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God represented by the church, the rights of the family represented by the parent, and the rights of society represented by the state, defined, consecrated, and placed under the protection of conscience by the church. Dur demands will be unheeded or resisted to-day, will be scoffed at by public opinion, but we must not falter ; we must persist in proclaiming the right and in demanding justice, and only justice; and the time will come when we shall be listened to, when He in whom we trust will come to be heard and enable us to save liberty, authority, and society, as well as our own souls.
[From Brownson's Quarterly Review for July, 1873.]
This sermon derives a value, in addition to its own intrinsic merits, from the fact that its author was one of the respectable minority in the Council of the Vatican, who opposed the definition of the papal infallibility on the ground of its inopportuneness. However it might be with some others, he distinctly states that he did not oppose the definition on the ground that he did not believe the doctrine, for he believed, always had believed it, and, as a professor of theology, had taught it; but solely on the ground that he doubted the expediency of defining it. It is but fair to let the bishop speak for himself. After having shown that the doctrine of the papal infallibility is no new doctrire, but has always in fact been the faith of the church, he procee is :
“But some will say that if this doctrine of the infallible teaching of the Roman pontiff was a doctrine always believed by the church, why was it that there was so much diversity of opinion in regard to it among the fathers of the council? To this objection I will say, that this diversity of opinion was not on the doctrine itself, but on the expediency or inexpediency of making a definition on this doctrine. This was the prin. cipal cause of the diversity of opinion ; but this did not affect, in the least, the dogma itself.
* Papal Infallibility. Extracts of a Sermon preached by the Rt. Rev. M. DOMENEC, Bishop of Pittsburgh, after his return from the Vatican Council. Pittsburghi : 1873.
“As an illustration of this, I give myself as an example. I was one of the prelates of the council who was opposed, most vigorously, to this. doctrine being defined. I signed my name to a petition which we addressed to the Holy Father, imploring and begging of him not to allow this question to be introduced into the council, and I did all I could toprevent its definition; but does this prove that I did not believe in the infallible teaching of the Roman pontiff previous to its definition in the Vatican Council? Not at all.
For many years, as professor of theology in the Theological Seminary of Philadelphia, and elsewhere, I taught the doctrine of infallibility as defined in the Vatican Council. In 1864, in a Pastoral Letter which I wrote to the faithful of my diocese, I taught and explained that doctrine. Here are the words which I then spoke :
“But one of the most important offices of the Roman pontiff is toconfirm all in the faith. How significant and sublime is the passage of scripture in which this office is imparted to Peter and his successors: “And the Lord said Simon, Simon, behold Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat." Yes, Satan, the father of lies, of sin, and iniquity, has desired to have you, not merely thee, but you, my apostles and my followers, my sheep, my entire church; he who is the father of lies, sin, and iniquity, has desired to have and annihilate the church, which is the pillar of truth, the mother of the faithful, of the just, and of the saints. What help, what protection, has the church todefend itself against the attacks of Satan? The help and protection of the church to foil and destroy the efforts of the enemy, is Peter and his
The Lord said: “Simon, I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not; and thou being once converted, confirm thy brethren." In spite of all the evil desires and efforts of Satan, the faith of Peter shall never fail; his faith, hy the prayers of the Son of God, is made secure and firm; and thus Peter, ever firm in his faith, is to confirm all his brethren in the faith. How glorious, how sublime is this office of the Roman Pontiffs, as successors of St. Peter!'
“And in another place we thus spoke:
"Yes, the power of the popes shall never die. The pope shall, till the end of time, sit on the chair of Peter, invested with power divine, to diffuse throughout the world the light of Christian faith. Sooner shall the natural sun be extinguished—be blotted out of the heavens-cease toexist—than the power of the popes become extinct. The same God who said, “Let therс be lights made in the firmament of heaven, to give light upon the earth,” has declared to Peter, “I have prayed for thee that ihy faith fail not; confirm thy brethren." Sooner, then, shall the natural sun cease to give light upon the earth, than the successors of Peter to enlighten the world with the rays of Christian faith.'
“Do not these passages prove that I held firmly to the doctrine of infallibility? and yet I was an opponent to the opportunity of its definition.”
This is clear enough, and proves satisfactorily that the illustrious bishop of Pittsburgh held the doctrine prior to its formal definition by the council, and we presume such was the fact with all or nearly all of the inopportunists. But even if they had previously doubted it, there could be no ground for the charge of inconsistency or insincerity in their adhesion
to the definition after it was made and thus proved to be the voice of the infallible church; that is to say, of the Holy Ghost speaking in and througli the council. Every Catholic, whatever he might have thought before, knows by the decision of the highest authority what is the faith, and forfeits his character as a Catholic if he refuses to hear the church, and to accept, ex animo, what he now knows is the faith, “once delivered to the saints." In accepting it, he only acts in perfect consistency with his Catholic profession, which requires him to believe whatever the church believes and teaches, and shows that, though he may have erred, it was never through an heretical spirit, or contempt of the Holy Ghost who dwells in the church and speaks in her voice.
The condemnation of Döllinger and his adherents is not that they doubted or denied the papal infallibility before the definition of the council ; for though they erred against faith and were material heretics, they were not formal heretics, as say the theologians, and did not necessarily incur the guilt of heresy. Their condemnation is in their refusal to hear the church, and in setting up their private judgment against her catholic authority because by their refusal they prove that, before the definition as well as since, they were governed by an heretical spirit. In opposing the definition, now that it is made, they simply oppose the Catholic faith, and prove that they were not loyal sons of the church, for they prove they held their own judgment paramount to hers. They act as if the church should hear them, not they the churchi
. If they had been loyal Catholics they would have felt it no hardship to renounce their former" error, and cheerfully to accept the faith as defined by the church. But as they refused, we must say of them, in the words of the apostle, “They went out from us, because they were not of us."
But since the Council of the Vatican overruled the objections of the inopportunists, the venerable bishop of Pittsburgh we trust will permit us to say, with all deference, that we think the council was wise and prudent in so doing. True wisdom and prudence were on the side of the majority, and the majority in our judgment showed that they understood far better the necessities of the times, and the true interests of the church in modern society, than did the very able and respectable minority. This is a question not of faith, but of prudence, and is therefore a question open, or, prior to the definition, was open to discussion, and we are certainly free to examine the reasons alleged by the minority against the prudence or opportuneness of the definition. The question of prudence, as distinct from the question of faith, has two sides: the one, the bearing of the measure on Catholics themselves; the other, its bearing on non-Catholics and secular society. This first side of the question, its bearing on Catholics themselves, the inopportunists seem to us to have orerlooked. It seems never to have occurred to them, that Catholics needed the definition, and were suffering greatly for the want of it. It is only necessary to recall to mind the state of the Catholic public, revealed by the publication in December, 1864, of the syllabus of condemned propositions. All or nearly all of those propositions had been put forth or defended by professedly Catholic writers, and these not obscure, insignificant, or uninfluential writers, but for the most part writers of distinction, not a few of them professors in colleges and seminaries of philosophy, history, theology, and canon law; others were journalists, statesmen, and influential politicians, jurists, and courtiers. Some of them were put forth or defended by Döllinger and his school in Germany ; some by such periodicals as The Home and Foreign Review in England; and others were defended by the canonists of Turin, by Count Cavour and his followers in Italy, by Count de Montalembert and Père Gratry in France, and generally by the whole party of socalled liberal Catholics, or Catholics who held that the church should form an alliance with liberalism and conciliate Catholicity with modern civilization. The pope had previously, in encyclicals, allocutions, and special bulls, condemned them all, and almost without effect. They were still defended, and gained currency, and threatened to deprive the church of all living teaching authority. It was hardly safe for a poor layman like ourselves to assert the supremacy of the spiritual order, and the subordination of the temporal to the eternal, unless in some vague and indeterminate sense.
When the syllabus was published, there was a universal outcry against it. Liberal Catholics, when they did not venture to condemn it outright, would privately express their appreciation of it by saying they were sorry it had been published ; Catholic governments very generally declared against it, and nothing was more evident than that large numbers of the faithful in all countries had been drifting away from the faith, and had retained at best only a weak and diluted Catholicity, without robustness or energy, and utterly unable to withstand a conflict with the world. The evil was a great and growing one; political atheism was almost as prevalent among ,Catholics as among nonCatholics, and could not be arrested on Gallican principles, which asserted church and state as two coördinate powers. Yet though we were free to defend the papal supremacy and infallibility as an opinion, even as the more probable opinion, we were not free to defend either as of Catholic faith. We were obliged to recognize Gallicans as Catholics : at least so we were personally taught. Whatever, then, might be our own personal convictions, we could insist on nothing as essential to Catholic faith that was denied by Gallicans, and therefore on nothing that would tend to arrest the spread of political atheism among the Catholic laity; for political atheism is only the logical development of the four articles of the French clergy of 1682. It is true we were not obliged to believe those articles, but were practically no better off than if we had been: for we were not at liberty to assert the contradictory as de fide, but only as an opinion, which in practice could amount to nothing.
We were besought by a good Jesuit father, the president of a college in Dublin, to reply to a specious article in the Edinburgh Review, entitled Ultramontane Doubts. The reply was simple and easy, if we could reject Gallicanism, and answer on ultramontane principles; but it was unanswerable on Gallican principles, or if we must concede that Gallcanism is compatible with Catholic faith. “I regret,” said the bishop, whom we consulted on the occasion, “that we cannot treat Gallicanism as a heresy, but we are not free to do that; and you must make the best reply you can without condemning the Gallican doctrine.” We made the best reply we could, but one very unsatisfactory to ourselves. * When afterwards we broke out and ventured to assert the supremacy and infallibility of the pope, as vicar of Christ, or representative on earth of the spiritual order which, by its own nature, is supreme over the temporal, thus giving political atheism its death-blow, bishops, priests, and laymen, almost with one accord, cried out against us, and charged us with going too far." We regret we did not persevere and fight the battle out on the line we had taken up, layman as we were; but we dared not, though we never gave up our convictions or contradicted them.
*See Vol. X., pp. 328, et seq.