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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 34

I. The Occasion and Scope of this Tract

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I. The Occasion and Scope of this Tract.

In the prosecution of a purpose not polemical but pacific, I have been led to employ words which belong, more or less, to the region of religious controversy; and which, though they were themselves few, seem to require, from the various feelings they have aroused, that I should carefully define, elucidate, and defend them. The task is not of a kind agreeable to me; but I proceed to perform it.

Among the causes, which have tended to disturb and perplex the. public mind in the consideration of our own religious difficulties, one has been a certain alarm at the aggressive activity and imagined growth of the Roman Church in this country. All are aware of our susceptibility on this side; and it was not, I think, improper for one who desires to remove everything that can interfere with a calm and judicial temper, and who believes the alarm to be groundless, to state, pointedly though briefly, some reasons tor that belief.

Accordingly I did not scruple to use the following language, in a paper inserted in the number of the "Contemporary Review" for the month of October. I was speaking of "the question whether a handful of the clergy are or are not engaged in an utterly hopeless and visionary effort to Romanize the Church and people of England."

"At no time since the bloody reign of Mary has such a scheme been possible. But if it had been possible in the seventeenth or eighteenth centuries, it would still have become impossible in the nineteenth; when Rome has substituted for the proud boast of semper eadem a policy of violence and change in faith; when she has refurbished, and paraded anew, every rusty tool she was fondly thought to have disused; when no one can become her convert without renouncing his moral and mental freedom, and placing his civil loyalty and duty at the mercy of another; and when she has equally repudiated modern thought and ancient history."*

Had I been, when I wrote this passage, as I now am, addressing myself in considerable measure to my Roman Catholic fellow-countrymen, I should have striven to avoid the seeming roughness of some of these expressions; but as the question is now about their substance, from which I am not in any particular disposed to recede, any attempt

* "Contemporary Review," Oct., 1874, p. 674.

page 4 to recast their general form would probably mislead. I proceed, then, to deal with them on their merits.

More than one friend of mine, among those who have been led to join the Roman Catholic communion, has made this passage the subject, more or less, of expostulation. Now, in my opinion, the assertions which it makes are, as coming from a layman who has spent most and the best years of his life in the observation and practice of politics, not aggressive but defensive.

It is neither the abettors of the Papal Chair, nor any one who, however far from being an abettor of the Papal Chair, actually writes from a Papal point of view, that has a right to remonstrate with the world at large; but it is the world at large, on the contrary, that has the fullest right to remonstrate, first with His Holiness, secondly with those who share his proceedings, thirdly even with such as passively allow and accept them.

I therefore, as one of the world at large, propose to expostulate in my turn. I shall strive to show to such of my Roman Catholic fellow-subjects as may kindly give me a hearing that, after the singular steps which the authorities of their Church have in these last years thought fit to take, the people of this country, who fully believe in their loyalty, are entitled, on purely civil grounds, to expect from them some declaration or manifestation of opinion, in reply to that ecclesiastical party in their Church who have laid down, in their name, principles adverse to the purity and integrity of civil allegiance.

Undoubtedly my allegations are of great breadth. Such broad allegations require a broad and a deep foundation. The first question which they raise is, Are they, as to the material part of them, true? But even their truth might not suffice to show that their publication was opportune. The second question, then, which they raise is, Are they, for any practical purpose, material? And there is yet a third, though a minor, question, which arises out of the propositions in connection with their authorship, Were they suitable to be set forth by the present writer?

To these three questions I will now set myself to reply. And the matter of my reply will, as I conceive, constitute and convey an appeal to the understandings of my Roman Catholic fellow-countrymen, which I trust that, at the least, some among them may deem not altogether unworthy of their consideration.

From the language used by some of the organs of Roman Catholic opinion, it is, I am afraid, plain that in some quarters they have given deep offence. Displeasure, indignation, even fury, might be said to mark the language which in the heat of the moment has been expressed here and there. They have been hastily treated as an attack made upon Roman Catholics generally, nay, as an insult offered them. It is obvious to reply, that of Roman Catholics generally they state nothing. Together with a reference to "converts," of which I shall say more, they constitute generally a free and strong animadversion on the conduct of the Papal Chair, and of its advisers and abettors. If I am told that he who animadverts upon these assails thereby, or insults, Roman Catholics at large, who do not choose their ecclesiastical rulers, and are page 5 not recognized as having any voice in the government of their Church, I cannot be bound by or accept a proposition which seems to me to be so little in accordance with reason.

Before all things, however, I should desire it to be understood that, in the remarks now offered, I desire to eschew not only religious bigotry, but likewise theological controversy. Indeed, with theology, except in its civil bearing, with theology as such, I have here nothing whatever to do. But it is the peculiarity of Roman theology that, by thrusting itself into the temporal domain, it naturally, and even necessarily, comes to be a frequent theme of political discussion. To quiet-minded Roman Catholics, it must be a subject of infinite annoyance, that their religion is, on this ground more than any other, the subject of criticism; more than any other, the occasion of conflicts with the State and of civil disquietude. I feel sincerely how much hardship their case entails. But this hardship is brought upon them altogether by the conduct of the authorities of their own Church. Why did theology enter so largely into the debates of Parliament on Roman Catholic Emancipation? Certainly not because our statesmen and debaters of fifty years ago had an abstract love of such controversies, but because it was extensively believed that the Pope of Rome had been and was a trespasser upon ground which belonged to the civil authority, and that he affected to determine by spiritual prerogative questions of the civil sphere. This fact, if fact it be, and not the truth or falsehood, the reasonableness or unreasonableness, of any article of purely religious belief, is the whole and sole cause of the mischief. To this fact, and to this fact alone, my language is referable; but for this fact, it would have been neither my duty nor my desire to use it. All other Christian bodies are content with freedom in their own religious domain. Orientals, Lutherans, Calvinists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Nonconformists, one and all, in the present day, contentedly and thankfully accept the benefits of civil order; never pretend that the State is not its own master; make no religious claims to temporal possessions or advantages; and, consequently, never are in perilous collision with the State. Nay more, even so I believe it is with the mass of Roman Catholics individually. But not so with the leaders of their Church, or with those who take pride in following the leaders. Indeed, this has been made matter of boast:—

"There is not another Church so called" (than the Roman), "nor any community professing to he a Church, which does not submit, or obey, or hold its peace, when the civil governors of the world command."—"The Present Crisis of the Holy See," by H. E Manning, D.D. London, 1861, p. 75.

The Rome of the Middle Ages claimed universal monarchy. The modern Church of Rome has abandoned nothing, retracted nothing. Is that all? Far from it. By condemning (as will be seen) those who, like Bishop Doyle in 1826,* charge the medieval Popes with aggression, she unconditionally, even if covertly, maintains what the mediæval Popes maintained. But even this is not the worst. The worst by far as that whereas, in the national Churches and communities of the

* Lords' Committee, March 18th, 1826. Report, p. 190.

page 6 Middle Ages, there was a brisk, vigorous, and constant opposition to these outrageous claims, an opposition which stoutly asserted its own orthodoxy, which always caused itself to be respected, and which even sometimes gained the upper hand; now, in this nineteenth century of ours, and while it is growing old, this same opposition has been put out of court, and judicially extinguished within the Papal Church, by the recent decrees of the Vatican. And it is impossible for persons accepting those decrees justly to complain, when such documents are subjected in good faith to a strict examination as respects their compatibility with civil right and the obedience of subjects.

In defending my language, I shall carefully mark its limits. But all defence is reassertion, which properly requires a deliberate reconsideration; and no man who thus reconsiders should scruple, if he find so much as a word that may convey a false impression, to amend it. Exactness in stating truth according to the measure of our intelligence, is an indispensable condition of justice, and of a title to be heard.

My propositions, then, as they stood, are these:—
1.That "Rome has substituted for the proud boast of semper eadem a policy of violence and change in faith."
2.That she has refurbished, and paraded anew, every rusty tool she was fondly thought to have disused.
3.That no one can now become her convert without renouncing his moral and mental freedom, and placing his civil loyalty and duty at the mercy of another.
4.That she ("Rome") has equally repudiated modern thought and ancient history.