultaneously with civilization; it is, therefore, impossible for it to remain unchanged. Any worship which does not keep pace with the progress of general instruction is soon only suitable for the uneducated classes, and is abandoned by the higher orders of society. Superstition then gradually gains ground, while the more educated portions of the community give way to incredulity. Is not this the state of affairs now in nearly all Roman Catholic countries? The simple
Christianity of the gospel is not subject to these changes, because it is a pure ideal which is completely summed up in the commandments, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy soul and with all thy strength, and thy neighbor as thyself."
There is one dogma of the Roman Catholic Church which will effectually prevent its ever becoming the religion of a free country such as the United States. This dogma, which has been over and over again enforced by popes and councils, orders the suppression of heresy and heretics. Listen to what Bossuet says on this subject, and remember that he was hostile to ultramontanism, and not disposed to magnify the authority of the popes:
"I declare that I have always been of opinion that princes have the right to pass penal laws to compel heretics to conform to the rites and observances of the Catholic Church; and secondly, that this doctrine is a standing one in the church, which has not only followed, but also requested from princes, the enaction of such ordinances."*
* Letter dated November 12, 1700, being a debate with the Bishop of Montauban as to whether Protestants converted by the dragoons were to be com
These doctrines are incontestable and admitted by all fervent Catholics. The fourth council of Lateran, which was ecumenical, under Pope Innocent IIL, in 1216, thus ordains, in Canon III.:
"If a temporal lord, required and advised by the church, neglects to rid his state of the heretical pestilence, the bishop must excommunicate him; and if he still refuses obedience, the pope must be informed, so that his vassals may be proclaimed free from their allegiance, and his land given over to true Catholics, who, after having expelled the heretics, may possess it without contestation in purity of faith."
The present pope, Leo XIII., strongly insists on the value of St. Thomas's works as the basis of philosophical and moral instruction. This "father of the church" is even clearer than Bossuet in his explanation of the true Catholic doctrine respecting religious liberty. He says:
"If heretics did not corrupt their fellows, they could, nevertheless, be suppressed. Secular justice can legitimately put them to death (judicio seculari possunt licito occidi) and deprive them of their possessions, even if they do not corrupt others; for they are blasphemers against God and observers of a false faith, so that they deserve more severe punishment than those who are guilty of high treason or of coining false money.” "> *
The papacy has always considered the destruction of heretics a triumph for the church. Before entering the Capella Sistina in the Vatican, you pass through a hall called the Sala Regia. On the walls are pictures by Vadari, representing the triumphs of the Roman Church. Four of these frescoes show the horrors of the massacre of the Huguenots on St. Bartholomew's eve. Pope Gregory XIII. ordered the perpetuation on the walls of his palace of the memory of this crime, the anniversary of which drew tears from the eyes of Voltaire. The residence of the pope is the only place in the world where murder is publicly glorified.
Lord Acton, in his reply to the expostulations of Mr. Gladstone, maintains that the intolerance of the church is a thing of the past. Cardinal Manning is also of this opinion, and, as an pelled to attend mass. Bossuet is of opinion that they should not be compelled, not from any consideration for their liberty of conscience, but out of respect for the mass. This curious correspondence should be read and considered in order clearly to understand the true spirit of Catholicism.
* "Sententiæ," Lib. IV., D. 13, quest. ii., art. 3.