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severe chastisement can remove scandals from amongst ns, and prepare us to exert that moral weight in the community do which our numbers entitle us.
But we have been betrayed into a line of remark which is somewhat foreign to our main purpose, which was to throw out some suggestions as to the origin and nature of 'he Protestant movement in the sixteenth century: We certainly have not read all that has been written either by Catholics or Protestants on that movement; but as far as we have read, we think the deeper philosophy of it has not generally been seen, and that a real philosophical history of the reformation is a desideratum in our literature. We think that it has been regarded too exclusively as a theological movement, and not enough as a movement of royalism and nationalism against the papacy and the unity and catholicity of the church as a polity or kingdom. It was an attack on special dogmas, indeed, but still more an attack on the essential and fundamental constitution of the church, as the divinely instituted kingdom for the assertion and maintenance of the supremacy of the moral and spiritual order in the government of the world, and therefore was, in so far as it succeeded, as Heinrich Heine, that Protestant of the Protestants, has most truly said, "the triumph of sensualism, or the sanctification of the flesh.” Regarded in this light, the Protestant movement becomes only a special phase of the general war of the temporal against the spiritual, the flesh against the spirit, the world against God, which has raged from man's first disobedience, and will end only with his last, as we have on so many occasions endeavored to prove.
We have wished also to show that Protestantism was only a development of the anti-papal doctrines held by nearly all the European sovereigns and court lawyers, whether nominally Catholic or avowedly heretical, from the reign of Philip IV. down to the sixteenth century; and therefore for Catholics to defend those doctrines, or to cite the examples they authorized as precedents, is only to play into the hands of our Protestant adversaries, and deprive us of our principal means of support. In the long contests, often severe and bloody, between the popes and emperors, between the Holy See and the European monarchies, it should be seen and felt that the popes were simply the assertors of the supremacy of the law of God, or of the moral order, and defenders of the freedom and independence of religion, that is, of true religious liberty. They warred for the freedom and independence of the soul against the tyranny of the body, of spiritual liberty against material despotisin, and therefore are entitled to the gratitude and love of all who have any just conceptions of what it is that constitutes the true glory and dignity of man. Hence we, as Catholics, instead of being half ashamed of their deeds, apologizing for them, or timidly defending them, should exult in them, and appeal to them as our titles to the gratitude of mankind. Instead of sympathizing with the materialism, the royalism, and nationalism which opposed them, and finally carried away half of Europe from the church, we should look upon these things as the most dangerous enemies of mankind, as well as the individual soul, and oppose to them a hearty love to the Holy See, and a steady and persevering obedience in all things spiritual to the successor of Peter.
PROTESTANTISM IN THE SIXTEENTH CEN
(From Brownson's Quarterly Review for April, 1856.)
The Abbé Poisson is known to us only as the author of this brief essay on the causes of the success of Protestantism in the sixteenth century. He writes with ability, but evidently appertains to the class of “candid Catholics," as a writer in the Dublin Review denominates them, who 80 often force us to exclaim, “Save us from our friends." He has, however, the merit of understanding that Luther and his associates did not make the so-called reformation,-a reformation that reformed nothing,—and that its success was owing to causes quite apart from their genius, ability, learning, audacity, or wickedness. The apostate monk originated nothing, and, at most, only gave expression to the sentiments and passions of his age, especially in the Germanic nations, then the least cultivated and enlightened portion of Europe. He did not destroy the faith of the people who joined the Protestant movement; he only revealed to them the fact that they had already lost it, and ceased to be Catholics. He brought, as the Germans would say, the age to self-consciousness, and induced those not of the church to go out from her communion, and to set up a religion, or a no-religion, for themselves.
*Essai sur les causes du Succès du Protestantisme au Seizième Siècle. Par l'ABBÉ POISSON, Prêtre du Diocèse de Chartres. Paris: 1839.
Taking this view of the case, the Abbé Poisson, in this brief essay, seeks the explanation of the rapid spread of Protestantism in the sixteenth century, in causes which were in operation for the most part, long before the reformers appeared on the stage. These causes he enumerates and develops with great freedom and boldness, with considerable depth of thought and vigor of expression. He has evidently thought beyond his books, and for himself; and he writes from his own mind, without embarrassing himself at all with the bearing what he says may have on the sanctity and infallibility of the church. The causes of the success of Protestantism in the sixteenth century he divides into two classes,-extrinsic and intrinsic. The extrinsic causes, he tells us, were : "1. The rash pretensions of the court of Rome to authority over the temporalities of kings; 2. The unhappy issue of the great schism of the West ; 3. The imprudent conduct of the bishops assembled at Basel; 4. The disorders of the court of Rome; 5. The establishment of tithes; 6. The multiplication of religious orders; 7. The abuse of indulgences ; 8. The rigors of the inquisition ; 9. Negligence in correcting abuses ; 10. The ignorance in which the people grovelled ; 11. The fondness for subtilties; 12. Too little care in arresting the first movements of the reform; 13. The mischievous policy of Charles V.; and 14. The persecution of Protestants.” The intrinsic causes, or those supplied by Protestantism as soon as it made its appearance, were : "1. The passions loosened from all restraint; 2. Absolute independence in matters of faith ; 3. The impunity, the security even, afforded to incontinent clerks ; 4. The temptation presented for one to make a noise in the world, by establishing himself as a chief of the new doctrines ; 5. The opportunity offered for one, without too much shame, to take possession of the goods of the church."
These are the causes assigned, and some of them, no doubt, really existed and actually contributed to such success as Protestantism obtained; but some of them also are imaginary, and those that are not, were not, with one or two exceptions, peculiar to the sixteenth century. They are in general only the old enemies of the church, snch as she has at all times and places to combat, and present very little to explain why Protestantism was able to succeed in the sixteenth century rather than in the fifteenth, or even the fourteenth.
That the reform was marked by bitter hostility to the papacy, and was chiefly a revolt against the papal authority, we certainly hold; but we cannot agree with the author, that it was “ the rash pretensions of the court of Rome to authority over the temporalities of kings” that provoked that hostility, and led to that revolt. By the court, he means the church, of Rome, including the pope, as is evident from the following:
"Let us not seek to dissemble the fact, that the church of Rome, on becoming independent of every civil government, lost a little of the charm of primitive simplicity, although she gained somewhat in éclatand splendor. Her divine authority, indeed, was always venerated, but. the very veneration she received, joined to the glory of commanding, gave her, perhaps, too high an opinion of herself. Having become accustomed to see sovereign princes and nations abase themselves before her, she imagined that she held in her hands the two swords. True, she did not declare it an article of faith, that she is supreme in temporals as well as spirituals, for this is an error, and the church of Rome, mother and mistress of all the churches, does not err. It was a simple opinion, which, unhappily, several popes entertained and tried quite too strenuously to make prevail. I do not accuse them ; I only see in some of them short-sighted views and mistaken zeal, and in others a little of that general ignorance which then oppressed the world. Certainly the maxim of these popes was not precisely the sort to win the affections of temporal sovereigns for the papacy, and kings very naturally were not sorry to see it from time to time attacked. They took pleasure in humbling Rome, who arrogated to herself the right to confer or to take away their crowns, and when strong by the sword, they despised her fulminations, and taught their subjects to do the same. However, not suficiently instructed to deny the maxim itself, which had gained cur. rency under favor of ages of ignorance, they went further, and sought to destroy even the spiritual power of the pope, so as to have nothing to fear from him ; for it was from their spiritual power that the supreme pontiffs deduced the power they claimed in temporals. But this was an attempt to get rid of one evil by introducing another and a far greater one, since the destruction of the spiritual authority of the pope would be the destruction of that economy which Jesus Christ has established in the government of his church. I think, therefore, that if Luther had appeared before the struggles of the popes for temporal power, he would not have been able to excite that horror of Rome, which is so striking a characteristic of Protestantism. When he called the papacy a tyranny, there was exaggeration in the expression, but there was also a semblance of truth in what he said, sufficient to allow him to undertake to abolish it, which is the great aim of Protestantism. Sound minds, however, will readily comprehend the injustice of confounding what is divine in the papal authority with what, through ignorance, mistaken zeal, and a false idea of true greatness, the popes, preoccupied with their imposing charge as common father of the faithful, mingled with it."pp. 11, 12.
The Abbé Poisson, when writing this, must have been too preoccupied with making out his case to reflect that he could not consistently write thus of a church, which, as a Catholic, he is bound to believe holy, and even concedes to be infallible. He has, of course, the right to relate historical facts as they really were, let the consequences be what they may; but, if the facts in the case warrant the conclusion he here draws, it seems to us that he ought not to profess himself a Catholic. A church which loses her charm of simplicity, is dazzled by her own greatness, puffed up with pride at the veneration she receives, entertains and seeks to establish an erroneous opinion of her own powers, claims and exercises an authority prejudicial to the temporal prince which has not been granted her by her founder, can hardly be the church of God. If what the Abbé Poisson has allowed himself to say of the church of Rome, including the supreme pontiff
, be true, she should, in our judgment, be regarded as the synagogue of Satan rather than the church of Christ. Luther was coarser and less civil in his expressions, but we recollect nothing in his diatribes against Rome really more injurious to her than what we have here faithfnlly translated from the “Priest of the Diocese of Chartres." Surely, if this may be said of her with truth, it could be only in bitter irony that we could call her the immaculate spouse of the Lamb ?
The church of Rome, it seems, "in becoming independent of every civil government,--de tout pouvoir humain, -lost a little of the charm of primitive simplicity.” Does the worthy abbé consider it a damage that the church became, or is thus independent; and would he have her dependent on the civil government, and therefore the slave of the state? But when was the church of Rome dependent on any civil government? Was it when the apostles