« AnteriorContinuar »
When we consider the misrepresentations of the Catholic religion, which are so industriously and widely propagated in this country, we are filled with astonishment. But our astonishment subsides, when we call to mind, that the character of Christ himself was misrepresented: he was charged with blasphemy, with breaking the sabbath, and with forbidding tribute to be paid to Cæsar :*—that the apostles and disciples of Christ were misrepresented,—they were charged with speaking blasphemous words against Moses and against God, with exciting sedition, and with many other grievous offences entirely devoid of proof,t and that misrepresentation was the general lot of Christians in the first ages of the church. The primitive Christians were first calumniated and held up to public contempt, and then persecuted and deprived, not only of their civil rights and privileges, but of their property, and even of their very lives. They were charged with idolatry, with horrid cruelties, and other flagitious crimes, even in their religious worship. In a word, their whole religion was described as a system of folly and superstition, grounded on no one rational principle.
St. Justin and Tertullian, in their Apologies for the Christian religion, endeavoured to dispel these misrepresentations, by exhibiting the real doctrines and precepts, and explaining some of the sacred rites of the Christian religion. They showed that these injurious misrepresentations were, in many instances, the inventions of men, who, unable to withstand the evidences of the divine establishment of Christianity, endeavoured to excite prejudices against it in the minds of the people, by holding out its doctrines as absurd and impious, and its professors as the causes of every public calamity.
St. Augustin complained of the calumnies which were circulated against the Catholic church, by the Manicheans and Donatists in his age. He humbly confessed and lamented, that he himself had employed the same weapons against the church, when he was attached to the former of these sects,I and acknowledged that he then blindly, and rashly, and falsely, accused the Catholic church of doctrines and opinions which, he was at length convinced, she never taught, believed, or held.
The Catholics of Great Britain have to lament and to complain that the doctrines and religious rites which, as Catholics, they are taught by their church to believe and observe, have been long grossly misconceived and misrepresented in this country, to the great injury of their religious cha- • racter and temporal interests.
* Matt., xxvi. 65. Mark, iii. 22. John, ix. 16. Luke, xxiii. 2. + Acts, vi. 11.-xxiv. 5.--XXV. 7. | Gaudens erubui; non me tot annos adversus Catholicam fidem, sed contra Camalium cogitationum figmenta latrasse.
I a 2
They are persuaded that many, who are opposed to them on account of their religion, suppose, without inquiry, that the Catholic church really teaches all that she is reported by her adversaries to teach; and imagine that she is responsible for every absurd opinion entertained, and for every act of superstition performed, by every individual who bears the name of Catholic.
We hope that all who are animated with a love of truth, and with sentiments of Christian charity, will be disposed willingly to listen to the sincere declarations of their Catholic fellow-countrymen, and will never impute to their religion, principles or practices which, as Catholics, they do not hold or observe, and which their church condemns as errors or abuses.
In this hope and persuasion, the British Catholics have made repeated declarations of their religious doctrines, and have shewn, they trust to the satisfaction of all who have paid attention to them, that they hold no religious principles, and entertain no opinions flowing from those principles, that are not perfectly conststent with the sacred duties which, as Christians they owe to Almighty God; with all the civil duties which, as subjects, they owe to their sovereign and the constituted civil government of their country; and with all the social duties which, as citizens, they owe to their fellow subjects, whatever may be their religious creed.
They had flattered themselves that the numerous and uniform expositions of their religious doctrines, given in public professions of the Catholic faith, in Catholic catechisms, in various authentic documents, and in declarations confirmed by their solemn oaths, would have abundantly sufficed to correct all misrepresentations of their real tenets.
But they have to regret, that some grievous misconceptions, regarding certain points of Catholic doctrine, are, unhappily, still found to exist in the minds of many, whose good opinion they value, and whose good-will they wish to conciliate. To their grief they hear, that, notwithstanding all their declarations to the contrary, they are still exhibited to the public as men, holding the most erroneous, unscriptural, and unreasonable doctrines -grounding their faith on human authority, and not on the word of God as enemies to the circulation and to the reading of the Holy Scriptures—as guilty of idolatry in the sacrifice of the mass, in the adoration, as it is called, of the Virgin Mary, and in the worship of the saints, and of the images of Christ and of the saints; and as guilty of superstition in invoking the saints, and in praying for the souls in purgatory ;-as usurping a divine power of forgiving sins, and imposing the yoke of confession on the people-as giving leave to commit sin by indulgences--as despising the obligation of an oath --as dividing their allegiance between their king and the pope-as claiming the property of the church establishment-as holding the uncharitable doctrine of exclusive salvation, and as maintaining that faith is not to be kept with heretics.
We are at a loss to conceive, why the holding of certain religious doctrines, which have no connexion with civil or social duties, whether those doctrines are taken in the sense in which they are misconstrued by others, or in the sense in which they are uniformly understood by Catholics, should be made a subject of crimination against British Ca
tholics, by those who assume to themselves liberty of thinking what they please, in matters of religious belief. It is difficult to understand, why doctrines purely religious, in no wise affecting the duties which Catholics owe to their sovereign or to civil society, should be brought forward at all, when the question relates only to the civil rights and privileges, which they claim as British subjects. It is much to be wished that those who declaim against what they call the errors and superstitions of popery, would first learn from Catholics themselves, by inquiry, what their real doctrines are, on the points above alluded to, and in what sense Catholics understand the terms by which their doctrines are expressed. They would perhaps find that they have been hitherto contending, not against the Catholic faith, but against the fictions of their own imaginations, or against their own misconstructions of the language of the Catholic Church.
Though we might refer to former expositions of the faith of Catholics, which we deein amply sufficient to correct the misconceptions, and to refute the misrepresentations of our doctrines; yet, it having been stated to us, that by publishing at the present time, a plain and correct declaration of our real tenets, on those points which are still so much misrepresented, or misconceived, a better understanding may be established among his Majesty's subjects, and the advancement of religion and charity may be effected ; hence, we, the undersigned Catholic Bishops, the Vicars Apostolic and their Coadjutors in Great Britain, have thought it our duty to publish the following declaration, in the hope, that it will be received by all who read it, with the same love of truth, and the same good-will, with which it is given.
SECTION 1. On the General Character of the Doctrines of Faith professed by the
The doctrines of the Catholic Church are often characterized as erroneous, unscriptural, and unreasonable.
All those doctrines, and only those doctrines, are articles of Catholic faith, which are revealed by Almighty God.
Whatsoever is revealed by God, who knows all things as they are in themselves, and who cannot deceive us, by teaching falsehood for truth, is most true and certain; though it may entirely surpass the comprehension of created minds.
On the authority of divine revelation, the Catholic believes, as doctrines of faith, that in one God there are three distinct persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; that Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for the salvation of all mankind, is the second person of the Blessed Trinity, true God and true Man; that there is no remission of sin, nor salvation but through him; that the sacraments of baptism and penance are divinely appointed means for the remission of sin; that in the mass, a true, proper, and propitiatory sacrifice is offered to God for the living and the dead; that the souls detained in purgatory are helped by the suffrages of the faithful; invocated; that at the last day our bodies will be raised from death, and that Christ will come to judge all men according to their works; that eternal happiness will be the reward of the good, and eternal misery the punishment of the wicked.
If these, and other doctrines of Catholic faith, are really revealed by Almighty God, they are not erroneous, but most true and certain-they are not uinscriptural, but agreeable to the true sense of the written word of God-the belief of them is not unreasonable, because it is reasonable to believe whatever is true, and taught by the God of truth.
The Catholic is fully persuaded that all the articles of his faith are really revealed by Almighty God.
Is he not at liberty to think so, as well as others are to think the con. trary; and in this empire especially, where liberty of thought is so loudly proclaimed and lauded? Is it reasonable or charitable to condemn him for thinking so, when he may have good and solid grounds for his conviction, and may feel that his eternal salvation depends on his firm belief of all the doctrines which Christ has taught ?
SECTION II. On the grounds of the certitude which a Catholic has, that all the Doctrines which he believes, as articles of Catholic Faith, are really revealed by Almighty God.
Catholics are often charged with grounding their faith on mere human authority, and not on the word of God.
Catholics deny this, because they are convinced, that their faith is grounded on the word of God, proposed to them by the authority of that ministry, which Christ established, and appointed to teach his revealed doctrines to all nations.
The Catholic believes all those doctrines, which God has revealed.
The question, what are those doctrines, which God has revealed, is a question of FACT. It appears reasonable that the existence of a fact should be ascertained by the evidence of testimony. · The body of the doctrines, precepts, and institutions, which were delivered by Christ to his apostles, constitutes the new or the Christian law; as the body of the doctrines, precepts, and institutions, which were delivered by the Almighty to Moses, constituted the old law.
The true and certain knowledge of what is commanded by any law, is generally communicated and obtained by the authoritative promulgation of the law.
By the ordinance of God, the doctrines and precepts of the old law were made known to the Israelites and Jewish people, by Moses, and the priests in succession, till the end of the law.
By the ordinance of God, the doctrines and precepts of the new law were to be made known to all nations, in all ages, by the apostles and their successors, to the consummation of the world,