Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States

Edited by: Lalor, John J.
Display paragraphs in this book containing:
First Pub. Date
New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co.
Pub. Date
Includes articles by Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Henry George, J. B. Say, Francis A. Walker, and more.
928 of 1105



ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH. The object of the present article is, in the first place, to present a condensed exposition of all those provisions of the constitution of the Catholic church which are of any importance for the political understanding of ecclesiastical questions, and then of those principles of that same constitution which have to do with the relation of the Catholic church to the state and to other confessions, etc.: the whole from the point of view, and according to the teaching, of the Catholic church itself.*90


—I. Nature and Mission of the Church. The Catholic church, according to its own dogmatic teaching is the body or community of all those who are united in the faith in Jesus Christ, a community founded by Jesus Christ, the Son of God, to the end that, within its fold, the individual may work out his eternal salvation. To effect this his purpose, Christ—for the continuation of the functions which he performed during his earthly life, and for the application of the spiritual means of the sacraments bequeathed by him to this community—at the same time established his apostolate, charged with the task and endowed with the power of appointing successors who should, unto the end of time, labor toward the restoration willed by Christ, and purchased for them by his incarnation and death, viz., the restoration of all nations to the true faith, and effecting through that faith, their entrance into the kingdom of God. To preserve the true faith unaltered forever, God promised and sent the Holy Ghost, the divine Spirit, to the church, to remain with it throughout all time. The Catholic Church, founded by Christ, is the only true (unica, una) one; it is of direct divine institution, built on the apostles chosen by Christ himself, and on their successors, descended from them, in an uninterrupted series, by spiritual generation or ordination (ecclesia apostolica); it has been called to be universal (catholica) both in time and space, and to receive into its bosom all those who fulfill the conditions which Christ attached to entrance into his community; unto it is granted, through its instruments of grace, the power to make man the child of God, to help him to fulfill his religious destiny and to sanctify him (ecclesia sancta). But, to do this, the church must be everywhere recognizable, external and visible (ecclesia externa, visibilis). To this end it has received, in the fundamental features of it, a definite constitution, with the church's central point in the bishop of Rome, the successor to the priority conferred by Christ on Peter, that is to say, to the primacy among the apostles, and therefore, in the bishop of Rome as the visible vicar of Christ. Hence the church is an ecclesia, catholica, apostolica Romana. In order that the church may not err in matters pertaining to the faith, that is, in general, in its teaching, concerning all those doctrines on the acceptance of which membership in the Christian community depends (the dogmas of the church), or in those precepts the observance of which is a condition to the salvation of the individual (the fundamental doctrines of morals), it is, by the constant dwelling within it of the Holy Ghost, endowed with infallibility for all time (ecclesia infallibilis). Thus, the Catholic church represents itself, not merely as a subjective community of Christian believers, but also as an objective community, as the only external visible institution founded by Christ for the realization of his kingdom. Its foundation is the doctrine of faith and morals proclaimed by Christ himself, and preserved, first, in the recognized sacred books of the New Testament (Bible), which, according to the universal belief of the church, were written under divine inspiration, and secondly, in the oral tradition of the church. The church is, accordingly, the fulfillment of the promise made by God after the fall, the institution for which he prepared the way under the old dispensation; so that Christianity is not the abolition but the fulfillment of Judaism; and therefore the sacred books of the latter (the Old Testament) in as far as they do not exclusively relate to national, ceremonial and like affairs, preserve their authority in Christianity.


—Hence the aim and object of the church is not the establishment of an earthly kingdom; it is not a kingdom of this world; its interests are not secular, but religious and spiritual; its mission is to restore harmony between the cravings of the sensitive faculty and the commands of God, to bring it to pass that the individual, through faith, and through the grace accorded by God to all, may will his own salvation, and with freedom, by works conformable to the faith, labor for his salvation. According to the teaching of the Catholic church, it is not mere faith in Christ that insures salvation, but faith in Christ, and works corresponding to that faith: a life in, and conformable to, the faith. Although, according to its dogmas, entrance into its communion is a condition to salvation (extra ecclesiam nulla salus), the attaching of the consequences which follow the non-fulfillment of that condition presupposes knowledge, and an act of the will refusing to enter it. Hence the church does not condemn those of a faith other than its own.


—In this world, the church fulfills its task through the mediation of a visible institution, and through means, connected with visible symbols and forms; visible, because intended for men who, as visible, external beings, are bound to and can not escape such forms. Those of the church who have ended their earthly career, immediately enter into a state of perfection, of beatitude in the contemplation of God (church triumphant), or remain in a middle state of purification (purgatory), (the church suffering). These, together with the faithful in this world still working out their salvation in the earthly struggle (church militant), constitute the communion of saints (communio sanctorum); through this communion the merits of the saints may be applied to those on earth, and the prayers of the living avail those undergoing the purification of purgatory. Only the church on earth (the church militant) has anything to do with human law. It enters into the domain of law because of the action which it desires to and must exercise on men, even on all men, because of the external means it employs, and finally because of its compact, visible organization. But its mission, nevertheless, is not an earthly and human one; hence, by its very nature, it is not dependent on any power whatever, nor conditioned by any such power; the church must fulfill its mission, wherever and as soon as it has the means to fulfill it; because with the possibility to fulfill it comes its duty to fulfill it. As regards the individual Catholic, the external fulfillment of his duty consists in the life in the church, and according to the teachings of the church. And this supposes: participation in external divine worship (cultus); participation in the means of grace, in each according to the circumstances of life (the sacraments); the fulfillment of the commands which the church teaches as directly divine, or which it proclaims itself by virtue of the power granted it (profession of the dogmas of the church, and observance of the precepts of morals). When the acts of individuals are external, they become subject to human law (forum externum); but when these acts are entirely internal, they belong to the domain of conscience (forum internum).


—II. Constitution and Administration of the Church. 1. Persons. The constitution of the church, or of the society which constitutes the church, is that of a societas inœqualis, as it was called even in the middle ages. That society is divided into two different and separate classes: first, the clergy, the body which embraces all persons chosen to guide the church, to administer the means of grace left it, and to act as mediators of salvation to individuals; and secondly, the laymen, the people, the collective body of the faithful, subject to the guidance of the clergy. Sometimes the former are called the teaching, ruling or governing church, and the latter the learning or obeying church. The mark that distinguishes these classes each from the other, is ordination, bestowed on the clergy by a bishop, which is, as it were, an act of spiritual generation, and of itself confers the faculty (facultas spiritualis) of administering or dispensing the spiritual means of grace bequeathed to the church. There is a gradation in holy orders, according as this administration of the sacraments, or means of grace, by the very nature of that administration, supposes a power which does not reside in man as such, and which, therefore, can not be acquired or conferred without the indwelling capacity to confer it, in the person who confers it; or according as it may be exercised by purely human faculties. The priests (presbyteri, sacerdotes), through the sacrament of holy orders (the external sign consisting in the imposition of hands by the bishop, the invocation of the Holy Ghost, and anointment), receive the grace and especially the power of changing the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, and hence of performing the sacred function which is the central point of divine worship in the Catholic church. They are intrusted with the guidance of the life of the church in detail. Above the priests stand the bishops, as successors of the apostles, endowed with the plenitude of the priesthood, a plenitude which manifests itself in the spiritual power to grant admission into the ranks of the clergy, and especially into the priesthood and episcopate. The bishops become such by virtue of a special act called consecration, and are looked upon as the holders, necessarily and unconditionally called for the government of the church, of the fullness of power deposited in the church. From the bishops the other members of the clergy derive their powers, as well as the external right (called jurisdictio in the language of the church) of exercising the spiritual faculties which have been granted them. The episcopate is, therefore, the exclusive guide and ruler of the church, and this by virtue of its position in the church; its power is the ordinary , and hence is also called, by way of eminence, jurisdictio ordinaria; if any one else is invested with an analogous authority, it is only by way of fiction. The priestly and episcopal dignity is indelibly stamped on the individual; or, in theological language, it impresses on the soul a character indelebilis, so that the priest or the bishop may, in deed, be deprived of his right as such, but never of his purely spiritual power. Hence there always exists between them and laymen a profound spiritual ineffaceable difference. Below the priests, there are six other grades of the clergy (deacons, subdeacons, acolytes, exorcists, lectors, ostiaries), the members of which have no similar specific functions to perform, and to whom, on that account, the indelible character of the priesthood is not imputed. Their duties, in our day, in the church, are practically nothing; but in themselves these duties consist in talking care of the poor, attending the sick, and in discharging the humbler services in the church. Among the clergy are reckoned, moreover, all who have received the tonsure, and who are thus externally distinguished from laymen. The clergy are further divided into the secular clergy, and the regular clergy, belonging to the religious orders. The former embrace all who are subject only to the law applicable to the clergy, and, speaking relatively, to the law applicable to all the faithful in general; the latter include all those who live in accordance with a particular rule (regula, hence clerus regularis) obligatory upon them only by virtue of their own voluntary act. A person belonging to a religious or monastic body need not have received any of the degrees of holy orders, so that here the difference is not a practical one.


—The seven degrees of holy orders are divided into the higher orders (priests, deacons and subdeacons) and minor orders. All of them confer certain rights and impose duties which it is not necessary to enumerate here.


—At the summit of the episcopate, as head of the church, is the pope. The pope and the bishops are the necessary, independent rulers of the church. They represent the teaching, governing church. Their representation of the church takes place in a general council; such council can not, in the very nature of things, be always nor even frequently assembled. Hence, from the beginning, the guidance of the church by the episcopate was practically this: each bishop obtained (and obtains) a portion of the domain of the church, as his exclusive field of activity, within which he executes the mission of the church as teacher, priest and administrator of its laws. To the episcopal office, the only and fundamental one in the government of the church, there have in time been associated other authorities or bodies, the existence of which, not resting on any necessity, is a result of historical development, and consequently remains subject to that development in the future.


—Hence the constitutional and administrative organism of the church is the following: The territorial domain of the church is divided into dioceses. The occupant and ruler of each diocese or see is a bishop (episcopus diœcesanus, ordinarius). Several dioceses constitute an ecclesiastical province (provincia ecclesiastica) under a metropolitan, who, however, is only a judge of second resort, who is empowered to visit the dioceses of his suffragans, governed by clearly defined provisions, who has besides a few other powers, but whose office has by no means a complete intermediate degree of authority. In the early days of the church, several provinces constituted a patriarchate (Italy, the Roman; one at Constantinople, and one at Jerusalem, Antiochia and Alexandria respectively). The modern patriarchates, those just mentioned, those of Venice and Lisbon, and that of the Armenians and Maronites, are merely nominal, and without any juridical importance.


—The union of the bishops with the pope is effected by the constant intercourse that naturally results from the ever-recurring need of papal acts and decisions for the several dioceses, and also by the duty of the ordinaries of presenting themselves from time to time before the pope, to give an account of the condition of their dioceses in everything that pertains to the church; by the sending out of papal legates; but, above all by the oath of fidelity or oath of obedience, which every bishop takes to the pope at his consecration. Finally, the intercourse of the pope with the faithful (both ecclesiastics and laymen) affords him a means of obtaining information concerning the condition of the several churches, since every one is free, subject, of course, to rational rules, to communicate with the pope.


—In the guidance and government of the dioceses the bishops are assisted, so far as the entire diocese is concerned: 1. By chapters (metropolitan chapters, cathedral chapters, etc.). These sprung by degrees from the clergy of the bishop's city, and particularly from the clergy of the bishop's church; from the sixth to the ninth century, they led a life in common (rita communis), after the pattern of monks, subject to a rule; later they assumed, more and more, the character of independent corporations, a character which they still retain. The bishop is required to obtain their consent to certain acts, and to seek their advice as to others; leaving these cases out of consideration, cases which are distinctly defined in the law of the church, the bishop is not bound by the chapters nor obliged to choose his assistants in the administration of his diocese from among them, although practically he does so everywhere. 2. The vicars general (vicarii generales), who were originally, particularly in Germany, appointed as a counterpoise to the excessive jurisdiction of the archdeacons, and who by degrees maintained their position as permanent assistants by reason of the great extent of the dioceses and the frequent absence of the bishops. 3. Suffragan bishops (vicarii in pontificalibus). These are real bishops, consecrated with a title to dioceses which formerly existed, but which are now in the hands of the infidels (in Asia and Africa). These bishops are appointed by the pope at the request of the bishop, and, as mandataries of the bishop, perform episcopal spiritual functions. They are given only to cardinal bishoprics, to great dioceses, and to those in which such suffragan bishops are traditional. 4. Officials, with the same historical development and position as the vicars general, but limited to the exercise of juridica authority.


—In our days a formal tribunal for this purpose is usually appointed (with a president and at least four councilors), a tribunal which the bishop constitutes as he wishes. In like manner, there is generally appointed an official body for the administration of the diocese, under the presidency of the ordinary or of his vicar general.


For the separate districts. The dioceses are divided into archdeaneries, deaneries, and district vicariates, at the head of which, named by the bishop (also by the clergy of the diocese, and confirmed by the bishop), there is an arch-priest, dean and district vicar, to whom belongs the supervision of the clergy in their office, of their moral conduct, the administration of the property of the church, and, as a rule, the schools for the children of the people. The dean, etc., is required to visit his district every year, and conscientiously to report its condition and the state of its accounts, and to examine the parish books; he is the medium of communication of the bishop with the clergy, and of the addresses or petitions of the latter to the episcopal authorities. He has no jurisdiction, but only the right to make expostulations, remonstrances, etc. A district of this kind embraces an indefinite number of parishes (parochiœ), each governed by a parish priest (parochus). The parish priest, accordingly, is the most important helpmate of the bishop. The parish priest has, as assistants, vicars, chaplains, curates, etc., who are appointed and removed by the bishop.


—2. Objects of the Church's Action. It clearly follows, from what has been said, that the life of the individual, in its totality, is the proper object of the action of the church, inasmuch as the mission of the church consists in this: to remove all contradiction, in man, between his will and the commands of God, that is, to bring perfect harmony into all his actions. Its efforts, therefore, by no means aim at doing away with natural (national, political) relations or conditions, but only at bringing them into harmony with Christian conditions, that is, at raising the principles, ideas and maxims that move individuals and nations in their doings, to the height of Christian principles, ideas and maxims. Hence it strives not to remove or destroy the external, special, peculiar stamp given to individuals and nations by their character, land and climate; but only to concentrate them, in their final end, on the goal to which religion tends, that is, on the world beyond. This sufficiently explains why the church has endeavored to leave its impress, and actually has left it, on all nations, on their different classes and on their condition, changing and transforming them; why it has endeavored to banish, and, by its influence, for the most part, has banished, from civil, penal, public and international law, every principle which was based on heathen views, or was in conflict with its own principles, or which stood as an external obstacle in the way of the full development of its doctrine. It is intelligible, that the church endeavored to exert, and actually exerted, a direct influence here, because it considered that in this manner it could most fittingly secure the actual operation and enforcement of Christian principles. Thus, during the middle ages, we see an infinity of objects drawn into its domain, with which, at a first glance, it would seem to have nothing to do. Men, in our day, are accustomed to look upon all this as a transcending of power, as evidence of the usurpation of the clergy, and the ambition of popes; they forget, that in looking at it through the spectacles of the nineteenth century they are judging not historically, but only critically. Denied it can not be, that all civilized nations have been educated by the Catholic church; that through it a Christian foundation was given to the state, and a new civilization introduced into all the departments of social life and of the life of the law. How deeply the necessity of the position the church assumed here, was rooted in the circumstances of the time and in the mission of the church and the state, in those ages, is sufficiently evinced by the fact, that this action of the church met with almost no opposition. All resistance before the sixteenth century was directed only against certain matters of detail. But, although the practical action of the church still may extend, or historically has extended, into every sphere, it can not be ignored that its direct action, so far as its end and mission are concerned, has not so broad an aim now, and that consequently no place in things non-essential belongs to it, that none such is necessary or can appear necessary to it, and that it has no right to such a place. Rather can the direct, immediate and ever-legitimate aim of the church be this and this only: man in his moral and religious relations. If the church here attains its object, harmony will of itself follow. Nothing, therefore, would be more foolish than for the clergy of the Catholic church to long for the recovery of worldly rights, honors and titles, as did the Jews for the flesh pots of Egypt. If the clergy be truly spiritual, and not worldly, if they keep in view, not only in the pulpit, but in their own body, alone and in connection with others, the honor of God, the salvation of their neighbor, and, finally, their own supreme end and esteem; if they only do all this, honor, and, what is of paramount importance, their own greatest efficiency for the elevation of society, will be better secured than if human laws prescribed that any homage should be paid them.


—Hence, what immediately and necessarily comes within the province of the church is, in the first place, the preaching of the divine word, that is, instruction in the Christian religion. Its founder has imposed on it the imperative duty to preach the word, and, therefore, given it the right to do so. It may, indeed, for a time be prevented, by circumstances beyond its control, from exercising that right, but it can never, in principle, abandon it, nor require any external recognition of it. This task of the church is called the potestas magisterii. To it belongs the religious instruction of its members, whether imparted in higher institutions of learning or in public schools, since it would be inconsistent to want the church, and at the same time to question its exclusive right of instruction in the faith. If there be no doubt in this matter, there is a doubt as to how far the influence of the church in the public schools should extend. No one will assert that the public schools have simply the duty to equip the child with knowledge. They are also called upon to educate and to train it, in the proper sense of the word; but education without religious principles is a radically vicious one. It is likewise manifest, that, since the majority of young people, on leaving the schools, cease accumulating fresh stores of knowledge, what they have acquired at school remains with most men the basis of their actions through life. But from this it clearly follows that the church, in respect of the public schools, can not confine itself to the task of merely imparting religious instruction, but must claim and have a considerable influence in the business of education in general.*91 The means employed by the church in the exercise of its functions as teacher, are religious instruction to the youth at school (teaching of the catechism), in the church (Sunday school teaching), sermons, instruction by pastoral letters, etc., and, finally, by books.


—When, through religious teaching, the soil has been prepared for a Christian life, the individual in the Catholic church is kept forever mindful of his duties by the means left by Christ, for the sanctification of the different situations in life. The power to administer these means is the potestas ordinis. The means are the seven sacraments (external symbols), instituted by Christ, to which is attached an inward grace; through one of which (baptism) man is introduced into the church after birth; through another of which he is strengthened for the service of God by the Holy Ghost (confirmation); rescued from his lapse into sin, the consequence of human frailty, by a third (penance); by a fourth, the eucharist, he partakes of the body and blood of the incarnate God. By matrimony, a fifth, he is sanctified and strengthened for the natural alliance of the family. By holy orders, the sixth, those called thereto are endowed with the gifts necessary for a particular spiritual alliance with the church. Finally, by extreme unction, on his death bed, the Catholic is prepared for his exit from this world. In a word, in all the situations of life the Catholic is guided by the loving hand of his mother, the church. Besides the sacraments, hereto belong also the whole external divine worship (worship and liturgy), and what is connected with it (sacramentals, ceremonies, etc.).


—The exercise of these two powers, the potestas magisterii and the potestas ordinis, requires a settled order of things. The establishment and development of the latter, on the basis of the fundamental principles given by Christ, given with the church itself, as well as its enforcement, constitute the third power of the church, the potestas jurisdictionis, or government, in the proper sense of the term. This triple power, in its totality, resides in the episcopate, the bishops. The potestas jurisdictionis, from the very nature of the case, is chiefly that activity of the church which is externally apparent, and, for that reason, most capable of juridical development, and which in fact has a part in that development. In the exercise of this power the church enters the domain of law, and comes in contact with states, individuals and religious bodies separated from it. The principal departments of this jurisdiction are the legislation and administration of the church, particularly the creation and filling of ecclesiastical offices, the supervision of the administration of the clergy, the exercise of the judicial authority of the church over the clergy and laity, and the administration of the property of the church.


—3. Legal Rules for Ecclesiastic Administration. The ecclesiastical law is the sum total of the principles according to which the church lives and acts in its internal and external relations. Its sources are, in the first place, the positive divine precepts contained in the New Testament, which are, however, as a matter of course, but few, because Christ gave only the broad outlines of the constitution of the church, the development of which, as indeed the development of all law, is the work of time. In the first centuries of the church the customary law, resting for the most part on traditions handed down from the time of the apostles, was the most abundant source of the law of the church, yet one which subsequently receded before other sources, but which, at the same time—because it is the criterion in accordance with which all rules are established (rules required by special circumstances, and which are therefore gradually developed), that traditional customary law, of which we are speaking—is of great importance, exists even at the present day, and continues to modify many laws of the church. It now finds expression in the eigens ecclesiœ disciplina, which in many points varies considerably from the state of things supposed by the written law, which latter must take into account circumstances and the times. There are, besides, the canones, that is, the decrees of the synods, and the papal constitutions.


—III. Relations of the Catholic Church to Non-Christians. The church, as has been shown, maintains that membership in the Christian church is a fundamental condition to the attainment of the salvation of the soul. From this it deduces the right and duty of announcing the gospel to non-Christians, and of receiving them into its fold. This activity of the church is designated by the word mission. A congregation in Rome, bearing the name S. Congregatio de Propaganda Fide, looks after the execution of this task. To this end the congregation has an institution, in which most of the Asiatic and other languages are taught, and large revenues for the support of missionaries. To this congregation, under the guidance of the pope, are subject all countries, in which the church is either not tolerated at all, or in which it has not yet been able to attain the full development of its legal organization. Such countries are called terrœ missionis, in contradistinction to countries which are ruled by the common law of the church and by the regular hierarchy, and which are terrœ sedis apostolicœ. The system of church government in missionary countries must, from the very nature of the case, be dictated more by prudence (the circumstances of place, time, climate, political constitution, the stage of civilization of the people) than by the strict letter of the law. As means of conversion, instruction only is admitted: all compulsion, etc., is excluded. The violent conversion of certain German tribes (the Saxons), by Charlemagne, that of the Jews in Spain, and other and similar conversions, did not proceed from the church, although a few individual bishops may perhaps have approved of them. Such conversions are sufficiently explained by the views held in those times, which knew only Christian society (the ecclesiastico-political), and when states considered it a matter of duty to convert all non-Christians, even against their will. But from the point of view of the church, only man's free will can call for admittance into the church.


—It was an altogether different matter, when in many countries, during the middle ages, the Jews were ordered by the popes, at certain seasons of the year, to listen to Christian sermons, that they might become acquainted with Christianity. This was considered legitimate, because the duty of taking care that the truth should not remain hidden from the Jews was acknowledged. The Jews were tolerated and protected by the popes and bishops more than by any others, so that, relatively speaking, there are now more Jews living in countries formerly Catholic, and particularly in countries ruled by dignitaries of the church, than in others. But non-Christians, because they have not received baptism, stand in no relation to the church. For the same reason they are not subject to the laws of the church, nor can they, as such, be judged by the church. But the church, nevertheless, considers non-Christians bound by the laws which it calls divine, because engraved on the heart of every man. When, accordingly, there is question in its forum of the rightfulness of any act, the church does not decide it by its positive laws, but by the dictates of the jus divinum; for instance, it considers the marriage of non-Christians indissoluble. The matrimonial impediments created by the divine law (as, for instance, the impediments between those in the ascending and descending lines, between brothers and sisters, etc.) the church regards as binding on non-Christians. With regard to the admission of grown-up non-Christians to her fold, the church maintains that religious conviction only is necessary, but not any definite age or further requirements. Since all compulsion must be regarded as illegitimate, it is not permitted by the Catholic church to baptize the children of non-Christians, as for instance, those of Jewish parentage, against the will of their parents, but it insists that a baptized child shall receive a Christian education.


—Dating from the early centuries of the Christian era, and from the middle ages, there still exist a number of laws which forbid the intercourse of Catholics with non-Christians, or which restrict such intercourse to the absolutely necessary; but which forbid, above all, certain kinds of familiar intercourse with such persons (as the service as house maids, man servants, nurses, etc.), and which further absolutely forbid such intercourse with the Jews. Prohibitions of this kind existed until recent times in a few states (in Austria until the summer of 1859, but they were not enforced), and they still exist in several Italian states, in Spain, etc. The reason of such prohibitions, dating from early times, was the danger to the faith which that intercourse necessarily involved, so long as the Christian religion had not attained to full recognition, and so long as paganism had not entirely disappeared. With the Christian state this reason ceased to exist, when in the Neo-Latin, Germanic and Slavonic states the heathen religion was no longer tolerated. As reasons for the maintenance and renewal of these prohibitions in case of the Jews, may be alleged the embarrassing situations in which servants might be placed, the danger that they might become indifferent to their religion, particularly when not kept to the observance of it, or that they should be compelled to hear it ridiculed, etc. The civil condition of the Jews does not concern the church. For, although the state in many of its laws relating to the emancipation of the Jews places itself in contradiction with the principles of the Christian state, this implies no injury to the church so long as such laws do not affect the development of the church, and so long as the Christian foundations of states receive no injury from them. For I consider that the state has indeed the power but not the right to put itself in such contradiction.*92 Yet it implies no injury to the church that the state does not impose any legal restrictions on intercourse with Jews, the church having always tolerated such intercourse, and considered it unavoidable. On the other hand, the Catholic church can not be forbidden to employ suitable means to prevent her children from being exposed to unnecessary danger to their faith, and hence can not be prohibited to warn them against the familiar intercourse referred to above. I am, however, of opinion, that we ought to regard the ecclesiastical laws which punish this intercourse with censures (ecclesiastical punishments) as abrogated by a desuetudo generalis (general disuse), by reason of the altered circumstances of the times, as well as because of the modern development of the state.


—IV. Relation of the Catholic Church toward the Greek, Protestant and other Christian Sects. It follows from what has been said, that the Catholic church considers itself as the church, and consequently as the only church founded by Christ; that it maintains its doctrine to be the Christian doctrine, and every deviation from it as error; that its fundamental constitution, according to its dogma, is the one which was given by Christ to his church, and that the non-recognition of the latter and of the historically developed powers of the church implies unlawful opposition to Christ and to his church. Since the church not only exacts an inward, but also an external, visible acceptance of Christianity, any deviation from its teachings, or non-recognition of it, not only bears the character of a sin, but is the subversion of the legal order of things, and hence has the character of a crime. From the nature of the case, it is impossible to admit a will in opposition to the church, knowing it to be the only true church. For this reason the church looks upon the voluntary rejection of its doctrine as the crime of heresy (from , to choose), that is, the non-acceptance of its entire dogma, and on the rejection of the constitution of the church (especially of the primacy of the bishop of Rome) as the crime of schism, and punishes the same by exclusion from the church; and prescribes to the Christian state the obligation on its part to take action against such crimes. Such is the view that was maintained in all Christian states, after the pagan religion had been prohibited in the Roman empire, until the sixteenth century; in Catholic countries this view continued to be taken by the Italian states until the revolution of 1859, and by Spain and Portugal; in non-Catholic states, by Russia, practically; by Sweden, as to the abandonment of the Lutheran faith; and it is well known, that England retained the same view in part as regards the Anglican church. But in Germany this view was changed after the Passau decree of the states of the empire (1552), that of Augsburg (1555), and the peace of Westphalia (1648). Owing to the events of the sixteenth century, the effects of which were confirmed by the laws of the empire above referred to, there arose a condition of things which had for consequence not only the individual freedom of belonging to any one of the three Christian confessions (Catholic, Lutheran and Reformed), but which also brought about the complete political equality of Catholics and of the Catholic church on the one hand, and of the Protestants and the Protestant church on the other, and even the individual freedom of Christians, to not belong to any Christian confession. At the same time, by the peace of Westphalia and the establishment of the normal year, 1624, a definite limit was put to the external jurisdiction of both the Catholic and Protestant church over foreign yet kindred religious bodies in the separate territories of the empire. In consequence of events since 1803, all jurisdiction of the kind has generally ceased to exist in Germany.


—In this way was developed the equality of individuals and confessions. As a consequence of this, the rule of the canon law has naturally ceased to exist in respect to Germany, to France, England, Holland, Belgium, the United States, etc.; because it is impossible to regard as criminals persons who are born and educated in a Christian religious community, tolerated by the state, on an equal footing with, or even with greater privileges than, the Catholic body.*93 The church, therefore, regards dissenters from her teaching only as erring, as hœretici materiales, as they are called in the language of the church. For this reason also the penal laws of the church, as well as the validity of older prohibitions, respecting the intercourse of Catholics with heretics, have ceased to have any force. What is said here of heretics applies also to the non-united Greek church and its adherents. That this is practically so, and that this view has been maintained by the popes, is well known to every one acquainted with the government of the Catholic church. Herewith has also ceased the external jurisdiction of the Catholic church over Protestants and non-united Greeks. But so far as persons who secede from the Catholic church to the Greek, or to any other Christian confession or sect, are concerned, the Catholic church maintains, even externally, its own dogmatic view, which is, the notion of criminal schism, and of heresy, and the applicability of the laws of the church above referred to. The external application of these laws is naturally limited to the infliction of censures (excommunication), for the reason that the employment of other and temporal punishments, which were formerly always inflicted by the state, has now been abandoned. Practically these ecclesiastical penalties play no part, except when an individual wishes to return to the church which he had abandoned. Thus, although Protestants and members of the Greek church are no longer, as such, subject to the external jurisdiction of the Catholic church, still the view of the Catholic church concerning its own domain remains the same. By baptism, every one, from the church's own point of view, becomes a member of the society founded by Christ, that is, of the Catholic church, and is subject to its regulations, whether they rest on the divine law or on the positive laws of the church, enacted by virtue of the constitution of the church, and of the power bequeathed to it by Christ. Hence, when, in the church's forum, there is question of an act done, it does not apply those principles which non-Catholics regard as controlling the case, but its own. Practically this is of importance only as regards marriage, and the questions resulting therefrom in the several spheres of church life. For instance: the marriage of a Protestant separated from his wife, during the lifetime of the latter, is regarded by the Catholic church as void; and a son, the offspring of such a marriage, could not, without dispensation, be admitted to holy orders, propter irregularitatem e defectu natalium. It obviously follows from what has been said, that as regards Greeks and Protestants, in non-Catholic countries, the church must look upon the task it has to perform as a missionary one. And so it is in reality.


—For the admission of dissenters to the church, which, from the point of view of the laws of the Catholic church, is only a return to it, the absolute inadmissibility, in accordance with the above exposition, because of the circumstances of our times and of the obsoleteness of the older laws of the church, of all compulsion, or the employment of any means but instruction, must be considered as settled.


—The clergy of the Catholic church are under no obligation to exercise the functions of their office for the benefit of persons of a belief different from their own. In practice this can be asked of them only as to baptism, marriage and burial, because their other functions can not be performed in favor of persons not Catholic. As a matter of course, the church has no objection to the baptism, by a priest, of children of Protestants, at the request of the parents. In regard to matrimony, the church forbids the marriage of a Catholic to a non-Catholic, without, however, attaching to such marriage any definite, external, ecclesiastical penalty, but it does not permit the marriage of a Catholic to a non-Christian, on account of the matrimonial impediment of difference of religion. The present state of things in this regard, resting on modern papal constitutions, is to the effect that a mixed marriage may be allowed when it is promised that the education of the children shall be in the Catholic religion, and when the non-Catholic party promises not to disturb the other in the exercise of his or her religion.*94 In such a case, that is, in the case of a mixed marriage, a dispensation is granted, and the nuptial ceremony of the Catholic church is allowed to be performed. But if the guarantees above referred to are not given, the Catholic priest grants only his so-called passive assistance in the nuptial ceremony. The Catholic priest may also attend the burial of non-Catholic Christians, in his priestly character, but only with the omission of all ceremonies, which, by their very nature, can be performed only over deceased members of the church. But there is no duty to perform such ceremonies, on the part of the Catholic priest, as that would manifestly imply unqualified compulsion, in view of the fact that purely political considerations do not demand ecclesiastical burial. For this same reason the state can not compel the church to officiate at the burial of nominal Catholics, whom the law of the church deprives of this benefit, or to accord them Christian burial. Catholic cemeteries, campi sancti, are considered as things ecclesiastical. Secession from the Catholic church, and going over to another confession, the Catholic church necessarily regards as apostasy and crime. Hence its law admits of no mode of leaving the Catholic church. The Catholic church makes admission to its fold dependent only on the knowledge of its doctrine, on the free will of the individual, uncontaminated by impure motives (as far as can be ascertained, for it is unable to examine hearts), and on the fulfillment of its precepts. When these conditions exist, it can not but admit the individual. But on this very account the church does not require for admission to its fold any definite age, any more than it does the consent of parents, guardians or of married people, to the change of the faith of either; because the conviction of the truth is an entirely individual matter, which, by reason of its consequences to the individual, can not depend on the pleasure of a second or third party. As regards the religious education of Catholic children, the Catholic church exacts unconditionally their education in accordance with its doctrines, and does not admit of any exception of whatever kind to this rule; a matter which has frequently been made a subject of reproach to it, but which manifestly is the natural consequence of its principles and convictions. The political point of view is here a different one from that of the church.


—V. Relation of the Church to the State. It is impossible to enter here into the historical and philosophical exposition of this relation, or to support the views here developed by historical proofs. All we are concerned with at present is to describe the relation of the Catholic church from the point of view of principle, taking into consideration, at the same time, the principles proclaimed by the Catholic church itself. All the decrees and tenets which constitute the sources of ecclesiastical law on the relation of church and state, are, from the standpoint of principle, just as little prescriptive as the decrees of secular laws. For all such decrees and tenets did not proceed from the whole church; they have not the character of dogmas, but sprung from the circumstances of the times in which they originated, and in which they all find their sufficient justification and necessary explanation. To make these tenets of the middle ages, or the general condition of those ages, an absolute standard for all time, is an absurdity which neither has a rational basis nor is even of any advantage to the church itself, but which, on the contrary, arouses a host of enemies against it, and thereby causes no little damage. The principles which result from Catholic teaching and from the development of its law, and which have no reference to special conditions, are these: the church is a power independent of the state, and self-dependent; its domain is a spiritual one, and therefore different from the political domain; it rests on divine institution; and hence, as to the powers bequeathed to it, and as to the means granted it for the fulfillment of its mission in the world, it is not dependent on any earthly power and requires no political commission. It is, therefore, subject to no state. It is not of the world but in the world, to lead mankind to eternal salvation. The Catholic church as the one church, the mystic visible body of Christ, the community of all Christian believers spread throughout all lands, is not the subject of the action or influence of any state, and is not, because it is the mystic, visible body of Christ, bound to obey the laws of any state. The Catholic church knows no limits, no nation, but only humanity united in the faith. But the worldly position and the worldly relation of individuals do not, therefore, cease to exist. Christ did not prescribe to his church the attainment of its end in any new way by the creation of artificial social relations previously unknown to the world, or of new political institutions or constitutions. The church's means for the reaching of its end are purely spiritual, moral and religious. Hence, the mission of the church is decidedly not a political one. That through the acceptance of Christianity, all social, and hence all political, relations should be gradually transformed as they actually were, was not the aim of Christianity, but the indirect result of its action, because through its influence humanity itself was renovated in a moral way. It therefore follows that the church in different countries does not and can not require that the people should abandon their political and social relations or circumstances, but, on the contrary, that individuals, each in the position in which Providence has placed him, should fulfill his duty, and, like a true Christian, whether as a citizen or official or soldier, as father or mother, as son or daughter, etc., merit heaven. Religious duties should not interfere with human duties, whether civil or political, and there should arise no conflict between civil and church duties. The task of the Christian state consists in the attainment of this end.


—From what has been said, it follows, in the first place, that the church accepts the political order as resting on the divine will, and that the authorities of the state rule by divine right. All, accordingly, are bound to obey the latter. But it follows, too, that no definite form of political authority or of political constitution, no single political system, can be regarded as the one specially instituted by God, but that the church recognizes the actual lawfully existing political authority of a state as the one divinely established. Not the church, but international law and history, must decide when any definite political authority can be said to exist by right; in other words, that decision lies outside the jurisdiction of the church. It is therefore perfectly true that the Catholic church as such is cosmopolite, and knows no special country; but it is wrong, on this account, to deny to Catholics individually, from the pope to the layman, the right of, or the capacity for, patriotism. Differences of political opinion and deep attachment to home, country and nation, are as natural to Catholics as to any others.


—Thus, the church is not divided into state churches. History shows that there is nothing more crippling or deadening to the inward life and action of the church than a condition in which it becomes the instrument of state administration, even when it happens that it is the predominant religion in that state. Nor is the Catholic church a state within the state. This is not possible from the very nature of its existence in most states, and of its constitution, which is the same in all states, the centre of which (its constitution), even in the interest of all states having Catholic population, should not be subject to a state foreign to any other states. It is, however, no contradiction to what has been said, that the church partakes in the sufferings and joys of every individual state, in so far as its members belong politically to such state.


—Within its own domain the church demands freedom of movement and autonomy, just as in the present day does every private individual, every community, every society, and every confession. The Catholic church can not on principle lay claim to privileges or rights of a secular or political nature; the loss of the old ones it possessed was, therefore, in principle no violation of right. But it can not be denied that the practical settlement of the relation of church and state, especially in Europe, is best with great difficulties, because our age has broken with history in respect to the development of the political domain, and because the church and the state, in most European countries, have a too intimate and historical connection to render it possible soon to find the right solution in the conflict of opposing parties, one of which desires to retain the condition of things historically developed, another of which finds the right solution in the absolute dechristianization of the state, and a third in the freedom of the church within its own sphere, the like freedom of the state, within its sphere, and in the action in common of both on a common ground. There are still other parties which do not well know what they want.*95 (For the proper solution of the question of the relation of church and state, see CHURCH AND STATE, in Vol. I. of this work.




Notes for this chapter

This article is intended neither as an argument for, nor as an attack upon, the Catholic church. It is a simple statement of its own doctrines, written by a deep thinker profoundly versed in its doctrines and laws. See note at the close of the article.—ED.
We have here translated the German Volksschulen by public schools. In writing the article Dr. v. Schulte certainly did not have in view the public schools of the United States, in particular. The Volksschule is a school intended for the people. It seems certain that what Dr. v. Schulte says of the attitude of the Catholic church toward the Volksschule is true of its attitude toward the public schools of the United States.—ED.
In our opinion, Christianity is not only the basis but the living element of our civilization; yet the legal foundation of the state does not by any means rest on Christianity. The state has not grown out of the church, nor upon the church, but is completely independent of the latter and of her dogmas.—BLUNTSCHLI.
Bluntschli here inserts a note to the effect that the state introduced religious freedom into the world. The remark is certainly a correct one. The principle of liberty of conscience forced itself into the world through blood, we might almost say, spite of church and state authorities, as a means "not to determine rights, but to repress violence and terminate quarrels."—ED.
There are those who consider this provision in conflict with the principle of the equal rights of confessions or creeds, and of freedom of conscience. But is not the member of a recognized Christian denomination, the statutes of which he freely accepts, bound by them?
The above article (somewhat shortened here by the omission of matter relating exclusively to Germany) was written by a distinguished Catholic teacher of ecclesiastical law, John Frederick von Schulte, the author of a great number of works on the law of the Catholic church. It was written for the larger edition of Bluntschli and Brater's Staatswörterbuch. After the promulgation of the decree of the infallibility of the pope by the Vatican council, Dr. von Schulte, with Dr. Döllinger and other learned Catholic divines and laymen, formed themselves into the body known as the "Old Catholics," a party which rejected the doctrine of papal infallibility as subversive of the ancient constitution of the church, as the absorption of the church by the pope, and as contrary to the doctrine Quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus. This is not the place to discuss whether the decree of papal infallibility changed the constitution of the Catholic church. What concerns us most in this work is to lay before its readers the meaning of that dogma, as understood by the best informed in the church itself—a meaning, which, therefore, may be considered the meaning of the Church. We give it in the words of probably the most eminent and learned of Catholic dignitaries, one whose name has long been familiar to Protestants and Catholics as well as to disbelievers both in Protestantism and in the Roman church. He says: "The Vatican definition, which comes to us in the shape of the pope's encyclical bull called the Pastor Æternus, declares that 'the pope has that same infallibility which the church has':* to determine, therefore, what is meant by the infallibility of the pope, we must turn first to consider the infallibility of the church. And again, to determine the character of the church's infallibility, we must consider what is the characteristic of Christianity, considered as a revelation of God's will.

—Our Divine Master might have communicated to us heavenly truths without telling us that they came from him, as it is commonly thought he has done in the case of heathen nations; but he willed the gospel to be a revelation acknowledged and authenticated, to be public, fixed and permanent; and, accordingly, as Catholics hold, he framed a society of men to be its home, its instrument and its guarantee. The rulers of that association are the legal trustees, so to say, of the sacred truths which he spoke to the apostles by word of mouth. As he was leaving them, he gave them their great commission, and bade them 'teach' their converts all over the earth, 'to observe all things whatever he had commanded them'; and then he added, 'Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.' Here, first, he told them to 'teach' his revealed truth; next, 'to the consummation of all things'; thirdly, for their encouragement, he said that he would be with them 'all days,' all along, on every emergency or occasion, until that consummation. They had a duty put upon them of teaching their Master's words, a duty which they could not fulfill in the perfection which fidelity required, without his help: therefore came his promise to be with them in their performance of it. Nor did that promise of supernatural help end with the apostles personally, for he adds, 'to the consummation of the world,' implying that the apostles would have successors, and engaging that he would be with those successors as he had been with them.

—The same safeguard of the revelation, viz., an authoritative, permanent tradition of teaching, is insisted on by an informant of equal authority with St. Matthew, but altogether independent of him: I mean St. Paul. He calls the church 'the pillar and ground of the truth'; and he bids his convert Timothy, when he had become a ruler in that church, to 'take heed unto his doctrine,' to 'keep the deposit' of the faith, and to 'commit' the things which he had heard from himself 'to faithful men who should be fit to teach others.' ,/p>

—This is how Catholics understand the Scripture record, nor does it appear how it can otherwise be understood; but, when we have got as far as this, and look back, we find that we have by implication made profession of a further doctrine. For, if the church, initiated by the apostles and continued in their successors, has been set up for the direct object of protecting, preserving and declaring the revelation, and that by means of the guardianship and providence of its Divine Author, we are led on to perceive that, in asserting this, we are in other words asserting, that, so far as the revealed message is concerned, the church is infallible; for what is meant by infallibility in teaching but that the teacher in his teaching is secured from error: and how can fallible man be thus secured except by a supernatural infallible guidance? And what can have been the object of the words, I am with you all along to the end,' but to give thereby an answer by anticipation to the spontaneous, silent alarm of the feeble company of fishermen and laborers, to whom they were addressed, on their finding themselves laden with superhuman duties and responsibilities?

—Such then being, in its simple outline, the infallibility of the church, such too will be the pope's infallibility, as the Vatican fathers have defined it. And if we find that by means of this outline we are able to fill out in all important respects the idea of a council's infallibility, we shall thereby be ascertaining in detail what was defined in 1870 about the infallibility of the pope.

—1. The church has the office of teaching, and the matter of that teaching is the body of doctrine which the apostles left behind them as her perpetual possession. If a question arises as to what the apostolic doctrine is on a particular point, she has infallibility promised to her to enable her to answer correctly. And, as by the teaching of the church is understood, not the teaching of this or that bishop, but their united voice, and a council is the form the church must take, in order that all men may recognize that in fact she is teaching on any point in dispute, so in like manner the pope must come before us in some special form or posture, if he is to be understood to be exercising his teaching office, and that form is called ex cathedra. This term is most appropriate, as being on one occasion used by our Lord himself. When the Jewish doctors taught, they placed themselves in Moses' seat, and spoke ex cathedra; and then, as he tells us, they were to be obeyed by their people, and that, whatever were their private lives or characters. 'The Scribes and Pharisees,' he says, 'are seated on the chair of Moses: all things therefore whatsoever they shall say to you, observe and do; but according to their works do you not, for they say and do not.'

—2. The forms by which a general council is identified as representing the church herself, are too clear to need drawing out; but what is to be that moral cathedra, or teaching chair, in which the pope sits, when he is to be recognized as in the exercise of his infallible teaching? The new definition answers this question. He speaks ex cathedra, or infallibly, when he speaks, first, as the universal teacher; secondly, in the name and with the authority of the apostles; thirdly, on a point of faith or morals; fourthly, with the purpose of binding every member of the church to accept and believe his decision.

3. These conditions of course contract the range of his infallibility most materially. Hence Billuart, speaking of the pope, says, 'Neither in conversation, nor in discussion, nor in interpreting Scripture or the fathers, nor in consulting, nor in giving his reasons for the point which he has defined, nor in answering letters, nor in private deliberations, supposing he is setting forth his own opinion, is the pope infallible.' (t ii., p. 110.)** And for this simple reason, because, on these various occasions of speaking his mind, he is not in the chair of the universal doctor.

—4. Nor is this all; the greater part of Billuart's negatives refer to the pope's utterances when he is out of the cathedra Petri, but even when he is in it his words do not necessarily proceed from his infallibility. He has no wider prerogative than a council, and of a council Perrone says, 'Councils are not infallible in the reasons by which they are led, or on which they rely, in making their definition, nor in matters which relate to persons, nor to physical matters which have no necessary connection with dogma.' (Prœl. Theol., t. ii., p. 492.) Thus, if a council has condemned a work of Origen or Theodoret, it did not in so condemning go beyond the work itself; it did not touch the persons of either. Since this holds of a council, it also holds in the case of the pope; therefore, supposing a pope has quoted the so-called works of the Areopagite as if really genuine, there is no call on us to believe him; nor again, when he condemned Galileo's Copernicanism, unless the earth's immobility has a 'necessary connection with some dogmatic truth,' which the present bearing of the holy see toward that philosophy virtually denies.

5. Nor is a council infallible even in the prefaces and introductions to its definitions. There are theologians of name, as Tournely and Amort,*** who contend that even those most instructive capitula passed in the Tridentine council, from which the canons with anathemas are drawn up, are not portions of the church's infallible teaching; and the parallel introductions prefixed to the Vatican anathemas have an authority not greater nor less than that of those capitula.

—6. Such passages, however, as these are too closely connected with the definitions themselves, not to be what is sometimes called, by a catachresis, 'proximum fidei'; still, on the other hand, it is true also, that, in those circumstances and surroundings of formal definitions, which I have been speaking of, whether of a council or a pope, there may be not only no exercise of an infallible voice, but actual error. Thus, in the third council, a passage of an heretical author was quoted in defense of the doctrine defined, under the belief he was Pope Julius, and narratives not trustworthy are introduced into the seventh. This remark and several before it, will become intelligible if we consider that neither pope nor council are on a level with the apostles. To the apostles the whole revelation was given, by the church it is transmitted; no simply new truth has been given to us since St. John's death; the one office of the church is to guard 'that noble deposit' of truth, as St. Paul speaks to Timothy, which the apostles bequeathed to her, in its fullness and integrity. Hence the infallibility of the apostles was of a far more positive and wide character than that needed by and granted to the church. We call it, in the case of the apostles, inspiration; in the case of the church, assistentia. Of course there is a sense of the word 'inspiration' in which it is common to all members of the church, and therefore especially to its bishops, and still more directly to its rulers, when solemnly called together in council after much prayer throughout Christendom, and in a frame of mind especially serious and earnest by reason of the work they have in hand. The Paraclete certainly is ever with them, and more effectively in a council, as being 'in Spiritu Sancto congregata'; but I speak of the special and promised aid necessary for their fidelity to apostolic teaching; and, in order to secure this fidelity, to inward gift of infallibility is needed, such as the apostles had, no direct suggestion of divine truth, but simply an external guardianship, keeping them off from error (as a mans guardian angel, without enabling him to walk, might, on a night journey, keep him from pitfalls in his way), a guardianship saving them, as far as their ultimate decisions are concerned, from the effects of their inherent infirmities, from any chance of extravagance, of confusion of thought, of collision with former decisions, or with Scripture, which in seasons of excitement might reasonably be feared. 'Never,' says Perrone, 'have Catholics taught that the gift of infallibility is given by God to the church after the manner of inspiration.' (t. ii., p. 253.) Again: '[Human] media of arriving at the truth are excluded neither by a council's nor by a pope's infallibility, for God has promised it, not by way of an infused' or habitual 'gift, but by the way of assistentia (Ibid., p. 541.) But since the process of defining truth is human, it is open to the chance of error; what Providence has guaranteed is only this, that there should be no error in the final step, in the resulting definition or dogma.

—7. Accordingly, all that a council, and all that the pope, is infallible in, is the direct answer to the special question which he happens to be considering; his prerogative does not extend beyond a power, when in his cathedra, of giving that very answer truly. 'Nothing,' says Perrone, 'but the objects of dogmatic definitions of councils are immutable, for in these are councils infallible, not in their reasons,' etc. (Ibid.)

—8. This rule is so strictly to be observed that, though dogmatic statements are found from time to time in a pope's apostolic letters, etc., yet they are not accounted to be exercises of his infallibility if they are said only obiter—by the way, and without direct intention to define. A striking instance of this sine qua non condition is afforded by Nicholas I., who, in a letter to the Bulgarians, spoke as if baptism were valid, when administered simply in our Lord's name, without distinct mention of the Three Persons; but he is not teaching and speaking ex cathedra, because no question on this matter was in any sense the occasion of his writing. The question asked of him was concerning the minister of baptism, viz., whether a Jew or Pagan could validly baptize; in answering in the affirmative, he added obiter, as a private doctor, says Bellarmine, 'that the baptism was valid, whether administered in the name of the Three Persons or in the name of Christ only' (de Rom. Pont., iv., 12.)

—9. Another limitation is given in Pope Pius' own conditions set down in the Pastor Æternus, for the exercise of infallibility, viz., the proposition defined will be without any claim to be considered binding on the belief of Catholics, unless it is referable to the apostolic depositum, through the channel either of Scripture or tradition; and, though the pope is the judge whether it is so referable or not, yet the necessity of his professing to abide by this reference is in itself a certain limitation of his dogmatic action. A Protestant will object, indeed, that, after his distinctly asserting that the immaculate conception and the papal infallibility are in Scripture and tradition, this safeguard against erroneous definitions is not worth much, nor do I say that it is one of the most effective; but anyhow, in consequence of it, no pope, any more than a council, could, for instance, Introduce Ignatius' Epistles into the canon of Scripture; and as to his dogmatic condemnation of particular books, which, of course, are foreign to the depositum, I would say, that, as to their false doctrine, there can be no difficulty in condemning that by means of that apostolic deposit, nor surely in his condemning the very wording in which they convey it, when the subject is carefully considered. For the pope's condemning the language, for instance, of Jansenius is a parallel act to the church's receiving the word 'consubstantial,' and if a council and the pope were not infallible so far in their judgment of language, neither the pope nor council could draw up a dogmatic definition at all, for the right exercise of words is involved in the right exercise of thought.

—10. And in like manner, as regards the precepts concerning moral duties, it is not in every such precept that the pope is infallible. As a definition of faith must be drawn from the apostolic depositum of doctrine, in order that it may be considered an exercise of infallibility, whether in the pope or a council, so too a precept of morals, if it is to be accepted as dogmatic, must be drawn from the moral law, that primary revelation to us from God. That is, in the first place, it must relate to things in themselves good or evil. If the pope prescribed lying or revenge, his command would simply go for nothing, as if he had not issued in because he has no power over the moral law. If he forbade his flock to eat any but vegetable food, or to dress in a particular fashion (questions of decency or modesty not coming into the question), he would in like manner be going beyond his province, because such a rule does not relate to a matter in itself good or bad. If he gave a precept all over the world for the adoption of lotteries instead of tithes or offerings, certainly it would be very hard to prove that he was contradicting the moral law, or ruling a practice to be in itself good which was in itself evil. There are few persons but would allow that it is at least doubtful whether lotteries are abstractedly evil, and in a doubtful matter the pope is to be believed and obeyed. However, there are other conditions besides this necessary for the exercise of papal infallibility in moral subjects: for instance, his definition must relate to things necessary for salvation. No one would so speak of lotteries, or of a particular dress, or of a particular kind of food; such precepts, then, did he make them, would be simply external to the range of his prerogative. And again, his infallibility in consequence is not called into exercise, unless he speaks to the whole world; for, if his precepts, in order to be dogmatic, must enjoin what is necessary to salvation, they must be necessary for all men. Accordingly, orders which issue from him for the observance of particular countries, or political or religious classes, have no claim to be the utterances of his infallibility. If he enjoins upon the hierarchy of Ireland to withstand mixed education, this is no exercise of his infallibility. It may be added that the field of morals contains so little that is unknown and unexplored, in contrast with revelation and doctrinal fact, which form the domain of faith, that it is difficult to say what portions of moral teaching in the course of 1800 years actually have proceeded from the pope, or from the church, or where to look for such. Nearly all that either oracle has done in this respect, has been to condemn such propositions as in a moral point of view are false, or dangerous, or rash; and these condemnations, besides being such as in fact will be found to command the assent of most men as soon as heard, do not necessarily go so far as to present any positive statements for universal acceptance.

—11. With the mention of condemned propositions I am brought to another and large consideration, which is one of the best illustrations that I can give of that principle of minimizing, so necessary, as I think, for a wise and cautions theology; at the same time I can not insist upon it in the connection into which I am going to introduce it, without submitting myself to the correction of divines more learned than I can pretend to be myself. The infallibility, whether of the church or of the pope, acts principally or solely in two channels, in direct statements of truth, and in the condemnation of error. The former taxes the shape of doctrinal definitions, the latter stigmatizes propositions as heretical, next to heresy, erroneous, and the like. In each case the church, as guided by her Divine Master, has made provision for weighing as lightly as possible on the faith and conscience of her children. As to the condemnation of propositions, all she tells us is, that the thesis condemned when taken as a whole, or, again, when viewed in its context, is heretical, or blasphemous, or impious, or whatever other epithet she affixes to it. We have only to trust her so far as to allow ourselves to be warned against the thesis, or the work containing it. Theologians employ themselves in determining what precisely it is that is condemned in that thesis or treatise; and doubtless in most cases they do so with success; but that determination is not de fide; all that is of faith is, that there is in that thesis itself, which is noted, heresy or error, or other peccant matter, as the case may be, such that the censure is a peremptory command to theologians, preachers, students and all other whom it concerns, to keep clear of it. But so light is this obligation, that instances frequently occur, when it is successfully maintained by some new writer, that the pope's act does not imply what it has seemed to imply, and questions which seemed to be closed, are, after a course of years, reopened. In discussions such as these, there is a real exercise of private judgment, and an allowable one; the act of faith, which can not be superseded or trifled with, being, I repeat, the unreserved acceptance that the thesis in question is heretical, or erroneous in faith, etc., as the pope or the church has spoken of it. In these cases, which in a true sense may be called the pope's negative enunciations, the opportunity of a legitimate minimizing lies in the intensely concrete character of the matters condemned; in his affirmative enunciations a like opportunity is afforded by their being more or less abstract. Indeed, excepting such as relate to persons, that is, to the trinity in unity, the blessed virgin, the saints, and the like, all the dogmas of pope or of council are but general, and so far, in consequence, admit of exceptions in their actual application, these exceptions being determined either by other authoritative utterances, or by the scrutinizing vigilance, acuteness and subtlety of the Schola Theologorum.

—One of the most remarkable instances of what I am insisting on is found in a dogma, which no Catholic can ever think of disputing, viz., that 'out of the church, and out of the faith, is no salvation.' Not to go to Scripture, it is the doctrine of St. Ignatius, St. Irenæus, St. Cyprian in the first three centuries, as of St. Augustine and his contemporaries in the fourth and fifth. It can never be other than an elementary truth of Christianity; and the present pope has proclaimed it, as all popes, doctors and bishops before him. But that truth has two aspects, according as the force of the negative falls upon the 'church' or upon the 'salvation.' The main sense is, that there is no other communion or so-called church, but the Catholic, in which are stored the promises, the sacraments, and other means of salvation; the other and derived sense is, that no one can be saved who is not in that one and only church. But it does not follow, because there is no church but one which has the evangelical gifts and privileges to bestow, that therefore no one can be saved without the intervention of that one church. Anglicans quite understand this distinction; for, on the one hand, their article says, 'they are to be had accursed (anathematizandi) that presume to say, that every man shall be saved by (in) the law or sect which he professeth, so that he be diligent to frame his life according to that law and the light of nature; 'while, on the other hand, they speak of and hold the doctrine of the 'uncovenanted mercies of God.' The latter doctrine in its Catholic form is the doctrine of invincible ignorance—or, that it is possible to belong to the soul of the church without belonging to the body; and, at the end of 1800 years, it has been formally and authoritatively put forward by the present pope (the first pope, I suppose, who has done so), on the very same occasion on which he has repeated the fundamental principal of exclusive salvation itself. It is to the purpose here to quote his words; they occur in the course of his encyclical addressed to the bishops of Italy, under date of Aug. 10, 1863: 'We and you know, that those who lie under invincible ignorance as regards our most holy religion, and who, diligently observing the natural law and its precepts, which are engraven by God on the hearts of all, and prepared to obey God, lead a good and upright life, are able, by the operation of the power of divine light and grace, to obtain eternal life.'**** Who would at first sight gather from the wording of so forcible a universal, that an exception to its operation, such as this, so distinct, and, for what we know, so very wide, was consistent with holding it? Another instance of a similar kind is the general acceptance in the Latin church, since the time of St. Augustine, of the doctrine of absolute predestination, as instanced in the teaching of other great saints beside him, such as St. Fulgentius, St. Prosper, St. Gregory, St. Thomas and St. Buonaventure. Yet in the last centuries a great explanation and modification of this doctrine has been effected by the efforts of the Jesuit school, which have issued in the reception of a distinction between predestination to grace and predestination to glory; and a consequent admission of the principle that, though our own works do not avail for bringing us into a state of salvation on earth, they do avail, when in that state of salvation or grace, for our attainment of eternal glory in heaven. Two saints of late centuries, St. Francis de Sales and St. Alfonso, seem to have professed this less rigid opinion, which is now the more common doctrine of the day. Another instance is supplied by the papal decisions concerning usury. Pope Clement V., in the council of Vienne, declares, 'If any one shall have fallen into the error of pertinaciously presuming to affirm that usury is no sin, we determine that he is to be punished as a heretic.' However, in the year 1831, the Sacred Pœnitentiaria answered an inquiry on the subject, to the effect that the holy see suspended its decision on the point, and that a confessor who allowed of usury was not to be disturbed, 'non esse inquietandum.' Here again a double aspect seems to have been realized of the idea intended by the word usury. To show how natural this process of partial and gradually developed teaching is, we may refer to the apparent contradiction of Bellarmine, who says 'the pope, whether he can err or not, is to be obeyed by all the faithful,' (Rom. Pont., iv., 2), yet, as I have quoted him above, sets down (ii., 29) cases in which he is not to be obeyed. An illustration may be given in political history in the discussions which took place years ago as to the force of the sovereign's coronation oath to uphold the Established church. The words were large and general, and seemed to preclude any act on his part to the prejudice of the Establishment; but lawyers succeeded at length in making a distinction between the legislative and executive action of the crown which is now generally accepted. These instances, out of many similar, are sufficient to show what caution is be observed, on the part of private and unauthorized persons, in imposing upon the consciences of others any interpretation of dogmatic enunciations which is beyond the legitimate sense of the words, inconsistent with the principle that all general rules have exceptions, and unrecognized by the theological Schola.

—12. From these various considerations it follows, that papal and synodal definitions, obligatory on our faith, are of rare occurrence; and this is confessed by all sober theologians. Father O'Reilly, for instance, of Dublin, one of the first theologians of the day, says: 'The papal infallibility is comparatively seldom brought into action. I am very far from denying that the vicar of Christ is largely assisted by God in the fulfillment of his sublime office, that he receives great light and strength to do well the great work intrusted to him and imposed on him, that he is continually guided from above in the government of the Catholic church. But this is not the meaning of infallibility. * * What is the use of dragging in the infallibility in connection with papal acts with which it has nothing to do? Papal acts, which are very good and very holy, and entitled to all respect and obedience, acts in which the pontiff is commonly not mistaken, but in which he could be mistaken and still remain infallible in the only sense in which he has been declared to be so.' ('The Irish Monthly,' vol. ii., No. 10, 1874.)***** This great authority goes on to disclaim any desire to minimize, but there is, I hope, no real difference between us here. He, I am sure, would sanction me in my repugnance to impose upon the faith of others more than what the church distinctly claims of them and I should follow him in thinking it a more scriptural. Christian, dutiful, happy frame of mind, to be easy, than to be difficult, of belief. I have already spoken of that uncatholic spirit, which starts with a grudging faith in the word of the church, and determines to hold nothing but what it is as if by demonstration, compelled to believe. To be a true Catholic a man must have a generous loyalty toward ecclesiastical authority, and accept what is taught him with what is called the pielas fldei, and only such a tone of mind has a claim, and it certainly has a claim, to be met and to be handled with a wise and gentle minimism. Still the fact remains, that there has been of late years a fierce and intolerant temper abroad, which scorns and virtually tramples on the little ones of Christ.

—I end with an extract from the pastoral of the Swiss bishops, a pastoral which has received the pope's approbation: 'It in no way depends upon the caprice of the pope, or upon his good pleasure, to make such and such a doctrine the object of a dogmatic definition. He is tied up and limited to the divine revelation, and to the truths which that revelation contains. He is tied up and limited by the creeds already in existence, and by the preceding definitions of the church. He is tied up and limited by the divine law, and by the constitution of the church. Lastly, he is tied up and limited by that doctrine, divinely revealed, which affirms that alongside religious society there is civil society, that alongside the ecclesiastical hierarchy, there is the power of temporal magistrates, invested in their own domain with a full sovereignty, and to whom we owe obedience in conscience, and respect in all things morally permitted, and belonging to the domain of civil society.' "—JOHN HENRY CARDINAL NEWMAN.

*Romanum Pontificem en infallibilitate poliere, qua divinus Redemptor Ecclesiam suam in definienda doctrina de fide vel moribus instructam ease voluit.

**And so Fessler. "The pope is not infallible as a man, or a theologian, or a priest, or a bishop, or a temporal prince, or a judge, or a legislator, or in his political views, or even in his government of the church." (Introd.)

***Vide Amort, Dem. Cr., pp. 205-5. This applies to the Unam Sanctam. Vide Fessler.

****The pope speaks more forcibly still in an earlier allocution. After mentioning invincible ignorance, he adds: "Quis tantum sibi arroget, ut hujusmodi ignorantiae designare limites queat, juxta populorum, regionum, ingeniorum, aliarumque rerum tam multarum rationem et varietatem!" (Dec. 9, 1854.)

*****Vide Fessler also; and I believe Father Parrone says the same

Footnotes for RUSSIA

End of Notes

928 of 1105

Return to top