Teachings Contrary to Tradition? Religious Liberty
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Here are some more lengthy quotes from Blessed John Henry Newman.  In the following passage Newman explains the context of Syllabus of Errors and how to approach it.  Importantly he stresses that all of the condemned errors reference previous papal documents and to get the full meaning of those condemnations one has to turn to those documents and understand the context in which they were written.  He also stresses that the syllabus has "no dogmatic force," but is rather an index of previous teachings.  Newman states the Syllabus was written for the eyes of bishops and theologians not laymen, and that someone trained in Catholic theology will approach the syllabus much differently than someone who has no idea what they are talking about. 

Quote:{276} NOW I come to the Syllabus of "Errors," the publication of which has been exclaimed against in England as such a singular enormity, and especially by Mr. Gladstone. The condemnation of theological statements which militate against the Catholic Faith is of long usage in the Church. Such was the condemnation of the heresies of Wickliffe in the Council of Constance; such those of Huss, of Luther, of Baius, of Jansenius; such the condemnations which were published by Sextus IV., Innocent XI., Clement XI., Benedict XIV., and other Popes. Such condemnations are no invention of Pius IX. The Syllabus is a collection of such erroneous propositions as he has noted during his Pontificate; there are eighty of them.

What does the word "Syllabus" mean? A collection; the French translation calls it a "Resumé;"—a Collection of what? I have already said, of propositions,—propositions which the Pope in his various Allocutions, Encyclicals, and like documents, since he has been Pope, has pronounced to be Errors. Who gathered the propositions out of these Papal documents, and put them together in one? We do not know; all we know is that, by the Pope's command, this Collection of Errors was sent by his Foreign Minister to the Bishops. He, {277} Cardinal Antonelli, sent to them at the same time the Encyclical of December, 1864, which is a document of dogmatic authority. The Cardinal says, in his circular to them, that the Pope ordered him to do so. The Pope thought, he says, that perhaps the Bishops had not seen some of his Allocutions, and other authoritative letters and speeches of past years; in consequence the Pope had had the Errors which, at one time or other he had therein noted, brought together into one, and that for the use of the Bishops.

Such is the Syllabus and its object. There is not a word in it of the Pope's own writing; there is nothing in it at all but the Erroneous Propositions themselves—that is, except the heading "A Syllabus, containing the principal Errors of our times, which are noted in the Consistorial Allocutions, in the Encyclicals, and in other Apostolical Letters of our most Holy Lord, Pope Pius IX." There is one other addition—viz., after each Error a reference is given to the Allocution, Encyclical, or other document in which it is proscribed.

The Syllabus, then, is to be received with profound submission, as having been sent by the Pope's authority to the Bishops of the world. It certainly comes to them with his indirect extrinsic sanction; but intrinsically, and viewed in itself, it is nothing more than a digest of certain Errors made by an anonymous writer. There would be nothing on the face of it, to show that the Pope had ever seen it, page by page, unless the "Imprimatur" implied in the Cardinal's letter had been an evidence of this. It has no mark or seal put upon it which gives it a direct relation to the Pope. {278} Who is its author? Some select theologian or high official doubtless; can it be Cardinal Antonelli himself? No surely: anyhow it is not the Pope, and I do not see my way to accept it for what it is not. I do not speak as if I had any difficulty in recognizing and condemning the Errors which it catalogues, did the Pope himself bid me; but he has not as yet done so, and he cannot delegate his Magisterium to another. I wish with St. Jerome to "speak with the Successor of the Fisherman and the Disciple of the Cross." I assent to that which the Pope propounds in faith and morals, but it must be he speaking officially, personally, and immediately, and not any one else, who has a hold over me. The Syllabus is not an official act, because it is not signed, for instance, with "Datum Romæ, Pius P.P. IX.," or "sub annulo Piscatoris," or in some other way; it is not a personal, for he does not address his Venerabiles Fratres," or "Dilecto Filio," or speak as "Pius Episcopus;" it is not an immediate, for it comes to the Bishops only through the Cardinal Minister of State.

If, indeed, the Pope should ever make that anonymous compilation directly his own, then of course I should bow to it and accept it as strictly his. He might have done so; he might do so still; again, he might issue a fresh list of Propositions in addition, and pronounce them to be Errors, and I should take that condemnation to be of dogmatic authority, because I believe him appointed by his Divine Master to determine in the detail of faith and morals what is true and what is false. But such an act of his he would formally authenticate; he would speak {279} in his own name, as Leo X. or Innocent XI. did, by Bull or Letter Apostolic. Or, if he wished to speak less authoritatively, he would speak through a Sacred Congregation; but the Syllabus makes no claim to be acknowledged as the word of the Pope. Moreover, if the Pope drew up that catalogue, as it may be called, he would have pronounced in it some definite judgment on the propositions themselves. What gives cogency to this remark is, that a certain number of Bishops and theologians, when a Syllabus was in contemplation, did wish for such a formal act on the part of the Pope, and in consequence they drew up for his consideration the sort of document on which, if he so willed, he might suitably stamp his infallible sanction; but he did not accede to their prayer. This composition is contained in the "Recueil des Allocutions," &c., and is far more than a mere "collection of errors." It is headed, "Theses ad Apostolicam Sedem delatæ cum censuris," &c., and each error from first to last has the ground of its condemnation marked upon it. There are sixty-one of them. The first is "impia, injuriosa religioni," &c.; the second is "complexivè sumpta, falsa," &c.; the third the same; the fourth, "hæretica," and so on, the epithets affixed having a distinct meaning, and denoting various degrees of error. Such a document, unlike the Syllabus, has a substantive character.

Here I am led to interpose a remark;—it is plain, then, that there are those near, or with access, to the Holy Father, who would, if they could, go much further in the way of assertion and command, than the divine Assistentia, which overshadows him, wills or permits; so {280} that his acts and his words on doctrinal subjects must be carefully scrutinized and weighed, before we can be sure what really he has said. Utterances which must be received as coming from an Infallible Voice are not made every day, indeed they are very rare; and those which are by some persons affirmed or assumed to be such, do not always turn out what they are said to be; nay, even such as are really dogmatic must be read by definite rules and by traditional principles of interpretation, which are as cogent and unchangeable as the Pope's own decisions themselves. What I have to say presently will illustrate this truth; meanwhile I use the circumstance which has led to my mentioning it, for another purpose here. When intelligence which we receive from Rome startles and pains us from its seemingly harsh or extreme character, let us learn to have some little faith and patience, and not take for granted that all that is reported is the truth. There are those who wish and try to carry measures and declare they have carried, when they have not carried them. How many strong things, for instance, have been reported with a sort of triumph on one side and with irritation and despondency on the other, of what the Vatican Council has done; whereas the very next year after it, Bishop Fessler, the Secretary General of the Council, brings out his work on "True and False Infallibility," reducing what was said to be so monstrous to its true dimensions. When I see all this going on, those grand lines in the Greek Tragedy always rise on my lips—

[Oupote tan Dios harmonian
         thnaton parexiasi boulai],—

{281} and still more the consolation given us by a Divine Speaker that, though the swelling sea is so threatening to look at, yet there is One who rules it and says, "Hitherto shalt thou come and no further, and here shall thy proud waves be stayed!"

But to return:—the Syllabus then has no dogmatic force; it addresses us, not in its separate portions, but as a whole, and is to be received from the Pope by an act of obedience, not of faith, that obedience being shown by having recourse to the original and authoritative documents, (Allocutions and the like,) to which it pointedly refers. Moreover, when we turn to those documents, which are authoritative, we find the Syllabus cannot even be called an echo of the Apostolic Voice; for, in matters in which wording is so important, it is not an exact transcript of the words of the Pope, in its account of the errors condemned,—just as is natural in what is professedly an index for reference.

Mr. Gladstone indeed wishes to unite the Syllabus to that Encyclical which so moved him in December, 1864, and says that the Errors noted in the Syllabus are all brought under the infallible judgment pronounced on certain errors specified in the Encyclical. This is an untenable assertion. He says of the Pope and of the Syllabus, p. 20: "These are not mere opinions of the Pope himself, nor even are they opinions which he might paternally recommend to the pious consideration of the faithful. With the promulgation of his opinions is unhappily combined, in the Encyclical Letter which virtually, though not expressly, includes the whole, a command to all his spiritual children (from which command {282} we, the disobedient children, are in no way excluded) to hold them," and Mr. Gladstone appeals in proof of this to the language of the Encyclical; but let us see what that language is. The Pope speaks thus, as Mr. Gladstone himself quotes him: "All and each of the wrong opinions and doctrines, mentioned one by one in this Encyclical (hisce litteris), by our Apostolical authority, we reprobate, &c." He says then, as plainly as words can speak, that the wrong opinions which in this passage he condemns, are specified in the Encyclical, not outside of it; and, when we look into the earlier part of it, there they are, about ten of them; there is not a single word in the Encyclical to show that the Pope in it was alluding to the Syllabus. The Syllabus does not exist, as far as the language of the Encyclical is concerned. This gratuitous assumption seems to me marvellously unfair.

The only connexion between the Syllabus and the Encyclical is one external to them both, the connexion of time and organ; Cardinal Antonelli sending them both to the Bishops with the introduction of one and the same letter. In that letter he speaks to the Bishops thus, as I paraphrase his words [Note 1]:—The Holy Father sends you {283} by me a list, which he has caused to be drawn up and printed, of the errors which he has in various formal documents, in the course of the last eighteen years, noted. With that list of errors, he is also sending you a new Encyclical, which he has judged it apropos to write to the Catholic Bishops;—so I send you both at once."

The Syllabus, then, is a list, or rather an index, of the Pope's Encyclical or Allocutional "proscriptions," an index raisonné;—(not alphabetical, as is found, for instance, in Bellarmine's or Lambertini's works,)—drawn up by the Pope's orders, out of his paternal care for the flock of Christ, and conveyed to the Bishops through his Minister of State. But we can no more accept it as de fide, as a dogmatic document, than any other index or table of contents. Take a parallel case, mutatis mutandis: Counsel's opinion being asked on a point of law, he goes to his law books, writes down his answer, and, as authority, refers his client to 23 George III., c. 5, s. 11; 11 Victoria, c. 12, s. 19, and to Thomas v. Smith, Att. Gen. v. Roberts, and Jones v. Owen. Who would say that that sheet of foolscap has force of law, when it was nothing more than a list of references to the Statutes of the Realm, or Judges' decisions, in which the Law's voice really was found?

The value of the Syllabus, then, lies in its references; but of these Mr. Gladstone has certainly availed himself very little. Yet, in order to see the nature and extent of the blame cast on any proposition of the Syllabus, it is absolutely necessary to turn out the passage of the Allocution, Encyclical, or other document, in which the {284} error is noted; for the wording of the errors which the Syllabus contains is to be interpreted by its references. Instead of this Mr. Gladstone uses forms of speech about the Syllabus which only excite in me fresh wonder. Indeed, he speaks upon these ecclesiastical subjects generally in a style in which priests and parsons are accused by their enemies of speaking concerning geology. For instance, the Syllabus, as we have seen, is a list or index; but he calls it "extraordinary declarations," p. 21. How can a list of errors be a series of Pontifical "Declarations"?

However, perhaps he would say that, in speaking of "Declarations," he was referring to the authoritative allocutions, &c., which I have accused him of neglecting. With all my heart; but then let us see how the statements in these allocations fulfil the character he gives of them. He calls them "Extraordinary declarations on personal and private duty," p. 21, and "stringent condemnations," p. 19. Now, I certainly must grant that some are stringent, but only some. One of the most severe that I have found among them is that in the Apostolic Letter of June 10, 1851, against some heretic priest out at Lima, whose elaborate work in six volumes against the Curia Romana, is pronounced to be in its various statements "scandalous, rash, false, schismatical, injurious to the Roman Pontiffs and Ecumenical Councils, impious and heretical." It well deserved to be called by these names, which are not terms of abuse, but each with its definite meaning; and, if Mr. Gladstone, in speaking of the condemnations, had confined his epithet "stringent" to it, no one would have complained of him. And {285} another severe condemnation is that of the works of Professor Nuytz. But let us turn to some other of the so-called condemnations, in order to ascertain whether they answer to his general description of them.

1. For instance, take his own 16th (the 77th of the "erroneous Propositions"), that, "It is no longer expedient that the Catholic Religion should be established to the exclusion of all others." When we turn to the Allocution, which is the ground of its being put into the Syllabus, what do we find there? First, that the Pope was speaking, not of States universally, but of one particular State, Spain, definitely Spain; secondly, that he was not noting the erroneous proposition directly, or categorically, but was protesting against the breach in many ways of the Concordat on the part of the Spanish government; further, that he was not referring to any work containing the said proposition, nor contemplating any proposition at all; nor, on the other hand, using any word of condemnation whatever, nor using any harsher terms of the Government in question than an expression of "his wonder and distress." And again, taking the Pope's remonstrance as it stands, is it any great cause of complaint to Englishmen, who so lately were severe in their legislation upon Unitarians, Catholics, unbelievers, and others, that the Pope merely does not think it expedient for every state from this time forth to tolerate every sort of religion on its territory, and to disestablish the Church at once? for this is all that he denies. As in the instance in the foregoing section, he does but deny a universal, which the "erroneous proposition" asserts without any explanation. {286}

2. Another of Mr. Gladstone's "stringent Condemnations" (his 18th) is the Pope's denial of the proposition that "the Roman Pontiff can and ought to come to terms with Progress, Liberalism, and the New Civilization." I turn to the Allocation of March 18, 1861, and find there no formal condemnation of this Proposition at all. The Allocution is a long argument to the effect that the moving parties in that Progress, Liberalism, and New Civilization, make use of it so seriously to the injury of the Faith and the Church, that it is both out of the power, and contrary to the duty, of the Pope to come to terms with them. Nor would those prime movers themselves differ from him here; certainly in this country it is the common cry that Liberalism is and will be the Pope's destruction, and they wish and mean it so to be. This Allocution on the subject is at once beautiful, dignified, and touching: and I cannot conceive how Mr. Gladstone should make stringency his one characteristic of these condemnations, especially when after all there is here no condemnation at all.

3. Take, again, Mr. Gladstone's 15th—"That the abolition of Temporal Power of the Popedom would be highly advantageous to the Church." Neither can I find in the Pope's Allocution any formal condemnation whatever of this proposition, much less a "stringent" one. Even the Syllabus does no more in the case of any one of the eighty, than to call it an "error;" and what the Pope himself says of this particular error is only this:—"We cannot but in particular warn and reprove (monere et redarguere) those who applaud the decree by which the Roman Pontiff has been despoiled of all the {287} honour and dignity of his civil rule, and assert that the said decree, more than anything else, conduces to the liberty and prosperity of the Church itself."—Alloc., April 20, 1849.

4. Take another of his instances, the 17th, the "error" that "in countries called Catholic the public exercise of other religions may laudably be allowed." I have had occasion to mention already his mode of handling the Latin text of this proposition—viz., that whereas the men who were forbidden the public exercise of their religion were foreigners, who had no right to be in a country not their own at all, and might fairly have conditions imposed upon them during their stay there, nevertheless Mr. Gladstone (apparently through haste) has left out the word "hominibus illuc immigrantibus," on which so much turns. Next, as I have observed above, it was only the sufferance of their public worship, and again of all worships whatsoever, however many and various, which the Pope blamed; and further, the Pope's words do not apply to all States, but specially, and, as far as the Allocution goes, definitely, to New Granada.

However, the point I wish to insist upon here is, that there was in this case no condemned proposition at all, but it was merely, as in the case of Spain, an act of the Government which the Pope protested against. The Pope merely told that Government that that act, and other acts which they had committed, gave him very great pain; that he had expected better things of them; that the way they went on was all of a piece; and they had his best prayers. Somehow, it seems to me strange, {288} for any one to call an expostulation like this one of a set of "extraordinary declarations," "stringent condemnations."

I am convinced that the more the propositions and the references contained in the Syllabus are examined, the more signally will the charge break down, brought against the Pope on occasion of it: as to those Propositions which Mr. Gladstone specially selects, some of them I have already taken in hand, and but few of them present any difficulty.

5. As to those on Marriage, I cannot follow Mr. Gladstone's meaning here, which seems to me very confused, and it would be going out of the line of remark which I have traced out for myself, (and which already is more extended than I could wish), were I to treat of them [Note 2].

6. His fourth Error, (taken from the Encyclical) that "Papal judgments and decrees may, without sin, be disobeyed or differed from," is a denial of the principle of Hooker's celebrated work on Ecclesiastical Polity, and would be condemned by him as well as by the Pope. And it is plain to common sense that no society can stand if its rules are disobeyed. What club or union would not expel members who refused so to be bound?

7. And the 5th [Note 3], 8th, and 9th propositions are necessarily {289} errors, if the Sketch of Church Polity drawn out in my former Sections is true, and are necessarily considered to be such by those, as the Pope, who maintain that Polity.

8. The 10th Error, as others which I have noticed above, is a universal (that "in the conflict of laws, civil and ecclesiastical, the civil law should prevail"), and the Pope does but deny a universal.

9. Mr. Gladstone's 11th, which I do not quite understand in his wording of it, runs thus:—"Catholics can approve of that system of education for youth which is separated from the Catholic faith and the Church's power, and which regards the science only of physical things, and the outlines (fines) of earthly social life alone or at least primarily." How is this not an "Error"? Surely there are Englishmen enough who protest against the elimination of religion from our schools; is such a protest so dire an offence to Mr. Gladstone?

10. And the 12th Error is this:—That "the science of philosophy and of morals, also the laws of the State, can and should keep clear of divine and ecclesiastical authority." This too will not be anything short of an error in the judgment of great numbers of our own people. Is Benthamism so absolutely the Truth, that the Pope is to be denounced because he has not yet become a convert to it?

11. There are only two of the condemnations which really require a word of explanation; I have already referred to them. One is that of Mr. Gladstone's sixth Proposition, "Roman Pontiffs and Ecumenical Councils, have departed from the limits of their power, have {290} usurped the rights of Princes, and even in defining matters of faith and morals have erred." These words are taken from the Lima Priest's book. We have to see then what he means by "the Rights of Princes," for the proposition is condemned in his sense of the word. It is a rule of the Church in the condemnation of a book to state the proposition condemned in the words of the book itself, without the Church being answerable for those words as employed [Note 4]. I have already referred to this rule in my 5th Section. Now this priest includes among the rights of Catholic princes that of deposing Bishops from their sacred Ministry, of determining the impediments to marriage, of forming Episcopal sees, and of being free from episcopal authority in spiritual matters. When, then, the Proposition is condemned "that Popes had usurped the rights of Princes;" what is meant is, "the so-called rights of Princes," which were really the rights of the Church, in assuming which there was no usurpation at all.

12. The other proposition, Mr. Gladstone's seventh, the condemnation of which requires a remark, is this: "The Church has not the power to employ force (vis inferendæ) nor any temporal power direct or indirect." {291}

This is one of a series of Propositions found in the work of Professor Nuytz, entitled, "Juris Ecclesiastici Institutiones," all of which are condemned in the Pope's Apostolic Letter of August 22, 1851. Now here "employing force" is not the Pope's phrase but Professor Nuytz's, and the condemnation is meant to run thus, "It is an error to say, with Professor Nuytz, that what he calls 'employing force' is not allowable to the Church." That this is the right interpretation of the "error" depends of course on a knowledge of the Professor's work, which I have never had an opportunity of seeing; but here I will set down what the received doctrine of the Church is on ecclesiastical punishments, as stated in a work of the highest authority, since it comes to us with letters of approval from Gregory XVI. and Pius IX.

"The opinion," says Cardinal Soglia, "that the coercive power divinely bestowed upon the Church consists in the infliction of spiritual punishments alone, and not in corporal or temporal, seems more in harmony with the gentleness of the Church. Accordingly I follow their judgment, who withdraw from the Church the corporal sword, by which the body is destroyed or blood is shed. Pope Nicholas thus writes: 'The Church has no sword but the spiritual. She does not kill, but gives life, hence that well-known saying, 'Ecclesia abhorret a sanguine.' But the lighter punishments, though temporal and corporal, such as shutting up in a monastery, prison, flogging, and others of the same kind, short of effusion of blood, the Church jure suo can inflict."—(Institut. Jur., pp. 167-8, Paris.) {292}

And the Cardinal quotes the words of Fleury "The Church has enjoined on penitent sinners almsgivings, fastings, and other corporal inflictions ... Augustine speaks of beating with sticks, as practised by the Bishops, after the manner of masters in the case of servants, parents in the case of children and school-masters in that of scholars. Abbots flogged monks in the way of paternal and domestic chastisement ... Imprisonment for a set time or for life is mentioned among canonical penances; priests and other clerics, who had been deposed for their crimes, being committed to prison in order that they might pass the time to come in penance for their crime, which thereby was withdrawn from the memory of the public."

But now I have to answer one question. If what I have said is substantially the right explanation to give to the drift and contents of the Syllabus, have not I to account for its making so much noise, and giving such deep and wide offence on its appearance? It has already been reprobated by the voice of the world. Is there not, then, some reason at the bottom of the aversion felt by educated Europe towards it, which I have not mentioned? This is a very large question to entertain, too large for this place; but I will say one word upon it.

Doubtless one of the reasons of the excitement and displeasure which the Syllabus caused and causes so widely, is the number and variety of the propositions marked as errors, and the systematic arrangement to which they were subjected. So large and elaborate a work struck the public mind as a new law, moral, social, and ecclesiastical, {293} which was to be the foundation of a European code, and the beginning of a new world, in opposition to the social principles of the 19th century; and there certainly were persons in high station who encouraged this idea. When this belief was once received, it became the interpretation of the whole Collection through the eighty Propositions, of which it recorded the erroneousness; as if it had for its object in all its portions one great scheme of aggression. Then, when the public mind was definitively directed to the examination of these erroneous Theses, they were sure to be misunderstood, from their being read apart from the context, occasion, and drift of each. They had been noted as errors in the Pope's Encyclicals and Allocutions in the course of the preceding eighteen years, and no one had taken any notice of them; but now, when they were brought all together, they made a great sensation. Why were they brought together, except for some purpose sinister and hostile to society? and if they themselves were hard to understand, still more so, and doubly so was their proscription.

Another circumstance, which I am not theologian enough to account for, is this,—that the wording of many of the erroneous propositions, as they are drawn up in the Syllabus, gives an apparent breadth to the matter condemned which is not found in the Pope's own words in his Allocutions and Encyclicals. Not that really there is any difference between the Pope's words and Cardinal Antonelli's, for (as I have shown in various instances) what the former says in the concrete, the latter does but repeat in the abstract. Or, to speak {294} logically, when the Pope enunciates as true the particular affirmative, "Spain ought to keep up the establishment of the Catholic Religion," then (since its contradictory is necessarily false) the Cardinal declares, "To say that no State should keep up the establishment of the Catholic Religion is an error." But there is a dignity and beauty in the Pope's own language which the Cardinal's abstract Syllabus cannot have, and this gave to opponents an opportunity to declaim against the Pope, which opportunity was in no sense afforded by what he said himself.

Then, again, it must be recollected, in connexion with what I have said, that theology is a science, and a science of a special kind; its reasoning, its method, its modes of expression, and its language are all its own. Every science must be in the hands of a comparatively few persons—that is, of those who have made it a study. The courts of law have a great number of rules in good measure traditional; so has the House of Commons, and, judging by what one reads in the public prints, men must have a noviceship there before they can be at perfect ease in their position. In like manner young theologians, and still more those who are none, are sure to mistake in matters of detail; indeed a really first-rate theologian is rarely to be found. At Rome the rules of interpreting authoritative documents are known with a perfection which at this time is scarcely to be found elsewhere. Some of these rules, indeed, are known to all priests; but even this general knowledge is not possessed by laymen, much less by Protestants, however able and experienced in their own several {295} lines of study or profession. One of those rules I have had several times occasion to mention. In the censure of books, which offend against doctrine or discipline, it is a common rule to take sentences out of them in the author's own words, whether those are words in themselves good or bad, and to affix some note of condemnation to them in the sense in which they occur in the book in question. Thus it may happen that even what seems at first sight a true statement, is condemned for being made the shelter of an error; for instance: "Faith justifies when it works," or "There is no religion where there is no charity," may be taken in a good sense; but each proposition is condemned in Quesnell, because it is false as he uses it.

A further illustration of the necessity of a scientific education in order to understand the value of Propositions, is afforded by a controversy which has lately gone on among us as to the validity of Abyssinian Orders. In reply to a document urged on one side of the question, it was allowed on the other, that, "if that document was to be read in the same way as we should read any ordinary judgment, the interpretation which had been given to it was the most obvious and natural." "But it was well known," it was said, "to those who are familiar with the practical working of such decisions, that they are only interpreted with safety in the light of certain rules, which arise out of what is called the stylus curiæ." And then some of these rules were given; first, "that to understand the real meaning of a decision, no matter how clearly set forth, we should know the nature of the difficulty or dubium, as it was {296} understood by the tribunal that had to decide upon it. Next, nothing but the direct proposition, in its nudest and severest sense, as distinguished from indirect propositions, the grounds of the decision, or implied statements, is ruled by the judgment. Also, if there is anything in the wording of a decision which appears inconsistent with the teaching of an approved body of theologians, &c., the decision is to be interpreted so as to leave such teaching intact;" and so on [Note 5]. It is plain that the view thus opened upon us has further bearings than that for which I make use of it here.

These remarks on scientific theology apply also of course to its language. I have employed myself in illustration in framing a sentence, which would be plain enough to any priest, but I think would perplex any Protestant. I hope it is not of too light a character to introduce here. We will suppose then a theologian to write as follows:—"Holding, as we do, that there is only material sin in those who, being invincibly ignorant, reject the truth, therefore in charity we hope that they have the future portion of formal believers, as considering that by virtue of their good faith, though not of the body of the faithful, they implicitly and interpretatively believe what they seem to deny." Now let us consider what sense would this statement convey to the mind of a member of some Reformation Society or Protestant League? He would read it as follows, and consider it all the more insidious and dangerous for its being so very unintelligible:—"Holding, as we do, that there is {297} only a very considerable sin in those who reject the truth out of contumacious ignorance, therefore in charity we hope that they have the future portion of nominal Christians, as considering, that by the excellence of their living faith, though not in the number of believers, they believe without any hesitation, as interpreters [of Scripture?] what they seem to deny."

Now, considering that the Syllabus was intended for the Bishops, who would be the interpreters of it, as the need arose, to their people, and it got bodily into English newspapers even before it was received at many an episcopal residence, we shall not be surprised at the commotion which accompanied its publication.

I have spoken of the causes intrinsic to the Syllabus, which have led to misunderstandings about it. As to external, I can be no judge myself as to what Catholics who have means of knowing are very decided in declaring, the tremendous power of the Secret Societies. It is enough to have suggested here, how a wide-spread organization like theirs might malign and frustrate the most beneficial acts of the Pope. One matter I had information of myself from Rome at the time when the Syllabus had just been published, before there was yet time to ascertain how it would be taken by the world at large. Now, the Rock of St. Peter on its summit enjoys a pure and serene atmosphere, but there is a great deal of Roman malaria at the foot of it. While the Holy Father was in great earnestness and charity addressing the Catholic world by his Cardinal Minister, there were circles of light-minded men in his {298} city who were laying bets with each other whether the Syllabus would "make a row in Europe" or not. Of course it was the interest of those who betted on the affirmative side to represent the Pope's act to the greatest disadvantage; and it was very easy to kindle a flame in the mass of English and other visitors at Rome which with a very little nursing was soon strong enough to take care of itself.

And here is Blessed Newman on liberty of conscience: 

Quote:{246} IT seems, then, that there are extreme cases in which Conscience may come into collision with the word of a Pope, and is to be followed in spite of that word. Now I wish to place this proposition on a broader basis, acknowledged by all Catholics, and, in order to do this satisfactorily, as I began with the prophecies of Scripture and the primitive Church, when I spoke of the Pope's prerogatives, so now I must begin with the Creator and His creature, when I would draw out the prerogatives and the supreme authority of Conscience.

I say, then, that the Supreme Being is of a certain character, which, expressed in human language, we call ethical. He has the attributes of justice, truth, wisdom, sanctity, benevolence and mercy, as eternal characteristics in His nature, the very Law of His being, identical with Himself; and next, when He became Creator, He implanted this Law, which is Himself, in the intelligence of all His rational creatures. The Divine Law, then, is the rule of ethical truth, the standard of right and wrong, a sovereign, irreversible, absolute authority in the presence of men and Angels. "The eternal law," says St. Augustine, "is the Divine Reason or Will of God, commanding {247} the observance, forbidding the disturbance, of the natural order of things." "The natural law," says St. Thomas, "is an impression of the Divine Light in us, a participation of the eternal law in the rational creature." (Gousset, Theol. Moral., t. i. pp. 24, &c.) This law, as apprehended in the minds of individual men, is called "conscience;" and though it may suffer refraction in passing into the intellectual medium of each, it is not therefore so affected as to lose its character of being the Divine Law, but still has, as such, the prerogative of commanding obedience. "The Divine Law," says Cardinal Gousset, "is the supreme rule of actions; our thoughts, desires, words, acts, all that man is, is subject to the domain of the law of God; and this law is the rule of our conduct by means of our conscience. Hence it is never lawful to go against our conscience; as the fourth Lateran Council says, 'Quidquid fit contra conscientiam, ædificat ad gehennam.'"

This view of conscience, I know, is very different from that ordinarily taken of it, both by the science and literature, and by the public opinion, of this day. It is founded on the doctrine that conscience is the voice of God, whereas it is fashionable on all hands now to consider it in one way or another a creation of man. Of course, there are great and broad exceptions to this statement. It is not true of many or most religious bodies of men; especially not of their teachers and ministers. When Anglicans, Wesleyans, the various Presbyterian sects in Scotland, and other denominations among us, speak of conscience, they mean what we mean, the voice of God in the nature and heart of man, as distinct from the voice of Revelation. {248} They speak of a principle planted within us, before we have had any training, although training and experience are necessary for its strength, growth, and due formation. They consider it a constituent element of the mind, as our perception of other ideas may be, as our powers of reasoning, as our sense of order and the beautiful, and our other intellectual endowments. They consider it, as Catholics consider it, to be the internal witness of both the existence and the law of God. They think it holds of God, and not of man, as an Angel walking on the earth would be no citizen or dependent of the Civil Power. They would not allow, any more than we do, that it could be resolved into any combination of principles in our nature, more elementary than itself; nay, though it may be called, and is, a law of the mind, they would not grant that it was nothing more; I mean, that it was not a dictate, nor conveyed the notion of responsibility, of duty, of a threat and a promise, with a vividness which discriminated it from all other constituents of our nature.

This, at least, is how I read the doctrine of Protestants as well as of Catholics. The rule and measure of duty is not utility, nor expedience, nor the happiness of the greatest number, nor State convenience, nor fitness, order, and the pulchrum. Conscience is not a long-sighted selfishness, nor a desire to be consistent with oneself; but it is a messenger from Him, who, both in nature and in grace, speaks to us behind a veil, and teaches and rules us by His representatives. Conscience is the aboriginal Vicar of Christ, a prophet in its informations, a monarch in its peremptoriness, a priest in its {249} blessings and anathemas, and, even though the eternal priesthood throughout the Church could cease to be, in it the sacerdotal principle would remain and would have a sway.

Words such as these are idle empty verbiage to the great world of philosophy now. All through my day there has been a resolute warfare, I had almost said conspiracy against the rights of conscience, as I have described it. Literature and science have been embodied in great institutions in order to put it down. Noble buildings have been reared as fortresses against that spiritual, invisible influence which is too subtle for science and too profound for literature. Chairs in Universities have been made the seats of an antagonist tradition. Public writers, day after day, have indoctrinated the minds of innumerable readers with theories subversive of its claims. As in Roman times, and in the middle age, its supremacy was assailed by the arm of physical force, so now the intellect is put in operation to sap the foundations of a power which the sword could not destroy. We are told that conscience is but a twist in primitive and untutored man; that its dictate is an imagination; that the very notion of guiltiness, which that dictate enforces, is simply irrational, for how can there possibly be freedom of will, how can there be consequent responsibility, in that infinite eternal network of cause and effect, in which we helplessly lie? and what retribution have we to fear, when we have had no real choice to do good or evil?

So much for philosophers; now let us see what is the notion of conscience in this day in the popular mind. {250} There, no more than in the intellectual world, does "conscience" retain the old, true, Catholic meaning of the word. There too the idea, the presence of a Moral Governor is far away from the use of it, frequent and emphatic as that use of it is. When men advocate the rights of conscience, they in no sense mean the rights of the Creator, nor the duty to Him, in thought and deed, of the creature; but the right of thinking, speaking, writing, and acting, according to their judgment or their humour, without any thought of God at all. They do not even pretend to go by any moral rule, but they demand, what they think is an Englishman's prerogative, for each to be his own master in all things, and to profess what he pleases, asking no one's leave, and accounting priest or preacher, speaker or writer, unutterably impertinent, who dares to say a word against his going to perdition, if he like it, in his own way. Conscience has rights because it has duties; but in this age, with a large portion of the public, it is the very right and freedom of conscience to dispense with conscience, to ignore a Lawgiver and Judge, to be independent of unseen obligations. It becomes a licence to take up any or no religion, to take up this or that and let it go again, to go to church, to go to chapel, to boast of being above all religions and to be an impartial critic of each of them. Conscience is a stern monitor, but in this century it has been superseded by a counterfeit, which the eighteen centuries prior to it never heard of, and could not have mistaken for it, if they had. It is the right of self-will.

And now I shall turn aside for a moment to show {251} how it is that the Popes of our century have been misunderstood by the English people, as if they really were speaking against conscience in the true sense of the word, when in fact they were speaking against it in the various false senses, philosophical or popular, which in this day are put upon the word. The present Pope, in his Encyclical of 1864, Quantâ curâ, speaks (as will come before us in the next section) against "liberty of conscience," and he refers to his predecessor, Gregory XVI., who, in his Mirari vos, calls it a "deliramentum." It is a rule in formal ecclesiastical proceedings, as I shall have occasion to notice lower down, when books or authors are condemned, to use the very words of the book or author, and to condemn the words in that particular sense which they have in their context and their drift, not in the literal, not in the religious sense, such as the Pope might recognize, were they in another book or author. To take a familiar parallel, among many which occur daily. Protestants speak of the "Blessed Reformation;" Catholics too talk of "the Reformation," though they do not call it blessed. Yet every "reformation" ought, from the very meaning of the word, to be good, not bad; so that Catholics seem to be implying a eulogy on an event which, at the same time, they consider a surpassing evil. Here then they are taking the word and using it in the popular sense of it, not in the Catholic. They would say, if they expressed their full meaning, "the so-called reformation." In like manner, if the Pope condemned "the Reformation," it would be utterly sophistical to say in consequence that he had declared himself against all reforms; yet this is how Mr. Gladstone {252} treats him, when he speaks of (so-called) liberty of conscience. To make this distinction clear, viz., between the Catholic sense of the word "conscience," and that sense in which the Pope condemns it, we find in the Recueil des Allocutions, &c., the words accompanied with quotation-marks, both in Pope Gregory's and Pope Pius's Encyclicals, thus:—Gregory's, "Ex hoc putidissimo 'indifferentismi' fonte," (mind, "indifferentismi" is under quotation-marks, because the Pope will not make himself answerable for so unclassical a word) "absurda illa fluit ac erronea sententia, seu potius deliramentum, asserendam esse ac vindicandam cuilibet 'libertatem conscientiæ.'" And that of Pius, "Haud timent erroneam illam fovere opinionem a Gregorio XVI. deliramentum appellatam, nimirum 'libertatem conscientiæ' esse proprium cujuscunque hominis jus." Both Popes certainly scoff at the so-called "liberty of conscience," but there is no scoffing of any Pope, in formal documents addressed to the faithful at large, at that most serious doctrine, the right and the duty of following that Divine Authority, the voice of conscience, on which in truth the Church herself is built.

So indeed it is; did the Pope speak against Conscience in the true sense of the word, he would commit a suicidal act. He would be cutting the ground from under his feet. His very mission is to proclaim the moral law, and to protect and strengthen that "Light which enlighteneth every man that cometh into the world." On the law of conscience and its sacredness are founded both his authority in theory and his power in fact. Whether this or that particular Pope in this bad world always kept {253} this great truth in view in all he did, it is for history to tell. I am considering here the Papacy in its office and its duties, and in reference to those who acknowledge its claims. They are not bound by the Pope's personal character or private acts, but by his formal teaching. Thus viewing his position, we shall find that it is by the universal sense of right and wrong, the consciousness of transgression, the pangs of guilt, and the dread of retribution, as first principles deeply lodged in the hearts of men, it is thus and only thus, that he has gained his footing in the world and achieved his success. It is his claim to come from the Divine Lawgiver, in order to elicit, protect, and enforce those truths which the Lawgiver has sown in our very nature, it is this and this only that is the explanation of his length of life more than antediluvian. The championship of the Moral Law and of conscience is his raison d'être. The fact of his mission is the answer to the complaints of those who feel the insufficiency of the natural light; and the insufficiency of that light is the justification of his mission.

All sciences, except the science of Religion, have their certainty in themselves; as far as they are sciences, they consist of necessary conclusions from undeniable premises, or of phenomena manipulated into general truths by an irresistible induction. But the sense of right and wrong, which is the first element in religion, is so delicate, so fitful, so easily puzzled, obscured, perverted, so subtle in its argumentative methods, so impressible by education, so biassed by pride and passion, so unsteady in its course, that, in the struggle for existence amid the various exercises and triumphs of the human intellect, {254} this sense is at once the highest of all teachers, yet the least luminous; and the Church, the Pope, the Hierarchy are, in the Divine purpose, the supply of an urgent demand. Natural Religion, certain as are its grounds and its doctrines as addressed to thoughtful, serious minds, needs, in order that it may speak to mankind with effect and subdue the world, to be sustained and completed by Revelation.

In saying all this, of course I must not be supposed to be limiting the Revelation of which the Church is the keeper to a mere republication of the Natural Law; but still it is true, that, though Revelation is so distinct from the teaching of nature and beyond it, yet it is not independent of it, nor without relations towards it, but is its complement, reassertion, issue, embodiment, and interpretation. The Pope, who comes of Revelation, has no jurisdiction over Nature. If, under the plea of his revealed prerogatives, he neglected his mission of preaching truth, justice, mercy, and peace, much more if he trampled on the consciences of his subjects,—if he had done so all along, as Protestants say, then he could not have lasted all these many centuries till now, so as to supply a mark for their reprobation. Dean Milman has told us above, how faithful he was to his duty in the medieval time, and how successful. Afterwards, for a while the Papal chair was filled by men who gave themselves up to luxury, security, and a Pagan kind of Christianity; and we all know what a moral earthquake was the consequence, and how the Church lost, thereby, and has lost to this day, one-half of Europe. The Popes could not have recovered from so terrible a catastrophe, {255} as they have done, had they not returned to their first and better ways, and the grave lesson of the past is in itself the guarantee of the future.

Such is the relation of the ecclesiastical power to the human conscience:—however, a contrary view may be taken of it. It may be said that no one doubts that the Pope's power rests on those weaknesses of human nature, that religious sense, which in ancient days Lucretius noted as the cause of the worst ills of our race; that he uses it dexterously, forming under shelter of it a false code of morals for his own aggrandisement and tyranny; and that thus conscience becomes his creature and his slave, doing, as if on a divine sanction, his will; so that in the abstract indeed and in idea it is free, but never free in fact, never able to take a flight of its own, independent of him, any more than birds whose wings are clipped;—moreover, that, if it were able to exert a will of its own, then there would ensue a collision more unmanageable than that between the Church and the State, as being in one and the same subject-matter—viz., religion; for what would become of the Pope's "absolute authority," as Mr. Gladstone calls it, if the private conscience had an absolute authority also?

I wish to answer this important objection distinctly.

1. First, I am using the word "conscience" in the high sense in which I have already explained it,—not as a fancy or an opinion, but as a dutiful obedience to what claims to be a divine voice, speaking within us; and that this is the view properly to be taken of it, I shall not attempt to prove here, but shall assume it as a first principle. {256}

2. Secondly, I observe that conscience is not a judgment upon any speculative truth, any abstract doctrine, but bears immediately on conduct, on something to be done or not done. "Conscience," says St. Thomas, "is the practical judgment or dictate of reason, by which we judge what hic et nunc is to be done as being good, or to be avoided as evil." Hence conscience cannot come into direct collision with the Church's or the Pope's infallibility; which is engaged in general propositions, and in the condemnation of particular and given errors.

3. Next, I observe that, conscience being a practical dictate, a collision is possible between it and the Pope's authority only when the Pope legislates, or gives particular orders, and the like. But a Pope is not infallible in his laws, nor in his commands, nor in his acts of state, nor in his administration, nor in his public policy. Let it be observed that the Vatican Council has left him just as it found him here. Mr. Gladstone's language on this point is to me quite unintelligible. Why, instead of using vague terms, does he not point out precisely the very words by which the Council has made the Pope in his acts infallible? Instead of so doing, he assumes a conclusion which is altogether false. He says, p. 34, "First comes the Pope's infallibility:" then in the next page he insinuates that, under his infallibility, come acts of excommunication, as if the Pope could not make mistakes in this field of action. He says, p. 35, "It may be sought to plead that the Pope does not propose to invade the country, to seize Woolwich, or burn Portsmouth. He will only, at the worst, excommunicate {257} opponents ... Is this a good answer? After all, even in the Middle Ages, it was not by the direct action of fleets and armies of their own that the Popes contended with kings who were refractory; it was mainly by interdicts," &c. What have excommunication and interdict to do with Infallibility? Was St. Peter infallible on that occasion at Antioch when St. Paul withstood him? was St. Victor infallible when he separated from his communion the Asiatic Churches? or Liberius when in like manner he excommunicated Athanasius? And, to come to later times, was Gregory XIII., when he had a medal struck in honour of the Bartholomew massacre? or Paul IV. in his conduct towards Elizabeth? or Sextus V. when he blessed the Armada? or Urban VIII. when he persecuted Galileo? No Catholic ever pretends that these Popes were infallible in these acts. Since then infallibility alone could block the exercise of conscience, and the Pope is not infallible in that subject-matter in which conscience is of supreme authority, no deadlock, such as is implied in the objection which I am answering, can take place between conscience and the Pope.

4. But, of course, I have to say again, lest I should be misunderstood, that when I speak of Conscience, I mean conscience truly so called. When it has the right of opposing the supreme, though not infallible Authority of the Pope, it must be something more than that miserable counterfeit which, as I have said above, now goes by the name. If in a particular case it is to be taken as a sacred and sovereign monitor, its dictate, in order to prevail against the voice of the Pope, must follow upon {258} serious thought, prayer, and all available means of arriving at a right judgment on the matter in question. And further, obedience to the Pope is what is called "in possession;" that is, the onus probandi of establishing a case against him lies, as in all cases of exception, on the side of conscience. Unless a man is able to say to himself, as in the Presence of God, that he must not, and dare not, act upon the Papal injunction, he is bound to obey it, and would commit a great sin in disobeying it. Primâ facie it is his bounden duty, even from a sentiment of loyalty, to believe the Pope right and to act accordingly. He must vanquish that mean, ungenerous, selfish, vulgar spirit of his nature, which, at the very first rumour of a command, places itself in opposition to the Superior who gives it, asks itself whether he is not exceeding his right, and rejoices, in a moral and practical matter to commence with scepticism. He must have no wilful determination to exercise a right of thinking, saying, doing just what he pleases, the question of truth and falsehood, right and wrong, the duty if possible of obedience, the love of speaking as his Head speaks, and of standing in all cases on his Head's side, being simply discarded. If this necessary rule were observed, collisions between the Pope's authority and the authority of conscience would be very rare. On the other hand, in the fact that, after all, in extraordinary cases, the conscience of each individual is free, we have a safeguard and security, were security necessary (which is a most gratuitous supposition), that no Pope ever will be able, as the objection supposes, to create a false conscience for his own ends. {259}

Now, I shall end this part of the subject, for I have not done with it altogether, by appealing to various of our theologians in evidence that, in what I have been saying, I have not misrepresented Catholic doctrine on these important points.

That is, on the duty of obeying our conscience at all hazards.

I have already quoted the words which Cardinal Gousset has adduced from the Fourth Lateran; that "He who acts against his conscience loses his soul." This dictum is brought out with singular fulness and force in the moral treatises of theologians. The celebrated school, known as the Salmanticenses, or Carmelites of Salamanca, lays down the broad proposition, that conscience is ever to be obeyed whether it tells truly or erroneously, and that, whether the error is the fault of the person thus erring or not [Note]. They say that this opinion is certain, and refer, as agreeing with them, to St. Thomas, St. Bonaventura, Caietan, Vasquez, Durandus, Navarrus, Corduba, Layman, Escobar, and fourteen others. Two of them even say this opinion is de fide. Of course, if a man is culpable in being in error, which he might have escaped, had he been more in earnest, for that error he is answerable to God, but still he must act according to that error, while he is in it, because he in full sincerity thinks the error to be truth. {260}

Thus, if the Pope told the English Bishops to order their priests to stir themselves energetically in favour of teetotalism, and a particular priest was fully persuaded that abstinence from wine, &c., was practically a Gnostic error, and therefore felt he could not so exert himself without sin; or suppose there was a Papal order to hold lotteries in each mission for some religious object, and a priest could say in God's sight that he believed lotteries to be morally wrong, that priest in either of these cases would commit a sin hic et nunc if he obeyed the Pope, whether he was right or wrong in his opinion, and, if wrong, although he had not taken proper pains to get at the truth of the matter.

Busenbaum, of the Society of Jesus, whose work I have already had occasion to notice, writes thus:—"A heretic, as long as he judges his sect to be more or equally deserving of belief, has no obligation to believe [in the Church]." And he continues, "When men who have been brought up in heresy, are persuaded from boyhood that we impugn and attack the word of God, that we are idolators, pestilent deceivers, and therefore are to be shunned as pests, they cannot, while this persuasion lasts, with a safe conscience, hear us."—t. l, p. 54.

Antonio Corduba, a Spanish Franciscan, states the doctrine with still more point, because he makes mention of Superiors. "In no manner is it lawful to act against conscience, even though a Law, or a Superior commands it."—De Conscient., p. 138.

And the French Dominican, Natalis Alexander:—"If, in the judgment of conscience, through a mistaken conscience, a man is persuaded that what his Superior {261} commands is displeasing to God, he is bound not to obey."—Theol. t. 2, p. 32.

The word "Superior" certainly includes the Pope; Cardinal Jacobatius brings out this point clearly in his authoritative work on Councils, which is contained in Labbe's Collection, introducing the Pope by name:—"If it were doubtful," he says, "whether a precept [of the Pope] be a sin or not, we must determine thus:—that, if he to whom the precept is addressed has a conscientious sense that it is a sin and injustice, first it is duty to put off that sense; but, if he cannot, nor conform himself to the judgment of the Pope, in that case it is his duty to follow his own private conscience, and patiently to bear it, if the Pope punishes him."—lib. iv. p. 241.

Would it not be well for Mr. Gladstone to bring passages from our recognized authors as confirmatory of his view of our teaching, as those which I have quoted are destructive of it? and they must be passages declaring, not only that the Pope is ever to be obeyed, but that there are no exceptions to the rule, for exceptions there must be in all concrete matters.

I add one remark. Certainly, if I am obliged to bring religion into after-dinner toasts, (which indeed does not seem quite the thing) I shall drink—to the Pope, if you please,—still, to Conscience first, and to the Pope afterwards.
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