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sustain a democracy wherever introduced, though doubtless a disposition that would not lead you to introduce it where it is
But this last is no objection, for the revolutionary spirit is as fatal to democracy as to any other form of government. It is the spirit of insubordination and of disorder. It is opposed to all fixed rule, to all permanent order. It loosens every thing, and sets all afloat. Where all is floating, where nothing is fixed, where nothing can be counted on to be tomorrow what it is to-day, there is no liberty, no solid good. The universal restlessness of Protestant nations, the universal disposition to change, the constant movements of the populations, so much admired by shortsighted philosophers, are a sad spectacle to the sober-minded Christian, who would, as far as possible, find in all things a type of that eternal fixedness and repose he looks forward to as the blessed reward of his trials and labors here. Catholicity comes here to our relief. All else may change, but it changes not. All else may pass away, but it remains where and what it was, a type of the immobility and immutability of the eternal God.
ART. IV. - Native American Civility, — Religious Liberty, &c.
THE following, received by our publisher a short time since, is too characteristic of a spirit somewhat prevalent in our community to be lost.
"Milbury, September 6th, 1845.
"MR. BENJAMIN H. GREENE.
"Dear Sir: -I received this letter, purporting to be an account against one Samuel Harrington, for Brownson's Review for 1844, but, owing to carelessness in superscribing, was directed to S. Harrington of Milbury, and there being no other Harrington in town whose name began with S, the postmaster thought it must mean me. I know nothing of the work, except what is expressed in the within prospectus; but, judging of the character of the work by the author whose name it bears, I should think him well qualified to write upon politics, religion, and infidelity, having himself belonged to almost every party and sect, and, last of all, turned Roman Catholic. I should think you would be troubled to find any American Republican who would have any thing to do with a work bearing the name of one who has proved himself a traitor to republicanism, and every principle for which our forefathers spent their treasures and blood, by acknowledging his allegiance to the most abject of foreign despots the world has ever known, the Pope of Rome,' - who claims that his will is
law; that the Bible, the most perfect book ever given to man, his chart and compass to guide him to the haven of eternal rest,' is not fit for the common people; and has sent forth his anathemas against all Bible societies, everywhere seeking its suppression; keeping his subjects in ignorance, while he is expending hundreds of thousands to educate the children of Protestants, showing a lack of that charity which begins at home, disclosing conclusively that he has some ulterior object in view in educating Protestants, while the thousands of Papists who visit our country, or remain in their own native land, are permitted to grow up in the greatest ignorance without exciting in the least his sympathy or regard. And this O. A. Brownson, the eloquent orator, is selected to become his tool to carry out his plans, for what reward I am unable to say, but hope his perfidy will meet a just recompense at the hands of the American people. You will probably infer from this, that I am not, never was, nor ever shall be indebted to you for any volume of the Review bearing the name of the traitor Brownson.
Most respectfully yours,
It will be seen from this, that our publisher addressed no letter to Mr. Stephen Harrington, but that Mr. Harrington, through a very pardonable mistake, took from the postoffice and opened a letter intended, not for him, but for another person. This he must have perceived, the moment he opened the letter. His simple duty was to return it to the post office with an explanation of the cause of his mistake, as his apology for having taken out and opened another man's letter. If, through excessive delicacy, he had felt it necessary to do more, even to write to our publisher, he should have simply written a note of apology. But his horror of Catholicity made him forget both the Christian and the gentleman. His letter is a gratuitous insult to Mr. Greene, and any thing but complimentary to ourselves, who know not Mr. Stephen Harrington from Adam, and have, and have had, nothing to do with him in one way or another.
In ordinary cases, we should take no notice of such a letter as the one before us, or, if we chose to make it the subject of some comments, we should, out of delicacy to the writer, suppress his name and residence; but in the present case we think it due to Mr. Harrington to publish his letter with his name; and we do so for his especial benefit, and that of a large class, who, like him, are ready in their zeal and bigotry to set aside the ordinary courtesies of civilized life. Such men deserve to be known.
So far as Mr. Harrington's letter relates merely to ourselves personally, we pass it over. We could easily show that he is far from being qualified to write our biography, but it is not worth our while. If we have changed our party or sectarian relations oftener than some others, it may not be to their credit or to our discredit. The public know, at least, where we are now. And we are too insignificant to make it a matter of importance to set them right as to where or what we may have been heretofore.
The assertion, that in becoming a Catholic we have become a traitor to the institutions of our country, we notice, because it is a common charge made against all Americans who become Catholics, and because it involves a principle of some gravity. The ground of the assertion is the pretence that Catholics owe allegiance to a foreign power, and that this allegiance is incompatible with that which they owe to the State.
But, even admitting that we as Catholics owe allegiance, as it is pretended, to the Pope, it does not follow that we owe allegiance to a foreign power. We can owe this allegiance to the Pope only in his capacity of visible head or chief pastor of the Church. But in this capacity the Pope is no foreigner, — is no more an Italian than he is an American; for in this capacity he has no national character, - no country; or rather, his country is the Church. Where the Church is, there is his country, his native land, his home; and the Church is catholic. It is absurd, then, to call him a foreign power. He is a foreign power only in his capacity of temporal chief of the patrimony of St. Peter, in which capacity no Catholic not a subject of the Ecclesiastical States owes him the least allegiance or obedience. Let our allegiance as Catholics to the Pope, then, be what it may, it is not allegiance to a foreign power.
But the allegiance which we as Catholics owe to the Church, and to the Pope as chief pastor of the Church, is simply SPIRITUAL, and pertains solely to matters of conscience. In all matters of conscience, we as Catholics unquestionably acknowledge allegiance to the Church, to the Pope, if you will; in all else we acknowledge allegiance to the State, and are commanded by the Church to obey the State. The question to be settled is, simply, Is allegiance to the Church, in all matters of conscience, incompatible with our allegiance to the State? In answer, we ask, Does our allegiance to the Church cover any matter in relation to which we owe allegiance to the State? I owe the State allegiance in all matters over which it is sovereign, and in no others. What, then, are the extent and the limits of the sovereignty of the State? Does its sovereignty extend to matters of conscience? Has the State the right to legislate for conscience, - to subject conscience to its laws? Certainly not. The principle of our American government is, confessedly, that conscience is free, that where conscience begins, there the authority of the State ends. And it must be so, if we enjoy religious liberty as distinguished from religious toleration. Toleration presupposes the right on the part of government to force conscience, but that for certain prudential reasons it forbears to do so; but religious liberty asserts the absolute freedom of conscience before the State, and denies the right of the State, or of any human power whatever, to force it, or in any sense to intermeddle with what concerns it. In this
country, the government, according to its profession, does not merely tolerate; it acknowledges religious liberty. Then it confesses that its sovereignty ends where conscience begins. Then I owe no allegiance to the State in matters of conscience; and then it has no right to command me to do what my conscience forbids; and I have the right, in all cases in which it so commands me, to refuse to obey it. If you deny this, you deny religious liberty, and assert for the temporal power the right to force conscience.
Now, if this be so, if the sovereignty of the State ends where the empire of conscience begins, since allegiance to the Church embraces only matters of conscience, it follows that my allegiance as a Catholic to the Church can never be incompatible with my allegiance to the State, nor my allegiance to the State ever incompatible with my allegiance to the Church. I am simply to "render unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar's, and unto God the things that are God's." My obedience to the one is perfectly compatible with my duty to the other. So this bugbear about allegiance to a foreign despot," so frightful to our Protestant brethren, vanishes the moment it is examined by a little daylight.
The Catholic Church, we admit, asserts RELIGIOUS FREEDOM, and denies to the State the right to force conscience, or to intermeddle in the affairs of conscience. In the face of any and every government, prince, or potentate, she asserts the freedom of religious worship, and proclaims that conscience is accountable to God alone. We, as Catholics, do and are bound to assert the same, and, strange as it may seem, we do assert even the freedom of CATHOLIC WORSHIP; we demand this freedom as our right; as our right we dare defend it, even against the State itself; for we hold it not from the State, but from Almighty God, and in defending it we plant ourselves on a higher than human authority, an authority which the State itself is bound to respect. We say to the civil government, that in its legitimate province we owe it unqualified obedience, and what it commands we do; but if it invade the empire of conscience, and command us to do violence to our conscience, we regard its command as a nullity. We tell it to its very face, that, in such a case, we will not obey it. It may punish us, for it has the physical power; it may send us into exile, to the dungeon, the scaffold, or the stake; we can die; but we cannot do what conscience forbids. This, we confess, is Catholic doctrine, and thus far allegiance to the Church, to the Pope, if you please, will carry every Catholic who is not a discredit to the
Do you complain of this? Then tell us what you mean by religious liberty, about which you have so much to say, and of which you apparently understand so little. Do you deny that religious liberty is freedom for the Catholic
conscience as well as
for the Puritan conscience, that freedom of conscience has significance for us as well as for you, and is as much violated when a Catholic is denied the freedom of Catholic worship, as when a Puritan is denied the freedom of Puritan worship? If you deny us the full freedom of our conscience, you deny religious liberty itself; if you contend that it is incompatible with the legitimate authority of the State that we should enjoy the full freedom of our conscience, you claim for the State authority in matters of conscience, the right to force conscience, which it has not, which it ought not to have, and which, in this country, the government itself expressly disclaims.
Our Church is our conscience; our allegiance to the Church, to the Pope as its chief pastor, is with us a matter of conscience, a part of our religion. Deny us the liberty to yield the obedience we owe, you deny us the free exercise of our religion, the freedom of our conscience. Have we a right to the freedom of our religion, or have we not? You cannot deny it, without claiming for the State right in matters of conscience. If you do this, if you attempt by the State to invade the empire of conscience, to abridge freedom of religion, and to subject our worship to your laws, then, but only then, the spiritual authority we acknowledge and the temporal authority whose prerogative you assert may come in conflict; then, but only then, may our allegiance to the Church affect our obedience to the State. Leave religious worship free, and the spiritual power will never interfere with the temporal; attempt to chain up religious worship, the Church will resist you and do all in her power to repel your attacks upon freedom of conscience. There will then unquestionably be a struggle, and in that struggle every Catholic, if a true Catholic, will be found on the side of the Church, and ready to die in her defence; for the freedom of religious worship, the accountability of conscience to God alone, is a cardinal principle of Catholicity, and can in no instance be surrendered.
The question is purely a question of religious liberty. Do you acknowledge religious liberty, or do you not? Yes or no? If you say Yes, we can be no traitors to our country in becoming Catholics, for we do but exercise our acknowledged rights; if you say No, we brand you as false both to God and your country. For your country, through her institutions, declares that religious worship is free, and that the State cannot force conscience; and Almighty God commands you to hearken unto him rather than
They, then, who contend that the Catholic religion is incompatible with the authority of the State, who call us traitors because we become Catholics, and seek, in the obligation we are under to obey the Church, a pretence for denying us the freedom of our worship, are fighting not against Catholicity merely, but against