Rome’s Rapid Downward Course by Dr. J. Joseph Overbeck (1820-1905)

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Rome’s Rapid Downward Course by Dr. J. Joseph Overbeck (1820-1905)

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November 10, 2014

NFTU: Dr. Julian Joseph Overbeck (1820-1905)  was perhaps the most well-known of  Western Roman Catholic converts to Orthodoxy in the later half of the 19th century in the English speaking world.  A German by nation, he was raised in the Papist Faith, eventually becoming a priest in it.  He was also an extremely learned man, knowing around 12 ancient languages, and many modern. His grasp of ancient and medieval Christian history was as good as any; any mistakes he makes are generally no worse than that of other scholars.  However, as Dr. Overbeck stated “history was always the weak point of the Jesuits, and consequently of the Papists.” His study led him away from Romanism; in initial despair he contemplated perhaps having something to do with some form of high Lutheranism.  Yet, he could not ultimately swallow such.  He eventually immigrated to England and became a Professor in German at the Royal Military Academy in 1863.  In 1865, convinced of the equal untenability and imminent collapse of both Papism and Protestantism, and sure of the Truth of the Orthodox Faith, he was received into the Orthodox Church by Fr. Eugene Popoff, chaplin of the Russian Embassy in London. 

For the next 40 years he was a constant antagonist of the heterodox position, an opponent of the earliest forms of proto-ecumenism (which he saw as being fundamentally of Anglican-Protestant origination and heresy), and thus the finest proponent and only apologists and polemicist for the Orthodox Christian Faith in the English speaking world.  He was in concourse with the famed Fr. Vladimir (Guettee) (i.e. Abbe Guettee) who had a similar story to Dr. Overbeck; the difference being that Dr. Overbeck, having left Roman Catholicism and the Papist priesthood, was later married. However, upon his conversion to Orthodoxy, the Russian Church told Dr. Overbeck that he could not serve as a priest since he was married after ordination (the Russian Church had the practice of receiving Roman Catholic clergy by vesting); though, Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow had supposedly informed him that if he had joined Orthodoxy via the Greek Church, he would have been baptized, and the question would have been handled entirely differently.  Despite this, Dr. Overbeck continued his work. He errors are no more than those of the time and of the contemporary Russian Church (i.e., a semi-scholasticized understanding of some of the Mysteries); his projects, while seemingly ‘fantastical’ to the Anglican critic (and modern) were supported by the Synod in Russia (and others), and while many never came to full fruition in his own lifetime, they did demonstrate an wholesale devotion to Orthodoxy in all matters (thus, his gaining approval from the Holy Governing Synod of Russia and the Ecumenical Patriarchate for the idea of an Orthodox Western rite based upon Orthodox Canon Law and pre-Schism praxis of the West [something entirely ignored by the later Antiochian proponents who found Dr. Overbeck equally repugnant for his polemic against Anglicanism and nascent anti-ecumenism]; the resurrection of local Orthodox sees in the West, etc).

Dr. Overbeck was a constant opponent and antagonist of the Anglican heresy just as much as he was the Roman.  The Romans, in general, tried to ignore him and belittle him (as they did Fr. Vladimir until the spigots of threats were turned on); the Anglicans tried the same, but found themselves unable.  At the Bonn Conference in the 1870s, an early attempt by the Orthodox Church to bring the nascent Old Catholic movement wholesale into Orthodoxy, Dr. Overbeck was present at the commission discussions. He and other Russian Church delegates had stalwartly opposed the introduction of Anglican representatives to have any part in the debates between the Orthodox and Old Catholics. Overbeck saw them as meddlesome interlopers who would only muddy the water and provide cover for the Old Catholics on issues that caused their continuing separation from the Church.  However, the Anglicans insinuated themselves into the affair, and the results were largely disasterous; the Old Catholic movement, though abandoning the Filioque clause in 1877, was never to make good on anything. It was continually to degenerate and fall more and more into the Anglican orbit (ecclesially, theologically, liturgically), which is exactly what Dr. Overbeck had noted would happen if they did not become Orthodox. He thus wrote them off, just as he did the Anglicans, looking only for individual conversions. 

The experience of the Anglicans with Dr. Overbeck at the conference had made Overbeck a target for Anglican criticism and slander for the rest of his life.  Yet, despite this, he continued to publish the first apologetic, polemic, and historical journals in English that taught the Orthodox position in the English language (the “Orthodox Catholic Review”; it is difficult to find copies of all the volumes which were published monthly from 1867-1885).  It is hoped in the future some of his works can be made more available, other than the short pieces and early works he composed.  Below is an extract from his book, “A Plain View of the Claims of the Orthodox Catholic Church”, wherein he notes the unfortunate decline of the Roman Patriarchate from shortly before the Schism to after.  The full work, problems and all, can be found here.

The Papistical heresy he attacks in his writings below was indeed far degenerate from Patristic doctrine and praxis.  Yet, Papism today has degenerated further in 50 years than it did in the last 500.  Dr. Overbeck (and many other Orthodox) foresaw massive changes ahead with the creation of “Papal Infallibility”; which in essence is the elevation of man above God.  He says as much when addressing it. He stated, “The poisonous seed is sown, what may the plant, the full grown plant be? We do not indulge in fancies or unsubstantial apprehensions.”  Well, we know today more than ever.

Indeed, if Dr. Overbeck were walking upon the Earth today, it would not just be Papism and Protestantism he would target, but, it would be the modern Ecumenical Patriarchate and its sister Patriarchates for their desired union with the former in the heresy of ecumenism; not to mention their wholesale embrace of the modernist heresy.

Dr. Overbeck died in 1905 at the age of 85.

 

 

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It is wonderful how, from the time when Pope Nicholas I tried to bring about the divorce between the two Churches, the downward course of Rome proceeded with such rapidity that one could not but recognize God’s finger on the wall, “Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin!”

It was Nicholas who introduced the Pseudo-Isidorian Decretals, this Trojan horse of the Roman Church. And his successors, Hadrian II, succeeded in having the Pseudo-Isidorian principles (these legalised lies) recognized by the (so-called) Ecumenical Council of Constantinople (869), which was packed for the occasion. There can scarcely be found a more miserable sham than this Council, in which three disguised Saracen merchants were slily introduced to act as the representatives of the Patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem, as we learn from the evidence of the Patriarchs themselves in the Synod of 879. Eleven years later Formosus, Bishop of Porto, ascend the Papal throne. The Popes had long since forgotten St. Paul’s injunction (2 Tim. 2:4) “not to entangle themselves in the affairs of this life.” Their greediness of power was, naturally enough, not confined to ecclesiastical concerns; they strove also to become powerful political agents. Formosus was succeeded by Stephen VI (for Boniface the Sixth’s pontificate of fifteen days can scarcely be counted), who, being a fanatic partisan of the opposite political faction, had Formosus untombed, dressed in pontifical robes, arraigned, condemned, deposed, mutilated, and finally flung into the Tiber! This behaviour seems not exactly to be in accordance with the character of a “Vicar of Christ.” However, the Papists have to settle this question. We prefer examining the Council convened by Stephen for the before-mentioned purpose. In this Council, Stephen declared all ordinations made by Formosus to be invalid, and acted accordingly. This was not a private, but an official act, attended by official consequences, , and , what is more serious, it was an official act based on a dogmatic error; in fact, it was an anticipation of the heresy of John Huss. And the [Roman] Church continued for two years in this heresy! Yet the Romans are bound to believe that Stephen was an “infallible” Pope. Pope John IX annulled, in 898, the decrees of Stephen, declared the ordinations made by Formosus to be valid, and reinstated the expelled clergy. The only difficulty is to come here to a decision which of the two “Infallibles” is the genuine article, and even then the base article must be believed by the Romans to be infallible. Who is able to get out of this maze of contradictions?

From 904-963, the πορνοκρατια, or “reign of prostitutes,” disgraced the Papal throne. From Sergius III to John XII eleven monsters of lewdness and profligacy ruled the Church of God, persons utterly indifferent to religion and poisoning Christendom by their bad example. Sergius III had no scruple in sanctioning the sacrilegious marriage of the Byzantine Emperor Leo VI, but the Patriarch Nicholas Mysticus had vindicated the purity of the Church by excommunicating the Emperor, who, with the help of Pope Sergius, deposed the undaunted and faithful Patriarch. If the Roman Church was the true Church, and the Pope the factotum of this Church, where was the Holy Ghost governing the Church during these sixty years?

Now let us cast a glance on the Patriarchs of Constantinople during the period of the Roman πορνοκρατια. All of them, six in number, were men of an exemplary sanctity, with the solitary exception of Theophlyact, who was a creature of Pope John XII, and was installed by the Papal Legates. He was the worst Patriarch that ever sat on the Constantinopolitan throne. Do these contrasts not convey any lesson to us? With which of the two parties was God?

It is a consequence of original sin that the natural man hankers after greatness, power, and dominion. So it was also the case with the Apostles. On two occasions the Apostles discussed the question, “which of them should be greatest.” On the first occasion (St. Luke ix. 46), it was only a dialogismos, “a reasoning among them.” On the second occasion (St. Luke xxii. 24), it had grown already into a piloneikia, “a strife and contention.” In both cases Jesus rebuked them. That Peter must have taken a prominent part in the discussion we see from the words which Our Saviour immediately subjoins: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan asked to have you, that he might sift you as wheat.” Peter and the other Apostles did not yield to the temptation, but the Popes did. They attempted to appropriate to themselves all the power of the Church, and vied with the emperors in pomp and influence, entirely forgetting that “the kingdom of God cometh not with observation,” i.e., “with splendour and outward show” (St. Luke xvii. 20). However the Church was too narrow a field for their greediness; they saw the world that it was beautiful and desirable, and they stretched their hands out and took of the forbidden fruit. Our Saviour warned them saying: “My Kingdom is not of this world.” But His voice was like “the voice of one crying in the wilderness.” The Devil, however, took the proud Pontiffs up into an exceeding high mountain, and showed them all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and said unto them, “All these things will I give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” And they fell down and worshipped him. And the Pope-king became mighty among the kings of the world, emperors trembled before him, held his stirrup when he mounted, and stood barefooted, shivering, clad in sackcloth in his courtyard.  The thunderbolts of Jupiter Tonans were never so much feared as the thunders of the Vatican. The Pope enthroned and dethroned kings and emperors and distributed the globe. In fact, the Pope became the master of the world, as the Devil “the prince of this world” had promised him. And the Pope-king, forgetting that “the foxes have holes, and the birds of the heaven have nests, but the Son of Man had not where to lay His head,” built for himself a house, a palace, the grandest palace of the world. It covers a large space, and is 1151 feet long, 767 feet broad. It contains 4422 chambers, and has eight grand staircases (including the scala regia), and 200 smaller ones, and twenty courts. This is the “Apostolic” dwelling of the “successor of St. Peter.” The Patriarch of Constantinople lives in an unsightly wooden house, is poor, and lives as a poor man; his daily fare is simple in the extreme, yet his hospitality marvellous, as we know from personal experience.

The Popes had, in course of time, in consequence of legacies and donations, acquired an immense landed property, but they were, after all, but the first subjects of the Byzantine emperor. Rankling envy stirred the Popes up to look about for a tool able to conquer for them the long-wished-for independence and political sovereignty. A fine opportunity offered itself. The legitimate but weak king Childeric III was dethroned by his ambitious Prime Minister (major domus) Pepin, and, wishing to legitimate his usurpation, the latter applied to Pope Zacharias, who readily complied with his request, on a ground which every ambitious Prime-Minister of the present day may appeal to in order to overturn his weak king and usurp his crown. Thus the preparing step for Papal sovereignty was a REVOLUTIONARY ACT of Papacy, and shows what a big lie it is when the Popes declare themselves to be the mainstay of legitimacy, the prop of conservatism. They were revolutionists from the beginning, and will continue so to the end. Thy are in worldly affairs democrats of the purest water, as Bellarmine (De Rom. Pontiff. i. 6) informs us, saying that the Church’s power is not like “the civil power, which is vested in the people, unless it be transferred by the people to a prince” (civili potestati quae est in populo, nisi a populo transeratur in principem). Thus Bellarmine, though hating and vilifying democracy in the whole chapter, still admits it as a civil principle. Wherever there was a fortunate adventurer breaking his solemn oath in order to become an emperor the Pope blessed him and courted him. As soon as Don Carlos and the Count de Chambord reminded the Pope of the principles of Legitimacy, he turned the cold shoulder on them. Not Legitimacy but Expediency is Rome’s principle. Let the Nihilists restore to the Pope his lost States, and let them place on the throne of Russian an Ultramontane Prince, and the Pope will grant them plenary indulgence, and give them his blessing into the bargain. In Prussia the Ultramontanes fraternise with the Social Democrats; in Poland they systematically oppose the Russian Government;  in Ireland they do very much the same opposite the English Government, though it was Pope Hadrian IV (Nicholas Breakspear, the only Englishman who ever ascended the Papal throne) who presented Ireland (which did not belong to him) to King Henry II of England, or rather gave him leave to conquer it, as Pope Gregory VII, the friend of William the Conqueror, acquiesced in the invasion of England by the latter. Indeed splendid instances of the Pope’s upholding legitimacy! Pepin was king, but the Longobards oppressed Pope Stephen II, who went to France and anointed Pepin and his sons, in recompense of which Pepin had to sign a document by which he engaged himself to conquer the Exarchate, which the Longobards had wrested from the hands of the Byzantine Emperor, and to hand it over to the Pope. Pepin accomplished the conquest. When the Emperor sent his Legates to reclaim his lawful property, Pepin referred to the Pope as owner. In private life we should call such transactions cheat and robbery, but as part and parcel of the “Patrimonium of S. Petri” they are hallowed. Or shall we defend main force as a “legal title,” and cover the robberies of the Longobards with a moral cloak?  Then we might as well all at once sanction high-way robbery. This is the totally immoral basis of the Papal States, which God’s just retribution has destroyed in our days, but to which the blind Popes still cling as to the last plank of their shipwreck.

Shall we recount all the subsequent struggles of the Popes for the extension of their territory, the deluge of blood shed for the acquisition of land, the sieges and pillaging of towns, the horrors of famine and pestilence attending the wards, the excommunications and interdicts used as political weapons? God has judged! The Pontifical States are swept away for ever, only a long track of blood and ruin they have left behind on the pages of history as a mark of their infernal origin and a warning to the present and future generations to come out of Babylon.

From the preceding we see that the Western Church had already advance a good deal in the wrong way before it formally separated from the East. Yet the dogmas were still the same in both Churches, and the Western alterations in the fundamental Church constitutions were not yet dogmatically fixed. The East exercised always a wholesome check on Western arbitrariness and greed of power. Now, since the bond in 1054 was severed, the Western passions went rapidly down-hill. The bitter fruits of Schism soon showed themselves. And the finger of God is not less visible in preserving the Eastern Church in its pure ancient Orthodoxy than it is in allowing the West to follow its own vain conceits. Being cut off from the true Church, the abode of the Holy Ghost, means shifting for one’s self. Hence the supremely human development of the Roman system in doctrine and discipline. It is ridiculous to hear the Roman claims of perpetuity of faith, as half a dozen of new dogmas have sprung up since they separated from the East, and Heaven knows how many more will follow in the future. Must not common sense admit that what was Catholic at the time of the Seventh Ecumenical Council must be Catholic now, and must be so for ever? We are now what the Romans were at the time of the seventh Ecumenical Council, and what they then believed to be Catholic. Now this belief is by them considered antiquated, defective, or altogether wrong, as their present belief will perhaps be considered in the next century. Is that St. Vincent of Lerin’s rule of faith? “What always, everywhere, and by all has been believed” (quod semper, ubique, et ab omnibus creditum est)?

Scarcely the schism was accomplished when Pope Nicholas II (1059) deprived the clergy and people of Rome of the right to elect their Bishop, and, without any ceremony, conferred it on the College of Cardinals. Now the system of concentrating, securing, and developing the Pope’s ecclesiastical and secular power began to work in good earnest. Now the Curia Romana, the most complicated politico-ecclesiastical machinery, began to be formed. The consciences were no longer morally, but juridically, to be treated. A tariff of the most oppressive taxes for all sorts of spiritual needs was introduced; favour and bribery were flourishing. Witchcraft was invented, witches burnt, their property confiscated. Coercive power was usurped by the Papal Church, contrary to Christ’s command; heretics and schismatics, personal and political enemies, were tortured and burnt or executed. The Inquisition with its horrors sprang up. And Rome, not content with such enormities, even canonised these unchristian principles by raising to the rank of saints two monsters in human form, viz., the blood-stained Grand-Inquisitor Arbues, and the furious grave-desecrator Josaphat Kunciewicz, who could not leave in peace the very bones and ashes of the Orthodox dead. Heathen Greece would have condemned him, but Christian Rome beatified him! “Ye shall know them by their fruits.”

Quite differently is the aspect of the Orthodox Church. She does not know of witches, of Inquisition, of scapularies, of indulgences, of dispensations, with their concomitant taxes, of casus reservati (sins from which the Pope only can absolve), of the quinquennalia (rights granted by the Pope to Bishops, which lapse if not renewed every five years), of the altaria privilegiata (altars on which every Mass said delivers a soul from Purgatory). She does not claim coercive power, but most emphatically condemns it. Her weapons are only spiritual; she leaves bodily punishment to God. She has not forgotten St. Luke ix. 54-56: “When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt Thou that we command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, even as Elias did? But He turned and rebuked them, and said, Ye know now what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of Man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”  And again said Jesus to Peter (St. Matt. xxvi. 52): “Put up again thy sword in its place; for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” Peter, obedient to his Master’s command, put up again his sword into its place, but “Peter’s successors” did not; they took the sword, waged war, shed blood in torrents, conquered one place after another, lost one place after another, till the Cross of Savoy came down upon them, and they perished with the sword. It is a curious, not to say providential, fact that Piedmont, the first country touched by Pepin on his invading tour in Italy, when Pope Stephen asked him to take the sword in St. Peter’s behalf, was the very country that was to destroy the Papal States.

The ancient Church did not hold these principles of the later Roman Church, nor did the Orthodox Church hold them at any time. Tertullian in his treatise on “Patience” (chap. iii.) says: “He to whom, had he will it, legions of angels would at once have presented themselves from the heavens, approved not the avenging sword of even one disciple. The patience of the Lord was wounded in [the person of] Malchus. And so, too, He cursed for the time to come the works of the sword.” Again, in his work against Marcion (ix. 2, 3), after having quoted Isaiah xlii. 2, 3 (“A bruised reed shall He not crush, and smoking flax shall He not quench”), he adds: “Being of such a character, He was of course much the less disposed to burn men. For even at that time the Lord said to Elias he was not in the fire, but in the still small voice.” The Romans have constantly in their mouth the beautiful saying, “The Church does not thirst for blood” (ecclesia non sitit sanguinem), but hecatombs of victims give them the lie, whereas the Orthodox Church in her practice has always adhered to this principle. Socrates (Hist. Eccl. vii. 3) says: “It is not a custom with the Orthodox Church to persecute”.  And St. Athanasius (Hist. Arian. ad Monach. n. 67, Migne xxv. p. 773), “It is a characteristic of religion not to force but to persuade”. Lactantius (Institut. Div. v. 19, in other editions 20), “Religion cannot be imposed by force; the matter must be carried on by words rather than by blows, that the will may be affected. Let them unsheath the weapon of their intellect; if their system is true, let it be asserted. We are prepared to hear, if they teach; while they are silent, we certainly pay no credit to them, as we do not yield to them even in their rage. Let them imitate us in setting forth the system of the whole matter, for we do not entice, as they say, but we teach, we prove, we show. And thus no one is detained by us against his will, for he is unserviceable to God who is destitute of faith and devotedness; and yet no one departs from us, since the truth itself detains him. Let them teach in this manner, if they have any confidence in the truth; let them speak, let them give utterance; let them venture, I say, to discuss with us something of this nature; and then assuredly their error and folly will be ridiculed by the old women, whom they despise and by our boys.”   St. John Chrysostom (Hom. 46 in Matth. n. 1, 2, Migne, Patres Graeci, tom. lviii. p. 447) teaches expressly that the Lord forbids to kill heretics. Augustine (Contra literas Petiliani, ii. 83) says, “Nobody is to be constrained to accept the faith against his will (ad fidem nullus est cogendus invitus).”  Cassiodorus (end of the fifth century) says (Varia. Epist. ii. 27): “We cannot command religion, because nobody is compelled to believe against his will” (religionem imperare non possumus, quia nemo cogitur, ut credat invitus). Theodore Studita (826) was one of the fiercest enemies of religious persecution, and maintain that heretics were to be advised but not to be killed (lib. ii. epist. 155). The Byzantine emperors did, indeed, not act according to the principles of their Church in persecuting and punishing the Manicheans, Paulicians, and Bogomils, and confiscating their property, but they were neither instigated nor backed by their Church. It was not an Orthodox, but the Monophysite Empress Theodora, who is said to have killed 100,000 Paulicians. It is, however, fair to add that the said sects were persecuted chiefly for their gross immorality, which emperors can and and must remove. When Patriarch Nicephorus tried to associate with the Emperor Michael I in this bloody business, the indignation of the clergy compelled him not to do so. It is not proved that the Patriarch John IV Nesteutes (the Faster) was a privy to the execution of Paulicians; Theodore Studita believes he is not. Maximus, Patriarch of Constantinople, wrote in 1480 to Giovanni Mocenigo, Doge of Venice, “that the law of God does not admit of constraint”. And in the Council convened in the Church of Hagia Sophia at Constantinople for the purpose of rejecting the Council of Florence, the Bishops solemnly condemned any restraint in matters of religion. Metrophanes Critopulos, Patriarch of Alexandria (sixteenth century), in his Confessio (cap. vii), states it as a mark of the true Church “that she persecutes nobody, but rather suffers persecution from all, and never yields to persecutions, but always firmly resists them, and by divine power prevails on the persecutors.” The practice of the Latins was the very reverse, so that the highly Ultramontane Pope Innocent III, a decided enemy of the Greek Church, wrote in 1205, in a letter to Boniface of Montferrat (De Brequigny, Epist. Innoc. III, lib. viii. ep. 133, tom ii. p. 769), about the Greek Church, “which saw in the Latins only examples of reprobates and works of darkness, so that she justly abhors them more than dogs” (quae in Latinis non nisi perditionis exempla et opera tenebrarum aspexit, ut jam merito illos abhorreat plus quam canes). But let the reader peruse our article, “Hagia Sophia in Constantinople and London” (Orthodox Catholic Review, vol. viii. pp. 191-208), giving a detailed account taken from contemporary historians, and his hair will stand on end. However, such were but the natural fruits of the Roman principles.

Schism almost invariably leads to heresy. In 1215 Papal Supremacy was declared a dogma, and based on a divine right. As this question had been the fundamental cause of the schism, it was but natural that it should be first secured. But in doing so the Romans had inflicted on themselves an irreparable evil—had burned the ships behind them, so that a return to Orthodoxy is impossible, unless they declare themselves heretics, and repentingly retrace their steps. In 1439 the Filioque became a dogma. For further information, let us refer to our treatise, ” The Bonn Conferences and the Filioque Question” (Orthodox Catholic Review, vol. iv. pp. 217-264). In 1854 the Immaculate Conception of the Holy Virgin became a dogma—a dogma without even a show of traditional basis, a speculative product of mistaken devotion, a pet opinion of Pius IX.—the first dogma proclaimed by a Pope superseding the authority of the voice of a General Council. In 1870 we saw the crowning of the schismatico-heretical edifice by the dogma of the Papal Infallibility, anticipated already in the mode of proclaiming the former dogma. People commonly think that here the circulus vitiosus is at an end, but they are greatly mistaken. Papal Infallibility will prove the starting-point of a new development of dogmas, the possibility of which the present Infallibilists will deny and ridicule as they denied and ridiculed Papal Infallibility before it was cut out and ready-made for their acceptance. Our present Infallibilists screen themselves behind the elastic term ex cathedra, which Cardinal Manning and Bishop Hefele scarcely understand in the same sense. Clever lies have generally a Protean face, change with one’s position and eye-glasses, have a dash of truth in themselves, and only require a dexterous handling to appear remarkably lifelike. Hear a gentle persuasive Roman, and he will represent the new doctrine as a harmless dogma, since the condition “ex cathedra” is a matter of doubt and dispute. But we do not believe that the Pope has simply played a comedy. “Why then not give us rather a list of those Papal Bulls, or parts of Bulls, and other Papal Titterings which are to be accepted as infallible?” the reader will object. Our answer is: This would be too restrictive and limited; the Pope will have the whole field to himself, will not be controlled by anybody; will have your signature under a blank in order to be able to fill the blank space with whatever he likes. The Pope is too much of a diplomate not to know that one must not bend too much the bow. Therefore he allows his theologians to fight with each other, and waits for the right moment, i.e., when the more advanced Papal party has gained a signal victory, to push forward. Be sure the Jesuits are heartily glad that loquacious Pius is gone. Father Curci has told us as much in his new book, and Father Curci is still a full-blown Jesuit, though, for decency’s sake, an ex-Jesuit. Now, to a single-hearted, pious, and straightforward Catholic this whole affair must look very much like humbug. The old Church defined dogmas, and the people knew what to believe. And if new disputes arose, a new Council cleared the clouds away. But this modern dogma was from the first moment unintelligible, and everybody understood it as he liked, just as the Protestant understands his Bible. I doubt whether there are two persons in the whole Roman Church, the infallible Pope included, who understand the dogma in the same way. Of course we mean two persons who really care to get at the meaning, for there are millions of Roman Catholics who either do not care a pin’s head for the new imposition, or stolidly repeat the words of their priests like a parrot. The gloomy picture grows still gloomier when you think what this dogma, this mysterious object, may include. The poisonous seed is sown, what may the plant, the full grown plant be? We do not indulge in fancies or unsubstantial apprehensions. However, things do sometimes cast their shadows before them. In the Council of Trent the modern dogma of the Immaculate Conception was mooted and foreshadowed. Let us look for other shadows of things that are sure to come. We do not mean trifles, as, e.g., the probable future dogma of the bodily assumption of the Holy Virgin, or perhaps (but not very likely) the extension of the Immaculate Conception to Mary’s parents. But we mean the development of the Infallibility dogma, which is the pivot of all wishes and studies of the Roman Pontiffs. This is the battlefield of the future, the pleasure-ground of the present.

We meet with one of these ominous and portentous shadows in the speech of James Lainez delivered in the Council of Trent on the 20th of October 1562. Lainez was the companion and bosom-friend of Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, and his successor as General of the Order. As the characteristic feature of Papacy is fully developed in the organisation of this Order, and as its members add to the common monastic vows that of implicit obedience to the Pope, it was but natural that the Jesuits considered themselves the privileged guardians and developers of the Papal idea. The Jesuits were the most obedient sons of the Pope as long as he obeyed them. When the Pope was recalcitrant and unmanageable, they fled to seek shelter under the protecting wings of “schismatic” Russia and “heretic” Prussia, till the Pope repented and called them back. So it was, in fact, “the black Pope” (il papa nero, the General of the Jesuits), and not “the white Pope ” (il papa bianco), who governed the Church, and we have to seek in the shrine of the hearts of the Jesuit leaders for the key to the mystery of the Roman Sphinx. Jesuits are very clever and diplomatically reticent, but they are after all men, and so it happens on rare occasions that they are injudiciously open, and betray secrets far in advance of the right moment. Such was the case with Lainez’s speech. It so disconcerted and frightened the Fathers of the Council that Lainez was forbidden to publish it. However, the tenor of the speech was transmitted to us by two very different men, Pauli Sarpi (writing under the pseudonym of Soave), a clever but frivolous man, hating Borne with all the hatred of a true Venetian patriot; and Sforza Pallavicini, an equally clever man, learned and respected, but fanatic and blinded by his Jesuit prejudices, loving Papacy with all the love of an infatuated suitor. Combining or comparing both, we generally approach the truth as confirmed by other documents. In one respect Sarpi deserves the preference, because he was a contemporary, a boy of ten years, when the speech was delivered, whereas Pallavicini was born only in 1607, and could therefore scarcely consult ear-witnesses, as Sarpi could. Notwithstanding, we prefer quoting Pallavicini, because he is a favourite with the Romans, and his testimony will therefore fully be admitted. We quote from the best edition, “Istoria del Concilio di Trento scritta dal padre Sforza Pallavicini” (with notes by Zaccaria), Romae, 1833. In spite of Pallavicini’s invectives against Sarpi (Soave), we find both accounts of Lainez’s speech very much the same, except when Sarpi adds some dashes of sarcastic wit, e.g., he makes Lainez say that our Lord said to Peter, “Tend My sheep,” because the sheep was the most patient of all animals. But these bad wits are easily discernible. Pallavicini found the speech (or at least a rough copy of it) by accident in the Vatican archives, bound up with some other documents. Lainez prefaced the subject by saying that “many had dissuaded him from undertaking this work, lest he might incur the blame of being a flatterer of the Pope. Then he divides his speech into four parts—(1) laying down the question; (2) stating his own view; (3) refuting the opposite party; and (4) proving his own view with arguments. However, the whole speech is nothing but an exposition of his own view and a condemnation of the opposite one. In n. 6, p. 770, he (Lainez) “maintained that the power of the Episcopal order is from God directly in all individuals, but that the power of jurisdiction was from God directly in genere, i.e., in some, as in Peter and his successors, and, according to his opinion, also in all the Apostles by a special privilege; in the others, as in the particular Bishops, this power emanated, by a medium interposed by God, directly from the Pope.” And in n. 11, p. 773: “It was certain that He (Christ) wished the Bishops should possess jurisdiction, but not as such that was given them directly by Him.”  And in n. 12, Lainez ventures even the hazardous assertion that “many Fathers” had “expressly taught” that “the jurisdiction of the Bishops was from the Pope” {che la jurisdizione sia dal papa). And in n. 14, p. 775, he adds that “the decisions of the Councils were decisions of God, as far as they issue from the Pope, who is assisted by the Holy Ghost.”  Thus all difference between (Ecumenical and Particular Councils, emphatically taught by the Undivided Church, has disappeared. Yea, the Councils on the whole are superseded, since the Pope alone enjoys the assistance of the Holy Ghost. Then the Fathers of the Council were frightened at such bold and sweeping assertions; now these assertions are sanctioned by the Vatican Council, the Bishops are degraded to the rank of Papal delegates, and the Pope has become “Episcopus episcoporum,” a title once derided by Tertullian, and “Episcopus universalis,” a title condemned by Pope St. Gregory the Great.

But Lainez’s speech goes beyond the decrees of the Vatican Council, and affords us a peep into the distance. He grants, indeed, that the power conferred by the ordination is directly from God. But what he gives with one hand, he takes away with the other; for what is the use of having a thing if I may not use it except by permission of the Pope, who can thus frustrate the gift cf God? Therefore the Sacrament of Order, though theoretically the gift of the Holy Ghost, is virtually the gift of the Pope. And the words of Lainez (as reported by Sarpi) are quite consistent with the rest of his speech: “Let them (the Fathers) take care lest, by wishing to make the institution of Bishops one of divine right, they destroy the hierarchy.”  Cardinal Cajetan speaks still more explicitly: ” He set Peter up, . . . from whom, in the ordinary way, all should derive the power of jurisdiction and of order.”  Silvester Prierias (In prcesumptuosas M. Lutheri conclusiones de potestate papce dialogus, Lipsiae, 1518, p. 2) says: “Whoever does not rest upon the doctrine of the Roman Church and of the Roman Pope as on the infallible rule of faith, from which (doctrine) also the Holy Scripture derives its strength and authority, is a heretic.” And again (apud Roccabert. tom. xix. 2356): “The Apostle Peter alone has been directly appointed a Bishop by Christ.” And on the same page: “It is by Peter that all Apostles have been ordained Bishops.” And again on the next page he maintains that The Pope Is Virtually The Catholic Church, The Head Of The World, And Virtually The Whole World.  Reader, remember that the Pope’s Imprimatur has sanctioned this sentence! But though the Roman Catholic is hereby not compelled to adopt the views proposed, still he is bound to admit that the views proposed may safely be held, since they do not contain any heresy, nor do even smack of heresy (hceresin sapiens). This is the cautious manner how Rome prepares the way for smuggling in new material for the dogmatic manufactory. First, books are written in which the new view is proposed, timidly and covertly, in order to feel the pulse of public opinion. Contradiction opens the skirmish, and the question is more fully and more freely ventilated. The dimensions of the party strife increase, the age and strength of the baby-doctrine grow apace, and the Pope may safely step forward from his hiding-place and show his colour, not indeed as a decided partisan (that would be unwise and might damage his cause), but by some imprimatur. This is the theoretical stage of the controversy. Then the practical begins by coining devotional books to introduce the future doctrine into the minds of the faithful and to mix it up with the life-blood of the poor, unwary souls. This is the most infernal part of the business, poisoning the blood, and killing innocent people by inches. Now the Tradition is ready; the people have been trained to look upon the matter as inherited from time immemorial. Only one link is wanting. It is Catholic doctrine that every dogma must be proved to be part of the Apostolic deposit of faith. Now it is remarkably difficult to trace the modern dogmas back to the Apostles, since we know on the whole the date when every new dogma was born and named, and the place where the cradles of the infants stood. In the face of these public facts a pedigree is forged reaching to the Apostles, a pedigree without names, without proofs, without documents. This pedigree is supplied by the latent or dormant tradition. This prodigious assumption reasons in this way: “If St. Gregory, Leo, Augustine, Jerome, Chrysostom, Basil, Cyprian, Ignatius, the Apostles John, James, Paul, Peter would hear our dogma, they would at once recognise it as their own; but as they had no opportunity of stating and defending what was not attacked at their time, express proofs are wanting.” He who can acquiesce in such a reasoning is capable of gulping down any nonsense. St. Peter (1 Pet. ii. 2) taught very differently that we should long for reasonable food which is without guile (το λογικον αδολον γαλα). The hypothesis of a latent tradition is the most insidious snare of Romanism. Of course an upright and thinking outsider will not so easily fall into it; but a person born and bred a Roman does not find the sacrifizio d’intelletto so difficult, but rather delightfully easy. People like others to think for them and care for them, provided these guides are lenient and do not encroach on the comforts of life.

History was always the weak point of the Jesuits, and consequently of the Papists. If this nasty and troublesome stumbling-block could be cleared away altogether, Romanism would be irrefutable. But it is with history as with conscience. Could the criminal only clear away his provokingly uncomfortable conscience, he would be a perfectly happy man. History is the conscience of mankind, and Rome by falsifying it has sealed her own doom.

It is interesting to hear from Silvester Prierias that Peter ordained the other Apostles Bishops. But whence has he gathered this piece of information? History does not know of it. A special divine revelation Prierias did not claim. How did he then get the news? Simply by argument. He may have argued somewhat in this way: “The Pope is undoubtedly the infallible teacher and supreme master of the Church, consequently Peter held the same position among the Apostles, which would not have been the case if he had not ordained the others; ergo Peter must have ordained them.” So history is manufactured from supposed dogmas. Would it not have been safer to argue: “Since history does not bear out my theory, it falls to the ground”? Goldwin Smith (” Lectures on the Study of History,” Oxford, 1861, p. 25) very appositely remarks: “‘Truth does not regard consequences’ was a noble saying; but there are some cases in which the consequences are a test of truth.”

Papal Infallibility has perplexed and unsettled the minds of many serious Roman Catholics who cannot ignore the fatal dilemma, the contradiction between history and modern dogma. As to the unthinking mass, Hosea Biglow is right:—

“A merciful Providence fashioned them hollow
On purpose that they might their principles swallow.”

However, Papal Infallibility is only the bud of a mysterious fruit, the development of which will bring to light startling results, foreshadowed by medieval writers from the fourteenth century downwards. Alvaro Pelayo (apud Roccabert. iii. 52, 2) says: “What the Pope does God does” (quod papa facit Deo facit). Cardinal Jacobatius (ix. 516, 77) says: “The Pope can say and do whatever he likes, provided it is not against the faith, from which there is no dispensation.”  The exception is ridiculous, for is it not the Pope who infallibly declares what the Catholic faith is? The same author says in another place: “The Pope and Christ constitute the same consistory, so that, with the exception of sin, the Pope can do almost everything that God can.”  Bellarmine affirms that the Pope possesses the supreme poner in temporal affairs by divine right, though not directly, yet indirectly. This did not satisfy Pope Sixtus V., as he claimed this as a direct right, and he placed the book on the Index. The Jesuit Gregory de Valentia (apud Roccabert. xiii. 141, 2) says: “Whether the Pope carefully studies the matter to be decided or not, if he only decides the controversy, he will decide it certainly infallibly.”  Pope Sixtus V., Domin. Gravina, Duval, Michael Maucler, Gregorj de Valentia, &c., extend the prerogative of Infallibility to the canonisation of saints. The Decretum Gratiani (ed. Migne, 1861, p. 1324) says: “The Holy Roman Church [or the Pope, which is at present identical] imparts right and authority to the Holy Canons, but is not bound by them. It so lends authority to the Canons that it does not subject itself to them.”  Has Gratian (or rather the Pope) read St. Matt, xxiii. 4 ?” They bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger.” The Popes St. Leo the Great, Agatho, and Gregory the Great were of a different opinion.

We showed the rapid decline and change in the Roman Church since it separated from the East, which had hitherto been a check and curb to the Western innovating proclivities. Now it was unfettered and free, as the prodigal son was when he left his home. Dogmas were coined; a Canon Law of absolutism and chains of slavery forged; an oppressive system of taxation introduced; superstitions fostered and developed. Meanwhile the ferment of innovation spread; not one of the Seven Sacraments was left intact.