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"a few multiplied by their own will into the Catholic or universal church,” can make an absolute and unchangable determination of the sense of Scripture." Because, in the first place the determination cannot be made by "a few," but by a large body, lawfully representing the entire millions of the universal church; because it is not "their own will that multiplies them,” but the general will which recognises them as the proper organs of its expression; and thirdly, because even those representatives of the general will of the universal church cannot alter the sense which has been received from the days of the Apostles, and testified in all ages by the unanimous consent of the fathers. I am not astonished that, as he proceeds, in this paragraph, your correspondent should feel himself embarrassed by the practice of your church, and flounder, as he does, into a paramount authority which your church assumes, but which he would not grant to either the early Christians or the Jews, respecting even the simple division of the Decalogue in its proper heads. “This modification of the doctrine," as he calls it, might be very convenient to him who is a member of a church that will never admit she is wrong, though she admits she may be wrong.
Which is, indeed, such infallibility in fact as made a judicious person remark, that the essential difference between the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church was to be found in this, that the first never is in error, and the second never can err, in declaring the doctrines that Christ taught. Hence your sapient and discriminating correspondent would be content, were we only to declare that it was of indispensable necessity to conform to the decisions of the Church until she shall change or qualify her doctrines. We have, however, this very serious objection, that we do not believe the Church has power to change or qualify any doctrine which God has revealed. This, in truth, is the great obstacle which prevents our acceding to his suggestion. When he shall have satisfied us that we may conscientiously conform to what is not the doctrine of Christ, until the church shall see fit to qualify or renounce the error; all the difficulty will be removed. When we find any general council determining infallibly that a former general council was wrong in a doctrinal decision, we shall then be quite ready to tell him why it might be done. We are content at present with the knowledge, that during eighteen centuries it has not occurred, and believing upon the promises of Christ that it will never occur. In our view of the case, it would be more reasonable and practically useful for us to discuss at present where we should place the spires of the churches, to prevent their being crushed when the moon shall strike our side of the globe.
Your correspondent makes a very sad mistake in his conjecture as to the probable reason for our not renouncing transubstantiation. To save him the trouble of speculating, I shall inform him of the fact. The true reason why we retain the doctrine is, because we have the fullest evidence that it was always preserved by the great bulk of the faithful, and testified by the unanimous consent of the fathers, as taught by our Saviour Jesus Christ, and we find the same evidence in the Scriptures.
In viewing the paragraph 62, I shall give your correspondent the credit of honesty; but it must be at the expense of his information. If I err he can correct me. I beg leave to inform him that the Cath. olic Church neither now teaches, nor did she ever teach that the Pope can absolve subjects from their oath of allegiance to Protestant Princes." He says, "it has undeniably been the established sense of the Roman Catholic Church." I have now denied what he says is undeniable. I suppose his meaning to be that it is a doctrine of the church, and that this power was an essential part of the papal authority. He says also, "that Popes have undeniably maintained the position, that faith is not to be kept with heretics." I know not what evidence he might possess of the private sayings of a Pope, or a number of them. But I do deny that any Pope did promulgate any such position, as a doctrine of the Church. Let him now produce his facts, because he says, "these things are matters of historical facts too well known to be disputed." I not only dispute, but I deny that they are facts.
To support the first, he adduces the fact, that Pius V. absolved the subjects of Elizabeth of England, from their oaths of allegiance. The act of the Pope is not evidence of the doctrine in this instance for several reasons. First. The power of absolving subjects from their oaths of allegiance by the Pope, was a grant made by most of the sovereigns of Europe at several periods, when they were members of a common church; they appointed him, who was their spiritual head, as their common arbiter, and armed him with power to execute the common law of nations which they had enacted in congress, and one of which laws did empower Pius to issue this sentence. The only question which could, therefore, arise was whether the church taught as a portion of her doctrine, that the Pope had such a power in virtue of his succession to St. Peter, as the head of the Church; or whether he had it by the constitution of the Congress of Christian powers. The Church never taught that he had it upon the first ground. She saw that he had it upon the second ground, but it was a public fact, not a doctrine of religion. The subjects of Elizabeth were then absolved in virtue of a national law of Europe, not in virtue of a doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church. It was, however, successfully and legally contended that the kingdom of England, being a sovereign power, and having withdrawn publicly from the agreement, was no longer bound by its ordinances; and that this absolution was therefore void. Elizabeth herself, had such serious doubts of the sufficiency of the reasoning, that she preferred applying to Pius for the revocation of the sentence, which, however, she did not obtain. Her subjects, Catholic and Protestant, were satisfied with the reasoning, and no one attempted to carry the sentence into execution, until several years afterwards, Philip of Spain, for his own private purposes, induced Sixtus V. to renew the publication; and the English Catholics were the most zealous to repel the invaders, should they effect a landing; and they were never considered by this act of opposition to Sixtus and Philip, to have swerved from the doctrine or duties of their church. Thus the fact of the publication of such a sentence, does not prove that it is the doctrine of our Church—that the head of that Church has the power of absolving from the oath of allegiance to Protestant princes or powers. The law of nations, by which the power once existed, has been long since repealed by opposition and disuse.
The Church considers kings and princes to be men, and as such, members of the great body of the faithful, neither above her power nor beyond her censure. She does not find that Jesus Christ made any particular exception in their favour, and although your correspondent might venerate royalty above discipline, such is not, I will avow, the spirit of our Church. Our Chrysostoms, and Ambroses, and Gregories, and Beckets, and Langtons, had the spirit, as they had the faith of John the Baptist, and they were as ready to say to an emperor as to a beggar “this is not lawful for thee,” and to denounce the one as well as the other; for they are taught to be no respecters of persons. Your correspondent may amuse himself with reference to false decretals, published subsequent to the days when the facts to which I refer occurred. When I think he knows something more of the history of those decretals, than I believe he does, I shall expect him to inform me how they may be justly and legally binding, and yet in one sense be false. It is easy to give ugly names to men who are the glory of their age; but it is exceeding strange in the midst of republican institutions, to find the vindicators of public liberty in their day, against the lawless despots of the feudal times, branded by men who claim to be republicans, with appellations too bad even for the tyrants themselves. But those men that do those things have one excuse, “they know not what they do,” when they repeat the libels for which monarchs have richly rewarded venal scribes.
The few and insulted Catholics of this city, as far as I can learn, despise your correspondent's professed complaisance to them: they claim no superiority over their fellow-citizens of any other place or denomination, either in virtue or in patriotism; they are content to be upon the level of their fellow-citizens in their civic duties, and of every other Roman Catholic in the world, in doctrine and belief. They pay full spiritual and ecclesiastical obedience to the See of Rome, and with as thorough a love of civil liberty, as any other citizen of these states; they acknowledge in their tenets nothing which endangers either that liberty, or the tranquillity of the land. By you and by others, their feel. ings have been wounded, their doctrines misrepresented, their practices vilified, their ceremonial ridiculed, and themselves held up to contempt. Anti-Christ, idolater, heathen, persecutor, intruding stranger, slave or corruption, unclean thing, and vicious, are phrases with which they have been assailed in a state which boasts of its liberality, and vaunts its superior civilization, purity of taste, and its chivalrous honour. God forbid that I should deny that South Carolina is entitled to those characteristics ! But the more elevated her dignity, the more humiliating is the reproach of and amongst her children to us! Are we suspected of disaffection to the civil institutions which we labour to uphold ? Did we desert our brethren of other creeds, in the day of the invasion ? Did we conspire against their domestic peace, and following our own notions of Scripture liberty, whisper aught that might overwhelm us in unforseen ruin! Was our blood or our treasure withheld in any day of peril? Is the charter of your liberties perfect without our name? Did we preach against the acts of your Congress, in the midst of a conflict with the enemies of the land? Did we ever express a reluctance to act against a Catholic, as soon as we would against a Protestant foe? What, then, in the name of Heaven, is the cause of the continual allusion to the dangers of the Republic, from our body! We have never entered into combinations to paralyse the force of the nation, when the enemy was ravaging our shores and burning our capitol. Let your correspondent refer to the history of our common country, which perhaps he understands, in place of dragging us to feudal times, in Europe, of which he knows so little.
I cannot and will not stoop to notice the miserable and dishonourable distinction which he touches, in his second note upon this sixtysecond paragraph, where he tells us that he does not charge the Pope with being dishonest in retail, but in wholesale; it is not in small transactions that Catholics are rogues, but in mighty concerns. I fling back his insult with the feelings which it so richly merits. I defy him to the proof. He treat of honesty! He treat of good faith! Let him look to his garbling.
Even in the third note to this paragraph, he gives us “doomed by anathema to damnation," as the translation of anathemate damnentur, "should be condemned by anathema," the common modes of expression for persons convicted of holding erroneous doctrines.
He has modestly half-abandoned the charge, “countenancing and commanding persecution, massacre, and murder."
He asks, why do not our councils or Popes disclaim those imputed doctrines ? I ask: “Who would dare to ask the Congress of the Union to disclaim having held that piracy and sacrilege were virtues ?” No rule of common action requires that the calumniated body should volunteer a useless disclaimer. To disclaim, would imply that there was an apparent ground for the calumny. Why does not the calumniator retract? This is a most natural question. But they who gave origin and currency to the falsehoods, have long since passed away. Would to God their evil deeds had been buried with them!
“The canon and decrees, and dogmas of Popery, yet unrepealed and unrenounced, embody the power and right to punish temporarily for religion's sake, and pursue heresy and schism with spiritual denunciations." All this I admit to be true, "and temporal inflictions." This I deny, and I defy him to prove. He adds: “Protestantism knows nothing of the kind." I refer him to North Carolina: I refer him to New Jersey. I need not cross the Atlantic; if I did, I would go to some of the Protestant cantons of Switzerland; I would say, that whilst the ink was flowing from his pen, as he wrote the paragraph, he could have known that the head of the English Church had laid aside the character of Protestant persecutor, which his predecessor had well deserved for two centuries and a half. He ought now to recollect what a powerful effort the prelates and pastors, of the Protestant Church made to perpetuate the persecution. He ought not to force me to remind him of the part which was acted here by several of the Protestant clergy, in favour of the Greeks, and to ask where they were, when their flocks nobly aided to break the fetters of the British and Irish Catholics? Prudence is sometimes found, where neither charity nor generosity exist.
With his concluding remarks, I have no concern; I have been too tedious and too diffuse; I am anxious to lay down my pen. Truth and principle demanded much from me: assailed as my positions have been, I know not my assailant; I therefore could have had no personal feeling against him; though, if I should discover who he is, I trust my charity for him will be perfect; but I cannot say that my respect for him would be enhanced by the merit of his production.
Should any expression unkind, uncharitable, or unnecessarily severe,